We all have a common goal for the betterment of our industry: Rajeev Jain
As part of our non-stop special EEMA election coverage we bring you views and interviews with industry thought leaders.
With EEMA elections set to take place on 26th June 2020, Everything Experiential has been bringing you non stop coverage of this big day in the form of interviews, news and columns featuring event industry thought leaders. In the last one week we have yet again shown why we are called the voice of the industry.
As part of this series, we bring you this exclusive interview with Rajeev Jain, Director, Rashi Entertainment.
President of EEMA and Rajeev Jain: Why?
Let’s not start with President – let’s start with worker, with constituent, with member!
Since the day that EEMA started, I have been on the frontlines – working with the leadership and the best minds in the industry to actually make a difference to all of us. After more than a decade of working in the trenches, sometimes as Vice President North and most times as Treasurer, I have volunteered for the top job.
Why now? Simply because I run a small enterprise and I believe that it is the time of the small and medium enterprises like ourselves – who comprise the bulk of the industry – to make a difference. We are businessmen with our feet firmly planted on the ground – we are the most challenged at this time and need to take responsibility and look for solutions. The focus has to be on Action that will make a difference in these times. The focus can’t be on good-looking strategic presentations We need to look for Profit – in everything we do and for everyone we work with.
This pandemic has threatened the very existence of a lot of us – our best survival strategy is togetherness. If we are able to come together as ONE – we will have the strength of MANY. I believe my background, my closeness with everyone in the industry, my network, my networking strengths, my ability to integrate the industry with the Government to be heard in the corridors of power – all this will help us drive the industry to a new path of profit. I have the distinct experience of working with the smallest agency owner, the leaders of our industry and everyone in between too.
What is your vision if elected as President of EEMA?
I believe simplicity cuts through the clutter and provides the best solutions. With that logic, I will interpret the ‘Vision’ of your question to mean what I see – because that’s what vision means.
I see ‘Positivity bringing Profit’. I see us all associated in a congenial atmosphere without the petty politicking and negativity that has recently plagued us. I see us united to create a difference, beat these bad times, focused on profit and creating entrepreneurial solutions to usher in happiness.
I see that our ‘Togetherness is Taakat’ – it is our strength. It will help us conquer adversities and adverse times. Our collaboration will help us draw upon each other’s strengths and negate our weaknesses. This will have to be gender and age agnostic – simply because the focus on profit cannot afford to discriminate.
This is my vision. And I see it without any rose-tinted glasses. Because I have the cold, hard clarity that comes from being a small business owner who has worked for more than a decade in the trenches for our association and who represents the realities that confront every small and medium-sized enterprise today.
Tell us about your Manifesto?
“FAYDA for EEMA Members &Vikaas For All”
· Focus on small and medium-sized agencies as a high priority.
· External Mentorship, leadership coaching and collaborative ecosystem to help small agencies become industry leaders.
· Focus on women and youth leaders: Ensuring Opportunities and empowerment.
· Give EEMA voice and visibility in government and media. Ensure members are more visible; NAC leaders as spokespersons.
· Collaborate with CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, political networks, lobbyists for policy change and financial relief, from Central and State Governments.
· ‘Investment Fund’ for small agencies; catalyst for collaborations and help raise investments for growth and new ideas.
· Provide EEMA office as shared working space for members. During the COVID crisis, with work-from-home, the EEMA office could be a conference and training centre.
· Clean, transparent governance – across Secretariat, Zones.
· Strengthen EEMA initiatives: We Care, education, safety.
· EEMA Forums to engage with corporate and political leaders regularly.
· Broaden NAC to include senior members beyond Patrons.
· Empower EEMA Ombudsman.
· Revise EEMA Constitution to be relevant to changing times.
· Forge collaborations with IPs, ecosystem, education institutes, media for engagement and revenue for EEMA.
· Get highly reduced rates in hotels, airlines, shared office work-spaces for members.
Why team is more important than an individual?
