Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
       Volume 10 |Issue 20 | May 27, 2011 |


 Cover Story
 Current Affairs
 Straight Talk
 Star Diary
 Book Review

   SWM Home

Cover Story

The Architects of Imagination


You have been invited to a corporate party, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of an illustrious company. The invitation card you received is elegant, detailed and appealing – just looking at it makes you want to attend. You arrive at the venue, a posh hotel and are immediately greeted at the lobby by friendly faces and are directed to the banquet hall. You step into the hall and are mesmerised by the tasteful décor. On one side are slideshows showing the company's achievements over the years, and on the other sits a magnificent stage for a cultural show, complete with sound systems and lighting, musical instruments- ready for the famous (impossible to get a hold of) band or dance troupe who will entertain you for the evening. You are handed a beautifully designed programme for the evening so you know just what to expect. Elaborate flower arrangements and fabrics in muted colours adorn every surface of the hall. There are chic tables with gorgeous centerpieces where you will dine, the seating arrangement perfect to the last detail for all 2000 guests. The food is sumptuous and caters to everyone's dietary needs. The waiters are friendly and attentive and even the room temperature is comfortable, making you feel perfectly at home. The speech made by the CEO and the host of the evening is short, witty and to the point. You enjoy delicious food, conversation and a show (all perfectly timed) and on your way out, are handed a gift bag full of lovely tokens from the company, to thank you for attending their event. On your way home, you think to yourself, how on earth did they manage everything so perfectly?

As smooth and perfect as it all looks, it isn't really that easy to pull off a big event like this without a little bit, scratch that – a whole lot of help. In the past, a corporate party would be organised on a much smaller scale, but as our economy grows and global influences create a need for expanding, brand promoting and networking, it is impossible to keep these affairs small.

At the same time, the development of our economy, globalisation and exposure to the outside world has led to an increasingly demanding and fast paced life leaving us very little time to organise such lavish events. This dilemma has made way for a new service industry in Bangladesh, known as event management. Most of the well-known event management companies are in fact off shoots of major advertising agencies.

Event management companies step in and take the responsibility of planning and executing any event, ranging from corporate events such as brand launching, trade fairs, picnics and dinners, cultural events like concerts, dance and theatre to social events such as weddings, birthdays and any variety of parties and gatherings you can possibly imagine.

No one knows what goes on behind the scenes of these dazzling arrangements, Photos: courtesy

The concept of event management is not a new one. In developed countries, mostly in the western world, this market has existed for a while. In countries like Bangladesh, however, the idea up until about twelve years ago was completely unfamiliar. “When we started our company, people had very little idea about what event management was all about,” says Sabbir Rahman Tanim, the CEO of Windmill Advertising Limited, “When I told my parents what I was doing, I had to tell them I'm a wedding planner and even that concept was difficult for them to grasp. When we had to pitch our services to our clients we had to begin by explaining what exactly event management is and that was our basic challenge- convincing our clients that they needed us.”

Doza Alan, CEO Spotlight Event Management Limited.

Windmill is one of the pioneering event management companies in Bangladesh, which was set up in 1999. Now, about 12 years of hard work and building a reputation for the market, people are slowly starting to realise the advantage of using such a company to meet their event needs. Windmill mostly takes on corporate events such as brand launching, corporate nights, celebrations, seminars, symposiums etc.

“This year, we organised a symposium for the Asian University for Women and people from different nations including Cherry Blair and Aasma Jahangir took part in this,” says Rahman, “This was a three-day symposium and I would say the biggest event in Bangladesh. There were more than 300 foreign guests and we had to take care of their accommodation, transportation you name it. About 450 students came to Dhaka from Chittagong to participate and we had to take care of their needs as well. It involved cultural programmes, talks, discussions and all kinds of roundtable conferences. We also organised an open terrace dinner for them at the parliament house where there were documentaries screened- it was huge,” he recalls.

A creative workspace for creative minds. Photos: Zahedul I Khan

Windmill has also worked with large businesses outside the country – in England and India – for the past three years and a number of multinational companies and international event companies who have worked in Bangladesh for clients like Nokia, Siemens etc to build their experience.

Another company, which spear-headed this industry, is Asiatic events. "Asiatic Events was born at a time when it had become increasingly difficult for the brands to be foolproof in their job. Realising the need of the time and with a vision of reaching out the target consumers for its brands, Asiatic Events Marketing Ltd. started its journey back in 1997,” says Aly Zaker, Chairperson of Asiatic Events Marketing Limited (AEML).

