CAN Info-Tech 2001 is here. In the last seven years, this has turned into the biggest hi-tech event in Nepal. This year it has a new look and a new venue-the International Convention Centre in Naya Baneswor, instead of the crowded premises of Hotel Blue Star. No more parking problems now.
The event had humble beginnings. The first CAN Info-Tech fair was organised in January 1995. The executive committee of the Computer Association of Nepal (CAN) had only recently been formed, and they decided to kick off with an info-tech show. The response was positive and an enthusiastic CAN decided to make the event an annual affair. The first was more of an exhibition than a business show. Over the years, interest from exhibitors increased to such an extent that last year exhibitors had to be turned away due to lack of space.
Computers and multimedia were the stars in 1995. The next year it was the Internet. But by 1997, the focus had shifted to trade, and price wars were fought with gusto over the next couple of years. In 1999, V-SAT and video conferencing were hot tickets. Price wars broke out again in 2000, but the larger companies had moved to value-added services. As the prices of everything related to computers went down, companies tried to woo customers by providing more bang for their buck.
"Showing boxes is not interesting anymore," says Pawan Tuladhar of Mercantile Communication. The Mercantile Group has the biggest presence at the exhibition. This year they are highlighting their fibre-optic networking equipment. Mercantile Communication is also launching its business and teen portals, kegarne.com and yokeho.com , at the show. It is also starting an Internet-based distance learning programme in Nepal, offering 350 distance learning courses from the US. Says Tuladhar: "We are focusing on value-added services, and the move towards distance learning is one of our efforts to bridge the digital gap between Nepalis and people in developed countries." The strategy is clear for Mercantile-don't just display hardware, also show what it can be used for.
The next largest exhibitor is the World Distribution Group (WDG), which is unveiling non-Intel-based Enterprise class servers like the SUN Ultra Sparc and servers from Dell for the first time in Nepal. The Enterprise-class servers are used mostly by big organisations as network servers for data storage. WDG's Arun Shrestha says, "Our strategy at the exhibition is based on complete information, communication and technology solutions, so we will try to present an integrated computing environment." WDG will also have V-SATs (very small aperture satellites used by businesses in lieu of signing up with an ISP), and hospital management software at the show.
Another first for the show will be the availability of Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) services, marketed by Worldlink Communications. There's a lot of buzz about WAP overseas, but they arrived in Nepal only a few months ago. WAP provides Internet access to gadgets like mobile phones, palm tops, and personal digital assistants (PDA) as long as the device is WAP-enabled. Yet another company, Sigma Resources, is exhibiting Gateway computers and networking equipment.
Service-oriented companies apart, the usual computer-wallahs are out in large numbers. The Pentium 4 War, as we could call it, will give visitors the best prices on equipment. At the entrance you will be greeted with unbeatable prices. As you go on, you'll find the usual array of standard-issue computing and related products, including computer books, software, and UPS back-ups made in Nepal, Taiwan, China, India and the US.
There's even a company, Techno Links, that has created CD-ROMs with a Nepali version of the popular Indian gameshow, "Kaun Banega Crorepati", for sale. Another stall virtually recreates the set of the show.
Webpage service providers are engaged in their own price war, and this is the place to go to get a good deal on web-hosting prices and service charges. And finally, there are pager companies also out offering their wares.
Brands like LG, Samsung, Canon, Epson, HP, Microsoft, Novell, Creative, Acer, Xerox, and Fluke are all represented at the show, although CN Upadhyay, co-ordinator of the show, hastens to add: "Most multinational brands will be represented by their local counter-parts."
This year CAN has also provided computer institutes an entire hall to themselves at a special price. This effort on the part of CAN has definitely given visitors more to see. Domestic giant College of Software Engineering has the largest area amongst the training vendors promoting their foreign certification plans.
CAN Info-Tech 2001 definitely has a new look about it. Given the huge demands from exhibitors, total exhibition space is more than1600 sq m. The show is spread over 80 stalls and four halls, and the number of exhibitors is 60, but with companies sometimes sharing stall space, it's hard to tell. As the IT scenario in Nepal boomed in recent years, CAN Info-tech has been a place where ordinary people can get a feel of the technology to come. Most people went to the first event in 1995 to see computers. This year, it looks like anybody with even the remotest interest in IT should go for a dekko. The Pentium 4 may not attract you, but the show is definitely worth a visit.