EEMA Leadership Dialogues at #wowAsia2017 Highlights Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Business Events | July 14, 2017 | News

EEMA EEMA Leadership Dialogues WOW Convention Asia WOW Convention Asia 2017 Pullman Hotel

The EEMA Leadership Dialogues is a new initiative to foster growth through collaborations in the Asian industry at the region's biggest business platform - WOW. The first of these took place at the WOW Awards and Convention Asia 2017 at the Pullman Hotel New Delhi Aerocity, on July 7 and 8.

The Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA), India’s apex body of the event and entertainment industry, hosted sessions that touched opportunities for growth for the industry as a whole, and issues and challenges faced.

#CollaborationNation- India-UAE Business Exchange (EEMA-ILEA)

This session saw EEMA play host to a delegation of the International LIVE Events Association (ILEA) – Middle East chapter, as part of an ongoing endeavour to build cross-region opportunities between India and the Middle East with the platform of the WOW Awards and Convention Asia.

Best practices, opportunities for business, collaboration, and joint initiatives were some of the areas of discussion.

Drawing from the experiences of the panel doing business in the UAE, especially Dubai, challenges faced by Indian event companies looking to set up shop in Dubai, were also addressed.

Sabbas Joseph, President, EEMA and Founder & Director, Wizcraft International remarked, “When you look at India and Dubai, you will realize that there is a lot of Indianness in the market place. You can live in India and work in Dubai. However, decision making is mainly Arab-led or white-led.”

Sharing her view of the potential that lies in India, Niousha Ehsan, CEO, Linkviva said, “India can fill up a major gap in terms of talent in Dubai. Dubai is a huge MICE market; however, the biggest challenge in Dubai remains talent and production cost. You bring your conferences here and we get talent from India. Clients know that they can get better costs from India. The mindset has shifted from competition to collaboration/partnership. It works best this way- you do what you’re good at and we do what we are good at.”

Sanjeev Pasricha, VP, EEMA, and MD & CEO, CS Direkt Group, who has just opened an office in Dubai said, “Mostly Backending for projects in Dubai happens in India. Clients in Dubai are demanding end to end solutions.”

Addressing the fact that competition both in Dubai and from agencies outside who do work on a project to project basis, make it financially difficult for agencies to make huge profit, Dan Bolton, President, International Live Events Association (ILEA) – Middle East Chapter asked panelists, “Is Dubai the real pot of gold?”

Sceptical of starting a full-fledged business in Dubai, Mandeep Singh, MD & CEO, CPM India Sales & Marketing said, “CPM is in 30 countries but not in Dubai! I feel Indian agencies are still only dating the Dubai market and the day we get married, I guess we will come to Dubai!”

He also observed that while clients are looking at the efficiencies and Indians definitely have an edge, and while in terms of technology & innovation, as compared to Europeans, we are able to do it quicker, Indian agencies are considered suspect because they are in a habit of saying yes to just about everything whether it can actually be done or not!

The panel then moved on to the question of how deep your pocket needs to be in order to enter Dubai. Ehsan revealed, “Clients in UAE pay more as compared to clients In India. But operational cost is also much higher- about 4 times!” This explains why agencies prefer to have a management office in Dubai while the backend office remains in India.

Emma Clark, Event Director, Action Impact, the agency that did the opening of Dubai Parks and Resorts remarked, “In Dubai, Revenue is more but profits are quite less. We are continually losing pitches against overseas agencies because of our cost being so high.”

Bolton added, “Even the Dubai government is increasingly giving work to overseas agencies. For the Dubai Canal launch, for instance, an Italian company was hired.”

As the cost of doing events in Dubai is really high, agencies set up there have to choose the projects they take on very carefully. Ehsan said, “In the 20 years I have been in the industry, I have seen that for us the challenge is the operational cost. We are very selective of the projects we even pitch for. Briefs we turn down are 5 times that of the ones we accept. We have to make good margins to cover our cost.”

The panel observed that while client expectations only keep rising, and while the cost of operations is also rising, budgets are decreasing. The use of technology and the internet is more and more allowing people to work easily in different time zones. This makes collaboration and dialogue and recognizing each other’s strengths the secret sauce to success.


Empowered Women| We Care: Insights and Inspirations from the Leading Ladies of the Experiential Industry

With the launch of the We Care initiative by EEMA this year, this session addressed some of the issues women in the industry face, with the view of empowering them to succeed.  

Sushma Gaikwad, Founder & Director, Ice Global, “Work should not stop. And there are guidelines that apply to ‘We care’ initiative.”

Niyati Vora, Vice President, Brand Activation, Wizcraft said, “No one can give you power. You need to take that power. It isn’t empowerment when you give a pregnant woman maternity leave / flexibility. That is only basic.”

Anjali Pasricha, Director, CS Direkt added, “Empowerment is actually when you stand up for yourself. Women need to work to provide equal platforms for other women. We need that leveraging platform.”

