The Events Industry - Remaining Resilient to the Challenges of Covid-19: Sanjoy K Roy

Reskilling, repurposing and re-energising will be the only way to survive the global aftershock of Covid-19.


The Events Industry - Remaining Resilient to the Challenges of Covid-19: Sanjoy K Roy

The global pandemic of the Covid-19 virus has permanently changed the events industry and indeed it can be argued, that along with the service sector, the events, entertainment and cultural sectors have been among the first ones to be affected by the pandemic. 

The sudden cancellations of conferences, state and central government endeavours, international MICE events, entertainment and social events, travel and tourism have had a crippling effect on the sector worldwide with an estimated loss of USD 1 trillion and counting.

“The “foreseeable future” is a contradiction in terms, and among the infinity of things nobody knows is when we’ll be able to attend a live performance. It’s likely to be a long time before several thousand people will pack an auditorium or weave through a lobby at intermission, before actors can grapple on-stage again, a makeup artist dabs foundation on cast members’ noses, or an opera singer stands in the path of a colleague’s barrage of vibrating air. The immense and costly apparatus of culture — exhibition and convention centers, theaters, and orchestra halls — have become a liability, ill-suited to the COVID-19 age. Instead, productions will have to find less finely tailored venues, like outdoor public spaces and hangar-like halls. Even stars, waiting out the pandemic by the phone and expecting a call from an august institution immediately when things reopen, could be bench-sitting for a season or two”. AEA – Justin davidson

The ’ViruLive’ events are here to stay and have spread across the globe in all sectors, from wellbeing apart from supporting a company’s everyday needs.

Worldwide, there has been a lurch to leap aboard the virtual bandwagon and join the ever-increasing fight for bandwidth and garnering eyeball-views as an interim measure to remain relevant. Virtual reality, that mind-expanding bridge between the real and imaginary, is moving rapidly from a millennial domain to a wider must-have consumer domain. Coronavirus has certainly put the spotlight on virtual and education to arts and entertainment and now even to the holy grail of mega events - weddings and religious celebrations and ceremonies. The trillion-dollar question to be asked is: how will you convert the opportunities that eyeball-hits and other sticking factors bring into dollar and cent revenue models? Can the old models of ‘stick a camera in your face and record your daily trials and tribulations’, which caused a worldwide social media interactive phenomena, still be valid in a time of Covid-19 and beyond?

The world is awakening to the fact that, like measles or influenza or HIV, Covid-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future, changing the way the we do business and more importantly, the way we socialise, travel, entertain or indulge our desires and needs! Given the new reality, the opportunities to create a new world virtual order are enormous. What we need is to be conscious of, is the impact on livelihoods, and grapple with the moral conundrums of:

AI vs jobs! 

Wage earners vs profits! 

Empathy and equity vs inequity and hatred! 

Environment vs scorched Earth policies!

Every crisis allows you to step back, reassess, reboot. Covid-19 is the first event ever in world history whose impact has resulted in a shutdown and where regionalisation has become the new globalisation. Even as companies try and break down the ceiling, looking for new solutions and possibilities, it is time to step back, reflect and perhaps look behind and you may well find an open window presenting a whole different opportunity and view of the world. 

Of course there will be opportunities: 

New ways and platforms to view entertainment - Netflix Plus Plus!

Innovation in social and cultural celebrations.

Intimate and focused will be the new mantra to replace bigger and brighter.

AI and virtual reality to traverse the world instead of the flatbed or the cramped seat.

Niche tours for the uber wealthy and bespoke private events. 

Last mile connectivity for brands, governments, health and hygiene, education, B2B and B2C.

Innovative, clear, culturally-nuanced communication.

Hosting a virtual event requires the same care and attention as an in-person event. With both events, one needs to effectively promote the event, engage attendees, create surprises and learnings and build a space for interaction, and make sure the event is seen to be successful. Success in itself will need to be redefined. Is it how much money you make? How many eyeballs you attract? Or is the sticking factor or the ability to bring about behavioural change, which impacts the product which is being marketed, be it a political aspiration, or a social need, the roll-out of a vaccine or the sale of a Louis Vuitton bag? 

The regional mantra is here to stay. Produce local, consume local. Even before the advent of Covid-19, you could see the world turning inwards.Nation states were shutting down their borders to immigration and global products. Heavy duties, punishing taxes to stem the global flow of goods and services, be it due to the Harley Davidson issue in India, or the trade imbalances between USA and China, were the new normal.  We were beginning to see the emerging reality spurred on by the mantras of `Make America Great Again’ or `Make in India’. Oil trading itself had been impacted with countries looking towards renewable energy resulting in a historic crash in the energy market. Condominiums and RWAs were the new centres of power and the new borders between `Us and Them’. 

And yet we shall continue to meet virtually, be entertained in our own time, to converse in our own home surroundings. The virtual suit like the virtual background may well be the next possible innovation!

Yes, the stark reality of 90% businesses needing to reinvent or go bust stares at us in the face. Reskilling, repurposing and re-energising will be the only way to survive the global aftershock of Covid-19. 

Two likely scenarios will play out. 

1. Those societies or communities with good efficient technocracies will recognise meritocracy and will emerge resilient. 

2. Those with feet of clay, where rhetoric and a shambolic response continue to be the hallmark, will see the need for draconian laws with diminishing returns followed closely by social unrest, food riots and upheaval. 

It is vital for companies to recognise this crisis as a motivation to innovate, inspire and work on their USP, which will help them remain relevant and chart a path to an uncertain future. 

If culture, conferences and tourism is to thrive, even amid deprivation, it will have to nurture new forms of invention in different kinds of space including restricted attendees, simple settings, and plenty of space — will be intensified by a scarcity of money.

Flexibility is the need of the hour! Jugaad should be the positive economic model of make possible rather than make do! Instead of clinging to long-range plans, then scuttling them one at a time, organizations need to look at the present reality and rustle up solutions more or less on the fly. The mantra of the next few years must be smaller, quicker, cheaper.

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