Sameer Jadhav (left) and Guru | Image courtesy: Aapkehosts.com
Sameer Jadhav shares tips and advice to get into the event management field.
How to break into the Event Management field in India
by Sameer Jadhav
Year 2003: I was the bench drummer in my class and my college classmate Guru was the singer. Our impromptu concerts were during breaks and between 2 lectures, with our class mates being the audience. But we were too caught up in studies to ever do something on stage.
Then came the last 2 months in Narsee Monjee college in Mumbai. I remember telling Guru: “Bawaa (that’s what we call each other), yeh din phir nahi aayenge, college annual day pe kuch karte hai yaar.” [“These days will never come back. Let’s do something for the college annual day.”]
And we did, we sang a remix of Hindi and English songs on stage, without instruments, using a college bench and a Pepsi bottle for the supporting music. We were an overnight hit and I remember Mr. Saket, our English rapper, saying: “Bawaaa, I think we are going to get laid tonight!”
Whether Saket’s prediction fructified (nor not) is a discussion best left for another day. But that single event did set us off on an exciting trajectory.
This is Sameer Jadhav, a Chartered Accountant by profession and a musician & entertainer by passion. I work in the field of global audit which literally takes me places. I was in the United States for 4 years.
2013: I was just back from the U.S. Guru, my college buddy, had done his MBA and was working in a top credit rating company. Both of us had great day jobs. But something inside always took us back to that day in college where the principle had said, “I am sad that you guys did nothing on stage for 5 years, but I’m happy you did something at least”.
That got us thinking – Can we keep our day jobs and pursue our passion of singing, music, mimicry and entertainment?
What could be the common factor that connected the variety of things that which we wanted to do? The answer was – Events Hosting and Anchoring.
Being in the corporate world for almost a decade teaches you good presentation skills. Combining that with the entertainment bits, we figured we could easily host events, do the formal anchoring part and add our own tadka of entertainment. This would act as our outlet for all our keedas from our regular day job, allow us to feed our passion and what’s more, get some cash on the side too.
And thus was born!
We primarily anchor and host events. But people are busy and they are looking for a one-stop shop. They need everything under one roof. Thus we have strong tie-ups for everything else which goes into an event. The lesson here is – Outsource if needed, but ensure the quality.
It’s been 2 years now. We are now 20 events down, which are a combination of wedding sangeets, engagement parties, kids’ birthday parties and a few corporate annual days.
Requirements to get into the event management field
Overall the field of events management is fairly unorganised. There are the big teams that manage the corporate events. But at the lower end of the market (i.e. managing events of middle class families) the field is fairly open.
It’s more of a skill-based field and doesn’t demand any specific qualification. But good language skills (English, Hindi minimum), excellent presentation skills, ability to connect with people across demographics and religions, stage presence, spontaneity and ability to adapt to last minute changes, marketing skills, creativity and patience are some good qualities to have.
Of course, it helps if you have a presentable face. There is a reason why you see Sonia Shenoy on CNBC primetime. She is the perfect combination of beauty and brains.
An event (birthday/ wedding/ annual days/ any other cake occasion) ideally needs the following:
Venue: Some factors to consider are – proximity to home, food (note: often a specific caterer has the monopoly over a venue, and you cannot get any other external caterer).
Decoration: Set designing for big events or niche areas like kids party theme decorators from Chota Bheem to Barbie to Subway surfer (seriously, a 1st birthday theme on subway surfer!)
Catering: The most important thing is – fooood (!). In your event, you may invite Sunny Leone to talk about her legendary switch to Bollywood A list or Sachin Tendulkar to talk about his retired life. But if the food sucks, your event sucks. Full stop.
Anchoring & entertainment for the event
Photographer & videographer
Sound system: The next important thing after food. A good sound system can make your musically-challenged uncle’s voice sound ethereal with the right echo effect. Similarly a low cost sound system can spoil your well choreographed song if the song output quality is bad. “Awaaz fut raha hai bhai!”
Other needs : Like cakes, choreographers, candid photographers, mascots, magicians, tattoo artist, joker, etc.
Event management career in a company vs Freelancing
You may be someone who has a skill which can rock the stage. For example, you could be a good singer, dancer, instrument player, stand-up comedian, magician, story-teller.
You could be someone who brings something different to the table. For instance, you write songs or drama scripts specific for an event, bake cakes, do candid photography, edit pictures and videos or make invites in Photoshop, origami, catering for small kids, make innovative return gifts, choreograph dance steps, etc.
