Reflecting On The Season Passed

This has been a very busy season with three boat shows and many sailing events! These include The Goa International Marine and Boat Expo’09, Goa International Boat Show’10 and the Mumbai International Boat Show’10. Amongst the regattas and sailing events we had the Mumbai International Match Race’09, the Monsoon Regatta Hyderabad, the Asia Pacific Launch Regatta, the BSA Mumbai Harbor Optimist Regatta, UTV Match Racing Nationals and the Tolani and Godrej Cup Regattas.

Goa International Marine and Boat Expo’09 was very well organized and promoted and the companies participating felt that they received much more exposure than the following one – the Goa International Boat Show’10; which was a much bigger show but weak on response. Although many big names chose not to participate in the Mumbai International Boat Show 2010, exhibitors seemed content with the response of the show. They were happy with the promotions and organization of the event and will book space for the next show.

Boat shows are a great way to educate the audience about the various parts of the boating industry and Regattas should certainly be encouraged to get more people out on the water. Mr. Aashim Mongia, Managing Director, West Coast Marine Yacht Services says, “At the moment the leisure marine industry is still nascent. These kinds of events are more focused on creating long term interest and awareness which will eventually lead to sales.”

Sales in the industry have been slow. Small and mid-sized boats have been sold but not many in the luxury motor yacht category. Inquiries for pre-owned boats have surged this season and charter companies have performed excellently. Ms. Roshini Pahlajani, Business Development Manager, BURGESS / OCEANSTYLE Mumbai remarks, “There has been greater awareness of the boating industry as a whole and sailing specifically. This is due to more entrants into the sailing and leisure boating segments, sailing academies, charter companies, and marine related websites. There has also been a concerted effort on the part of all players to advertise and publicize boating.”

Knowledge and interest of the target audience has improved greatly. The affluent Indian is a world traveler and has seen and experienced yachting which has aroused his desire and interest. The various boating and sailing clubs in India are also playing an important role. Says Capt. Homi Motiwala of Yacht Charters India: “Boat shows are helpful in creating awareness. They create great brand knowledge rather than direct sales and leads. Internet has led to a huge change in building interest and knowledge of the target audience. Most inquiries come through the web.”

Mr. Kenneth D’souza, Director, Causeway Marine India, says “People are looking at boats at different sizes, even without the infrastructure, so there is evidently a keen interest. Let’s look at good infrastructure and then watch the market shoot. It’s not a big deal for any HNI to invest about a crore in a small boat you will find thousands wanting a boat. We must have a secured place and facility for boats, that’s been my approach now, if we have to grow big time.”

Mr. Maneck Contractor of Multi Tech Marine comments: “There are two reasons why people are buying boats – 1 is to make a statement and 2 is for commercial use. We sold boats to the navy and charter companies. Since custom duty has dropped the imported brands do better than Indian manufactured boats in the larger boats segment. Over all boating knowledge is still low. We really got to hard sell and we are still stuck with fishing inquiries. Recreational boating is eco friendly and is picking up.”

Most players feel that the potential of the Indian market is tremendous and with only coastal cities being targeted we are not even scratching the surface. A lot of untapped areas like the interiors with the many rivers and lakes will attract boating in a big way. The wealthy populace of north India is another big potential segment. These untapped segments can be fully explored only when we have marinas in operation. We are simply at the tip of the ice berg and the best is yet to come!

The issue of multiple boat shows in this season has affected the industry too. But what is the need of the hour – an effective boat show or an efficient infrastructure? The need of the hour is undoubtedly efficient infrastructure over effective boat shows. Considering the untapped potential of the market some companies do feel that many boat shows and sailing events will actually benefit the industry while some say otherwise.

Capt. Homi Motiwala: “Boat shows are good, but the industry is too small to support so many shows as it is financially not viable and does not make business sense. Pricing should ideally drop by 50% and the grass root level of the market should be targeted much more than the upper end.”

Mr. Cyrus Heerji of Royal Bombay Yacht Club: “Response to sailing has picked up with up to 15-20% more attendance. The Mumbai International Boat Show generated a lot of inquiries. Awareness and membership for the Colaba Sailing Club has increased. Lots of children are joining the optimist program. There has been increased media coverage. Many boat shows in different cities or states do help but they should be on a much smaller scale like boating festivals or carnivals and regattas so that the awareness spreads. Rivers and lakes should be targeted expansively. There should be efforts made to bridge the gap and get everybody under one roof and one boat show.”

