‘The toughest time we’ve seen’

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world. Every business is affected, but the most affected ones are those that deal with people face-to-face. ‘Ours is one of them,’ says Rajeev Jain, Director, Rashi Entertainment.

COVID-19 has shaken every business, but the most affected are those that deal with people face-to-face. ‘Ours is one of them,’ says Rajeev Jain, Director, Rashi Entertainment.

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 shutdowns thanks to the liquidity crunch, the entire support system and supply chain is facing crisis. The size, scope, viability and economic contribution of our industry before the COVID-19 crisis hit the organised corporate events sector was Rs10,000 crore as per a report. The wedding industry, exhibitions and sports sectors combined with the corporate events sector placed the industry clearly at Rs40,000 crore. While there is no immediate solution, I believe that the events sector with ‘touch and feel’ at the heart of the human experience will bounce back. I can safely say that by February 2021, the tide will have turned.

Government support

This industry comprises some very dynamic and enterprising minds, and placing the industry in the right context vis-à-vis the government – positioning it in the corridors of power – would work wonders for it. Unfortunately, we are neither a recognized nor an organised sector, and do not currently have the visibility, voice and heft that we should have in front of the government. I have a wish list for the finance minister:

Not only should event projects below Rs200 crore be given to Indian companies, but all government events should also be done by Indian agencies only.

The Central government should allocate resources to state governments annually to conduct events for public awareness and welfare – and these should be executed locally.

The future?

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 industries are 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 winning.

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 in the interim.

Virtual events a feasible option?

Everything helps! Technology, like it does everywhere else, will help here, too. However, humans like meeting other humans. They like the physical ‘experience’ and that’s why our business is called ‘experiential’. Consider 10,000 fans in a stadium cheering on the music of a popular artist – 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.

 (Views expressed are the author’s own. The publication may or may not subscribe to the same.)

Profit margins will be reduced, but celebrations and weddings will sustain our industry till the corporate spenders are back

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On board or off board?

A National Tourism Board as a solution to many of the industry’s woes is a view that has been contested time and again. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise one thing – that no one can be completely self-dependent. The Ministry of Tourism needs the industry and vice versa, so a National Tourism Board that has the actual tourism stakeholders playing a key role may be the way to go, delivering the right message to the world about India and her tourism offerings. When the real stakeholders, brimming with bright ideas for the sector, are provided a platform to share with the Ministry their expertise, they will definitely put in their all to ensure sustenance and real progress. If we turn the clock back a few months, could the existence of a National Tourism Board have effectively delivered the industry’s requests for relief and aid at the right time? That said, first things first and like all other successful partnerships, the parameters of the board need to be crystal clear to ensure that responsibilities are well-defined. For the tourism sector to tap its underutilised potential, it is essential that its people be given more than an attentive ear.

More is not merrier

Is the ground reality the same as what is being talked about? Today, after months of lockdown when people are still wary of stepping out even to get to work, what is the guarantee that they will travel for pleasure, aka revenge tourism? Indians have often been pegged as a resilient lot of travellers, but could COVID-19 have changed that mindset of a people dealing with the harsh realities of the day? What adds to the woes is the lack of a unified protocol system or authority over safety measures for tourism. Could one country’s or state’s stringent protocol be a loss for another’s flexible policy or vice versa? Is the traveller even looking at safety measures over convenience? It may not be wrong to say that given a chance, an individual would rather visit a country that does not require a 14-day self-quarantine on arrival than one that does. Time alone can tell how things will pan out for tourism. Are we prepared?

 

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