We're now talking about accentuating the 'India' part of India Bike Week- Martin Da Costa, CEO, 70 EMG


Hundreds of motorcycling enthusiasts and infinite horsepower is an ideal setup for a gathering of biking enthusiasts. India Bike Week 2015 held on 20 and 21 February, is an annual event where like-minded petrol heads assembled to show their love for two wheels. And this year, from custom made motorcycles, superbikes to interesting stories of motorcycle adventures, there was a lot on offer.

The two day Festival saw passionate bikers, custom builders and popular two-wheeler manufacturers from across the globe coming in to display their works of art and their passion for riding. This year’s India Bike Week also marked the fifth anniversary for Harley Davidson in India and it was celebrated with the customary HOG Rally in Goa attended by nearly 2,000 riders who made it to both the HOG Rally at IBW this year and the entry into the Bike event market by Shell Advance who partnered with IBW in 2015.

EE caught up with Martin Da Costa the Festival Director, India Bike Week who is also the Founder and CEO of Seventy EMG, to talk about organizing India Bike Week, the challenges and the road ahead.

Q- Previously, several attempts to organize bike festivals in the country have failed. What is so special that you do with India Bike Week that makes it the only commercially successful event of the genre?

A- I think it’s just the passion with which we and Fox Life approach the project. At the end of the day many of us in both organisations are bikers and the teams that work on organizing the Festival know biking, understand biking and love biking to the core. I believe it is that passion that shines through at the end of the day. I think that the day we  approach something like an India Bike Week solely as a profit making venture will be the moment that we lose the soul of IBW, and I think that is where other organizers might be challenged. For us it is so much more than that. For both 70 EMG and our partners at Fox Life, we must genuinely try to have fun organizing the event.  Secondly, of course, both the production and content teams at Seventy EMG, and the marketing and broadcast teams at Fox Life are, I believe, really very good at organizing these large format, multi media and on ground event experiences – be they music festivals, art fairs, specialist programming and broadcast events, or anything else.

Q- How do you plan the Return on Investment when you organize an event of such high magnitude?

A- We don’t. We organize this event for bikers and we try to grow every year by working with the community and our commercial partners. We don’t create these types of Festivals primarily in order to generate money; our main aim is to create an amazing Festival experience. The festival business in India is still so young, the absolute number of people going to such festivals is still so low and, at this stage of the game at least, if you are looking at organizing an event with the main objective of your return on investment during the initial 4-5 years you are certainly in the wrong business. Having said that, it has been a validation of our work to be able to look at a positive balance sheet in the third year of IBW.

Q- What is the kind of response you received at the India Bike Week this year?

A- Staggering really. We have been meeting literally thousands of people who were there at IBW – bikers, festival goers, journalists, sponsors, exhibitors and content partners who have just come back from Goa and they are seem incredibly happy. The event also worked  well for our commercial partners and sponsors – we were able to watch them in real time actually selling product and communicating with a pretty finely judged TG. The digital and social media reaction has been overwhelmingly positive – not an easy thing to achieve in 2015 – and of course, we must be grateful for the Press and PR reaction which has been larger, deeper and more generally positive than we could have realistically expected.

Q- Share with us some of the challenges that you faced while organizing India Bike Week 2015?

A- It is a daunting challenge unless you have an experienced and talented planning structure in place for these types of large format events. To be brutally frank, we have been extremely good at designing and producing large format festivals for the past 8-9 years now. When you add Fox Life’s ability to work alongside 70 EMG on the content ideation, marketing, sponsorship and broadcast aspects of the project, I do believe that the challenges get minimised. Whether its 3,000-4,000  people at AAAI’s Goafest  or the 6.5 lakh plus visitors to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, we have been able to refine and manage the planning process for similar large format Festivals over the past 9 years so that operational risks get minimised.  The other major contributor to a seamless operation like IBW is the ability and willingness to be able to work with other people, partners, organisations and creative content generators that add to the Festival story.  Perhaps the most challenging part of the process is the curation of these thousands of stories, relationships and requirements into a coherent week long narrative that will eventually make up what IBW really stands for.

Q- What are some other areas of event that you think our country should focus on next?

A- I think we are still at the very beginning of the events and promotions circuit in the country today. Let’s take the UK for example-Tonight there will be well over 1000 live events in London alone from tiny Pubs showcasing a single band to major Theatre, Opera and Music concerts - across the UK there will be possibly as many as 10,000 live ticketed events.  In any one year, there might be as many as 500 music festivals alone, plus the many hundreds of  Art, Comedy, Fashion Literature and other festivals. India in 2015 – from a ticketed event perspective - is really very far behind those sorts of numbers: 5-6 music festivals, 3-4 Literature, 2-3 comedy festivals of real note, plus of course India Bike Week. Having said that, we all believe that there is a huge market of events about to develop in the next 10 years which will include everything from music, performance art, gaming -  the list is endless.

Q- What are the plans for India Bike Week 2016 now?

A- Well it is very early to start just yet on the 2016 plans. We’ll certainly extend our ‘India Bike Week on Tour’  brand and event extension to another 14/15 cities. It is possible we may have to look for a larger venue next year. There will be more bike brands participating that’s for sure and I think the audience will be much larger. Its perhaps a bit early to say, and I really do need to consult with our partners at Fox Life, but it does strike us that the idea of accentuating the word “India” in India Bike Week would be an interesting direction to take - reach out to the army, to army veterans associations and others to celebrate the India part of the India Bike Week. We do seem to be in a natural position to enjoy the new feeling of positivity we all feel about India. Ultimately though, it will be about the Bikers, and yes, their bikes.

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