Reminiscing EEMA’s Decade: Sabbas Joseph’s 3-Year Presidency

Industry Watch | September 5, 2017 | Feature

EEMA EEMAGINE Sabbas Joseph Gitikka Ganju Dhar Rajeev Jain

When asked to reflect on what he considered his greatest achievement in the past 3 years as President of the Event and Entertainment Management Association of India, Sabbas Joseph was quick to respond, "I think our greatest achievement has been to work ‘Together’…in unison, towards a common goal. I'm most proud that during my tenure so many senior members were motivated to contribute and take on duties, and most of all work in harmony, for the greater good of the industry."

“I’d like to especially thank Michael, Brian, Roshan, Sushma, Poonam, Sanjeev, Rakhi, Sameer, Vivek Singh, Vijay Nair and Arora, Rajeev, Mandeep, Atul, Sid G and Rajesh Varma……the list is endless, for their consistent and steadfast efforts to support each and every initiative of EEMA. Working with me is never easy, hence I now thank all of them for being patient.”

In its 10th year, EEMA now represents India’s event industry as its apex body, with a membership of 300 companies. The National Executive Committee, The National Advisory Council and the National and Regional Working Committees, make up an astounding 150 members. That's more than half the membership of the association, all doing actual work towards achieving the objectives of EEMA. 

Now that makes you understand what exactly Sabbas means when he values members working in unison the most. After all, we're talking about the industry's biggest agencies, who are in fact competition to one another, putting that aside, for common goals and greater good! But it’s important to know that such achievements are marked by great leadership, focused direction and a fair environment to work in. And this to us is President Sabbas Joseph's biggest achievement in his 3-year tenure.

The industry's most sensible and successful minds, who have worked closely with Sabbas through this time, agree with us:

Michael Menezes, who was the first president of the association and is Chairman of Showtime: "I believe Sabbas's taking over as the President of EEMA in 2014 couldn't have been better timed. While the industry and the association had reached a fair level of maturity, it needed someone at the helm who could take it to the next level. 

Sabbas has not only taken it to the next level but several levels beyond. The highest echelons of Government  and the corporate world are now much more aware of and recognise the value of events and experiential marketing as a critical piece in the communication matrix. Several senior functionaries of the Government  and the Corporate Marketing Fraternity are also seen speaking, listening and constantly interacting with the industry at its annual Summits and Awards. EEMA is clearly seen today as the apex body of our industry. 

But the workaholic that he is, Sabbas is not willing to rest on his laurels. He is now busy extending the reach of EEMA to cover partners and associates and like-minded bodies across the nation and the rest of the world. All power to him!”

Roshan Abbas, Co-founder, Geometry Global Encompass Network and Member, National Advisory Council, EEMA states: "Sabbas has managed to make progress on the single window clearance agenda the most. Apart from that we have engaged with government authorities and are considered a valuable partner. The work on licencing has made rapid progress. On a lighter note, I believe he has managed to discover how to make 48 hours out of 24!"

Sushma Prabhu Gaikwad, Vice-president-West, EEMA and Co-founder of Ice Global: "Sabbas has been an inspirational leader who has brought the industry together with his dynamic and humble leadership style. One of the greatest achievements has been that the industry has moved leaps and bounds towards creating strong ties with the governmental machinery as well as the media industry as a whole.  Event Industry representations have been made at various ministries and consistent work has been done towards positively influencing policies that govern our ecosystem. A point to be noted is that Sabbas has led the team from the front and worked alongside in the trenches to consolidate and re-calibrate the industry.

It has certainly been exciting times at EEMA. Over 3 years, we have worked relentlessly to create impact on larger issues that the event industry grapples with.  The team has worked with passion and fortitude towards clear goals and deliverables. Sabbas' leadership has generated a huge positive shift in attitude and team work.”

Rajeev Jain, Vice president and treasurer and founder of Rashi Entertainment: "I have had the good fortune to be part of EEMA’s NEC since its inception, and been a part of the NEC through all three Presidents’ tenure. What I find Sabbas’ most important achievement in the last 3 years is definitely his ability to move members to work, and be active. He is a great leader, and above all one who works with you hand-in-hand. It is only during Sabbas’ tenure that EEMA has worked in total harmony, because Sabbas made it a point to visit the regions and motivate the members. The East and South zones which were largely dormant before, now play an equal and active part in the larger association.

Another very noteworthy effort has been the degree of government liasoning and prominence we have achieved in Sabbas’ tenure as President. The recognition EEMA has achieved with various Government departments and officials is invaluable, and was non-existent before Sabbas’ tenure.”