Zaker, who heads one of the market leaders in the event management field, says, “Our proudest moment came when it had a chance to showcase Bangladesh to the world on the occasion of Cricket World Cup Opening Ceremony 2011 held in Dhaka. With its capacity of being the local organising agency Asiatic Events hosted the grandest show in the history of Bangladesh sports.”


Now that these companies have established a niche in the market, it has made it easier for newer companies to get business. Sheikh Monirul Alam Tipu, the CEO of Carnival started his company in 2005. “My mission statement for Carnival involves promoting culture through different artists and I took on events, which did that. I found like-minded people and they became my business partners. We do event activation, branding, promotion, marketing and whatever service is needed in this market. We even provide advertising concepts,” says Alam who is also a the drummer for Warfaze, a leading music band.

Carnival mostly takes on cultural events, promoting music, dance, theatre etc. They have organised a series of music festivals for Banglalink, which started in 2007. One such concert was a charity show for flood victims, which involved 48 bands and was held in Fantasy Kingdom. This series continued in Khulna, Chittagong and Rajshahi and included charity concerts for SIDR victims as well. They also organised a music festival called 'Baul and Beyond' and brought bands like Taal Tantra from India, Jasmine from the USA, our homegrown talent like Bangla and Rob Fokir and many others. The series of music fests is still on going.

Alam also runs an artist management company alongside Carnival known as Choreograph which is an artist management agency. This company negotiates gigs and monetary matters on the artists' behalf with event management and other companies.

Many event management companies started off as small sections of advertising agencies. One such company is Spotlight Event Management Ltd, which branched out of BITOPI in 2006. Spotlight focuses on brand building and promotion. According to Doza Alan, the CEO of the company, the corporate world realised that above the line (ATL) promotion (direct advertising through the media) is very expensive and the feedback from the customers is not very specific. On the other hand below the line (BTL) promotion through events is guaranteed to reach the target customers and immediate feedback and results can be seen.

Brainstorming in a fun way- recipe for a great event. Photos: Zahedul I Khan

“Suppose, when NTV makes a television commercial, it targets the 16 crore audience of Bangladesh,” says Sazidul Islam, the general manager of brand strategy and planning of Spotlight, “But when that 30-second long TVC is played, there's no guarantee that those 16 crore people are watching it. With event managements or BTL communication, we can actually see how many people are attending the event, and how many approve of the product.”

Through BTL promotions, these event management companies advertise themselves via word of mouth, increasing their popularity by promoting themselves first hand. Event management companies also gained popularity when people started to realise just how much work goes on behind the scenes for each large affair. The process of organising an event is a long and drawn out one.

Sabbir Rahman Tanim, CEO Windmill Advertising Limited.

“When a company has a product to brand or it has a project it calls for pitches,” says Alan, “This is a kind of competition where several event-management companies compete with each other to get the deal. The company, or the client states specific criteria to be fulfilled for the promotion and the event management companies propose their ideas and budget quotes. Whoever the company thinks fits their taste or demand, is 'enlisted' as the brand builder for their specific product. A company can have several enlisted event managers who manage or build different products they bring into the market,” says Alan.

“Most of the corporate companies call for year-long enlistment every year, in the beginning or during the June-July session,” explains Alan. “They state their criteria and we apply for enlistment. If we get the contract we are enlisted for the company for the year and we promote their brands by organising required events. That's how we get jobs.”

This is just the beginning of the process. Once a company strikes a deal, they have to start planning and strategising. Every little detail starting from venue to logistics to food to the guest list right down to security and clean up has to be perfect.

“Say we are organising a corporate day out for 500 employees and their families,” says Shiekh Monirul Alam, the CEO of Carnival. “If they want an all day picnic out of town somewhere they'll let us know and ask for suggestions as to where to go or if they have locations in mind, they'll give us a list and ask us to create a presentation incorporating where they can go and our ideas for what they can do all day. So we create a plan for them. Then if they decide on a location, and they need permission to have their picnic there we get that permission for them,” he continues. “Next we send people there to see how secure the place is and what needs to be done to make the entire thing happen. We then have to create a guest list, make sure everyone rsvps, then figure out where the group will meet or if they need to be picked up from different places, how many places and what kind of transport system they will be using. We also have to plan their route, what they'll have for breakfast, lunch snacks etc, we have to organise all their activites (for adults and well as children) prizes for the activities, whether or not they need outside entertainment such as music etc. We will organise instruments, sound systems and anything they need. We have to do outsourcing for food, transport etc and we negotiate with them to give our clients the best possible deal at the best quality.”