Or you may think of working as an employee in an events company.
Things to consider:
– If freelancing, you have to be really good in your skill to get hired and re-hired. And have strong and reliable tie-ups for other needs since people want packages.
– Be flexible: Each client is different and may not need all that you offer. Evaluate honestly if you can cater to their needs, else say no. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver. Remember, for you it may be just another event but for the client, it’s their kid’s or daughter’s big day which will never come back. So if you rock it, they will remember you for the rest of their lives, but the opposite also holds true.
– If you plan to work with an event management company, brace yourself for hectic work schedules. It does not work like Pune’s Chitale Bandhu which can put a board saying: “Shop closed from 1pm to 4pm”.
You will mostly find yourself slogging on festivals and weekends when your loved ones are free, since that’s when the majority of events happen.
Today, event management companies have vacancies for marketing, designing, production, public relations, promotions, brand development, printing, exhibitions, telemarketing, administration, etc. As an employee, you could be managing some or all of these areas.
How to break into the event management business?
Getting business is not easy. So how do you market yourself?
My experience is that there is no marketing like word-of-mouth, which comes only when people see what you can do.
– Start small: Start doing events without thinking of the monetary part. Gain experience. You can start with a family event where there won’t be huge pressure since you know the crowd.
– Get your name out there: If possible have a website. It helps to showcase your offerings at one place. Get listed on new platforms like Urbanclap, Localoye and Taskmitra kind of aggregator apps. Upload stuff on Youtube. Share it on Facebook and Whatsapp and ask for feedback from friends. If people know your skill and they see an event coming up, sure they will contact you.
– Get feedback from events and showcase them. Reviews are what the world works on.
– Tie up with event management companies: They are always looking out for different skills and tie-ups. A strong tie up can lead to several events. But brace yourself to share your income with them and also let go of your freedom to express, since event managers need you to fit in their offering and they won’t be ready to experiment.
– Innovate: We started our event management business with just the two of us. Soon we realised there is an appetite for live music and now we are a group of six, all working full time but having a strong passion for music.
– Draw the line: If you plan to juggle it with a full-time job, remember where to draw the line. For instance, we avoid events on weekdays since it’s tough to do it after work. Never discuss and plan events during office time. If there is a conflict between events and our job, the job always takes priority.
We know that we cannot go into events full time since the money isn’t there unless you are well-established. Also since all of us have reached a particular level in our professional careers, we can’t just let it go. As a friend of mine says “Boss, dhande ke time khoti nahi karneka!”
How much money can you earn as an event manager
Simple event anchoring can get you from 4,000 to 10,000 Rupees per event when you start. However once you are really established, you can basically demand your price. Some established public figures charge in lakhs of rupees per event.
– If you package and sell an entire event then you can make 20-50% markup on each service you provide. For example, each service provider has a different rate for the event manager and client considering the markup. This is purely on your negotiation and marketing skills.
– If you wish to join an event management company, you can get started in the range of 15,000 – 20,000 Rupees per month. They also hire freelancers which can get you in the range of 50,000 Rupees per month depending on your skill-sets. They hire a lot of youngsters.
Pros and cons of event management careers
If you are like us, it’s a fantastic outlet to pursue your passion. It helps a lot professionally too. Performing in front of strangers and getting appreciated gives us immense confidence in our day jobs. Presenting to the top management is easier now for me with all the stage experience.
Your network grows big time. We meet people from various backgrounds and it always helps. For instance, we did a kid’s birthday event and the father turned out to be a photography freak and Photoshop guru. Guess what, he joined us as our go-to guy for all our photo needs.
Family time may be compromised. My wife understands my love for it and doesn’t get bugged when she returns from work and sees 6 people in the hall room with instruments practising music.
Getting events is very tough. There is a lot of competition and the source of income is uncertain and unsteady. Wedding seasons can get you an event a week or more, but then you end up without any work for months too.
It’s a high pressure field since it’s all about the moment. You have to perform at that particular time at all costs.
Is event management the right career for you?
The most important thing is you should have the passion for it. The best way is to start small, get your hands dirty and see if you belong here. People are always looking for something hatke (i.e. new and different). I have heard of a chef in Ahmedabad who walks in with foreign girls in a grand entry and then makes some signature dishes and people pay him a bomb.
Overall, there is tremendous scope in the field and money will come eventually, once you are established. People in India splurge on weddings and other occasions to celebrate and there is no upper end to it. So if you have the skills and know how to sell & market it, go for it!