The Show Goes On: Taking Bollywood parties virtual to beat lockdown blues

The Show Goes On: Taking Bollywood parties virtual to beat lockdown blues

The entertainment and events industry in the UK has been particularly hard hit by the strict social distance norms imposed during the extended coronavirus pandemic lockdown, given that their entire model is designed around getting people together for fun gatherings.

Like many other sectors, entertainers and party planners have had to adapt and unleash innovative ways to sustain their business and keep the spirits of their party regulars alive.

In this two-part series, ‘iGlobal’ caught up with British Indian entertainer Jaspreet Bajaj, Founder of Bombay Funkadelic, to find out how she adapted her events model for the virtual world to tide through these particularly tough times and to beat those lockdown blues for fans of Bollywood.

Sharp drop

A prominent London-based events company, Bombay Funkadelic is best known for its Bollywood-themed parties, corporate events and club nights in London and around the world. Catering to the South Asian diaspora’s love of Bollywood, the events company prides itself on attracting an eclectic mix of partygoers, having organised corporate events for prominent brands over the years, including O2, Vodafone, Nando’s, Hilton Hotels and Resorts, among others.

On average, Bombay Funkadelic organises around 50 to 75 events every year, figures which registered a sharp drop when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK.

Bajaj reflects: “Our numbers suddenly went down to a handful leading up to the summer and then zero by the autumn of 2020. The vast majority of planned events had to be cancelled, with all deposits and tickets refunded. Venues we work with have been in the same boat. Financially we have been hit hard.”

However, despite the testing times, for Bombay Funkadelic the focus has been on keeping the brand alive. “When we couldn’t hold physical events, we adapted to the virtual world,” shares Bajaj.

Zoom parties

Since April 2020, the events company has been hosting weekly live stream parties across all its social media platforms as well as parities on Zoom, which have proved a hit with people starved of outings.

She explains: “Our live stream parties help people unwind at home. It has been a great way for them to relieve personal tension and catch up online with old and new friends.

“The novelty factor of Zoom had everyone hooked. People loved watching each other sing and dance along to their favourite Bollywood and bhangra tunes. We introduced new Bollywood DJs from around the UK, Europe, North America, and India. Our fans did not mind swapping the bar or nightclub for their lounge or bedroom. The feedback has always been positive.”

Innovation with Twitch

With innovation being key, from this month onwards Bombay Funkadelic will begin to broadcast Bollywood DJ parties via gaming platform Twitch.

“This should open up a whole new audience to us globally, as well as introducing our die-hard followers to a new medium. As soon as the UK lockdown eases and it's safe to do so, we will be creating and hosting indoor and outdoor Bollywood events. It’s just a matter of riding out this difficult period,” says Bajaj.

With technology coming to the rescue, there may well be a whole new avenue for entertainers to carry on experimenting with. Bajaj believes it is inevitable that the entertainment industry will embrace virtual events well into the future, combining them with traditional ground events.

She notes: “Cost and technology-wise it makes sense. Having new talent or established stars perform from their location directly to people’s homes, or into a venue and/or audience in a different setting has been a revelation. We have been able to bring onboard DJs from outside the UK to play our live streams and it adds to our profile, plus offers our audience exposure to top-class entertainment that may otherwise have been out of our budget.

“The pandemic has taught us all that we do not have to be in the same physical space to link up, socialise and enjoy entertainment. However, nothing can replace direct human contact. How virtual events can be monetised is key.”

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