Coronavirus impact on events: As the country went into a nationwide lockdown in March, the events industry came to a halt. Five months later, as India headed towards gradual reopening, the events industry continued to suffer since the opening of events still did not seem to be on the cards. This is when the Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) decided to take matters into their own hands. As they saw Centre releasing SOPs for the resumption of several activities, EEMA at its own level came up with a 300-page SOP for various kinds of events, and decided that they would propose this SOP to the government, requesting them to take a look at their suggestions.
The persistent efforts by EEMA have come to fruition as the Centre has given their go ahead to opening of events from September 21, with a maximum of 100 people.
Giving an overview of the events industry, EEMA President Roshan Abbas told Financial Express Online, “The events industry is a Rs 5 lakh-crore industry, out of which Rs 1.7 lakh crore is the organised markets, while Rs 3.3 lakh crore is the unorganized sector. Moreover, the industry employs over 1 crore people, 30% of whom are female owners and employees. Often people assume that the events industry is limited to entertainment events, but that is not true. We conduct educational events, political rallies, IPL, etc.”
He further said, “We thought it was important that before we went to the government, it was important that we came out with some guidelines that would tell them that if we conduct the events, how we plan to do that. We just wanted to request the government to look at this aspect also, and propose that if they formed a special task force for this, then one member from EEMA could also be on it. Our second request was to look at the events that were happening internationally, because places like Dubai had started conducting events while having safety norms in place.”
The proposed SOP was launched in an event by Maharashtra Tourism and Culture Principal Secretary Valsa Singh Nair. Abbas added, “She appreciated EEMA’s efforts to come up with the SOP and assured us that she would take the matter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Apart from that, EEMA’s Government Interaction Committee, headed by Lalitt Gattani, is taking the matter to the Centre, while the state chapters are proposing it to the state and local authorities as well.”
Giving a brief of the meeting that was conducted with the Centre, EEMA Government Interaction Committee (GIC) Chairperson Lalitt Gattani told Financial Express Online, “The meeting was conducted with Union MInister of State for Home Affairs and he gave us about 30 to 45 minutes and patiently listened to whatever we had proposed. We made sure to express the diversity of the industry and explain how it is this industry that conducts the Kumbh, Pariksha Par Charcha event, and even the international summits. He understood the problems that the events industry was facing.”
He added, “We also requested the Centre to relate the number of people who would be attending these events to the area of the venue. In our submission, we have proposed an area of 4 square metres per person.”
He further said that the government has currently allowed events with up to 100 persons in attendance, but they have also told EEMA to make some changes in the SOPs, after which the proposal would go to the Cabinet Committee for further assessment. Gattani asserted that the government was reacting to the requests from industries very quickly, since the lockdown is not in favour of the government either. “We expressed to the government that we wished for a slow, gradual and controlled opening of the events, but we wanted the industry to start operating because the average age of employees in the industry is 35 years, while that of employers and owners is 45 years. It is a young industry, and to such young people, such a lockdown hits hard,” he added.
Gattani also told Financial Express Online that now, the state chapters of EEMA were reaching out to various state departments, and they have recently held meetings with Mayors of Delhi and Mumbai and with Maharashtra Home Affairs Minister Anil Deshmukh. The body is also planning to approach Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal soon.
Events industry SOP
The SOP presented by the EEMA to the government, accessed by Financial Express Online, is a 300-page document. It draws on the experience of events conducted globally while keeping coronavirus prevention norms in place, and also gave the precedence of singer Sonu Nigam’s event in Dubai, which marked Bollywood’s first socially distanced show in the world, according to EEMA. Gattani added that EEMA had also taken inspiration from events abroad where tickets sent to the guests included a paragraph on precautionary measures that would need to be taken during the event.
The SOP mentioned the generic guidelines that the government has been proposing for all types of activities, including compulsory wearing of masks, provision for hand sanitisers wherever possible, following proper breathing etiquettes, mandatory use of Aarogya Setu app and an advisory for people above 65 years of age and people with co-morbidities to avoid such events.
Apart from that, the SOP also included specific guidelines for all verticals of events, including government, large-scale or political events, corporate events, weddings or social events, corporate activation events, large conferences, rural marketing, religious events as well as music festivals and concerts. The comprehensive guidelines enlisted the manner in which risk assessments for such events would be carried out, the precautions that must be undertaken as well as the measures that the organisers of the events need to follow.
With these guidelines in place, along with the few changes that the government has suggested, EEMA hopes that slowly, the events industry in India would be able to follow the lead of the industry worldwide and resume its operations soon.