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Want to work in Dubai? Give attention to detail & be well-spoken

The Apeejay alumna says that you have to understand all the nitty-gritty of the events to excel as an experiential marketer



She was very clear from the very beginning that she wanted to work in the PR and events sector. Working as an experiential marketer happened during her course in Mass Communication with a specialisation in PR and Events from Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication. Here, she got the opportunity to intern with a topnotch event company which propelled her to where she is today. Meet Sonal Lohia Bhatia, who is working as a managing partner with a well-established company in UAE called Red Events.

In a candid interview, she talks about her college days and work culture in Dubai.

Tell us about yourself. Where are you working at present?

At present, I am working as a managing partner with a well-established company in UAE called Red Events. I have been with them for almost nine years now. The company solely focuses on events for the government. It is a specialised work where we work on the requirements which are organised by the UAE government. These events are very different from regular corporate events and festivals or any other event genres. We work on events that may involve conferences of a few countries, award ceremonies, and or the signing of treaties. The government here in Dubai invests a lot in such events. Dubai is a confluence of people from different nationalities; a lot of countries have eyes here. Hence, events are a major part of the UAE

What is the typical working day like for you?

A typical day starts around 9 am. But if there is an event, it can begin at 8 am as well; it all depends on the events that are scheduled for the day – government events start early here. Since I work with an event company, there is time set time when my day will end. In this sector, you have to work 24X7. We have to work till we have achieved what are asked to deliver. It is not like any other job where you can take it as close to the target as possible. As an event company, to sustain yourself you have to deliver what the client wants.

What or who is an experiential marketing professional?

I have been working in this industry for the last 15 years. And there is an adage: Jack of all trades and master of none. I have learnt that if you want to be a good experiential marketing professional, you have to be an expert in all trades. You have to understand the brief that has been given to you. It could be a promotion of a brand, a service, or a product; you have to understand the end objective of the event. At the same time, you have to understand your target audience; the people who will be at the event.

You also have to understand all the nitty-gritties of your event – be a production, fabrication, creative conceptualisation, and understand the pricing vendors. You have to be hands-on when it comes to experiential marketing. And when I say experiential marketing, it means you have to know everything from the ground level up to be a successful and good experiential marketer.

How did you end up working for this niche sector of event planning?

Even I am not sure how I ended up working as an experiential marketer. I have done my diploma in Mass Communication with a specialisation in PR and Events. In college, I was one of the curious ones in the class. Our entire gang at Apeejay was very curious. One of the guest faculty members, Deepak Madan, spoke about various aspects of event management and production. I remember Madan sir asking if anybody would like to intern with Shobiz; his company was a pioneer of event and event marketing in India. And I raised my hand. I was always inclined more towards events instead of the other aspects of PR. I was with them for six months. I remember my first day at work as an intern – it began at 9 am and ended at 2 am; I was shocked. Everybody in the office said: ‘Welcome to the world of events’. I can completely relate to this now. I worked with Shobiz, moved to another company and here I am 15 years down the line working in Dubai.

Sonal Lohia Bhatia, Alumna, Apeejay Institute Of Mass Communication

How did you end up studying at the Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication?

I had a big group of friends. And as I mentioned, I always wanted to work in the event sector. After college, I chose Indraprastha College (IP College); I even cleared the exam. But my friends had taken admission at Apeejay so that is where I decided to go. I didn’t want to break up the group. So, we all went to Apeejay.

Some fond memories from your college days or teachers who guided you.

I have lots of fond memories. The faculty was good too. I got to learn a lot from them, they were the best. I learnt a lot from my friends as well. Our time at Apeejay was not just spent in fun; we studied together, explored together, and researched together. We made ad films together. I had an amazing group of friends who were intelligent and dynamic. We are still in touch and all of them are doing amazing work.

My teacher Ms Das was amazing. I was not very enamoured with the PR field but Ms Pooja changed my perception. The best part of studying at Apeejay was the great guest faculty; they were very relevant to what they taught and brought with them new aspects that were unbookish of experiential marketing.

How did you end up working in Dubai?

The move happened because I got married to the love of my life. He was working in Dubai. I knew that Dubai was the best place to be when it came to events. The city loves to spend money on events. There is so much happening here – in terms of technology advancement and innovations. I was extremely happy to move here. On Day 21 of landing in Dubai, I had a job in hand and I have been with them ever since.

How is the work culture in Dubai?

It is very different from what we see in India. Dubai never sleeps. And though India is far ahead when it comes to other aspects, no one can beat Dubai when it comes to organising events. They want each event to be different and what technology can be incorporated; they want new ideas and new concepts. The exposure you get is truly beautiful since you work with people from different nationalities.

What advice will you give to those who want to work in Dubai?

While it is important to learn the theory part of PR and Events it is important to gain practical knowledge. What helped me excel and where I am today is the internships that I did. As an intern, you learn a lot of different parts of the events industry. This is crucial to your success. If you want to work in Dubai, be presentable; be well-spoken and always give attention to detail.

Shalini is an Executive Editor with Apeejay Newsroom. With a PG Diploma in Business Management and Industrial Administration and an MA in Mass Communication, she was a former Associate Editor with News9live. She has worked on varied topics - from news-based to feature articles.