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Live events sector braces for tough times ahead as infections rise

The first few months of the year had seen some events in malls and outdoor spaces in in larger cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Kolkata. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/MintPremium
The first few months of the year had seen some events in malls and outdoor spaces in in larger cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Kolkata. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

  • While the first two months of the year had seen some activity with small music or comedy gigs and food festivals, particularly as part of new year festivities, things are back to square one with many states under weekend lockdowns, which is when most people are out

New Delhi: Rising covid-19 cases and fresh curbs and lockdown in various states have left the live events industry staring at a dismal future yet again with the number of ticketed events down by 80% compared to a month ago.

Both offline and online event management companies say while the first two months of the year had seen some activity with small music or comedy gigs and food festivals, particularly as part of new year festivities, things are back to square one with many states under weekend lockdowns, which is when most people are out. Further, night curfews in many states have take the sheen out of weddings too.

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“Just when we thought we could see some light at the end of the tunnel, we’re back to where we began," said Siddhartha Chaturvedi, general secretary, EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association).

In December and January, EEMA had been getting queries for possible events for June this year, including corporate meets, small concerts and club gigs but with different curbs and restrictions in place in various states now, things have reached a state of complete confusion, Chaturvedi said. The industry has crashed and still the government doesn’t see the need to protect livelihoods, he added. Each state has its own set of protocols making it difficult to organise or plan anything, he said.

Shreyas Srinivasan, CEO, Paytm Insider said the remaining portion of April and at least half of May will mirror how things were in 2020. The first few months of the year had seen some events in malls and outdoor spaces in in larger cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Kolkata.

A BookMyShow spokesperson added the company had witnessed average occupancy of 70% for an event permitted with 50% capacity, soon after restrictions were eased last October. Comedy has been the most popular genre with several shows running sold out and cities like Goa, Bengaluru and Hyderabad along with the northern and western regions responding well to comedy shows, live DJ gigs and band performances, the person said. Sporting events like the India vs England series also saw high pent-up demand, just before the second wave of the virus hit.

“However, there is absolutely nothing happening now and there is no clear end to the story unless people are widely vaccinated and the vaccine proves effective," Srinivasan said.

To be sure, unlike earlier, most event management companies and ticketing sites are unable to put a finger on an anticipated timeline for recovery this time. The partial reopening of theatres, auditoriums and open-air spaces may make up for this decline in the long run, said Shilpa Ramesh Ramani, co-founder of One Page Spotlight, a social and professional networking site for creators and entertainment professionals to connect and collaborate. “But any haphazard efforts on recovery are likely to be termed as callous insensitivity on the part of the authorities," she pointed out.

To make things worse, Srinivasan said monetization of virtual events continues to be a challenge, even though as a platform, Paytm Insider has been organizing 2,000-2,500 virtual events a month that see anywhere between 100 and 150 people tune in. These range from music and comedy sessions to learning and skill workshops. “Virtual is a trend here to stay but the revenue doesn’t match up, people don’t wish to pay and corporate sponsorships are only coming in for big and established IPs such as the Sunburn Festival," EEMA’s Chaturvedi said.

Ramani said small businesses that cater mostly to people such as local artisans, small event performers, the support staff in cinema halls or vendors catering to the entertainment industry should be granted essential financial reprieve even though, in these difficult times, there is no one entity that requires monetary aid more than the other. Organised events segment revenues fell 68% in 2020, according to a recent Ficci EY report.

“We had requested aid even before the Union Budget. But India has been ignoring its cultural events industry unlike other countries that recognize its value and revenue potential and have provided incentives," Chaturvedi said.

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