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Behind Bollywood's IIFA lies a branding exercise

The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards extravaganza has gone on to become a global event since its humble beginnings eight years ago.
IANS | By Arpana, Bangkok
UPDATED ON JUN 07, 2008 02:30 PM IST

It boasts of top notch Bollywood stars, audiences from 21 countries and coverage by media houses from across the world. The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards extravaganza has gone on to become a global event since its humble beginnings eight years ago.

But few know that behind its success lies an elaborate brand activation exercise, says Sabbas Joseph, director of Wizcraft, the leading Indian event management company that organises IIFA. The latest edition of IIFA began in the Thailand capital Friday.

"We started Wizcraft almost 20 years ago. We stayed out of traditional advertising because we felt that we would be just one more advertising agency. We preferred to focus on brand activation," Joseph told IANS in an interview here.

"Today, most advertising agencies are forced to concentrate on brand activation or convert into brand activation companies. We saw tomorrow," says Joseph teamed up with his friends Biraf Sarkaria and Andre Timmins to start Wizcraft.

The IIFA has the legendary Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador and till date has been held in nine different locations across the world, including Dubai, Sun City and Singapore.

Top Bollywood personalities can be seen lending glamour to the ceremony, which includes performances by stars as well as awards in various categories. This time, the three-day event saw the presence of Preity Zinta, Kareena Kapoor, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Diya Mirza.

"It has been a long journey for Wizcraft. Today, we are considered one of India's leading event management companies. We began with just Rs.7,500. Today, the turnover is well over Rs.200 billion and it puts us in a different league. The credit goes to the entire team's hard work," said Joseph.

The first IIFA awards ceremony, held at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, Britain, in 2000, was organised with a meagre budget of Rs.2 million. "But the expenses on the latest IIFA is about Rs.8-10 million," Joseph said.

However, he refused to say how much he pays to the stars to perform.

"Whatever we pay is very confidential. But they are market prices. It's standard stuff. For example, a non-star dance performer gets about Rs.1 million per performance. The money doesn't matter at all."

According to Joseph, the presence of media from the US, Britain, France and Australia is a normal thing. "But this year we have Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Iranian media also covering the event."

He added that ever since the IIFA began, the income of Indian films from the global market has increased from one-tenth to one-third.

Joseph says Wizcraft works across different platforms.

"We work in the corporate space, special events space, television. We managed Bill Gates, Check Welsh, Tony Blair and Benazir Bhutto when they visited India. Getting into TV production meant that we must be the best and 'Nach Baliye' was the best," he said.

Asked about getting into filmmaking, Joseph said: "If we will look at films, we will look at films with different perspective. It is one more facet of communication. We want the right plot, right story."

"Wizcraft has worked with the opening and closing ceremony of the Afro-Asian Games and closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. We worked with Indian Premier League teams - Mohali, Delhi and Mumbai."

Its next target is creating entertainment complexes.

"We are in the process of opening entertainment complexes. What we are looking at is creating entertainment drivers that will spearhead and highlight realty projects," Joseph said.

Asked about Wizcraft's source of revenue, he said: "It is through the TV rights of IIFA functions, sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandising, internet and DVD rights.

"But the biggest source is the goodwill of the industry," he added.

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