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‘Entrepreneurship is not just about business but is a philosophy of life’

Apeejay Panchsheel Park alumnus Manmohan Vats says students should always be encouraged to find and follow their true calling



Manmohan Vats began his entrepreneurial journey with his wife almost two decades back with their luxury brand consulting and marketing company Evolve Entertainment and Marketing Solutions. The Gurugram-based alumnus of Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park, believes in the mantra of stepping up against adversity and seizing opportunities that come one’s way. In an interview, Vats, Global Director-Events at Evolve, shares how this life lesson is crucial to entrepreneurship. Edited excerpts:

What memories do you have of Apeejay School, Panchsheel Park?

It seems like a journey now. I joined the school in class 10 and was there till class 12. It was an amazing experience because, at school, I made friends for life. I am still in touch with most of my batchmates. Our teachers were not only great at their job, but they also connected with us as friends. We could depend on them and talk to them about everything. They brought about the world of being open and transparent with the teachers and made us feel very comfortable. The overall experience at school was excellent.

You did BA Honours in History followed by a course in Arts and Design from the National Institute of Fashion Technology. What inspired this shift?

Being a humanities student, I opted for History Honours at Delhi University. Following my graduation, I applied for the course at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, which was much sought after. I cleared the written exam and the interview. My course was called Appreciation of Textiles for Fashion Design, which was a new course then and worked very well for me. I got the chance to work in the fashion industry for some years, before moving to corporate event management.

You have been at the helm of Evolve for more than 17 years since 2004. Tell us about its inception.

The company is my wife’s brainchild. She wanted to get into events and once the company took off in a big way, she wanted me to join her. That is when I made my entry into the company. I think the move was well-timed because prior to this, my work in the fashion industry was to do with export houses, which saw a dip during that time. So, I thought it would be the right time to move to a different field.

Evolve is into corporate events. We have worked with several prominent brands and have been recommended through word-of-mouth to do promotional activities, from store launches to offsite conferences. We were the first event company to get international chefs to India like Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris, Nigella Lawson, and others. The culinary experience we brought to the table for all our clients was a milestone in itself. In a way, I think we have created a legacy in the field of event management.

Through all these years of planning events, what have been your major learnings?

You are learning every day. You are experimenting, taking chances, and evolving with every project. At Evolve, we are very conscious of not repeating ourselves. It is said that an event is not over until everyone is tired of talking about it. Each time, we try to give our clients a totally new experience. This also means that everything has to be planned to perfection, with no undue shocks or surprises. As author Amit Kalantri says, “An event shouldn’t be just an experiential thing, it should be an emotional thing.” I believe one has to be emotionally attached to their work to be able to give their best. In life, there are opportunities that keep coming to you. It is natural to be hesitant initially but once you have taken the much-needed step forward and achieved success, the happiness you experience cannot be described in words!

The pandemic brought in online events. What is your take on it and what, according to you, is its future?

There is a limitation to doing online events; you can improvise only to a certain extent. As professionals, we want the pandemic to end and organise events where people can physically socialise. But just as the pandemic led to some companies being shut down, it also opened up new out-of-the-box business opportunities. For instance, the pandemic gave us a chance to set up a culinary venture called The Dinner Box, which serves food cooked by India’s best chefs in the comfort of your homes. Among these chefs are Kunal Kapur, Sujan Sarkar, and Hemant Oberoi, to name a few. I personally believe that we cannot just wait for things to happen; we have to learn to step up and turn challenges into opportunities. One has to reinvent himself or herself and come up with something that becomes relevant.

What is it that makes an entrepreneur successful?

Through my years of experience, I have learned that entrepreneurship is not just about business, but it is a philosophy that informs daily living. Especially in the pandemic, people have overcome all kinds of odds and carried on to the best of their abilities, which is an entrepreneurial quality. It is not just a set of skills that you pick up but life in itself is what teaches you how to become an entrepreneur. Rising above limitations, embracing them, and forever moving on, is the mantra of modern entrepreneurship.

Any words of advice for students of Apeejay?

“The purpose of our life is to be happy,” says the Dalai Lama. We all have to strive to find that happiness. When we are happy, we will find success. Do not succumb to internal or societal pressure; find a purpose in your life that genuinely motivates you and makes you happy. That should be the ultimate motto in life. I think schools today are preparing you that way through an interdisciplinary approach to education. There are endless opportunities to explore, and you can reach your destination through any route. I think students should always be encouraged to follow their dreams. 

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.