What’s common between Goafest and wedding planning? A lot, if the experience of event management firm 70 EMG is anything to go by. The agency which has been organising and executing India’s biggest advertising carnival at Goa successfully for the past four years borrows a lot from its legacy in doing large format, luxury style special events. Few years back, when the AAAI invited event agencies to a pitch for the Goafest business, it was 70 EMG which pioneered the ‘open, soothing and luxurious’ look for the festival. “Under the open sky, sea breeze and with a view where you’re always able to see the sea – that’s the way I’d pictured and redesigned and redeveloped Goafest,” says Martin da Costa, CEO and founder of the agency. “For us, a lot of learning and experience at handling Goafest comes from our wedding management business – it’s a situation where you have a huge gathering of the most richest people in one of the most beautiful locations in the world, say, Udaipur or Agra. And the experience they have to go through has to be absolutely perfect, from the moment they check-in, to the moment they leave. All of that takes a degree of luxury planning and attention to detail, where 70 EMG has its real strengths – be it production, client servicing and event design. That’s how we could look after 3000 people at Goafest,” he says. What makes 70 EMG pitch for – and win – Goafest every year? “Oh, it’s a fantastic platform for us to show what we are capable of, even within a slim budget,” he replies. “It is great from a networking perspective. Every single advertising agency CEO, media agency CEO is present. So it’s great branding for us.” The logistics for the event are “colossal”, Martin says. Over a period of two to three months, architects, designers, construction specialists at the agency work together to create an event manual that is “four inches thick with upto thousand pages of detailed information”. “At the end of the day,” he says, “it is a 5.5 acre site, where there’s something happening all the time – seminars, awards, DJs, food for over 3000 people on a beach and we make sure that the beer is cold and there’s fresh ice, gin and tonic, whisky and soda for everyone. Plus, the toilets have to be reasonably clean; the generators must not run out of diesel. Basically, we have to ensure that there’s enough for everybody to enjoy and learn at the same time,” Martin states. This year, even as Martin’s team spent three months preparing for Goafest with a brand new theme and location – Kenilworth, Utorda – it all got a sudden jolt when political pressures made the AAAI move the venue back to Cavelossim. “So at Cavelossim, we practically built the entire venue in six days. “It was a huge achievement to redesign it, change all the branding, signages, infrastructure suppliers. Thankfully, we’ve been doing such large scale events for about 10 years. We have production and design teams that are capable of going into a situation like this. Hence I told Colvyn (Harris) that we’re confident that we’d be able to pull it off.” Martin’s confidence is justified. “It did look like a great Goafest. I’m very proud of the 70 EMG team which managed to produce it against all odds. And I’m especially proud of the efficiency and maturity with which they took decisions.” The 70 EMG team has got its fair share of learnings from other adfests such as the ones held at Cannes and Pattaya. But Martin admits there’s only in so many ways in which those changes can be adapted to Goa. “Cannes, Adfest take place in existing conference facilities. Here we have to go through a crazy construction routine of say, erecting a seminar hangar at 42 degree Celcius temperatures. The big learning has been that, only an increase in delegate fee will allow AAAI to produce a proper Goafest. At international fests, the average ticket fee is about Rs 25,000 plus so they don’t have to rely on sponsorship funding every year. So there’s no shortage of budget to make things fantastic.” Which is why, given a chance, Martin would like to charge market prices for all the free beer and food. “At some point, Goafest has to grow up and smell the pudding. It’s only when food, beer and entry fees are at the correct market rates that we can afford to increase the number of workshops. If we want to attract the best of speakers to Goafest, we’re going to have to put them up in places where they can teach – that means new venues, which will obviously cost more money,” he says. “Hopefully over the next few years, as the Indian advertising industry matures and gets richer, we’ll be able to charge a realistic amount for Goafest.” But Goafest is not the only event 70 EMG is known for. Amongst other noteworthy events, it manages the Kala Ghoda Festival in Mumbai, the annual cultural festival of arts, literature, theatre, music and live events that the agency has impeccably managed to execute for the last four years. Besides this, it also manages what Martin calls the world’s second largest jewellery conference in Mumbai, in addition to six to seven large format luxury weddings annually. About 80 people work fulltime for the agency currently under three different units - Seventy EMG, the mother company; Seven Steps, the wedding planning and management company; and the event design unit called The Set. The agency is going through a growth phase currently. “We’re making pretty good money, honestly,” Martin states. “We’ve had about a 35% increase in our staff strength over the last one year. We’re moving into the events and media space through the launch of a new business unit within Seventy EMG. The event management business is changing in India and we realise that we’ve got to start competing in a media and television level,” he says. The agency’s bull-run has attracted the attention of potential buyers too. Quiz him about it and he says smiling, “Four offers came our way – all from different agencies.” He adds, “But a year ago, we declined all of them. In a space where we are now, we have a lot going for us. We’re looking at another two years of consolidation and growth.” 2010 CEO, 70 EMG 1998 Founded 70 EMG 1995 CEO, founder of ETC, Mumbai 1992 Parallel Media Group, London
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