Eagle-Eyed Entrepreneur: After seizing the wedding market Samit Garg charges at tourism events
He is neither statuesque nor enigmatic; in fact there is nothing extraordinary or imposing about Samit Garg, at first glance. But within a short while one promptly realizes why they say still waters run deep. From humble beginnings to establishing E Factor, India's ultra-luxe boutique wedding agency, Garg's story is one of luck, hard work and a very sharp eye.
Samit Garg, the founder of India’s premier wedding agency E Factor Entertainment, came to New Delhi from Lucknow in 1998 in search of a suitable livelihood. Coming from a small town and in dire need of money and stability, very soon things started going from bad to worse for Garg. At that time his cousin Sudhanshu Mittal, now a spokesperson for BJP, came forward and offered him engagement at DTH, one of the largest infrastructure players during the time. Quickly learning the tricks of the trade and understanding opportunities in the business, it is here that Samit walked the first steps of his long journey into the world of events.
At Delhi Tent House he learned that while events were happening everyday in the country in the form of cultural, social, political programs, they greatly lacked quality control and attention to detailing. In the year 2000, with his wife Manika and friends Jai and Sonali Thakore as aides, he decided to form E Factor Entertainment.
In the beginning E Factor dabbled in events of all nature- corporate and political alike, but it soon found its niche in designing weddings. February 2002 marked the turning point for the company after it executed Peter Punj and Sonali Nanda’s wedding. Word spread like fire and what followed was a string of contracts to manage the weddings of some of the most affluent Delhi families.
E Factor’s vision of being in the high profile social events space has been there from the very beginning. The fact that weddings are a showy affair, especially in north India, among families with high disposable incomes and their eagerness to pull out all the stops for this momentous celebration served as the perfect recipe for E Factor’s success.
Most recently E Factor clinched ten awards at EEMAX Global 2016 organized by the Event and Entertainment Management Association, becoming the most awarded agency at the prestigious event held annually to recognize the most deserving work in event management.
Besides winning in the categories of Best Wedding, Best Destination Wedding and Best Décor Design for a Wedding, which were more obvious wins, it was interesting to see the agency bag awards for the Best IP (Pushkar Fair), Best Signature Event (Taj Balloon Festival and Udaipur Lake Festival), Best Public Event (Taj Balloon Festival and Pushkar Fair) and Best Event for the Government (Taj Balloon Festival) as a result of its latest foray into tourism led events. At the event Garg commented, “This is an extremely proud moment for the E Factor family and is going to be a great motivator in times to come. Our hard work, perseverance and diligence have helped us in receiving this great honor. This is very special for two reasons, one, for the number of awards we were recognized for and second, being awarded for our new forays into IPs and tourism events.”
Samit conceived the idea for his multiple award-winning balloon festival in 2004. “Upon laying my eyes on a hot air balloon for the first time at Stuttgart in Germany I was left spellbound”, reminisces Samit. “I had never seen anything this beautiful before. That’s when I thought of getting the ballooning experience into India. We initially did a pilot run with a balloon festival in Rajasthan in 2006 which turned out to be a grand success. That triggered off the search for the right team, equipment, permits, fixtures, licenses etc. that led us to launching our commercial operations as Sky Waltz in October 2008 at Jaipur. Thereafter we expanded operations to more areas, acquiring more equipment in the process”, he adds. Till date E Factor has flown close to 30000 people across locations in India.
E Factor has joined hands with UP Tourism to annually organize the Taj Balloon Festival in Agra to showcase the beauty of one of India’s most visited monuments- Taj Mahal. The Taj enjoys an iconic status all across the world with tourists thronging the breathtaking memorial everyday by the thousands. Garg figured there could be no better way to see the Taj than from a hot air balloon, a view that even the creator of this world-wonder would have never enjoyed. He expresses, “I’ve always been scouting for destinations that have things that are unique to offer and flying across the Taj Mahal was always on my mind. We pitched to the Department of Uttar Pradesh Tourism for conducting a balloon festival. They saw merit in our proposal and consequently the first edition of the festival was held in November 2015 followed by another edition in November 2016.”
Commenting on the response from the tourism department and the public from the two editions of Taj Balloon Festival he says, “The response has been fantastic and we are hoping we will be able to start commercial ballooning operations in Agra soon. The Department of Uttar Pradesh Tourism has appreciated our efforts and so have the people of Agra which is just the encouragement we need. We know of people who have come from far to either fly or witness the flights in motion. The foreign pilots and crew laud us as one of the best balloon festivals they have been to.”
