Though live events are now allowed, restrictions cripple them. For one, corporate events are allowed, but there is a cap of 100 people. The industry is as big as Rs 500,000 crore. One Kumbh Mela alone is worth Rs 4,000 crore, and an IPL is worth Rs 16,000 crore.
While the government has allowed the resumption of live events, there is not much for the industry to cheer about.
“From September 21, corporate events can restart but it is open only for 100 people. Hundred is too small a number. Plus, out of the 100, how many will be working staff? There is confusion,” Deepak Choudhary, Founder and Director, Event Capital, told Moneycontrol.
Before unlock 4, only personal events were allowed with a cap of 50 people. While corporate events are now allowed with a cap of 100 people, there is no resumption of events as clients are still preferring virtual corporate events.
Also, in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, live events are not allowed, Choudhary said.
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Before COVID-19, Event Capital organised ground intellectual properties (IPs). IPs refer to the creation of like-minded artistic works like Bollywood Music Project, The Great Indian Dandiya Festival, among others.
Why is 100 not enough?
According to Choudhary, there are hardly any type of event for which 100 people will be a viable option.
“For B2C events like concerts, 100 is small. In fact, anything less than 3,000 is not viable. Even for exhibitions, a cap of 100 people is low. Plus, many exhibition venues are still blocked as COVID-19 centres. Awards also won’t happen. Hence, in the real sense, it is not opening the industry,” he said.
Roshan Abbas, President, EEMA (Event & Entertainment Management Association), said that they were hoping that the cap would be 200 people for closed venues, and for open venues, it would depend on the size of the venue.
“Like a 10,000 square metre venue could have 2,500 people but should have a 4 square metre distance,” he said.
Live events industry says hello to hybrid
Due to the restriction on the number of people at an event, Abbas said all events will be hybrid – a mix of digital and on-ground.
“The new normal will be people gathering in five different venues and digitally connected to each other. Now, venues will be selected not only on the basis of its capacity but also on the strength of the internet connectivity the venue has. All events will have production crew to shoot.”
Choudhary said that hybrid is an additional revenue option.
“It is an additional marketing reach in times of COVID-19. Because of virtual events, we do have that database of online viewers. So, to manage cost, we will opt for a hybrid model but it still depends on the nature of the event,” he said.
Drive-in may not drive revenues
Along with the hybrid way, players in the events industry are adopting some international trends like drive-in concerts.
“The government has also allowed open theatres (venues). However, there is no viability for this form in India. For example, you may put a maximum of 300 to 400 cars at an open venue. Assuming 3-4 people in each car, there would be around 1,000 people and even if you charge them Rs 1,000, recovering the cost would be a challenge because there would be ground cost, permission cost, licence cost,” said Choudhary.
Brands betting on ground events
For the events industry, brand sponsorships will play a critical role as volumes will be hit due to physical-distancing norms. Both Choudhary and Abbas are not worried about brands.
“Brands have enough reasons to spend because they want their products to be seen and they too are hungry for events. For one of our recent online festivals, we got seven to eight brands. They have come with smaller money as it is online, but that money would have been large, had it been on-ground. Brands want to gather their consumers back. But everything will come down and it is likely to go down 30 percent, both cost and revenue,” said Choudhary.
Abbas added that most brands are resorting to well-shot virtual events, like Lakme Fashion Week, which is both on-ground and virtual.
Currently, not much is expected to revive in the events space.
“Only the social events space, which includes weddings, will see a big upshot. I think we have to write off the corporate events space for two quarters and might even have to write off the last quarter because both client and public confidence will take time to return,” said Abbas.
“I have been talking to the government and have suggested that for the events industry to reopen and to bring back consumer confidence, the government should probably do some event like a COVID safety exhibit in India. Even a little bit of capital freed by the government will spread amid all in the events space as currently everything is at a standstill.”
He said that if things do not resume in the events space by next month, event companies will start shutting down.
“Initially, the losses in the live events space were estimated at Rs 3,000 crore but it was a conservative estimate. The events industry is as big as Rs 500,000 crore. One Kumbh Mela alone is worth Rs 4,000 crore, and an Indian Premier League (IPL) Rs 16,000 crore.” So, the losses are far more, he added.
Safety of paramount importance
Both Abbas and Choudhary said that the events industry is ready to reopen both in terms of safety and content.
Choudhary is ready with a music concert with all physical distancing protocols like an app for food and drinks which will place the order in front of the tables even before audience enters the venue.
Plus, EEMA is recruiting people, those who lost jobs in the last few months, as safety officers.
“Their only job at an event is to make sure that people are wearing masks and following physical distancing norms,” said Abbas.“There will be an increase in investment due to safety protocol. I think all events will now come with an insurance caveat. This is why we are talking to insurance agencies and we are also talking to medical boards,” he said.