T.H.E Interview – Shubhra Bhardwaj

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Shubhra

Entrepreneur and artistic director Ms. Shubhra Bhardwaj has over two decades of experience in managing large scale events in the field of sports, performing arts & entertainment.

She has a comprehensive & impressive body of work that lists creative services in more than thirty countries ranging from mid-sized festivals to large scale public events at the national and international level. We had the opportunity to discuss Tomorrowland Unite, Don’t Let Daddy Know India, and her firm Ferriswheel among many other things.

Shantanu – How has the journey at Ferriswheel been so far, having completed 8 years and numerous events? What was the idea that led to putting together this company?

Shubhra –

‘Start where you are, use what you have, keep your head down and do what you can. Just focus on the end prizes, nothing else matters’-

With this motto, I started my first company at the age of 20 and kept it going for 15 years.
I started Ferriswheel in 2009 with a clear agenda to become the best in the business and wanting to create a cutting edge, niche and extremely professional venture. Ferriswheel is a one-stop entertainment and event solution company. Based out of Mumbai, Ferriswheel specialises in conceptualising, producing and directing live events, shows, exhibitions and festivals for cultural, sports and entertainment platforms, at both national and international levels. We have in our portfolio, events like IPL Opening Ceremony 2016, Pakistan Super League Opening Ceremony, Commonwealth Games, Tomorrowland Unite, Don’t Let Daddy Know, Games Delhi 2010, First South Asian Winter Games Dehradun and Auli 2011 and Doha Asian Games 2006.

Shantanu – Having been in this industry for over two decades now, and having done some massive events, what are some of the changes you’ve seen, for better or worse, in the industry in India?

Shubhra – The industry is maturing as is the audience. As the audience matures, it’s a case of supply and demand and you can see it happening on your television channels and other things and every industry has started catering to niche audiences as well. One can see the shift of mind-set in the live audience space as well, that people are buying tickets and that there are successful deliveries for various kinds of live events. The industry is becoming more careful of health and safety, which was earlier on neglected and people are getting attracted towards talent. The Scope, scale and size of business is growing so there is a heavy contribution to the economy and the revenues that we generate even though we are not supported by government policy. The hurdles that one encounters even though you are classified as a service industry are quite large. One can see multiple platforms where the industry professionals are uniting to raise their concerns and stand as on a united platform. Digital media is an integral part of how live media is consumed.

Shantanu – What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while in this industry, and while growing Ferriswheel from its nascent stage into the hugely respected firm that it is today?

Shubhra – What started off as a humble effort and a small team on a dining table is now a network spanning 30,000 artists pan- India and 62 countries globally. We started at the grass root level, working with artists that I have known for over 20 years of my life and slowly built an active network and an enviable database. I am deeply respectful of everyone who works at Ferriswheel and I take pride in the strong workforce that we are today who deliver some of the largest events in the country. I like to encourage an entrepreneurial culture at Ferriswheel which is deeply motivating for both me and my team. My team believes in hard work, honesty and integrity. At Ferriswheel, we believe in quality, client satisfaction, respect for an individual, his growth and freedom – this is practiced across board from artists to client. My team loves to push the envelope for what the world has seen and are always geared to take up more! 2017 for Ferriswheel is a fundamental year, between 2015 and 2016 itself Ferriswheel saw a 200% growth rate and we are moving ahead faster than we imagined and I am indeed grateful for the team that’s behind this.

Shantanu – What keeps you motivated, what keeps you ticking every day, to go on and scale greater heights with Ferriswheel? How do you keep your team on their toes all the time, knowing that it’s a very challenging job?

Shubhra – For me what’s important is that I don’t need a reason or a motivation to get myself out of bed on a Monday morning- this is what I absolutely love doing. I look forward to Monday, each day is one full of exciting adventures and one thing is for sure, I’m passionate about what I do. There is no word called obstacle in my dictionary. It is the raw and rudimentary passion of the industry that keeps me going. I’ve always maintained that everything is just a means to an end. It is a part of the game to raise money and handle cash flows; my decision is to make it work come hell or high water. I only think solutions, actions and ‘what next’, not about problems or challenges.

Shantanu – How did the concept of Tomorrowland Unite really come together? How difficult was it to get the really basic and technical things right since it was an event highly dependent on technology?

