The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted the events’ and experiential industry, with experts pegging the loss at INR 3000cr. Can the second half of 2020 be redeemed? Media Samosa decodes the COVID-19 Impact on Events.
According to EEMA Report, the Events & Activation industry in India is touted to cross 10,000 crore mark in 2020-21. The industry employs over 10 mn people as per the report. However, with the COVID-19 outbreak, multiple events, domestic & global have been canceled or postponed. Be it Cannes 2020 getting postponed to later date in June, Google IO getting canned or IPL matches rearranging schedule – events of all genres have been impacted. Various brand product launches & promotional activities too, stand canceled.
As per the experts, even if the situation improves, the events’ industry would take some time to recover as after-effects will hit the experiential sector. However, if the situation continues for long, it will have an impact on global economies for the industry.
Media Samosa speaks with industry experts to delve into the know-how of the situation and getting to know the ways of dealing it.
EEMA Report suggests that the industry is touted to incur losses of INR 3000 crores in the first two months.
Roshan Abbas, MD, Geometry Encompass shares, “It started with a couple of cancellations but it has now reached a staggering number. It is projected to incur a loss of 3000-Cr. business in the short-run”.
If the situation prolongs then Abbas shares that the projected numbers could be a lot more.
Brian Tellis, Director, Fountainhead MKTG, shares that the events’ business is one that survives on the now. “Given the immediacy of our business, the instant impact has been tremendous. The event business by nature requires people to come together and the required social distancing doesn’t augur well for the business at the moment”, he says.
Khushbu Vaid, Director, Pentagon events, explains that even though Mar-April are heavy or seasoned quarters, events are all about people. If they are fine everything else is fine. “We are in a financial crisis for at least the next 6 months without anyone’s mercy”, rues Vaid. She hopefully states that as an industry, people are looking up to the government to possibly provide some relief at such a time.
Sameer Tobaccowala, CEO, Shobiz Experiential Communications opines that while it is obvious that the spate of cancellations is terrible news for the live events industry, every industry needs to recognize that social distancing is necessary and non- negotiable if we are to change the trajectory of infections by COVID-19.
“It is also a valuable business lesson in planning for contingencies”, he says. Agencies in this space are masters at addressing contingencies that may arise during an event. But every single one of us has given little or no thought to a contingency that would adversely impact ALL events.
Most Affected Areas
Many areas in the experiential sector are affected but most of all are the Live events. Abbas points out, “Anything which is Live entertainment, hospitality, travel, F & B, Theaters, Cinema, Sports, all of that is impacted”. He explains that the problem is also in terms of the types of stakeholders. “So, one is the organized sector but there is also an unorganized segment. This is an area that is impacted, the most”.
He further states that Summer is a time when conventions happen. Also, concerts, India Fashion Week, Theatre awards, Goa Fest-all of these are canceled. “It almost seems like a horror story to me,” exclaims Abbas.
Neale Murray, Co-Founder & COO at Fountainhead MKTG shares, “I believe the impact is equally felt across all sectors. From ballroom & outdoor corporate events to sporting events and weddings all stand canceled or postponed.”
Vaid on the other hand shares that overall while all the sectors get impacted during such crises, she sees digital as the only medium thriving. “The Pentagon events have another arm- Pentagon Pixels that I think will thrive because of its digital capabilities. Other than that, despite having good ideas, we can’t do anything on- ground”, she quips.
Mazhar Nadiadwala, Managing Director, Dome Entertainment points towards the greener pastures during such times. He shares that while the live events vertical is in a standstill situation, the OTT vertical of the entertainment industry is witnessing high demand due to the rise in consumption of digital portals/channels.
“We believe it’s the perfect time to evolve and adapt to virtual/ AR/digital platforms that solve the purpose to derive the same results, that one wants to achieve otherwise.” He further highlights that many events are taking place through video conferencing, live chats, and other online platforms.
“BRANDS ARE OPTing for product launch via online mediums which we think is a great way to get the business going while we combat the virus”, says Nadiadwala.
Tobaccowala was of a similar view and shared a holistic picture. He explains that COVID-19 will affect business across the board. But the categories that have already made the transition to digital or omnichannel communication will ride out the storm with greater success, according to the leader.
Impact on Spends
During an unstable time, spends and employees are severely affected. But how do you sustain during such volatile times? Abbas puts forth, “Now people will have to come together & collaborate and do some things online. We won’t be able to translate the emotive experiences of a live event but when children are playing video games amidst 50 people, they are participating in a virtual event. When 10,000 people are watching an online championship, that is an event.”
So, we will need to make the drastic changes from our end that what is an event and what goes in a VR event? A lot of thought needs to be put into VR event formats, says abbas.
The second aspect, he shares, is how do we care for our people? He explains that if they don’t have work then they won’t be able to pay the employees. But getting over that and communicating the situation to them is equally important.
For spends, Abbas states that there will be pairing down of anything non-essential. “Purely entertainment segments would be badly affected.”
Murray shares, “In business terms, the obvious route to choose is digital. We must re-imagine our normal business medium and try and create innovative solutions for our customers through Texperiences.” Another important thing is to encourage virtual training for our co-workers for learning & Development.
He further states that all can only hope and pray that we fight this pandemic and overcome it so the second half of the year gets better.
Tobaccowala, on the other hand, believes that the industry response would be defined by the market response and the market response would be defined by the success as a nation to effectively deal with this calamity.
“If our efforts to Flatten the Curve are successful, I would expect business to match projections by early 2nd half and thereafter to continue as expected”, he expresses optimistically.
The experts also opine that while salaries & wages can become a question mark, communicating it to the employees would be of utmost importance.
While all is not lost for the experiential sector, globally the industry is looking at greater technologies and VR formats for support. In India, agencies are fast grappling to the situation and have already started embracing online avenues for seminars, classes, and more.
Likewise, many entrepreneurs are coming forth to combat the situation. But uncertainty prevails to some extent. Abbas advises that figure the essential component that everyone needs during such times. “You can’t turn the lens inwards and think of only yourself. You have to reframe your conversations and re-align your thoughts”, he says. Lastly, he puts forth that companies will have to find more engaging ways to create experiences for a person online.
Vaid expresses concern for the future. While one has to be positive, she says, “I don’t see brands and the market immediately working after this period. I see about 6 months for us to recover after a thing like this”, she puts forth in a practical sense.
Some believe that cutting additional expenses should help. Tellis says, “We should look at creating financial efficiencies like managing debtors/creditors cleverly, cutting off all additional expenses, & more to use the available man-hours to up the game on creativity, business development, training programs, etc. Others even felt that a ‘wait and watch’ policy should also be adopted with a futuristic outlook.
According to Tobaccowala agencies need to plan long term and introspect for themselves the core of their value proposition to a client. “Once the introspection is done there are many tools that can be deployed to achieve the stated objectives – stronger contracts, event insurance being just a few,” concludes the CEO.