Please share your background with us.
I was thrust into a career in advertising without a by-your-leave way back in 1971 but that’s another story. I started my own advertising agency, Maadhyam in 1979 after stints on the other side of the table with Usha Sales and DLF. Crossed over to the event and entertainment management industry in 1997 when I started Showtime and have really enjoyed every minute of it. Except that I sincerely believe it’s truly a young people’s business and that’s why I have now handed over the reins to my son, Avik. Of course, I am always there, particularly where the grey hair helps or it’s an old client who likes me to be around!
Tell us more about Showtime Group. What sort of events do you involve yourself with?
Showtime is one of the largest players in the event industry today and works with some of the most renowned clients across disciplines and genres. DLF and Hero were our clients in the advertising space and were, therefore, our founding clients for Showtime. We treasure those relationships that are active even today and actually span several generations! Other relationships that have endured over the years have been with CII, Castrol-BP and the Taj Group. We also handle BMW, Daimler, Burberry and a host of other global brands but the biggest feather in the cap over the recent past has been our relationship with Infosys that now extends to responsibility for every Infosys event across the world! Our activity spectrum is primarily Corporate, Sports and Social events.
I now concentrate on what we call Special Projects. These are usually the hi-profile, extra-large format events that Showtime has earned a formidable reputation for over the years.
How did the idea of organising a Zubin Mehta concert in Delhi come about?
I first met the Maestro through the lady who runs his Foundation in Mumbai, Mehroo B Jeejeebhoy, when I was hoping to get him to do a concert in aid of the Indian Head Injury Foundation for our CSR IP called the Jodhpur One World Retreat. That didn’t eventually happen but our relationship blossomed over the years and finally led to his recommending us to the Australian World Orchestra Management to organise his concert with them in Delhi.
What were the challenges faced by your team while organising such a niche event? India’s Capital city brings with it some unique challenges.
For one, Delhi-ites believe that if they have arrived in life, they are entitled to complementary tickets. That’s why most international performers tend to skip Delhi and go to Bangalore and Mumbai. We managed to break that hoodoo by putting all tickets online but this practice will still need some time to establish as the local Police actually face all the pressure and therefore unleash it on the event management company. Nonetheless, I think this was a landmark event in this respect.
The Delhi Government also stepped in to sort out another troublesome aspect – deposit of all Entertainment Tax in advance, then physical stamping of all tickets before they can go on sale etc etc. By making the process online, they removed all these hassles in one go. Kudos to them; this again was a game-changer for the industry and is already making Delhi a new, event-friendly city. The biggest challenge was the venue issue. We had booked the Indira Gandhi Stadium with a capacity of 10,000 on the wishes of Maestro Zubin who had enjoyed the experience of playing there 10 years ago. But in one bureaucratic swipe, our permission was summarily cancelled as the Government decided to do its India-Africa Summit there. However, we did manage an alternate venue.
How successful were the two Delhi Concerts that took place on the 30th and 31st of October 2015?
As successful as they could ever have been! Sold-out venues, superbly-knowledgeable audiences, surprisingly brilliant acoustics inspite of using a Weightlifting Stadium as the auditorium. Maestro Zubin himself acknowledged this publicly in a television interview on NDTV.
How did you manage to convert the JLN Weightlifting Auditorium into a state of the art concert venue?
Well all we did was to build a virtual shell, much like famous concert venues provide. That worked like magic!
Do you think Western classical music has potential for growth in New Delhi?
There seems to be a lot of interest in the city if one considers the number of music schools and academies offering courses. The large turnout of youth for the concerts was also a very encouraging sign and bodes well for this genre of music. I think the Delhi Music Society needs to get more active and corporate sponsors of luxury products that this kind of music attracts also need to come forward with support.
Will you be organising more such events? What can enthusiasts in India expect from Showtime in the near future?
Well this was really a one-off effort in terms of fulfilling a commitment to the Maestro. But Showtime has always been adventurous in sticking its neck out to support causes and movements and would be happy to do so as and when the opportunity arises.
Chairman, Showtime Group