Mazhar Nadiadwala, Managing Director of Dome Entertainment Pvt Ltd gives us a lowdown
Dome, one of the country’s largest indoor events spaces at the NSCI in Worli, is a premium venue that has hosted everything from the Filmfare awards and the upcoming Femina Miss India pageant to Disney’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Mazhar Nadiadwala comes from a lineage of Bollywood producers. Having dabbled in film and TV production and associated with Cineyug, Nadiadwala has more than 20 years of experience in live performances, reality shows, corporate gigs and sporting events.
With Dome, his vision is to give India an iconic space where the venue itself is the destination.
India is home to a thriving event management industry, which has witnessed remarkable growth in recent years. From huge concerts to grand corporate events and more, there has been a significant hike in the demand for large-scale luxury and lifestyle events. Despite this, India has not reached its full potential as a hotspot for hosting such mammoth events yet.
The biggest challenge for the events industry is that it is very dependent on sponsorships. Whenever the market faces the slightest lull, it begins to show repercussions in the events industry. Possession of adequate capital is the backbone of every event in the industry. When scouting for event sponsorships, we face multiple challenges. The first is to identify the right sponsor, one that is truly interested in funding the event. Do not accept funding from sponsors that have little or no concern in the event itself, but are solely placing their money on great Returns on Investment (ROI). A little searching goes a long way towards securing adequate capital for each event.
Profitability is earmarked as a major point of concern for every event company. Internationally, the main revenue stream is ticketing but currently, we can’t rely on that in India. The culture of highly paid events doesn’t exist, and if it does, it’s only for niche events, few and far between. As an event organiser, you’re already in a challenged revenue situation in terms of ticketing, and then have to part with a huge amount for taxes.
While the GST has helped abolish the entertainment tax as well as other elements that ended up being double-taxed, it is still very steep. Most luxury and lifestyle events come into the 28% bracket. With ticketed events, if they don’t fall into certain categories, it’s not easy to make money. We need to discuss and negotiate a more reasonable tax figure with the government. Currently, almost 1/3rd of the revenue is taken away by taxes.
If we had more leeway, we could experiment a lot more, have many kinds of events and in turn, generate more revenue for the state in terms of tax.
Even though Dome is a premium venue and we are running the way we are, we do have challenges in terms of operational costs. Usually, around the world, large-scale venues are supported by the government—not only in terms of finances but subsidies that help sell tickets cheaper. Such support would also help us get more tourist footfall into the country.
For instance, when we hosted Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, it was a breakthrough in India—a huge achievement to convince an international brand like Disney that we could host our first-ever Broadway show, and up to their standards. They weren’t sure it would take off. We, together with their teams, drew out a plan of how it would be done. We went out of our way to ensure that we had the best facilities and technical expertise, getting vendors to purchase equipment where necessary—and buying things ourselves when they couldn’t. Whether you watch a Broadway show in New York, London or Singapore, it should provide the same experience. For us, this wasn’t a profit-making project but an initiative to get a new industry started in India.
Moreover, venues like ours require support from city authorities, who need to create infrastructure around the space. They must help make operations smooth by taking care of the approach road and parking space at larger venues, determining how quickly patrons can exit and that public transport is adequate. The ride should be smooth not just for people coming in to the venue, but for regular traffic outside too.
I see that in the events space, people are often afraid to innovate—stakes are high and profitability is already a challenge. They go with tried-and-tested methods instead of aiming to break the mould. There’s a lot of room to create, and I hope we get on that path soon.