Shubhra – The concept of Tomorrowland Unite came once we made our foray into the dance music space with the first step being Don’t Let Daddy Know. Well, Ferriswheel’s strength has always been display and use of cutting edge technology and production at all our large scale public international and national events so our team was familiar and well adapted, comfortable with what was coming our day and safe to say, it was a successful delivery with no glitches and we look forward to taking it a notch higher in its next edition. At this point, it is safe to mention that Ferriswheel has won 9 reputed awards in the field of technological innovation.

Shantanu – DLDK India saw a great line-up with an even better event execution to go with it. What was the thought process that went into this event, to really make it different from the umpteen events we’ve seen before?

Shubhra – Often organisers focus on the larger aspect of the delivery whilst forgetting the smaller, necessary details. It’s not always about how massive your stage looks or how packed your front of house looks in pictures. For me, the experience begins the minute you buy your ticket to the event- what matters most is how comfortable the experience is for the attendee. From the time you get your band exchanged, our focus was to ensure someone spends least time standing in queues, ensuring that waiting time at bars were minimum, drinks priced cheaper in comparison, clean washrooms, ample space to move around, top notch security, quick turnaround wait times are bars to get your drinks, to name a few verticals. What makes me happy is the fact that such smaller details were noticed and people left the venue, HAPPY! The attention to necessary, integral but smaller details is what made out stand out in comparison to the numerous events out there.

Shantanu – The IPL opening ceremony was another huge event that Ferriswheel has done. Was there a different kind of pressure altogether there, with a large TV audience watching every single thing happening at the event?

Shubhra – When I design a large stadium show it caters to the in stadium audience as well as the telecast audience, align with the broadcast team much in advance and create a shot-break up and orient the telecast team to the finer points of the show. The challenge of IPL was that we were delivering the largest technical show in India and we were using technology that was brought in to India for the very first time. The team that we put together were technicians and engineers from Hollywood to China and our own Indian vendors so we could deliver what we needed to. The timelines were tough, the star cast was very wide but in all when everyone knows you’re working towards the same vision everyone comes together to deliver against all odds.

Shantanu – What are some of the challenges that one must be aware of when venturing into this industry and what are some of the key qualities one should possess to really make it in this industry?

Shubhra – It’s not rocket science to achieve anything so long as people really want it to happen. I keep using this term that I’ve burnt my boats so I have no option but to conquer the island and I encourage everyone to think like that because it helps us achieve. The skills that one has to have is very sharp communication skills, thinking on the ball, effective and quick damage control, quick decision making, leadership in all ways- at any level of the organisation. Wanderlust is an essential part of this, you should be able to remain healthy, have the stamina to be in this space and maintain your health- there is no room for excuse!

Shantanu – How do you cope with the different challenges that come with different kind of events? You could be doing a cultural event for the government one day and the next day there’s something like a Bollywood award show or the IPL. Is adaptability a crucial factor here?

Shubhra – The first step of coping comes with not viewing it as a challenge and half your work is done there at ease! There is no denying that adaptability towards the nature of the industry is a key factor.

Shantanu – This year you’re featuring on one of the most important panel discussions at the ADE, what is this panel going to talk about and what are some of the issues or topics that you plan to bring forth through this discussion?

Shubhra – I’m speaking on the dance and brands panel at ADE this year and it’s great to have someone from the Indian dance music industry share the insight into this market- our market has stark differences compared to the other markets and it is important that we share that on global forums such as these. My discussion will wade through our two turnkey projects- Tomorrowland Unite and Don’t Let Daddy Know, our deliver, the fact that we were the first ones to bring down and International concept and our learnings from the experiences and most importantly our association with brands such as Budweiser, Smirnoff, Redbull, Saavn, Maruti Suzuki and how we packaged and integrated the brand into the event and delivered ROI to the brands and worth for the monies!

Shantanu – What are some of the things we’ll be seeing from Ferriswheel in 2017, and what are some of the things on your wish list?

Shubhra – Expect more Don’t Let Daddy Know shows, newer international concepts, large scale public events featuring heavyweight artists and probably a festival too, you’ll know soon enough! Patience is a virtue, they say! With the learnings of this year, next year’s outreach will be wider, the brand experiences and integrations will be bigger and the ground experience for the fans will be enhanced.

Shantanu Puro
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