Mr. Nelson Dmello, CEO, Infinity Yachts: “Too many boat shows delay sales as it prolongs decision making time period of the buyer. The buyer looks out for more gateways to explore products. Too many boat shows are very expensive and lead to wastage in time and investment.

Mr. Aashim Mongia: “There is too much hype around these shows and not enough business transacted. We will only participate in those shows where we see real benefit.”

Mr. Malav Shroff, Director, Ocean Blue Group: “Every country has major boat shows supported by local manufacturers…in India there are only two shows of that nature, MIBS and GIBS…rest are gatherings of dealers who sell imported yachts which is about 10% of the boating market. Manufacturers in India are much bigger than dealers and do not get affected by multiple shows. They will support only key shows.”

Mr. Simon Arrol, Director Technical – Marina India: “Given that Mumbai is the industry’s established location I would favor focusing efforts for, say, the next three years on holding a really good quality show in Mumbai. After all, if someone is really intent on buying a boat then he/she will make the effort to attend. Although the yachts and products being promoted at these shows are mainly high quality imports, we have not so far produced a show having a quality to match. This suggests to me that the industry would benefit from linking to one of the major international boat show organizations, thus drawing upon their expertise.”

The companies that refrained from participating in the Mumbai International Boat Show this year felt that the boat show must have clarity and must now be organized by a body that does not have any marine dealerships, just like the ones in Goa. But here in Mumbai, they say it is all worked out to benefit the organizers who are in fact major boat dealers even if one is hoodwinked into thinking otherwise.

Many Companies who are neutral to the on-going debate on multiple boat shows question: Although the India Marine Federation may not have any marine dealerships, aren’t the majority of its committee members major boat dealers? When Companies have to choose between two shows, are they not justified to support the more effective show? Dealers of imported yachts may comprise of a few but what about the industrial turnover that they generate? All said and done, they feel everybody gets affected for better or worse.

The parallel boat shows have resulted in a definite rift in participation. While some choose to call this rift ‘competition’ others feel that it will slower the overall growth if it does not get resolved soon.
Competition improves two things: price and choice. It can also force innovation.

“Are the yacht dealers in it to do business or to play politics? A large number of the Indian Marine Federation members participated in the Mumbai International Boat Show purely on business considerations. It is mandatory for dealers to participate in at least one international boat show and this year some of them have missed the bus or should I say the boat. I hope next year we can put this divisiveness behind us and have a truly representative boat show.” Mr. Maneck Davar, Chairman and Managing Director of Mumbai International Boat Show strongly remarks.

Mr. Donny Mathew, Director, Nautilus Yachts: “it is unfortunate to see events being split, thus diluting the quality. The question of most, if not all the potential clients are, “Where do I keep the yacht?” A boat show at a marina will bring in the desired clientele as compared to on-land boat shows. The leisure boating industry was and still is small to effectively lobby the cause of infrastructure with the Government. An initiative by private property developers to combine a waterfront property and marina would be a great idea. The Hospitality industry can play an important role as well. I am surprised how the real estate companies and hotels have not seen the good economics of this.”

Infrastructure is the catalyst that will snowball the industry to achieve 300-400% growth! Yachting is a lifestyle and infrastructure is the key factor that will solve concerns like safety and efficient maintenance, and create boating destinations to visit in smaller boats and increased revenue avenues. Today, whether you are a deckhand or a proud owner of a multi-crore luxury yacht, you still have to jump boats to get to the jetty. It’s time the government and the private sector make efforts together. Infrastructure should be effective and efficient, safer and user friendly.

All companies need to find a common ground and get a move on. Players should concentrate on exploring the market rather than competition. We are all here to make sales happen and each company should be able to advance on its own strategies rather than pull down or play the blame game with its competitors. They must be able to judge on their own what has worked out for them and make independent decisions rather than following the crowd. It is essential to put up a united front and focus on infrastructure, operations, education, laws, safety regulations, licensing and policies governing the leisure boating industry. Let this be the agenda for the coming season.

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