#PowerWomen: Make Knowledge your Purpose and Power your Panache, Says Kanika Sethi
by Mugdha Gaonkar Industry Watch | March 9, 2021 | Interview
PowerWomen Kanika Sethi Kanika Sethi Weddings
Continuing the EVENTFAQS #PowerWomen series, we talk to Kanika Sethi about her journey. She is the Founder of Kanika Sethi Weddings, Hospitality & Events. She Heads Business Development at SPORJO & is the Co-Founder and CEO of ‘Define Your Purpose’ - A Social Entrepreneurship venture of Kanika Sethi Weddings. Hospitality. Events.
With her diverse and extensive wedding and event planning experience coupled with her creativity, she aims at playing a pivotal role in shaping a process-driven & skilled live industry in the country with a global impact.
Here, she shares insights on her entry into the event industry, challenges she faced, position of women in the industry, priorities and some advice for young women entering the events space.
HOW I CAME TO BE IN THE EVENT INDUSTRY
I used to work for Starwood Group of hotels in Oman. During my tenure there, I got to meet the team of Wizcraft International Events Pvt. Ltd., who were there to execute the Tattoo festival for the government. I was their client-servicing person, so I got a feel of what this whole event world is all about.
I was the client servicing manager for them during their stay at the hotel. Their slightly manic schedules and their creative magic made me curious about the world of events. Then I got to the opportunity to work as a Hospitality Manager on IIFA in Dubai. Working continuously for those 4 days with a fun & enthusiastic team and after not being able to feel my feet at all, I knew I was on the right career path. Witnessing & being behind the scenes of such a grand show, I knew that this is where I had to be. The very unglamorous but magnificent world where ideas creatively come alive and memories are born.
Later, when I moved to India, I was fortunate to become a Wiz. And that was my entry into the world of events and I have been doing this for 14 years now. In 2006, I joined Wizcraft, and later, I chose to be an entrepreneur focusing on wedding planning & designing and specialising in hospitality. Wizcraft was, is and will always be my professional Gurukul.
We just celebrated our 10th anniversary in January. I feel like we have gone back to the drawing board. It feels fresh to have the opportunity to start again, but this time just a little bit wiser about “What not to do’ and ‘how to stick to our strengths’. This has been both an exhilarating and nail biting decade. India is an ocean of creativity & intelligence. No to mention a large population! The first challenge was moving here after 24 years, adapting to a new personal & professional lifestyle, culture, trying to get a diverse platter of projects and hope to find ‘my space, niche & draw up my professional roadmap basis my experiences.
10 years later, we definitely have a clear vision backed by a holistic growth that has happened all thanks to our clients. In the spectrum of weddings, we deal with families who are so different in their traditions, culture, food preferences and behavioural patterns. It leads to immense emotional growth & analytical skills as well. So we are moving ahead with a more decluttered plan for sure. Fingers crossed now!
My biggest success is definitely yet to come, I have a very long way to go. Having said that, we do know that we are on the right track. Besides, I hope that I'm able to keep working, creating & building meaningful relationships. I don't want to set a boundary by defining one particular successful moment. We work towards excellence with a goal to keep raising the bar for ourselves & keep our clients smiling!
ON POSITION OF WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY
The day this stops getting addressed as an issue, will be the day I'll feel that we have progressed as a country. We have a really big ‘mindset’ problem as a nation. The event industry is probably one which is always making an effort to be inclusive & safe. It is intrinsically progressive as it’s ethos is innovation!. Of course, like every other line of work, we also face serious issues and there are channels to reach out to that have been structured for the purpose of safeguarding the workforce.
But if I were to comment on the overall approach that the industry has towards women, we want equal representation, we are mindful of what skillsets, mindsets and heart sets are brought to the table in the presence of a both genders. In the industry, there are problems, but women look beyond them to find paths that advance them in this chosen career path. But as a country, there is a problem of assumptions about the business of events and the live industry. Yes, we work late. Yes, we work with celebrities, we are a flamboyant industry because we're creative. We're all about lights, sound, camera, action, story-telling, we're all about that. Hence, people take the liberty to box entire business in the ‘Not Applicable’ category!
