occidental, oriental, new and old
While holy men in shadowed calm retreats
Pray through the night and watch the stars,
A lonely plane flies off to meet the dawn,
While down below the busy life goes on,
And women crowd the old bazaars;
It’s just about NAB time once again, and as I pack my bags, I thought I’d reflect on last September when I was visiting with some customers in India. It just so happened that during the weekend of my stay, Broadcast India 2008 was in full swing. Naturally, this was a great opportunity to visit and see first hand how things had changed since my last visit to this fantastic country about nine years ago.
It’s Saturday morning and I arrive at the show with my local host. The exhibition complex is like an old series of warehouses in a compound, surrounded by a high concrete fence – about 10ft tall. There is a main gate with an elaborate, very modern looking sign indicating Broadcast India 2008. We drive through the gate and wind left, dodging people, auto-rickshaws, parked cars and motorbikes. As we make our way towards hall 6, my colleague instructs the driver to stop and ask where one registers. The car stops. Right there. Right in the middle of the road. The driver puts his captain’s hat on, and walks over to the security guard in a very officious manner, exchanges a few words, and comes back. He tells us to get out of the car. For a split second, I wonder what is going on, then I realize that just above the entrance sign it says “registration”. We get out and head towards the show.
Such a strange place. Security guards who desperately try to manage traffic and the chaotic parking, patrolling the entrance sporting long canes. Were they walking sticks or were they the remnants of British authority that had been handed down to these surrogates of order? Trees were painted with both brown and white – to keep the bugs from crawling up? It’s very shady and pleasant. There is a buzz in the air, very reminiscent of the earliest computer trade shows I attended in Sydney as a student. They were modest. These were more than modest.
Registration was a pretty straightforward process. Simply take a form, check all of the attributes that apply to you (so that they can send you junk emails), and attach your business card. I get an official badge and lanyard and embark on my voyage of discovery. It’s not a big show. Walking at a leisurely pace, you could cover the booths in less than an hour. This is what I do. I make a fly by and take a few photos, while my colleague catches up with old friends.
He asks my impression of the show.
“Quite impressive”, I reply.
In fact it is. Although it generally looks pretty tacky by occidental standards, there is one characteristic that does not escape my attention. Youth. There is a swarm of young people eager to see, experience, absorb and learn everything they can. Media is a seductive industry. It has opportunities that span from from producing content through to distributing it. It has that cachet of being hip and close to pop culture. It is a natural magnet for youth.
Compared to the west, where there is a generation of self indulgent ‘video engineers’ clinging on until retirement comes, here in emerging markets, it would seem as though the technically literate youth is making its own rules and competing with raw energy. I catch up with few business partners, visit the booth of my former employer and catch up with a few old colleagues from past days. It truly is a small world. I seem to be going through business cards like sand through my fingers. Eventually I’d had enough and headed for the exit.
Nonetheless, as I stood there, peering back that the sign, I saw hundreds of people shuffling to the entrance and leaving through the exit. I wondered how they all managed to look past the mess and managed to focus on the objective – to learn. This was not the NAB of India. NAB is all glitz and sizzle. Here the gear had been flown in from IBC just a few weeks earlier. It had been show tested, it was a little more robust than the usual demoware that you glimpse between the glitzy distractions in the main western shows. This was stuff that companies actually used, wanted, and wanted to learn about.
And perhaps that was what it was all about anyway…
Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.