Poonam Lal, Director, Marketing Solutions and VP, Gender Equality, EEMA comments; "I think what Sabbas has given to EEMA is a unified bigger vision. EEMA has gained immense recognition under his leadership. He leads by example, and inspires us to work for the greater good! Like he always says - EEMA First! There is now a great sense of pride in being a part of EEMA. Personally, I think the Gender Equality initiative is one of the big achievements under his leadership."

Gitikka Ganju Dhar, Leading Emcee and Member, EEMA comments; "Sabbas works 24×7. He has a mind that is razor sharp. He is industrious to a fault. He is a legend who is still growing at a feverish pace. As President EEMA, he has been unwavering,  committed and has heralded winds of change. In my opinion his most significant contribution to the Indian live industry is We Care. Personally, I have seen him walk the talk and stand for equality of genders. I think many a woman professional will be able to recount something he quietly did to make sure they were treated correctly at work and respected. I sure can. Born to be a leader, he is lucky to have a incredibly strong woman like Punam as his partner in life. EEMA has garnered considerable gains from his Presidency. Transformation-Man, I'd call him."

I wanted to account some of the highlights of EEMA's most prominent achievements in the last 3 years, so I dived into the various notes, events and developments that have taken place across the industry and I seem to have come up with a treasure trove account. For our readers immediate reference here is the shortest account that I could pen:

Enhancing Status and Recognition of the Event Industry

Government interaction has been one of the greatest achievements of the Association since Sabbas has taken over the reins as President. The importance of recognition gained by the association and in turn the industry by relevant departments of the government is invaluable. 

Today, while the finance bill is being discussed, the event industry makes its representation through one of the big 5 firms;

Representations have been made before the I&B ministry in order to have a joint secretary who attends to the issues faced by the live events industry;


FICCI Meet with then Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkiah Naidu with the EEMA Team and Representations by Subhash Ghai, Puneet Goenka among others

The Chief Ministers and home ministers of all key states have been petitioned regarding ease of doing business with regard to licensing, single window clearances for events, elimination of entertainment tax and online licensing systems. Work has been underway with govt administration in New Delhi, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal and other key states.


Representation to Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy CM, Manish Sisodia with the EEMA Team


Sabbas Joseph with Union Minister of Sports, Vijay Goel and Manjushree Dayanand, ‎Administrator- Indira Gandhi Stadium Complex, New Delhi with Rajeev Jain


Representations and discussions are underway with the Skills development ministry.

FICCI and CII have given special attention to the live events industry and engage on issues concerning the industry.

Safeguarding the Future: Assets for the Association

It is a rare achievement for an association to have the discipline to save funds in order to have assets to secure future requirements for investments. EEMA however, under the leadership of Sabbas Joseph purchased prime real estate in New Delhi to secure a permanent office for the association. In Sabbas' words, "In the future when the association wants to build a full-fledged skills development centre or educational institute, EEMA would have a valuable asset in the office-property that can be utilised for further growth. The office space is for every EEMA member. They can have their meetings when visiting the city, and there is also space being designed as a common working area."

Movements for Change and Development

The most important measure for an association is the development and positive change it achieves for the industry it represents. And the most important legacy of a president's tenure is most definitely the sustainable efforts taken to achieve such developments. WeCare is one such initiative that was launched last year, to galvanise the efforts towards women empowerment and equality in the events industry. True to its fabric, WeCare is in fact led by the most empowered women of EEMA - Poonam Lal, Sushma Gaikwad, Anjali Pasricha, Rakhi Kankaria – and has been supported by the entire rank and file of the association. Today, WeCare is well on its way to becoming a platform with its own independent standing and initiatives.

On March 8th earlier this year, EEMA WeCare hosted a Women’s Day celebration where a joint pledge was signed with the Advertising Club of India. The first Pink Stars were presented to Farhan Akhtar, Taapsee Pannu, Aniruddha Choudhary (director of Pink) for their work on women’s issues.

In a similar vein, the other important issue that required attention in the event industry has been Safety. A focused effort saw the launch of the initiative YES WE ARE SAFE, a promise by the companies and members of EEMA to make safety and wellness in the event industry their main priority. The initiative clearly stated: Safety First. Then Creativity. Led by Siddharth Ganeriwalla, EEMA is championing this initiative across the entire ecosystem speaking to hotels, venues, service providers and most of all event managers. EEMA proposes to take this with utmost seriousness and bring about a change across the industry on a sustainable basis.

Intellectual Properties Developed for the Association

While EEMA launched 10 years ago with EEMAGINE, the association’s annual convention,  the EEMAX Awards were also announced that year. However, every new IP that the Association has developed since, has been in the last three years.

In the first few months of taking up his role as President, in a pan-India galvanising effort of the kind never seen before, EEMA along with the Film and Television Producers Guild and the global media conglomerate Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd.(ZEE) held a fund-raiser campaign, ‘Hum Hain… Umeed-e-Kashmir’ to raise funds and awareness for flood-stricken Kashmir. EEMA led the initiative from the front.

