Home >News >India >Events business looks to limp back to life with small gigs

NEW DELHI: India’s event and entertainment business may find some respite in the government's decision to allow social, religious, cultural and other functions with a capacity of 100 persons from 21 September, but the road ahead seems tough. The ceiling makes very few events possible, with safety and hygiene protocols likely to add 30-40% to the total expenditure of such events.

Mint had earlier reported that the organised events and activation segment is a 10,000 crore industry, according to an EY-EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association) report. The size of the industry, with the unorganised segment included, could be as much as 5 trillion. The pandemic is expected to leave behind a hit of at least 70% on annual revenues.

“We had been asking for a ceiling of 200 people but this is what we have to live with right now," said Roshan Abbas, president elect, EEMA. Industry experts like Abbas say that the first few events, starting mid-October, mostly small comedy gigs, musical concerts recreated in small clubs, AGMs (annual general meetings) or other corporate events for incentives and awards will have to see a hybrid of on-ground and digital execution.

These will start in metros and big cities, said Shreyas Srinivasan, CEO, Paytm Insider, like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Pune for now, also admitting that the economies will have to be reworked given that the content will be limited in these unforeseen circumstances and the event will also be live-streamed for those who may be watching it at home and not exclusive enough to really command top dollar.

“The on-ground ticket prices for such events would range between Rs. 850-900 last year while the digital rates now could be around Rs. 300-350. However, the latter may be reduced even further," Srinivasan said. Paytm Insider is in the process of negotiating with venue partners on rentals for upcoming events. Auditoriums make up 20-25% of the entire investment on an event while artistes take up at least 50-60%.

Some good news for now comes from open-air and drive-in movie screenings that ticketing sites like Paytm Insider and BookMyShow are exploring seriously.

“Given the current limitations on the number of people, most offerings across music, dance and comedy become economically non-viable unless we are able to make hybrid models of live on-ground and virtual formats work together. Having said that, we are engaged with several partners to enable formats that may work - such as drive-in entertainment concepts," said Albert Almeida, chief operating officer, live entertainment at BookMyShow which says it is seeing interest from organisers across Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Punjab who want to kick start entertainment in these regions with such events.

“For the drive-in formats, investments are usually limited to ground rentals, limited production and distributor licenses unlike general outdoor concerts that include higher production and multiple license costs," Almeida added. A commercially viable entertainment model on-ground, however, would mean that the cap on the number of attendees at such events be increased in proportion with the venue’s absolute capacity, since in most cases with social distancing norms, the venue’s overall audience capacity drops significantly.

Abbas who foresees high-end luxury events ultimately coming back, said EEMA is in conversation with local administrative bodies to see if rules can be further relaxed post the 21st given that they are working with extensive safety protocols. The upcoming festive season will also offer huge opportunities for open-air cultural congregations.

“The lockdown turned an average physical event costing a crore into digital ventures of Rs. 20-25 lakh. If events supporting the cost structure of event management companies don’t come up soon, many of these will shut down," Abbas said adding that full-scale events are unlikely before March 2021, presuming a vaccine is out by then.

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