This is the event industry – it’s like a football game – it’s a team sport – you are nothing without the support of your team. You may be the best storyteller in the world, now imagine you are up on stage and the spotlight goes off! Or you are about to deliver the punchline of your story to an audience of thousands and the microphone stops working! Individually, we may be stars, but together we are a Galaxy!
Now, let’s extend that analogy to our business – here. Collaborations create companions, create commerce, create success. My personal journey would have been impossible without the collaborations I have had and those have blessed me with friends whose company I absolutely treasure – that friendship has been my greatest profit.
This teamwork can add power to us, drive us away from the despair that has gripped so many of us and take us towards the path of profit. One company may have an operational strength, another a creative strength, the third a financial strength, yet another a networking strength – when we play as a team, these strengths all get focused towards one goal. Then, we are able to make an IMPACT. This industry and this time is not for individual stars – it is for team players.
When my company becomes your company, it becomes our industry. And that is the tipping point.
How critical is role of government interface for event industry?
The Government should be our partners! Yes, I mean that. We are an industry of many tens of thousands of crores already. We employ armies of people. We keep a lot of our ancient crafts, traditions and cultures alive – we bring them to a global and modern stage. We are often the image, voice and brand of India abroad. And we are a young industry. We are generating high profile visibility for our country, engaging with the community and importantly are young entrepreneurs generating job opportunities for skilled resources, unskilled labour and especially the young. If this is not nation-building, then what is? And if so, the Government must be our partner in this? They can’t be our partner only taking our profits away as taxes!
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. That is where our interface with the Government can really help – we need to make our voice heard in the corridors of power.
I read the “Atmanirbhar’ presentation – and I understand that the Hon Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Seetharaman 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 Rs 200cr 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 allocate resources to State Govts. Annually to conduct events for public awareness and welfare – and these should be executed locally.
** 2021, I believe, will be the silver lining of the dark clouds for the entire Industry.
What are your asks from the government?
To start with:
· All tenders from government should be done by 100% Indian-owned companies
· Urgent SOPs for conducting events and weddings in COVID times.
· Change in licensing laws to be relevant to our times: loudspeaker use, hygiene, security, etc.
· Soft loans collateral free, reduced interest with 12 months moratorium
· GST should be waived or reduced for at least the next two years
· Government must pay agencies for work already done by them
· Government must provide advances to agencies for their projects and not make payment subject to bank guarantees
· Declare events as an industry. With a business size of almost Rs 25000 crores and over 10 million employed this is more than justified.
· Create more opportunities for the events and experience industry through community engagements, event-tourism initiatives, promotion of heritage sites and culture.
How do you plan to engage with EEMA members, especially regional chapters?
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Any team is only as strong as its weakest member. Therefore, there has to be a focus on every region and also every regional association.
For me everyone is as important as the other – we are a small body of only 168 members, who control 80% of the industry. It is easy for all of us to be heard and I’m serious when I say that the ideal NEC should include everyone.
It’s time for East and South to become more powerful and more visible instead of Metro Cities alone. Tomorrow, they will all become major players and the maximum growth is going to be coming from cities beyond the metros.
We need to become more inclusive and give them the appropriate platform and that is high on my agenda. In fact, I am going to suggest a ‘Power of 168’ initiative, which would be an inclusiveness and representational initiative for all members across the regions, to connect with those elected.
What do you want to say to the people opposing you?
I would like to believe that there are no ‘people’ opposing. There are only friends with different agendas. I believe that there is nothing personal in this.
And about agendas too, I was very happy to note that most of the manifestos that followed my presentation incorporated my thoughts, vision and even borrowed some of my recommended initiatives. We all have a common goal for betterment of our industry, the need for unity and an inclusive and gender-agnostic representation.
I fully respect every candidate and my best wishes are with them ‘Dil Se’! I am sure that our industry will ‘profit’ from this contest and the exchange of ideas.
Where do you see the events industry in 6 months?
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 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 and come out swinging soon.
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.
How do you see the role of technology as far as event industry is concerned?
Everything helps. Technology, like it does for everything, will help here too.
However, let us consider that the human being has 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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