Weekly Startup Profiles > Wize Mindz
|Big. Exciting. Growing. Welcome to Showbiz! But behind the footlights, it's a tough business. Staying alive takes quick thinking, flexibility, and lots of relationships, as Vikram Kakkar demonstrates.|
Vikram always preferred Bollywood to books, and parties to study sessions. A student of Mithibai college in Bombay, he says he had some 'filmi' friends who introduced him to the arc lights and beyond. "I always knew I wanted to be associated with the glamour world. When I was 17, I organized my first event, a New Year's night show in a restaurant," says Vikram.
The show bombed financially due to lack of sponsors but what Vikram took away from the failure was just that he needed to work harder. "Even though I lost 25% of my investment, I loved the high that came with seeing over 500 people having a gala time at an event I hosted," he reminisces.
So armed with a fierce optimism that only an 18-year-old can possess, he quit his studies and started doing freelance work for shows and stuff, helping them with the support functions. He even organized a couple of shows. It helped that his family was supportive. "We are all business guys, jobs are something we never thought we would do."
But rose-colored lenses soon had to be replaced as the realities of showbiz stuck home. "It wasn't as easy as I thought, a few of my initial shows were major disasters," he admits.
Vikram realized that he lacked hands-on experience and set out to get some. He worked with a company called Rapo Communications and also did some independent projects overseas for the Dubai Film Festival and other events.
Six years later, a more confident and market-savvy Vikram teamed up with four former colleagues, each of who brought a unique skill set to the business, to start their entertainment house called Wize Mindz. The company, which opened its doors in 2003, specializes in on-stage management, artist management and production of TV serials, and music videos.
Spending on events is skyrocketing. FICCI estimates the business to have reached 1,800 crores annually, up from a mere 20 crores in the early 90's - a staggering 200% annual growth. This reflects the growing audience appetite, not only in India, but also overseas. The Indian Diaspora craves the touch of home - and what more fun way to connect that seeing Bollywood on stage?
The industry has responded with a proliferation of event management companies, all vying for audience attention. "When we set up our office in Lokhandwala, I heard that there were atleast 75 other event management companies in Lokhandwala itself, many of which were really big ones" says Vikram.
Against this backdrop, Vikram and his team took a call when they founded Wize Mindz. Rather than compete head-on with these event management companies or production houses, they decided to turn them into clients.
"Our strength was on arranging stage performances, so we decided to put all our focus on that aspect and pair up with the bigger production houses." The larger production houses outsource to Wize Mindz all the on-stage elements of the show, including designing the sets, negotiating the contracts with the artists, and show choreography.
The production houses benefit from the convenience of outsourcing the on-stage work, and by leveraging Wize Mindz's expertise in this area - increasingly important, as events are becoming more and more elaborate. In addition, they benefit from additional business that Wize Mindz brings their way.
But surely there was competition in on-stage production as well. "There were very few people and they were really big players doing it. Not everybody could afford them. We were lower-priced and more flexible in our approach," explains Vikram. Vikram also put his rolodex to work, and in a relationship-driven business, being able to reach and recruit the right talent is a huge advantage.
He does add though that the entire business is extremely competitive and they have to continuously innovate, adapt and look for new opportunities to keep from being washed out. "For example, when too many players started entering on-stage productions, we moved our focus from the Indian to the Pakistani market," he says. "We were the first people who did a show in Karachi in 2004. We took Saif Ali Khan, Sushmita Sen and Malaika Arora."
"The market was opening in Pakistan and we were one of the first to capitalize on it," he adds. It helped that Vikram had some connections there that he had established when he did the freelance work in Dubai.
Even when it came to artist management, they steered away from the Indian industry sensing that there are many established players who are doing a great job anyway. They chose instead to focus on Pakistan and have managed artists like Raahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Azmat and others.
"We've created our niche with our clients overseas. We have several fixed clients in Indonesia, Pakistan, Muscat, Dubai, New Zealand, and other places," he adds.
We started with just 2000 bucks, says Vikram with a laugh. He talks about how he went to a friend's office and offered him the 2000 rupees for the office space with the promise that the balance of the money would be arranged for within a few days. "We were lucky that the first few shows worked, the money started pouring in and since then, we've never had to look back," he says.
It wasn't friendship that brought the five founders together though they had all worked with each other in the past. "It's not like we were close friends so we teamed up," says Vikram.
All five of them worked in different aspects of the business, which included production, marketing, event management and overall co-ordination. "We knew what each one specialized into. So we said, let's come together and let's do this, it's going to be rocking for all of us."
Over time though, three of them had to leave for personal reasons and now it's just two founders and a team of seven. "We function more on a personal level than a corporate level," explains Vikram.
Showbiz, for all its apparent glamour, is a tough business. This is reflected in Wize Mindz's good, but erratic, growth. "We have few profits and few losses as well, it's on a project basis," he says. He's quick to add though that on an overall basis the company is in the black. "We cover up our losses pretty quickly, through some tie-ups or something else," he explains.
In the first year they managed to do about six shows in a year, now, they easily fit in six in a quarter.
And the dreamer in him is still going strong. "We'd like to venture into the production of feature films next year. Also, with artist management, we'd like to take on newer artists and make them big, create bigger events both internationally and nationally!! he trails off into his own thoughts.
Besides his dreams, not much else, he says. "I know I'll find my way out in the entertainment business, after all I've survived for so long," he says confidently.
Send us your information and contact details at if you want your startup to be profiled. NEN has final say over which startups get profiled.
All Weekly Startups are eligible for the Annual Startups Award, voted by NEN members and get the highest expert ratings. Award winners will be recognized at a gala event in Bangalore, announced to the press and also get access to funding.
Look out for more information!
|Read Others views on this profile|
|This month on NEN Online|
|Weekly Startup: Archives|
|> View All|