The initiative saw participation from Amitabh Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma, Sushant Singh Rajput, Shantanu Moitra, Anupam Kher, Anil Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Ayushmann Khurrana, Pt Shivkumar Sharma, Sukhwinder Singh, Vishal and Rekha Bhardwaj, Aditi Rao Hydari, Dia Mirza, Farhan Akhtar and others. And the event was telecast across the Zee TV network raising charity contributions in excess of Rs 6 crores through United Way.

The EEMA Spotlight Awards is another noteworthy IP, recognising and celebrating the contributions and service excellence of the vendor community of the Event Industry. This was initiated last year during EEMAGINE, and will see its second edition at this EEMAGINE.

The EEMA Global Leadership Retreat, is one more very prominent IP set forth this year, where international tourism boards are taking the opportunity to work with EEMA and leverage the association's position to promote their local event economies. The inaugural edition of the EEMA Global Leadership Retreat was hosted in Antalya with partner Inventum MICE. Almost all key leaders of the event industry participated in the retreat, including all EEMA presidents Michael Menezes, Brian Tellis and Sabbas Joseph with their wives. For the first time, spouses and families were invited with a separate program being organised for them. Global speakers included the world’s No. 1 life coach Marshall Goldsmith. The success is apparent, with other destinations already pitching for the next edition.


A Rare Occassion when all three Presidents (past and present) of EEMA, spent time bonding with their better halves and each other at the first EEMA Global Retreat

Working Networks with Strategic Partners

Beyond recognition from relevant government organisations, it’s always a positive achievement for an industry association to be in regular working networks with related institutes, organisations and bodies. EEMA in the last three years has strategically partnered the most relevant platforms and bodies, to add a credible edge for the association.

These have included research and consultancy with EY, KPMG, deloitte and Grant Thornton; working together with FICCI and CII on industry representations and knowledge-exchange platforms. EEMA has also leveraged its overall representation through close working relations with related associations like the AdClub in India and ILEA in Middle East, in the last year.

Activating the Regions: This has taken multiple forms; Fund Street had EY and KPMG address CFOs and company owners about fund-raising and equity partnerships; EY did a review of the country’s Finance Budget and what the event industry needed to be conscious about; Warehouse workshops, skills workshops have been organised by regional heads such as Rakhi Kankaria, Sushma Gaikwad and Sanjeev Pasricha; car rallies and fun engagements have come together in the north courtesy Vijay Arora, Rajeev Jain, Sanjeev Pasricha, Rajesh Varma and Vipul Pandhi.

The biggest breakthrough was the EEMA East Conclave, wherein EEMA held its first major event in the East. With Gautam Jain, Vijay Bokadia, Rishabh Bapna, Nidhi Poddar, Sanjay Bhandari, Vinod Bhandari and Avinash getting behind the wheel, this frontier was opened out for EEMA. All major EEMA leaders participated in the conclave.

Three editions of EEMA South Factor have been held, with Rakhi, Sanjeev Kapoor, Arun Kumar and Sagar Pingali working together. The first EEMA FAM was held in Hyderabad and the South Factor made its mark in Coimbatore, a hitherto untouched region. The support that EEMA has gained in the Tamil Nadu region is phenomenal.

Today, north, south east or west, EEMA is seen as the best!

EEMA’s secretariat has been the strongest ever under General Secretary Mandeep Singh and its finances have never been more strong than under Treasurer Rajeev Jain. While these two key members and Sushma Gaikwad have remained consistently a part of Sabbas’s team through the three years, he has consistently changed the composition of the NEC to address new issues and take on different challenges with new members championing these…truly a very different approach to ensuring the association’s progress and accountability.

Forging Partnerships: Some interesting partnerships have emerged over the past three years. EEMA now has a strong forever-partnership with Event Faqs and the WOW Awards and Summit; a partnership with the International Convention of the Wedding Fraternity, Infocomm and TAVF, the experiential venue awards.

I recall reporting after the first EEMAGINE concluded 10 years ago: "We know the industry has come of age when it finds the need to stand united, to speak in one voice, and to plan its growth agenda. It takes wisdom and experience for businesses that are so used to competing with one another to put issues that matter to the industry as a whole above all else."

This sentiment has never felt truer now, in EEMA’s 10th year. Just re-counting the achievements of the association in the past three years, makes one realise the real value of a great leader. Not one that works alone to prove his own greatness, but one that inspires unity to achieve greatness for all!

EVENTFAQS is presenting a series of stories in the lead up to the 10th year of EEMAGINE, featuring milestones, achievements, challenges of the association, and what’s made EEMA what it is today.

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