The first India Nightlife Convention and Awards (INCA) in association with Johnnie Walker held in Mumbai last week brought together the best of the Indian nightlife industry for two productive days of discussions, seminars and awards
Over two days, attendees at the Indian Nightlife and Convention Awards got a chance to hear from insiders in the industry about the highs and lows of working in the restaurant, nightlife and performance industries. Held at the St Regis Mumbai’s Astor Ballroom, the convention was organised jointly by the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and Kickstart Entertainment.
The convention’s opening address was by Riyaaz Amlani, who used his time on stage to put the size of India’s hospitality industry into perspective (did you know that the hospitality industry is 24 times larger than Bollywood!), and then went on to enumerate policy actions he’d like to see the government and other restaurateurs take to make them a reality. Clearer policies on food trucks, making real estate available to restaurants and a push towards enlightened leadership were all on the longlist.
Following him, the Shiv Sena’s Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray opened the convention and promised to do all he can to help turn Mumbai into a tourism hub. Echoing Amlani, who used his time on stage to launch a Mumbai 24x7 campaign, Thackerey said, “Mumbai, a metropolis of responsible citizens and hardworking corporates whose average day ends at 7 pm, deserves an extended time line to enjoy the nightlife in the city and have a healthy work-life balance.”
With the ball rolling, the rest of the sessions tackled specific issues. So journalist Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi chatted with AD Singh, who started Olive about how he’s managed to keep the brand relevant for 15 years, and during his talk he spoke about how the environment has changed even as competition has increased.
Other interesting sessions included one on marketing by alcohol brands - that saw participants from Diageo, Chandon, Bacardi and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The importance of India as a market, and the ways in which consumer attention spans have fragmented, were some of the topics covered. Diageo’s Sridhar B, Chief Digital Marketing Officer, spoke about how the company has to use different apps to reach out to people of different age groups. He cited the fact that Snapchat is where they find traction with young people while Facebook is now where they target an older generation - the late adaptors who have made the social network their online home.
Over the two days, a range of speakers came up to the stage for moderated chats. Perhaps the most anticipated was the one that saw journalist Aneesha Baig speak with actor Imran Khan about his court case against the Maharashtra government. Khan filed the lawsuit in response to the government passing a law that raised the drinking age from 21 to 25. Khan pointed out that the change in law didn’t affect him, but as a firm believer in civil liberties, he didn’t want to see the rise of a nanny state.
Lutz Leichsenring of Clubcommission was one of a handful of speakers who had come from abroad. He shared his experiences of working in Berlin and partnering with the city government. In fact, so successful has the Berlin party scene been in banding together, that they now receive payments from the government to keep the culture alive. Other international speakers included Alan Miller of the UK’s Night Time Industry Association, and Ewan Gunn, Johnnie Walker’s Global Whisky Master. While the former spoke about the UK’s nightlife scene and what his organization is doing to rally the London government, the latter took attendees on a trip to Scotland to tell people where and how Johnnie Walker is made.
If there’s one thing that came through from attending sessions through the two day event, it’s that for those in the industry that were in attendance, they have realized that restaurants and nightlife have to come together to amplify the voice that they have when working with authorities. Instead of seeing each other as competition, the sessions also allowed for the sharing of information and strategies in fields as diverse as marketing and programming of live acts.
With lots of networking taking place on the sidelines of the event, INCA served as a great platform for individuals to meet and plan their next steps.