Value Added Tax
➤ VAT in Mumbai, India, is 12.5 percent and is charged on most items that are imported or purchased.
➤ A service tax of 14 percent and two .5-percent taxes (known as Swachh Bharat and Krishi Kalyan) are frequently charged for services rendered.
➤ Vendors cannot charge both VAT and service tax on the same item. However, an exhibit house may charge VAT on materials and levy a service tax on any services rendered.
➤ India operates on 220-240 volts, and electric sockets typically require three round pins. It is advisable to bring adapters and transformers from home.
➤ Garbage generated during installation and dismantle is often cleaned by show organizers, a service sometimes included in booth-space rental costs.
Booth-cleaning services can usually be ordered from the show organizer.
➤ Purchase a prepaid phone or an international calling card upon arriving at the airport. You will need to supply a copy of your passport and two passport-sized photos to buy a cell connection, which may not be activated for 24 hours.
➤ Sending your shipments to Mumbai via airfreight can take from four to 14 days. By ocean freight, it can take five to six weeks. All shipments must be fumigated with a heat treatment before they will be allowed into the country.
➤ All products shipped into India must be accompanied by shipping manifests with detailed information regarding the contents. There are many regulations for importing goods, and if the proper paperwork is not completed, shipments can be held up indefinitely.
➤ Payments can typically be made via bank transfers prior to the show. However, be aware that on-site payments often require cash, and ATMs are not readily available at event venues.
➤ Local vendors usually require a 50- to 80-percent down payment when a contract is signed, with the balance due 15 to 30 days prior to the show's opening.
➤ Dial 100 for the police department.
Greetings and Culture
➤ A handshake with a friendly "Hello" or placing one's palms together and saying "Namaste," which means "welcome," is appropriate for men and women. But due to local customs, men should only shake a woman's hand if she extends it first.
➤ Making polite conversation before talking business is the best way to approach potential clients in India.
➤ Hierarchy is important to Indian culture, and as such you should greet the person with the most senior title first, or if title is not apparent, the eldest.
➤ The distribution of giveaway items is quite popular at consumer trade shows in Mumbai, but somewhat less so at business-to-business events.
➤ In-booth hospitality is common in large exhibits. Hot and cold drinks are typically served, along with cookies and pastries.
➤ Many people in India are vegetarians. As such, it is best to avoid any foods that contain meat. It is illegal to serve beef in Mumbai.
➤ Small booths often serve coffee, soft drinks, candies, and dried fruits.
➤ Alcohol is not common on the show floor, and permission to serve it must be obtained from show organizers. If alcohol is served, beer is usually the only item offered, but wine is becoming increasingly popular in large hospitality lounges.
➤ English is widely spoken in the business community in Mumbai, but you may want to have a translator fluent in Hindi in the booth. Other languages you may encounter are Catalan, Marathi, and Spanish.
➤ English-only signs and literature are acceptable, but including Hindi may be viewed positively.
➤ Business suits in conservative colors are common for both men and women.
➤ To be dressed appropriately, women must cover as much skin as possible and avoid wearing short skirts and low-cut tops.
➤ Piercings (other than traditional earrings) and tattoos should be concealed, and jewelry should be kept to a minimum.
Installation and Dismantle
➤ Mumbai does not have trade show labor unions, and workers can be secured through an exhibit builder or the show organizer. Be aware that some vendor listings in the show manual may be paid advertisements, so it is best to obtain referrals before contracting a company for services.
➤ Exhibitors may set up their own booths, but should not hire local workers for assistance without going through a reputable vendor.
➤ A typical workday in India is eight to nine hours, and anything beyond that must be arranged with the contractor in advance.
➤ The vast majority of local workers do not speak English, so it is important to have one bilingual worker at all times during I&D.
➤ Hanging signs are not permitted in any venue.
➤ Fabric is not often used on exhibits, as excessive dust can make it difficult to keep clean.
General Facts and Tips
➤ Mumbai is very hot and humid, and poor air quality is frequently a problem. If you or your staffers suffer from asthma or allergies, bring sufficient medication.
➤ Most Mumbai residents are quite friendly, and it is not uncommon for locals to ask for a picture with light-skinned visitors. If you are uncomfortable accommodating the request, it is acceptable to decline.
➤ Personal safety is a concern, as there are thieves around major tourist areas in India. Do not display cash, jewelry, electronics, or other valuables.
➤ In the Indian culture, dinner starts at about 8:30 p.m., and most restaurants will not begin serving dinner before 7 p.m.
➤ Hotel rooms at English-speaking four- or five-star hotels near a venue sell out well ahead of major shows. Reservations six months to a year in advance are recommended.
➤ Traffic congestion is an issue in Mumbai, and traveling 15 miles from downtown to convention venues can take 2 to 3.5 hours during peak times.
➤ For the most reliable service, always use prepaid taxis (usually blue) to get from the airport to a hotel. Hiring a private driver for the day through a trusted source is the most recommended method of transportation in Mumbai. Ride-share services Uber and Ola are also available.
Venues and Resources
➤ The Bombay Exhibition Center (www.nesco.in/bec), also referred to as NSC Goregaon East, features four halls and 150,000 square feet of exhibit space. It has a limited number of hotels within walking distance and is 10 miles from downtown Mumbai and six miles from the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
➤ The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) Grounds at Bandra-Kurla Complex is a newly developed area in southern Mumbai that features open areas where vast temporary hangars are constructed for exhibitions. There are a limited number of hotels within walking distance, and it is eight miles from downtown Mumbai.
Sources: Sanjay Kapur, CEO, Studio360, Faridabad, Haryana, India; Rajnikant Kedia, managing director, Insta Exhibitions Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India; Madhusree B. Singh, manager, corporate communications, Keck Genesis Exhibitions India Pvt. Ltd., Kolkata, India