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Tax brunt taking big-budget weddings, events out of India : Vikram Mehta, Mpire Weddings

Mpire Weddings and Events — India’s leading luxury wedding planners — is a boutique company that specializes in soirees and destination weddings. Mpire is known for its customized creations and spectacular settings, celebrating life’s most cherished occasions. Credit for the concepts and creations goes to Vikram Mehta, owner-founder of Red Om Entertainment — India’s premier event and brand management agency. Mpire is the luxury arm of Vikram’s operations, planning and logistics infrastructure. Team Optimist spoke to Mehta on his journey with Mpire Weddings…


Team Optimist: How did you begin your journey with Mpire weddings? What were your initial plans?

Vikram Mehta: For the first nine years of my event management career, I spent time working on events related to nightlife under my first company, Red Om Entertainment. We used to manage nightclubs across Mumbai, New Year’s events, concerts, international artistes’ tours and so on.

I chanced upon weddings when I first managed the big day for a friend’s cousin. Since management came naturally to me, the overall concepts weren’t intimidating. It was my first tryst with the joys and pressures of working on the biggest day of someone’s life. One wedding led to another and then another and that’s how wedding planning found me. Mpire was founded as a separate entity with a fresh team, with careful attention to avoid overlaps with Red Om’s ongoing operations and market.


Vikram Mehta, owner-founder of Red Om Entertainment — India’s premier event and brand management agency


Since Red Om happened when I was just out of college, I learned a lot from the mistakes I had made and that made it easier for me to position and operate Mpire with stronger company values and protocols.


Team Optimist: How has the scenario changed for luxury Indian weddings over the past few years? Is it true for only metro cities, or even for Tier-1 and 2 cities?

Vikram Mehta: I think the general commercials (spending power of clients) change along with the country and world economy dynamics. More so, the definition of luxury weddings. What was extravagant earlier is considered tacky, or garish now. Similarly, a destination — say Goa, or Bangkok — considered a luxury experience previously is considered a run-of-the-mill option today.

Luxury has also taken on a new meaning, with experiences being more important than just visual delights. So, you may see a couple spending less on décor and more on activities, or an exotic locale.

It’s true for Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities, as well. It just takes time for them to catch up. It’s like a fad which first begins with the metros and, through hearsay, eventually reaches the smaller ones.


Team Optimist: What are the basic challenges in brand management? Is digital branding the biggest focus for most brands these days?

Vikram Mehta: The print media is completely superfluous. Digital branding has slowly taken precedence over on-ground promotions and activities. It’s not only the biggest, but the only focal point for brands these days. That being said, your brand can only take you so far. While market positioning is imperative, weddings eventually work on word of mouth. There’s no bigger branding than a Happy Bride!

Some of the challenges I’ve faced in terms of brand management are:

  1. Growing trends and changes in social media channels. For instance, Facebook has been replaced by Instagram and Twitter by Pinterest. It’s important now to identify the most logical and relevant social media app and keep your handles updated there.
  2. Content — It’s important to refresh your content. Your content MUST change with seasons and trends. You may concentrate on bridal pictures for a long time, but you’ll need to mix things up and concentrate on décor, or entry and entertainment ideas and so on. Similarly, your content should change in the monsoon and, again, in the peak season. To know when and what needs to be put out there in the market remains the biggest challenge.
  3. Unique identity — Every company owner needs to identify his company’s ethos and style. The brand needs to reflect that. It’s important not to worry about what your competitors are positioned as. Once you have a look at a company’s online presence, you’ll be able to comprehend if it’s a young brand, a formal company, a luxury specialist and so forth. It may seem difficult at first, but, if you’re able to identify and communicate clearly to your brand managing team what you’re all about, it’ll reflect in your content and positioning.



Team Optimist: What are Mpire’s focus areas now? What steps do you follow for such projects?

Vikram Mehta: Our targets and goals have slowly changed over time. We first concentrated on clinical delivery (quality). Once that was inbred in our systems, we moved on to large numbers and multiple weddings (quantity). We’re currently at a stage where we set targets for destinations. We’ve always been recognised for our ability to execute anywhere in the world. This was the strength that helped us reach Disney World, Hawaii and Hong Kong, among others. We now concentrate on destinations that are untapped, or even ahead of the times.

Revenue generation has never been the main focus area for Mpire. But we’re conscious of the value we add, which helps us charge fees that are equivalent to, or warrant, what we bring to the table.

We have a set template in terms of steps for projects. It starts with locking the venue, followed by locking important service providers, dedicating a project head from office for each event, creating ideas, themes and, eventually, planning the daywise macro flow of events. We also tend to incorporate fresh ideas and trends each season, using the past season’s experiences.


Team Optimist: What do you think of the investment climate in India? What changes do you want from policymakers that’ll help entrepreneurs like you?

Vikram Mehta: The current climate isn’t ideal for weddings in India. It hasn’t been so for the past few years.

  1. I think the taxation policy needs to be relaxed for entrepreneurs and 5-star hotels. These hotels are charged exorbitant tax amounts for room bookings, food and beverage services. That’s eventually passed on to the client and that’s a huge deterrent for families planning weddings in India.
  2. The taxes on IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) are very high. People are afraid of buying alcohol at wine shops. This affects independent wine shop owners as much as our business.
  3. There’s a whole bunch of licences required to conduct any kind of music-related event in India. These are licences formed by music labels and film industries, among others. Often, the cost of a DJ, or singer is 1/4th the actual cost of the licences required for them to perform. There’s a list of 17 licences that are required to conduct a social event in India. This has reduced the number of international artistes invited to perform in our country. These licences should either be abolished, or put under a single-window scheme.


In the current scenario, it’s cheaper to plan a wedding outside India than in one’s own city, even if it means booking rooms for guests to stay in that country.

I think the tourism department could also take the initiative of encouraging more weddings in India. Small incentives for wedding planners and couples could go a long way. There’s a huge market in NRIs who love to come back to their roots for the biggest day of their lives.


Mpire Weddings and Events — India’s leading luxury wedding planners — is a boutique company that specializes in soirees and destination weddings


Team Optimist: What are your plans on Mpire weddings?

Vikram Mehta: Our immediate plan is to enter new markets and tap pristine locations that have been untapped for a long time. From individual cities and countries, we’re now looking at continents that haven’t been explored. We’d also like to make gradual progress into celebrity weddings, since we feel we have the resources and acumen to manage those. We also spend a lot of time polishing our administration methods. We’re constantly renewing our systems, roping in fresh blood, refreshing templates for back-end work and so on. This part will remain an ongoing process to always stay relevant — or ahead of the times!

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