When you decide to become a part of the industry, it's important to have a strong standing for yourself by backing it with knowledge, facts and experiences. That is what will set you apart. Parents need to be more open-minded that the world is not revolving around arts, science and commerce anymore. We are living in an experimental time. So, if people in India stopped basing their decisions on assumptions, and got to know about the industry, that's when mindsets will change. That's when we will look at each other as professionals and what we bring to the table from an individual strengths point of view. That's when this question will not come up and we'll all work as equals.
ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THE EVENT INDUSTRY
I will answer this for both genders. There is no bigger power than knowledge. And I would urge everyone to keep their eyes & ears open at all times. As for advice for women, remember that the fact that we wear so many different hats, makes us naturally malleable. We are conditioned to be flexible. So my first advice to women is to use that malleability purposefully, intelligently and creatively. Stay focused on keeping yourself together! Then you will be able to keep a well-nourished ecosystem both professionally and personally. Have a little conversation about ‘WHY’ you want to be in the event industry, how badly do you want it? Do you want to sustain & grow in the business?
Second advice is, invest in yourself. Today, there is a demand for a ‘systematic education’ for specialised skills for the dynamic live industry. This demand has been created by the young individuals who aspire to be a part of it. However it is important to back that aspiration up with training & education. Take advantage of this privilege of learning from the best in the business who learnt by doing it all on the job. So, educate yourself, find yourself a coach or a mentor, have a plan with them, go with the attitude to commit to unlearning & learning. In events, there is no grey. It’s all black & white. Event Management is the second most difficult profession in the world. The first being that of surgeons - like surgeons get one chance on a table, we also get one chance to make it or break it in front of a live audience. So, back yourself up with knowledge. The power of your knowledge will become your biggest panache and strength. Strive to be an industry professional only.
My third advice is to be pro-active and find work. Focus on the positives of the pandemic professionally, the innovation, advancement of the technology space. It is time to move on. The digital space has evolved and we're an industry that has been using this space more than the others. Your goal should be to upskill, get experience, & when on ground, exceed expectations of yourself and your clients. Then there is no gender discussion, only a happy celebration of success and merit. It doesn't matter what gender you are, give it your best as a knowledgeable & skilled individual.
TALKING POINTS AT KANIKA SETHI WEDDINGS
The talking points here are to innovatively sustain ourselves. We took the time during the lockdown to do a lot of SWOT analysis on where we stand as an organization, where I stand as an individual. The talking points are how to stick to our strengths that we have realized through this time of thinking, contemplating and using our past events as case studies. We hope to innovate and sustain ourselves and have a lot of fun along the way. But above all, be safe and keep our guests safe, as well.
In a lot of ways, the entire industry is on a similar platform now, there's an unsaid equality that the pandemic has set in. A lot of clean-up has happened too but the ones who have sustained are all out there, playing the field together. It’s how we will collectively handle it, is what’s important.
#Decluttering is trending! Making gatherings more meaningful & exploring various design languages are all adding the to the variety and creativity.
WHAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO
The biggest priority right now is to stay afloat, to sustain and keep it quality-driven. For us, the focus is to raise the bar with the areas that we know we are good at. We are good with being process oriented, experimental with our styling, our expertise lies in experiential hospitality & we want to take the next leap in these spaces.
I'm also hoping to be consistent with the time that we're being able to spend with people who really matter to us, both in the professional & personal space.
A HISTORICAL EVENT I WOULD LIKE TO WITNESS LIVE
A historical event I would have liked to witness LIVE was when Smt. Indira Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister. To witness that electrifying energy, power & confidence at a time when the majority of women did not have a voice, would have been transformational to another level. I would have loved to work on that event for sure!
Continuing the EVENTFAQS #PowerWomen series, we talk to Kanika Sethi, Founder of Kanika Sethi Weddings, about her journey.