The frontline warrior with a difference

A self-made man with humble beginnings, Rajeev Jain, Director, Rashi Entertainment, grew to dizzying heights through hard work and determination. As the founding member of Events & Entertainment Management Association (EEMA), he had the foresight to create an organized body for the industry.

 

In these troubles times, EEMA needs someone who can lead this industry from the front. How do you plan to do this for your members?
Let’s not start with President – let’s start with worker, with constituent, with member! Since the day 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 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 our very existence and 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.

 

“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.”

 

Everyone is talking about a ‘new normal’ and technology slowly taking over. Share your perspective on what you think will be the ‘new normal’?
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. Ten thousand 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 versus shaking hands and taking a selfie with Alia Bhatt? Tell me, which would you choose?

Of course, it is happening now, but these are substitutes. Don’t worry, keep the faith – the ‘REAL THING’ will be BACK. Yes, with 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.

 

What new vision do you have for 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. 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.

I have known Rajeev for almost 10 years now. He is my travel buddy and of course a dear friend. Anyone who will talk to him will immediately know how passionate he is as a person – right from his company to the EEMA committee – he excels in whatever he does. The reason is simple. He trusts himself and that’s what makes him deliver. No one can match his energy and his zest for life. A perfectionist to the core, Rajeev is a charmer to the core and a fantastic leader.
Rituraj Khanna
CEO, Q Events Pvt Ltd

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

 

EEMA is all about friendship and working together. What would you like to say to your contemporaries?
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.

 

“We are the most challenged at this time and need to 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.”

 

How do you plan to involve all the EEMA members in your vision?
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 every one 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 also become powerful and more visible. Tomorrow, they will all become major players and the maximum growth is going to come from cities beyond metros. We need to become more inclusive and that is high on my agenda. In fact, I am going to suggest a ‘Power of 168’ initiative, which would be on inclusiveness and representational initiative for all members across the regions, to connect with those elected.

 

“This pandemic has threatened our very existence and our best survival strategy is togetherness. If we are able to come together as ONE, we will have the strength of MANY.”

 

The government can be a foe as well as a friend. Every state has its own peculiarities and dealing with all of them can be extremely challenging. Your thoughts.
There are many, but 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 25,000 crore 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.

All our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them. That’s the thought process that Rajeev Jain has! I remember during one of my conversations with him where he once said, “Your time is limited. The best time for an entrepreneur to work is from 5pm to 9pm when you have no one to disturb in your office.” His biggest motivation is that he keeps challenging himself. Rajeev is one of those intellectuals who can create a new business, source new ideas and make it successful and profitable. He is a visionary who is truly clear in his thoughts and understands our industry very well.
Ruchin Kohli
Founder, Occasion Xperts Pvt Ltd

“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.”

 

Where do you see this industry in the next six 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 and wedding industry is currently suffering 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 corporate spenders are back.

 

“We must collaborate with CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, political networks, lobbyists for policy change and financial relief, from Central and State Governments.”

 

What would your winning speech sound like?
‘Fayda for EEMA members and Vikaas for all’. I want to focus on:

  • Small and medium-sized agencies as 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.

 

“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.”

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