Learn From the Western Event Industries
Learn From the Western Event Industries

We learnt in school that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Sure, but what we learnt later in life was that as far as most other things go, the west gets to see them first.

‘Developed nations’ is a term associated with the western nations. In the entertainment business, the west shows the way. Who can forget the ‘Western’ music being played all around? Haute Couture? Look towards the west – Paris, Milan, New York. Yes, the east is catching up, but more often than not you will notice that we follow the west.

Look around today, and you see how much the West has got into us. As kids, we knew nothing about Pizzas, Burgers, Fries and Shakes. McDonald, Domino, KFC and Pizza Hut did not exist in our lexicon. A good time meant a visit to the nearby cinema hall, and as a special treat followed up with an ice cream. Compare that with the scenario today. For movies, you take the kids out to a multiplex at the Mall. You buy popcorn, cold drink and nachos to go with the movie. McAloo-Tikki is fast replacing the ubiquitous vada-pau.

But specifically, what it has also brought in is a deep appreciation of the way the event industries work out there. We have a lot to learn from each other. There are areas where we definitely score over the west, and there are areas which we would do well to emulate them.

These are some of the things I admire about the west. There is no stifling or curtailing in a creative execution, simply because in most cases the creative can be executed. The support services are so much more advanced than what we have here. Of course, things are changing but it will still take us a few years to catch up with them. Alright, sometimes we import from the west for our execution, but these situations are rare and few. Unless the client here has some very deep pockets, we more often than not make do with what we have locally. But there, you think it and it will be done. Something I envy a lot, and wish we could have them here too. How many times have we not seen the Annual Oscar Awards at Hollywood and gasped at the dazzling presentation? And wished that we too could do something like that here? Sure, we have our FILMFARE awards here, but it would be unfair to compare it with the technological brilliance of the Oscars!

Again, the Annual Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival – a show par excellence. It holds so much prestige in our industry that winning a Lion there is akin to winning an Oscar!

The next thing I admire is the professionalism of the people. Each person does his/her job in the agreed manner in the agreed time frame, without any follow up. Things happen quietly and efficiently. I am not saying that we are not professional, but you will agree that occasionally we need a bit of prodding before things happen. Out there, you can concentrate on your part of the job without having to get stressed about why someone is late or why that is not happening. It sounds funny, but is realistic enough. In India, getting a job done is like driving a bullock cart. Sure it moves forward, but at its own sedate pace and only when you crack your whip. If you stop cracking the whip, it stops! As compared, out there, it’s similar to driving a Ferrari. As a result, out here we end with more managers than the actual workers to do a job – with each manager supervising the other down the rung! Out there, each worker is self-motivated and you have lesser managers.

Another thing I would love to have out here is the infrastructure and support services. You get so many choices for everything. Large venues to hold a large audience, hotel rooms under one room, specialized entertainment options – the list goes on. If one wanted to conduct a very large sized event, there are enough and more venues to accommodate everyone at once. You can make a considered choice. Here, many times you are constrained by the environment. You make do with what you have. Which is kind of restrictive, in a way. If we wanted to hold a very large conference in South India, more often than not, we end up choosing Hyderabad as a venue because of HICC. Even if most of the audience are in Bangalore or Chennai. Simply because there are no convention centers that big as HICC. Let me show you the scale of comparison of HICC with the ones available in the West.

HICC at Hyderabad has an internal hall of net 6,480 sq. metres that can hold an 5,000-delegate plenary and can be portioned into 6 smaller halls. Impressive, right? Now see this one.

The Las Vegas Convention Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada has 2,97,000 sq. metres of space, and it hosts shows with an estimated 200,000 participants at any given time!

Or take the Georgia World Congress Center or GWCC in Atlanta. It has an area of 130,000 sq. metres and hosts more than a million visitors each year!

You see what I getting at? I really wish we too would have such magnificent convention centres in all the major Indian cities.

While all this is fine, what in my opinion the west has to learn from India is that ours is a huge land with so many different people, so many different cultures and so many different languages. An event in Mumbai will be culturally quite different from one in Kolkata. The Delhi crowd pleaser will have little or no effect with the audience in Chennai. The MC in Bangalore will be different from the MC in Gurgaon. But as Indians, we and united in our diversity. That is where we have that edge over our counterparts in the West. We have the ability to quickly adapt to changes. Our people, on an average speak/understand about 3 different languages. An MC’s welcome speech can be in flawless English, or Hindi or the local language – totally depending on the audience.

Indians are very emotional as a race. Not everything is clinical and rational to us. Multinationals who have events in India are amazed at the song and dance sequences that sometimes we line up as entertainment. What they fail to see is that every Indian is brought up on a diet of Bollywood movies and Cricket. For us, the Hindi movie stars and the cricket players are demi Gods. Which is why we go crazy at the IPLs. Bring in any of the above stars at an event, and watch the crowd go crazy.

But now as the world is shrinking and more and more Indians are going global, the lines are getting fuzzier. Rudyard Kipling was wrong. Indeed east is east and west is west, but the twain are meeting and learning from each other.