Verona marble fair, eye opener for Indian participants

THE 35th Marmomacc International Exhibition of Marble, Stone and Technology, held in Verona (Italy) from September 28 to October 1 was a best meeting ground for most of the exhibitors and visitors from various parts of the globe. The granite cobbled roads and arena reflected the cultural heritage of an midaeval city. Cultural programmes organised at the arena were of special attraction to tourists.

The fair included a seminar on technical training in stone technology; conferences on new stones and landscape, new archaism versus high tech; the new portal on marble and presentation of the Stone 2000 Marble Marketing Handbook.

Spread over 12 pavilions - nine constructed halls, three open areas and some open areas in between the halls - the fair was the biggest meeting ground for more than 1,300 exhibitors and 50,000 visitors. Forty- seven countries exhibited. Probably, the second largest contingent after Italy was from India with 37 participants. Twentyone Indian companies were there to sell their green marble; three were for granite; six for slate, sandstone and limestone; one each for machines and polishing abrasives & diamond tools and five, including CAPEXIL, had mixed products.

Indian participation in the Verona Fair is almost steady at around 35 exhibitors for the last three years. Twentyone exhibitors were from Rajasthan while ten were from New Delhi. This indicates that companies in northern India are keen to exhibit their products and procure export orders. These companies contribute a mere Rs. 200 crores to India's stone product exports of about Rs. 1,500 crores. About 300 Indian visitors were also trying to have something for their own benefit.

Twentyseven International Fairs on dimension stones are organised every year all over the world. Verona has its importance as it is one of the oldest and biggest fairs.

The Representatives of Stone Technology Centre (STC) has been visiting the Fair for the last three years and critically examining various aspects, of the industry. While India's exclusive assets are green marble, red granite, black galaxy and now blue marble, Indians have not been able to achieve the best. Because of stiff competition at the Verona Fair, prices have been going down considerably. In some items, prices have come down by of 35 per cent to 40 per cent compared to 1998 prices. Even European traders have started complaining that they cannot buy from Indian manufacturers and sell to various customers overseas as hardly any margin is left for them.

The reduction in prices has mainly been the result of the fact that green marble mine owners have now entered the areas of processing and exports. New entrants are venturing into exports and are quoting much lower prices. There are too many exporters offering better payment terms, something unheard of in the past. They are offering DP or DA upto 90 days.

Having participated in six international fairs on stones this year, STC is of the opinion that Indian exporters will not get better prices and payment terms in a fair like Verona any more. They must participate in international fairs in scattered areas, such as Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, Philippines and Kuala Lumpur, so that they can avoid unhealthy competition among themselves. This way, while the quantities may not be large, much better prices and payment terms can be expected. The transparency created by Internet, websites and fair participation is likely to remove the traders from the standard business avenues in the coming years.

Quality and timely delivery are likely to be the mainstay for success. Indian exporters must look into these aspects seriously if they are remain in export business.

Participation as an exhibitor in Verona Fair in future years may not be advantageous to Indian companies. However, as visitors, they will find it the best place to get a feedback on new products, applications, finishes, prices and the likely competition they may face from other manufacturers in the world. Indian stone exhibitors will do well to turn their attention to smaller fairs which would be to their significant advantage.

K. Vikram