| 18 Jul 2024
Shubhra Bhardwaj: The 'grey matter' behind Ballard Estate Festival and India's DLDK

MUMBAI:  Imagine informing your mother about attending an EDM festival, and urging her to not let daddy know. Could potentially end into disappointment, right? Well, there lies a beautiful irony in Shubhra Bhardwaj's case – a mother who brought the famed music festival to India, and went an extra mile to promote it. Mumbai witnessed the first edition of 'Don't Let Daddy Know'.

“There is no word called 'obstacle' in my dictionary" - With that quote, the founder of  Ferriswheel Entertainment - Shubhra Bhardwaj - ensured the expected doubts regarding the complications faced by women entrepreneurs in a third world nation do not appear in the questionnaire. "Gender of the person really does not matter. Eventually, it's all the grey matter that matters." And thus began the process to understand this grey matter that led to the successful execution of the first edition of 'Don't Let Daddy Know' in India. Bhardwaj continues to remain an unknown name in the ‘scene’, and the disinterest towards media coverage or attention would continue to lead her into unwanted limelight.

“Start where you are”

Bhardwaj, daughter of an Indian bureaucrat, had a fat cheque seven years ago, and brighter ideas. The inception of Ferriswheel Entertainment and the projects that followed in the initial years suffered no hindrances or dicey growth when compared to other organisations curating music IPs. Organisers have the tendency to glorify what has been achieved, and Bhardwaj has no intention of following the path. "Nothing is difficult," says Bhardwaj "It's not rocket science." One of the first projects Ferriswheel Entertainment executed required extensive effort, and looking back, the XIX Commonwealth Games held in Delhi in 2010, acted as an ideal stepping stone for Bhardwaj's bigger goals.

Through her experience, Bhardwaj concluded how 'over-entertaining' the music festivals in India have grown into, and therefore, the Delhi-born entrepreneur entrusted further into the 'urban party concept'. The music IP - Don't Let Daddy Know - had expanded into nine countries before reaching the shores of Mumbai, India. And the desire to experience a European music festival finally turned into sort of a reality for the Indian EDM fans on 27 May 2016. The Ferriswheel team that managed 8000 athletes during the commonwealth games were handed another responsibility of similar - if not bigger - magnitude. The impressive factor, without any doubt, about the DLDK's debut at NSCI Dome had to be the swift and steady process right from the entrance to the basic factors like toilets, sanitary and security. And Bhardwaj's attention to details, as the founder and creative director, played a huge role behind that. Every creative decision passes through Bhardwaj's desk and the entrepreneurial culture established at Ferriswheel Entertainment deserves the credit for the transparency between the head and the employees. 

[image: Festival De Diu]

"Use what you have"

Bhardwaj acknowledges the need to adapt to the evolving cultures and requirements surrounding and affecting her businesses and the projects. "The scale of adaptability differs from project to project. The youth has mastered social media, and the latest trends like Snapchat and Instagram have redefined their idea of communication. For the exact reason, we went heavy on Snapchat and endorsed and marketed our ideas and IPs to the youth through these channels." Through several ventures targeted at different genres of entertainment, Bhardwaj found minimum issues in translating the expectations into ground realities.

The emphasis on marketing helped Bhardwaj continue what she began, and the 40+ hoardings and month-long advertisements on VH1 stand as a proof on her idea of leaving no stone unturned. “Without marketing, it’s like winking at a girl in the dark. Only you know what you are doing,” she sums up her perception of marketing. Bhardwaj loves to follow her instincts – the instincts that eventually led to the three-month long extravaganza called Festival De Diu (also Asia’s longest beach festival), and an ambitious project at the heart of Mumbai – Ballard Estate Festival. The inception of Mumbai Ballard Estate Festival occurred out of concern for the diminishing ‘festival’ culture in the maximum city. “What’s the definition of fun now? Malls and cinema halls. With Ballard Festival, Ferriswheel Entertainment, with the support from Port Trust, wants to change that. Also, we pay taxes for these streets and venues, I need to have access to that for constructive entertainment purposes.”

Image courtsey: Clique photography
[image: Don't Let Daddy Know]                (Image courtsey: Clique photography)

"Do what you can"

First five months of the Ballard Estate Festival did not receive huge turnouts, and the inconsistency with regards to its planning shares the blame for the same. “The fans took time to warm up for the Ballard Festival. Bhardwaj has curated events that hosted performances from Major Lazer (IPL), Steve Angello (DLDK) and several Indian legendary acts through Festival De Diu and Ballard Festival. Similarly, she has been instrumental in executing ‘Ticket to Bollywood’ in 700 cities across 30 countries. A firm believer of ‘either go big or go home’, Bhardwaj’s organization has successfully executed one-night celebration affairs as well as festivals that literally exceed a season. 

Ferriswheel Entertainment, in its seven years, exceeded its expectation of growth, and Bhardwaj believes it’s only the beginning. The entrepreneur recently bought a 48-acre land for an ambitious project under Ferriswheel that Bhardwaj is a 99 per cent share holder of. The remaining one percent, if you are wondering, belongs to her mother. Bhardwaj has a systematic data-dependent approach on the subsequent plans, and the success of DLDK has motivated her to plan for the second edition, to be hosted in three cities next year.

The lukewarm response to the first edition of Ballard Estate Festival only encouraged Bhardwaj further to rethink about the strategy for the post-monsoon season. “We will provide calendars and the schedules for the second half of the festival. Also, we will program differently. Every week will now have a theme. That will ensure the right fans come at the right week. Bhardwaj also hopes to gain the license to provide alcohol on the venue, the guaranteed successful element for any public event. Ferriswheel Entertainment now gears up for the execution of ‘Tomorrowland: Unite’, and Bhardwaj finds herself exactly where she wanted to be. “I am having the time of my life. To organise any event in India, the focus needs to be right and accurate. Do not become a nuisance to the hosting city or governments. Ensure the outcome is a win-win scenario for the touring artistes and the people working for you. And most importantly, do not take the fans for granted.”

[image: Ballard Estate Festvial]