Tonight's gonna be a good night
A bunch of visionary 20-year-olds are turning their contact lists into a business idea, creating IPs for restaurants and bars in a temperamental market where footfall is make or break.
It all began in 2014, when Mohit Raval, Vedant Mahajan and Manak Dhingra planned a New Year's party for their schoolmates. "We expected 100 people to turn up; 300 came," Dhingra, 22, remembers. The next year, 600 came when the invites numbered only 250. The friends realised they had a competent network, and could look at pulling off an event by dipping into their contact list.
But, beginner's luck thumbed them in the nose. Two years ago, they landed their first gig at Maatahari, Worli's night club. "Only 20 people showed up, it was a flop. It happens," shrugs Dhingra. Under their firm, MVM Entertainment, they have hosted over 200 gigs, including at five-stars. And as nightlife promoters, they offer the whole range of services, from coming up with a concept, curating the entertainment to planning the décor, music list and sending out personalised invites to "friends, and friends of friends".
They've managed to bring down famed international artistes, including Ramriddlz, 88Glam, Ramz, Jay Sean, and looking at promoting hip-hop talent next. Last month, the team celebrated their firm's second anniversary at Arth in Khar, where they run their IP, Mardi Gras, every Sunday. "We either do commission-based tie ups or take a fixed amount. Sometimes, we buy out the place for the night. While we take home a per cent of the entire sales, we also bear the losses," says Dhingra. Hardik Pandya is a regular on their guest list, with an occasional appearance by celebrity kids Aryan Khan, Khushi Kapoor and Ibrahim Khan.
Zorawar Kalra at Younion, Lower Parel. Pic/Suresh Karkera
In 2016, Ronak Rochlani was selected for a diploma in aesthetic dentistry at UCLA, Los Angeles. Then 25, he turned down the seat because he landed himself an opportunity to open a restaurant. At 27, he is co-owner of Asian resto-bar Keiba, and runs a promotion and restaurant consultancy. "It is clear now that people will pick a place depending on where their friends are going. It is all about what is the new place to be seen at," says Rochlani, who is behind Jay Sean, Sean Kingston and Sam Feldt's visits to India, and the thumping nights held at LILT in Lower Parel and Remo's speak easy bar in Todi Mills.
When he started out, it was tough being promoter. Social media wasn't flying the way it does now. "I now create IPs, sell tables, manage the guestlist for events. We also manage profit and loss assessment and turnaround management for restaurants. The barter with venues is of two kinds—percentage of sales or a flat fee." While he has hosted events at Dragonfly, Lord of the Drinks and JLWA for Priyank Sukhija, he has also hosted pop ups at five-stars.
Zorawar Kalra, hospitality entrepreneur behind Farzi Café, Pa Pa Ya, Tyger and the latest offering for millennials, Younion, says the presence promoters is a Mumbai phenomenon. "Earlier, we'd do events independently. We first hired promoters for Farzi. It brought in some great extra revenue." Kalra, who says he spent some time studying the market, calls promoters "enthusiastic kids who are rock stars in their own right". They promise two or three events to an establishment a month and draw in the right crowd. "They are the real party starters."
Once he had understood the importance of promoters, Kalra launched Massive Afterhours, a division of his firm Massive Restaurants, three months ago. "Most restaurateurs hire promoters. I got the best promoters on board full time. Now, they plan events all-year across our outlets. I have 25-year-olds who churn out two to three events a month—from high energy to high end. They end up taking home a good chunk of money every month."
Saanya Sharma, 25, is co-founder of Three Entertainment along with partners Aashna Lalwani and Sanjana Shah. She stays away from regular bar nights and prefers concept-based events that lend a venue a certain identity, with reference to vibe and culture. This gets customers to relate to a restaurant or bar through our event." Think The Drunch Club at Bastian, a brunch-cum-day party pop up at Bandra's seafood haunt, which she says is inspired by international-scale events. It promises a full day of debauchery, and entry is by-invite-only. Think the Bagatelle brunch in New York.
Spokesperson for Arth, Brent Gomes, says while choosing a promoter, you need to keep in mind who best suits your brand. "It helps when promoters understand an establishment's vision and lend their support to both, create an IP and sustain it. Since Arth is a premium outlet, we look at doing events with those who bring in the right target audience.
Promoters help not only with creating awareness around an event but also assisting in curating them." For example, Mardi Gras is done with MVM at Arth lounge, and is a runaway success. Entry is by-invite for a cover charge of approximately R3000.
"We encourage guests to dress up, wear masks. The evening kicks off early, and sees international dancers and live artistes. Every premium bottle purchased arrives with sparklers, and the dancers personally open them at each table," Gomes adds. He believes although the promoters market is now burgeoning, only a handful have been successful at both, improving profits and building relationships with a whole new set of guests.
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