Bengaluru’s 25th Annual Tech Mela Is The Largest Ever, Thanks To Surging Startups

The history of technology expos is almost as old as the history of information technology in India — and one of the oldest, observed its Silver Jubilee when it opened its four-day run in Bengaluru yesterday (16 November).

The Bengaluru Tech Summit, as it is known in its current avatar, subsumes what was earlier a separate biotech show.

The state government of Karnataka first organized the event under the name Bangalore in 1998 with good support from the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI), at a time when the only major IT-related expos in India were the annual conventions of the Computer Society of India (CSI), which moved from city to city every year.

The Delhi-based Exhibitions India, a private organization, had also started an annual show called Convergence India at Pragathi Maidan in 1993 and it will celebrate 30 years in 2023.

But by its location in India’s Silicon City, the Bengaluru event has developed a character of its own. This character was tweaked multiple times as the business of technology changed and the main sponsors — the Information Technology (IT) department of the state — first renamed it Bangalore IT.Biz to reflect its platform for doing serious business and then in 2013 again tweaked the named to ITE.Biz to stress that it was an enterprise IT event rather than one focused on consumer electronics.

Bangalore BioTech was merged with ITE.Biz in 2017 and since 2018, the combined event is being called the Bengaluru Tech Summit.

These multiple renaming ceremonies also mirrored the somewhat mixed fortunes of the event and some confusion on how to position it.

After some years of dwindling participation by industries, the organizers joined with the Germany-based global tech expo CeBIT, in 2014, to run a joint event at what was then the newly created Bengaluru International Exhibition Center (BIEC), some 30 km away from the business district.

The expo saw many tech biggies return to exhibit — but the logistics made for poor attendance and the state government decided to go it alone from the next year.

It has remained a state sponsored event since then, but the location swung between a hotel — the Lalit Ashok and the Bangalore Palace. In 2020, at the height of Covid, Bengaluru Tech Summit went virtual and in 2021, it was a hybrid event with only a small physical presence.

This year it is housed in and around the city’s icon, Bangalore Palace, an unlikely yet visually unique locale.

Biggest Ever
This year’s expo has turned out to be the biggest ever in its history with over 575 exhibitors. For many years a small startup pavilion figured in the exhibition.

This year, the tail wags the dog — and startups from the country’s vibrant sector account for 330 stands, and testifies to the significant innovation that is coming from this sector.

Another change noticed this year is the large presence of government Research and Development (R&D) establishments like Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Space and Defence, with the labs of DRDO occupying an entire row of stalls, exhibiting everything from the latest Naval torpedoes to a full slate of missiles to the latest variant of the Arjun main battle tank, albeit all in scaled down models.