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In everything I do or associate with, I believe everyone should profit --Rajeev Jain

In an interview with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, Rajeev Jain, Director Rashi Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, spoke about the economic distress, the need for government support and why virtual events can never replace the touch and feel events.

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Event industry is going through its low point as far as business is concerned. With unlock 1 in effect, there seems some hope for a revival, but the question is--how soon?

In an interview with BW Applause and Everything Experiential, Rajeev Jain, Director Rashi Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, spoke about the economic distress, the need for government support and why virtual events can never replace the touch and feel events.

Excerpts:

What are the specific challenges to your industry and what do you think could be the possible solutions? 

The COVID pandemic has shaken up the entire world. Every country in the world, including the leading nations, have been reeling under its impact. Every business is affected. The most affected are businesses that deal face to face with people and offer human touch. Ours is one of those.

We are in the ‘experiential’ and ‘bringing people together’ business. Ours is the ‘live’ events business. Obviously, this has been impacted most grievously. 

The fallout of this is evident all around – a few lakh have been rendered jobless, companies are facing shut down, thanks to liquidity crunch, the entire support system and supply chain which directly or indirectly employs millions is facing a crisis. This includes artists, companies providing sound, light, décor, staging infrastructure, craftsmen are facing terrible times. For employers and company owners providing continued employment and disbursing regular salaries has become a huge challenge.

The size, scope, viability and economic contribution of our industry before the COVID crisis was close to Rs 10000 Cr, as per the EY report on the media and entertainment industry.  The wedding industry, exhibition and sports sectors, combined with the corporate events sector, placed the industry clearly at Rs 40000 cr. The sector was poised for significant growth and was set to contribute to the country’s growth, entrepreneurial success stories, employment opportunities and skills development.

Now, there is no magic bullet, or immediate solution – however, I do believe that the events sector with ‘touch and feel’ at the heart of the human experience will bounce back. I would safely guess that by Feb 2021, the tide will have turned.

Right now ‘Survival’ is the name of the game and it is my opinion that we should focus our efforts on sustenance and reorganization to build viable enterprises.

The event industry has been looking for some support from the government to tide over the current crisis, do you think it's time for the government to focus on the sector and announce a special package?

This industry has some dynamic and enterprising minds – they are ‘Atmanirbhar’ by nature – but placing the industry in the right context vis-à-vis the Government – positioning it in the corridors of power would work wonders for it.

But unfortunately, we are neither recognized nor an organized sector and do not currently have the visibility, voice and heft that we should have in the Governmental ear.

I read the “Atmanirbhar’ presentation – and I understand that the Hon Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman has stated that “All tenders below Rs 200 Cr. will be executed by Indian Companies Only”. This is a good decision and will definitely increase our economic power – we will be able to compete on a level playing field. 

Now, further to her statement, I have a humble wish list: 

~Not only below 200 Cr event projects should be given to Indian companies but 100% Government Events should be done by Indian Agencies only. 

~Further, the Central Govt. should allow allocation of resources to State Govts. annually to conduct events for public awareness and welfare – and these should be executed locally. 

Given the current situation, in your view what does the future hold for the experiential and wedding industries?

I have spent more than two decades in this Industry and what I have learnt is that “The Show Must Go On”. 

There is no denying that the Indian Experiential & Wedding Industry is currently suffering the impact of covid and agencies are struggling to stay afloat; but, I believe our industry will enjoy a revival soon. 

New SOPs will emerge and with creativity, innovation and technology, our industry will create new engagement models which will help us brave our way through the pandemic.

Domestic destinations will be the most sought after for large weddings as international markets will be shunned – this will provide event companies more opportunities and several corporate event companies will also begin to use their expertise for wedding design, planning and management.

Of course, the profit margins will be reduced, but celebrations and weddings will sustain our industry till the corporate spenders are back.

What is your take on Small & Medium Sized Agencies?