Manpower is also very important for this event. “The number of people we provide for these events depends on the clients needs,” says Alam. “Say if they need security we will have to organise guards for them. If the event is a concert we will need ushers, band promoters and coordinators so it really depends on the clients needs. So it can range between 30 to even a 100 people on a team,” he continues.

Colourful imagination brought to life. Photo: courtesy

They also have to provide advertising, poster design, ticket printing, decide which crowd they want to attract (age group), book the venue, lighting, sound, stage design etc, audio, video animation if any etc. Sometimes police protection is needed alongside security companies, road markers may be needed which they also provide. They have a team backstage coordinating a line up for the performances, making sure costume, makeup, etc are all perfect and on time, checking the instruments and attending to the needs of the performers.

“It's like a live show…very different from a TV series or movie where there are re-takes,” says Jamal uddin Ahmed GM Operations of Spotlight. “We have this one-time chance to make it right…there is no second chance. We have to take care of the wiring, the lighting, the sound system, the performers and everything. While the audience enjoys a show, we, the event managers, are on our toes so that nothing goes wrong!”

Despite the pressure to do a perfect job, these companies do not get much time to pull it off. According to Ahmed, most of the time, they are notified at the last minute and do not get more than 5 or 6 days to organise the event. Even with the limited time they get, these companies manage to personalise events with new ideas so they are unique to the client they provide the service to. All this combines to increase the popularity and demand for event management in the market.

The hectic schedule event managers draw out for themselves demands time, energy and most importantly passion. For this reason, it is all the rage among youngsters, especially university students looking for something extra to add to their CVs.

Musical events are a large part of our culture. Photo: courtesy

“In my company, I prefer to hire young people because they have a fresh take on things,” says Alam, the CEO of Carnival, “I like mixing work with fun because I believe if we don't have fun, we won't be as passionate or committed toward the work we do and young people have it in them to be excited and passionate about their work. In most countries, event management is taught in universities as a separate subject as a part of their BBA and MBA curriculum. I hope that this will be introduced in Bangladeshi universities soon because this is a growing market that needs newer and more creative minds and a fresh take that can only be provided by our younger generations,” he opines.

Youngsters being energy and
enthusiasm into the industry.
Photos: Zahedul I Khan

These trendy new companies look for members of the current generation who have an inborn talent for organisation. They need creative and innovative people to make up their teams. “I always give priority to young students and musicians because they bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm into their work,” says Alam.

Young people tend to be drawn to this profession, partly because they consider it to be very glamorous. “When youngsters see an event manager s/he sees the person in close contact with celebrities. So this sense of glamour and relationship with the celebrities is attractive to them,” says Sazidul Islam from Spotlight, “Another thing that is attractive for them is the 'easy money'. We hire university students on a contractual basis for new events. What these young people think is that they have to stand for a few hours and will get a lot of money in return. Though event management is NOT easy money, young people do get involved because of this idea,” continues Islam.

Youngsters are so enthusiastic about this new industry that some have set up businesses of their own. Spellbound, is one such company run by youngsters in their mid twenties.

Sheikh Monirul Alam Tipu, CEO, Carnival.
Photos: Zahedul I Khan

“Event management gives you a lot of exposure to new experience and new contacts,” says M. Iftekharul Islam, one of the four directors of Spellbound. “You can network, especially if you are marketing students, event management experience adds value to your CV. Sometimes people think it's easy money for limited work and to some extent they are right but if you want to do well in this area you have to work hard. There's no easy way to succeed,” he relates.

As trends usually work, this particular one has spread like wildfire all over the country. The clientele of event management companies is no longer limited to large corporations. This service is now used by almost everyone for almost every event one can possibly think of. Weddings are one such area where their business has flourished.

Nowadays, these are no longer the small intimate ceremonies they used to be. Everyone you know and their neighbours have to be invited to weddings, again, because of an increase in social networking and media exposure- everyone wants a Bollywood style wedding.