Talking about the festival, Avinash Mishra from UP Tourism said, “The excitement has been running high amongst all of us. I am pleased to have been a part of such an exhilarating experience that was supported wholeheartedly by the locals. This will not only boost the tourism of Agra locally, but also put it up on the global tourism map. We are optimistic that this event will have a long term relation with the city of Agra“.
The six day Taj Balloon Festival saw participation from fifteen balloons from different countries including India, the USA, UK, Belgium, UAE, Netherland, Turkey, Switzerland, Sri Lanka, Poland, and Malaysia. These included three ‘special shape’ balloons featuring iconic characters Happy Egg, Bob the Lobster & Smurf, an exciting new addition to last year’s festival.
True to his vision of identifying destinations with unique offerings and creating experiences around it, in November 2015 E Factor took over the management of 100-year old Pushkar Mela in an impermanent agreement with government of Rajasthan. The Pushkar Mela each year attracts more than 50,000 camels, horses and cattle, 800,000 tourists and 60,000 expats from across the world, to the tiny desert town of Pushkar on the edge of the Thar Desert. Seeing this as an untapped opportunity E Factor entered a 5-year PPP with the government of Rajasthan to organize and execute the fair till 2019.
“Pushkar has become busier over the years because of a lot of domestic as well as foreign travellers who have started coming here. Testimony to this is opening of two very well established hotel chains this very year itself”, says Garg. “Big challenges have always excited us and taking up Pushkar Mela was quite a feat considering the sheer scale of activities, spread over a number of days and the enormous number of people who come here either to participate or as tourists. We also wanted to go beyond just amplifying the mela. The opportunity to scale it up to a level where it would impact businesses and economies in the township was a thrill factor too. We have also added a lot of elements that attract people across the socio-economic stratosphere. So besides ballooning and camping, one also has participative options like a half marathon, a photography contest and giveaways to some of the biggest fusion concerts including Indian Ocean, Prem Joshua, Harshdeep Kaur, as prizes”, he says.
Other highlights of Pushkar Mela include an aviation-themed pop-up café named Sky Waltz that is run by E Factor as a standalone restaurant in Jaipur, a VIP hospitality arena, an especially curated opening and flag off ceremony, fusion music performances, hot air ballooning and adventure activities.
E Factor has also joined hands with Rajasthan Tourism for the Udaipur Lake Festival, an IP that won a Gold at EEMAX for the Best Signature Event, where the lakes of Udaipur were used as a canvas to create engaging experiences to showcase the city’s natural beauty and heritage architecture.
In this aggressive pursuit to master city based events Garg has not remained restricted to the comfortable confines of north India where the company is stationed. In February 2017 E Factor hosted Visakha Utsav at the Visakhapatnam seafront and Amaravati Global Music and Dance Festival at the riverside where rivers Godavari and Krishna convene. The objective of both festivals is to engage the local populace and promote Andhra Pradesh as a tourist destination.
Held at the popular Rama Krishna Beach, Visakha Utsav is an annual property, the mandate of which has fallen in the hands of E Factor this year. An assortment of offerings including amusement rides, pagoda style food stalls, food trucks, live barbecue stations, cooking contests, handicrafts market, installations, kite flying, quad biking and entertainment in the form of cultural performances and a concert with popular artists among other experiential elements are aimed at drawing attention to the beautiful seafront and local attractions via an engaging experience.
Amaravati Global Music and Dance Festival, on the other hand, was hosted for the first time this year from 10- 13 February 2017. It featured Indian classical, western classical, Bollywood, global fusion, folk, contemporary world music and other genres of dance and music. Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, local administration and authorities backed the festival with strong support and enthusiasm. Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu commented, “I look forward to making Amaravati a global hub for culture, and I’m delighted that the Amaravati Global Music and Dance Festival is an important step in this direction. I welcome all legendary artists from across the world, the country and our state to be a part of it”.
From humble beginnings to founding India’s most premier wedding agency, and now a gaze set firmly on tourism-based events, the ever-enterprising Samit Garg truly embodies the lesson that nothing is too small to know and nothing is too big to attempt. E Factor has recently signed an MOU with Italy based Filmmaster Events marking its entry into signature sporting and ceremonial events. Currently surveying regions of Varanasi for the next big venture, Samit’s conviction is firm- “We want to be at the forefront of tourism based events, where each event has a unique flavor to it. By combining elements of culture, history, geography, local aesthetics and flavor our endeavor is to emanate a wow factor with each experience we create”.
Around The World