For me the small and medium sized agencies are the backbone of the industry.

This industry comprises 90% small and mid-size agencies and in straight forward words YES they are the ones who are actually the bulwark of our industry.

During this time of uncertainty, we have to find ways and means to support the small and medium agencies. If they survive, our industry will prosper and grow.

We need to take help of our Government for direct benefits and should pillory them to ensure subsidies, interest-free loans, tax rebates, etc. We must ask for special prices and offers from Hotels, Caterers, & Banquets, technical supply chain in order to make business opportunities viable and profitable for all.

This is the time to create a collaborative ecosystem to harness the power of the small agencies and more important to help them survive today so that they can become industry leaders tomorrow.

Is greater collaboration the antidote to the events industry in a post pandemic world?

These days... of course!! 

“When My Company Becomes Your Company, It Becomes Our Industry”  

Collaborations Create Companions, Create Commerce, Create Success. My journey would have been impossible without collaborations and companions. And with these, Rashi is today a premier events agency.

“Saath Dhanda Karenge… Saath Business Karenge… To Hi Is Kathin Samay Se Nikal Payenge aur Munafa Kamayenge “

We all have our own strength. Some have creativity, some have thoughts, some have finance, some have operations, others have technical knowledge or negotiation skills; but together we have the power to survive and together we have the power to achieve. 

It is all about generating revenues for each other with each other’s strengths.

What would you call the secret of staying profitable in the events business?

There is no secret. It is just the traditional way of concentrating on the basics and managing the bottom line. Top line is a luxury- sometimes an illusion; bottom line is true reality.

I always believe in planning whether it is work, events, meetings or funds.

In my opinion, everyone should arrange their table beautifully and I have planned my life accordingly since day one.

Out of Rs. 10; 50 % I spend on my expenditures, 25% investment for more return in future, 25% pure savings in the bank 

Loans, Borrowing, Financing…Such words are not in my dictionary and that is my strength.

Yes… I look for profit – ‘Fayda’ – in everything I do, for everyone and everything I associate with. I believe everyone – especially the small and medium-sized agencies should ‘Profit’.

Sometimes, internal competitions amongst the agencies for the same pitches leads to exploitation and price gouging. I believe that my conception of ‘Profit’ can mean a ‘win-win’ for all. 

In my view, if the top 2-3 agencies of India can come together for a collaborative pitch, not only will they survive – they will thrive – and their value offering to the end client will be better and more holistic. This model can be applied across agencies and across pitches – instead of a bitter paisa by paisa competition in which they negotiate against each other, there can be collaboration and a ‘win-win’ for all. 

Collaboration is our answer for survival as well as progress.

I realize that this is a strong statement and it may seem hopelessly idealistic, but I will make it any case – because I believe in it and speak from the heart. Perhaps the industry association could focus on this.

Virtual Events are the new in-thing. Will this virtual concept help the industry in a socially distanced, zero touch world?

Of course, everything helps. Technology like it does for everything will help here too.

However, out of our five senses – sight, sound, smell, touch, taste – tell me, which of these is virtual? Humans like meeting other humans, they like the physical ‘experience’ – that’s why our business is called ‘experiential’ – that’s why it can never go out of fashion.

10,000 fans in a stadium can cheer the music of a popular artist, swinging with the beats – will you get the same experience in front of a screen with a fizzy drink and popcorn?  

Technology has its own place, it is a great value addition – but it can never substitute the ‘real thing’. A zoom call vs shaking hands and taking a selfie with Alia Bhatt? Tell me, which would you choose?

Of course, these are happening now, but these are substitutes. Don’t worry, keep the faith – the ‘REAL THING’ will be BACK. Yes, with all safety measures in place. Yes, with some changes – but, THE REAL THING WILL BE BACK! Even if it is small in the beginning, we need to execute our events with maximum sanitization and build confidence. With every passing day, the audience numbers will increase and the economy will open up slowly.



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