The trend of hiring event management has spread like wildfire all over the country. Photo: courtesy

One such company that caters to the needs of the soon-to-be-married population is TS Events, run by Tootli Rahman, a popular wedding planner. “I deal with the whole thing, A to Z, while planning and arranging a wedding, starting from flowers to catering, to the décor, to crockery and cutlery,” says Rahman, “If my client wants me to supervise everything, I do that. If they want me to refer them to a caterer or a florist, I outsource that department,” she shares.

“All the weddings that I have to plan, aren't always customised,” explains Rahman. “For small weddings I have a ready-made design, so I can plan that wedding within a day or two. On the other hand, big and customised weddings are really tough to plan and arrange. I do only four or five such weddings every year. It takes on an average, four months of preparation to plan such a wedding. Flowers have to bought, stages have to be decorated, and every material has to be arranged in its own unique way.”

Nowadays weddings involve many different ceremonies, such as mehendi nights, sangeet nights and countless dinners and get-togethers before the main ceremony. All this is managed by the wedding planner, who makes sure everything from the dance performances at the holud to the groom's shoes being stolen during the wedding go according to plan. Naturally, this involves a skilled and efficient workforce behind the scenes.

“I hire efficient and hardworking people,” says Rahman “I don't need highly educated people for planning a wedding. I want people to be sincere, who can stay as long as they need to, to get the work done. It is true that there aren't many skilled people in this area. So I train them.”

Most people are under the impression that wedding planners are expensive to come by. Rahman corrects this misconception, “Somehow people have this idea that I am very expensive and they cannot afford it. It's the most special day of one's life, regardless of his or her background and I want to make it special for them. In a sense I am lucky to get the opportunity to organise something as challenging as planning a unique wedding but at the same time I feel very unlucky to miss out a large group of customers. But I can guarantee that the unique materials that I have made for the weddings I plan are affordable by anyone. I can do it really cheap,” she says.

Private parties, children's birthdays, anniversaries also fall within the forte of these companies. The sight of a mother making streamers and goody baskets for her child's first birthday party has become increasingly rare in certain circles. These companies manage it all.

Aside from time constraints, event management companies face many challenges. One of the main challenges is quality control on every level. There are currently over 200 such companies in this country but due to lack of experience and contacts many of these companies are unable to provide services up to the standard.

“I have noticed and this is true for Bangladesh that when a trend starts, it spreads like wildfire,” says Sheikh Monirul Alam from Carnival, “This sometimes causes the quality to deteriorate and people lose faith in the business. There are uncountable event management companies and taking on an event is a huge responsibility. This isn't everyone's cup of tea so it turns out that companies make commitments but ultimately leave their clients dissatisfied. The result of this is that people stop trusting event management companies.”

Another problem faced by these companies is finding proper venues for different events. “It is very difficult to find venues for events in this country,” continues Alam. “There aren't enough venues and the ones we have are always booked. There are very few places we can have open-air events, the Banani maath (field) is off limits now, its difficult to book a stadium etc. There seems to be no solution.”

A glimpse behind the scenes.
Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Availibility of logistic support such as lighting, sound system, equipment, decoration supplies etc is another major challenge. “With the increasing market demand of event management, the logistic support is not increasing,” says Doza Alan from Spotlight. “When you watch an event abroad, you see the magnitude of their logistics…the shows are very gorgeous, the lighting, the sound system are mind blowing. Bangladeshi events do not have that charismatic look. We have to design each event keeping our constraints and obstacles in mind,” he shares.

“Event management needs to be taken to the next level at this point,” says Sabbir Rahman from Windmill. “We need a lot more investment to purchase new technology. Right now, all event companies are outsourcing for these technologies but we need to own them to be more efficient. This way, the companies will be more specialised and known for the type of service they provide. Presently all event management companies are doing all kinds of events but they should narrow down their area of expertise and specialise so that people can differentiate between them,” he opines.

Despite all the problems and challenges, the demand for this service is steadily increasing. Once this industry is properly established, there will be many more investors who will help these companies become more self-sufficient and improve the quality of their service. Many believe that handing over a special event such as a child's birthday party or graduation party to an event management company can turn it into an impersonal affair, but the truth is, anyone hiring these companies can stay as involved as they choose to be in the entire process and can make sure their guests feel comfortable and well attended. Event management companies exist to take the extra baggage off your back so you can relax and enjoy your gathering without the added stress and chaos that goes on behind the scenes.


Additional reporting by AANTAKI RAISA

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2011