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Covid-19 pandemic will force us to try newer models and going digital is one of them, says Gunjan Arya of OML

In an interaction with, Arya, CEO of OML, talks about the future of digital events. As the coronavirus outbreak becomes a turning point for premium live and content experiences, she discusses how the company managed to integrate digital in events

Gunjan Arya

The news of cancellations or postponements of hundreds of events, globally, has become a new normal this year due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

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While businesses across the globe are stepping up to the occasion and reinventing themselves in ways that will be sustainable for many years in the future, digital is bringing people together virtually while they can’t be in the same place physically.

Apart from cancellations, a lot of event companies are now opting for digital mediums to showcase live events at home amid the pandemic. talks to Gunjan Arya, CEO, OML, to find out whether or not it would be right for event companies to contemplate over the future of digital events.

“This black swan event will force us to try newer models and going digital will be one of them. While our human fundamentals in our need to stay connected and share meaning with each other won’t change, the way we conduct ourselves will have to,” Arya said.

She said that the importance of digital integration in events among marketers increased by 61% in 2019 alone since Indians spend 80% of their phone time on social media, news and entertainment. “We’re sure to see more of this going forward,” she said.

According to EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association), the impact of Covid-19 on the events and experiential industry would be to the tune of Rs 3,000 crore in the first two months alone and the minimum loss is anticipated to be Rs 6,000 crore, as projected in a survey of 100 MSMEs in the sector. This is in part due to cancellations of existing projects and contracts.

Now more than ever, Indians are spending 24% more of their time on their smartphones taking the daily average to 4.3 hours. Additionally, the worldwide screen count is expected to reach 1 billion by 2025. As social media emerges as a destination for comfort, distraction, and education, among others, so must artists, who rely on these media to enthral and entertain fan bases around the world.

OML, which brings premium live concerts and events every year, including Bacardi NH7 Weekender, YouTube Fanfest, had festivals and outdoor activities planned for this year.

Arya said, “The idea now is to bring people together digitally when they can’t be together physically. We’re actively transforming our festivals and shows into live digital experiences that can be enjoyed by a wide audience.”

In March itself, a week into the national lockdown, OML did the first digital edition of its tent-pole festival that it has been running for a decade, the Bacardi NH7 Weekender.

Apart from this, along with the comedians Tanmay Bhat and Kaneez Surka, it had organised a weekend long streamathon that featured over 80 celebrities across comedy, gaming, and more — raising over Rs 17 lakh for charity in the two-day event.

As it continually works to transform more events into digital experiences in a meaningful way for not only fans and artists but also supporting brands, it has launched the digital edition of its multi-genre comedy festival The Circuit, which will begin on April 22 with its digital edition titled #SitDownComedy, with performances by some of India’s biggest comedians.

Arya believes that art and culture is currently adapting itself once again to unite people.  “The number of artists taking to Instagram Live, YouTube streams, and more to offer some comfort in this moment of isolation for discombobulated fans is heartening and a promise for the future,” she said.

Talking about the communication of the event company in the wake of the crisis, Arya said what has become more apparent due to the crisis is using the tools of communication available to the company more effectively. Print media and outdoor, for example, are no longer relevant, while digital continues to get stronger, she added.

The company also recently supported the StayIN aLIVE by Kommune, an initiative to enable artists and collectives such as OML to come together to educate, inspire and support each other in the performing arts industry that are affected by this pandemic.

The platform will facilitate conversations between those who have something to share and those who can benefit from it given the way the landscape is evolving and aims at disseminating critical information to help the community re-skill for a digital-first future.

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