Poonam Lal, Director, Marketing Solutions remarked, “Empowerment is the ability to make choices freely and to have self-belief and self-determination. Late night drops again are only basic not special! We care is about gender equality and not only women empowerment.”

Talking about We Care, Sabbas Joseph added, “It’s not about special rights. It’s about dialogue. Women and men are not equal- women are better! Some of the brightest at Wizcraft have been women! We care is about creating an environment that allows women to perform their best. We care is about Listening to HER point of view.”

Client- Agency Relationships | Can it Evolve in the Experiential Realm?

This session looked at how client-agency relationships need to evolve. While marketers are spending much more over the last two years, Transparency remains an issue. Sharing her view on this, Lydia Buthello, EVP and Head – Brand Experience & Events Star India, Star Network remarked, “There should be a standard rate for each element.”

Disagreeing with Buthello, Michael Menezes, Chairman, Showtime Group, and EEMA NAC said, “The creative idea is never paid for! We have all inherited a legacy of taking 15% of the budget from the advertising agency. Transparency depends on trust. We at Showtime have managed to build trust with clients like Castrol, DLF etc.”

Agreeing with Menezes, Brian Tellis, Chairman, Fountainhead MKTG, and EEMA NAC added, “For maximum productivity there has to be partnership. Transparency is not about numbers. It’s about deliverables, quality, etc. Yes we do buffer our presentations when we present to the clients.”

On what he thinks are some of the issues, Menezes said, “The biggest problem is procurement. People in the procurement department are doing their job to reduce cost. Events, unlike advertising is not treated like an industry.”

Sharing her view, Buthello noted, “We have a commercial team that works on only reducing costs of aspects where it is possible to reduce costs - maybe like sound, light, etc. But you cannot take an idea from one agency and ask someone else to execute it!”

The panel also addressed the question of whether agencies should be paid a pitch fee, considering their investment of resources. Buthello said, “I am willing to pay a pitch fee if there is an amount of research, ideation and creativity. But agencies need to male that effort to impress the client.”

Ashish Pherwani, Partner, Advisory Services, Ernst & Young added, “Clients should definitely pay a pitch fee to reward the research and work someone has put in.”

Sharing her view on empanelment, Buthello said, “Empanelment makes some agencies lazy. You don’t get fresh ideas from them. Besides, it demotivates newer agencies that have brilliant ideas. For activations, yes there should be empanelment since they will know the brand better. Empanelment is a good mid-way answer.”

New Growth Markets | Business Opportunities, Market Realities

With some of the most outstanding work done in the country taking place in new growth markets including Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad, many of the agencies from these regions are at par with national players in terms of conceptualisation and execution capabilities. Looking at success stories from these markets, this panel explored opportunities and limitations in these markets, the scope for collaboration with national players, the extent to which national players rely on agencies in these markets in order to conduct business here, and opportunities for successful agencies from these markets to scale up to a pan-India enterprise. The session was moderated by Ankur Kalra, CEO, Vibgyor Brand Services.

On challenges faced by players from growth markets, Jai Mundra, Founder & Managing Director, Beep Experience Management said, “The perception of being a regional agency is a huge downer and a disappointment to us because more often than not this costs us a lot of business, irrespective of the fact that the pitch is good, the ideas and creatives are great, the capabilities are there and everything is in place. But the fact that we’re not based out of the capital acts to our disadvantage.”

Presenting a different point of view, Vijay Bokadia, Director, Moksh Events Private Ltd. said, “Infrastructure is a huge challenge, especially in a place like West Bengal. So our hands are tied for certain national campaigns, as the resources are not there. So a client may lean towards a national agency as they bring their infrastructure with them.”

Khantil Mehta, Director, Go Bananas remarked, “Processes and exposure are two of the main challenges. National agencies have a lot of processes, and it’s quite obvious the client sees a far more refined presentation. The overall impact and the way they have everything in place gives them a leverage. It’s also the talent, where national players get ready talent, while smaller regional players have to train their own talent, though this is changing now, too.”

Rakhi Kankaria, Director, Rachnoutsav Events commented, “For regional players to make that reachability possible is a challenge. Tenders are a challenge, as most of them have a clause where unless you have multiple offices across the country you cannot make a pitch. We have the ability, but still can’t position ourselves in those spaces.”

One of the main opportunities that the session highlighted was how a deep penetration in your own market can give you an edge which even national players cannot have, despite their infrastructure and processes. Being able to navigate the vendors as well as the people who make events possible is a huge advantage to any player in regional markets. Hence, collaboration between national players and agencies in these markets is key. While some of these players continue to expand nationally and globally, the consensus was that they would do so while retaining their stronghold in their respective markets.

The EEMA Leadership Dialogues is a new initiative to foster growth through collaborations in the Asian industry at the region's biggest business platform – The WOW Awards and Convention Asia.

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