My first visit to Farnborough was more than a decade ago. It was the year 2000. I happened to visit the UK to meet a customer and made it to the Farnborough Airshow on the public day. I was a lot younger and it was a dream come true. What’s more! I have not missed a single Farnborough Airshow ever since. As a business visitor, no less. This year has been special though. But more about that later. First, let us take a trip down the memory lane, 2000 – 2014. And in the process we will look at the emerging trends.
If I am not wrong, Global Hawk, made its first appearance as a mock up in the Year 2000. It had taken me a few minutes to realize that there was no cockpit. The age of UAV had dawned. A few years later UAV made a big splash at the Farnborough Airshow. There was a separate zone allocated to UAV’s and there were shows at appointed hours inside an area covered with net. This, as I recollect, was in the year 2010. That same year, or the next, Boeing showcased, in an area outside the main halls, its range of unmanned vehicles (for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force). This year, there were no specific zones for UAVs. UAVs are now mainstream, and do not require any special promotion, I guess.
Instead, innovation has taken its place. The Aero industry has always been innovative, but the need to focus on innovation has never been greater. Green is the colour of innovation. Industry – Academia collaboration is the theme. The idea is to attract students back to the aero industry, instead of the Googles and Facebooks of the world, I guess. Hence, a day was reserved for students to visit and play with the demos.
The year 2002 saw a special zone for Space. As far as I remember, a separate “hall’ was created to house the Space Companies. And until Farnborough Airshow of 2010, the Space Zone was sufficiently large. In the past two Airshows, the Space Zone seems to be shrinking in size. Virgin Galactica created a buzz in 2012. I expected Elon Musk’s SpaceX to create the same buzz this year. Disappointing!
A distinct trend over the years has been increased participation by small and medium sized companies. These small and medium sized companies bring in a special flavor that is a delight for the techies. They showcase brilliant products that are also niche. This year a few of them showcased mobility driven innovation. These companies come as part of a larger national contingent. Mexico made a big splash in 2012. They were here this time too. They seem to be attracting lots of visitors that the smaller companies that are part of the Indian contingent are not. Brazil seems to have developed an entire aero ecosystem around Embraer that India has not been able to duplicate.
Every time I visited the Farnborough Airshow, I promised myself that one day I will be an exhibitor. In 2010, I almost was one. However, a last minute unplanned expense (a huge premium towards some sort of public indemnity or some similar insurance) put paid to that dream then. This year – 2014 – I finally realized the dream. Joining HCL a year ago was a good decision I must say.
This year, HCL put up a grand show and my team played a prominent role. HCL created the entire experience around the themes of Innovation and Sustenance. My team showcased demos that embody these two aspects. We did not want to put up some static displays. We wanted the visitors to touch and feel how our innovations work. It proved to be a big draw. The customers we invited are big names in the Aero industry. They loved what they saw, and the uninvited went click-click-click. Now I know how a celebrity feels on a red carpet! Except that the HCL stand occupying a strategic corner in Hall 4 was bathed in serene white.