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Road to Recovery

With Unlock 5.0 in place, the events industry has been allowed to resume work with a cap of 100 persons. In September, EEMA released the standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the events sector.

Photo by John Gibbons on Unsplash

The live events industry came to a complete halt in March 2020, with the onset of the global pandemic. In May, the Event and Entertainment Management Association (EEMA) estimated that the Indian events and exhibition sector would take a 1 Trillion Rupee hit, directly impacting 10 million jobs. The impact on the arts and culture sector, much of which relies either on live performance or live audiences, is inestimable primarily because the pandemic goes beyond economics to have serious effects on mental health and even the possible long-term loss of traditional artistic skills.

As safety takes paramount importance for any kind of live experience in 2020, and in order to support the live events sector, EEMA published a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The SOPs are intended to provide industry players a set of guidelines to ensure a standard of safety that can be maintained across the sector. Manish Chandnani, VP at OML Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. who was consulted over several sessions during the creation of the SOPs said, "The general approach was to see if all types of events could begin with the safest possible scenarios." Chandnani's input was primarily used to create guidelines for festivals, based on over a decade of experience, another aspect of the informed approach that EEMA took in the exercise.

The document provides guidelines for several types of events: weddings, corporate activations, large conferences, large-scale public and government events, religious events, and music festivals. Within each event, safety protocols for venues, crews, presenters, vendors, and others involved in the creation and execution of events are covered. Roshan Abbas, President, EEMA, said, “These SOPs have been meticulously planned taking into account guidelines issued by the Government and multiple global associations, and have been planned across every vertical the event industry represents. These SOPs comprise comprehensive risk assessments, safety checks and logistical planning for every event, so including a COVID-19 mitigation plan as an extension of existing event planning mechanisms is easily achievable. The USP of this document is its exhaustive detailing and transparency which covers the entire life cycle of an event right from its inception to execution and post; we have covered it all under WHO norms.”

As the Indian government implements the fifth phase of reopening the Indian economy, cinema halls stand out as a highlight of gathering spaces. While a news report from Bloomberg-Quint says that active COVID cases in India decline and audiences are wary of collecting in numbers, the time to set safety standards to prevent future waves of infection is now. The SOPs are a timely initiative and an attempt by private interests to take charge of the reopening of their business. In September, EEMA presented the SOPs to the Maharashtra government – a proactive move in an environment that could have benefited with clearer guidelines from the government. Abbas said, “It’s a happy moment for us as the Government’s decision to reopen events in Unlock 5.0 has finally been declared. We began with a unified voice, reached out to the Government with EEMA’s proposed set of SOPs that were created by our EEMA COVID Task Force, and were recognized by various State Governments. I congratulate the entire events fraternity and all stakeholders for this good news. The responsibility now lies on our shoulders to take this forward and conduct safe events in accordance with EEMA’s proposed SOPs and Government guidelines.”

As the events sector begins to regain control of the situation, the question of how the proposed SOPs can be implemented across a diverse range of activities arises. EEMA has executed several events to test the guidelines and plans to update the SOPs regularly based on their learning, over time. India's creative sector needs to come together, now more than ever, to share resources and learning to safely engage with audiences again.


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