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One big absentee from world’s biggest tech show CES: India

The absence of Indian companies from the conference, which has become a norm, illustrates just how behind local companies are in catching up to their global counterparts.

tech Updated: Jan 09, 2018 15:16 IST
Manish Singh
The CES logo is displayed in the Las Vegas Convention Center lobby during the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus
The CES logo is displayed in the Las Vegas Convention Center lobby during the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 8, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus(REUTERS)

Each January, as much of the world prepares to wrap up the new year’s celebrations, tens of thousands of executives fly from around the globe to attend the multi-day International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) conference.

Held in Las Vegas, United States, it’s the world’s largest gadget and gizmo exhibition. Over 150,000 people race one another to various booths at the conference in hopes of finding the next breakthrough product. Thousands of exhibitors jostle to showcase their new offerings as they vie for the attention of consumers, investors, press, and analysts.

Put simply, if you have ever wanted to get a sneak peek into the innovations and trends that would seep into the smartphones, tablets, televisions, autonomous vehicles and several other categories in the coming future, CES is where you need to be.

Thousands of announcements are made in less than a week. This week at the conference, for instance, LG showcased the world’s first 88-inch television that sports an 8K OLED display. Computer manufacturers Asus and HP have announced that they will be integrating Amazon’s Alexa into their Windows 10 PCs. ALSO READ: LG introduces 65-inch display that can be rolled like a paper

Perhaps the only thing which is more overwhelming than the shards of headlines bolting out of the conference is the sheer history and significance of the event.

For nearly fifty years now, the Consumer Electronic Show has served as the central fixture of the technology industry. Several of the gadgets you use in your daily lives were first introduced at the clumsy, noisy and fast-paced surroundings of CES.

The first VCR, for instance, was debuted by Sony at CES in 1970, a year before it hit the retail stores. Similarly, the first camcorder, CD player, the Nintendo Entertainment System, the DVD and and the Blu-Ray disc, and high-definition TV have also made their first appearances at CES conferences in the past. In 2001, Microsoft chose CES as the platform to unveil the Xbox.

In the recent years, CES has also caught the attention of entertainment industry. It was the CES conference in 2016 where on-demand streaming service Netflix announced it was making its service available in India and more than 150 other countries and territories.

Executives from DreamWorks Animation, Hulu, YouTube Twentieth Century Fox, and NBCUniversal have become regular attendees of the gadgets conference. These executives are there to hold private meetings to discuss distribution of their content on the new and promising technology platforms they spot at the conference.

But what about Indian companies?

At the conference this year, top executives from LG, Samsung, and Sony among other companies are scheduled to unveil a range of new smartphones, tablets, televisions and other products. But there is not a single Indian smartphone maker that is attending the conference in official capacity. Micromax, Intex, and Lava told us they won’t be attending the conference.

India’s instant messaging platform Hike, and local Android-based operating system maker IndusOS are also not attending the conference. Ride-hailing company Ola said it would be attending the conference, which also showcases autonomous vehicles and software products for the category, but did not elaborate its agenda.

There is nothing surprising about it. All these years, Indian companies have largely avoided the world’s biggest platform to showcase their new products and services. The only time a prominent Indian company visited the conference was in 2014, when Micromax unveiled LapTab, its first dual-boot tablet.

The absence of Indian companies from the conference, which has become a norm, illustrates just how behind Indian smartphone makers and other companies are in catching up to their global counterparts. A smartphone, or tablet, or a TV which uses two or three-year old components and technologies, and is priced more than several of the new offerings from international companies is highly unlikely to receive much praise from anybody at the conference.

It appears Indian companies are not bothered either. Last year, Indian companies clubbed together to hold their own rendition of CES. The conference, however, was largely focused on telecom technologies and some of the biggest Indian brands were missing the limelight there as well. It’s not a good sight.