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 Percept in the News

Karan Singh, CEO, SUNBURN Festival Global talks to ETPanache about the thrills & trials of the entertainment industry
13 July, 2017

Exposed to huge music festivals and ostentatious party events for most of his life, one might expect Karan Singh to have an untamed streak. 

But the son of Percept Ltd MD Harindra Singh, is a composed 31-year-old. The head of Sunburn Global, Percept, answers questions with precision and deliberation, and describes himself as ambitious, practical and hardworking. Though he says, with a laugh, that he could add 'charismatic' to the list too. 
 
The newly married Singh met with ETPanache at his Lower Parel office in Mumbai. The conversation ranged from his musical tastes (no, he didn't play EDM for his first dance at the wedding - he says his wife would have killed him) to some of the controversies and talk involving Sunburn and his family. He also said that bringing Calvin Harris down to India is on his to-do list. 
 
Name one thing you have learnt from the controversies, venue changes and other difficulties that have cropped up in organising Sunburn. 
 
The main thing is that you always have to keep the customer at the forefront of all of your thinking. As long as whatever you do is in their best interest and they continue to have a good experience, they will come back, talk about you, say positive things about you (hopefully) and everything flows from that. While there are several stakeholders we have to cater to (sponsors, partners etc), the customer is our number one priority. Focus on the fans. 
 
Karan Singh, CEO, SUNBURN Festival Global talks to ETPanache about the business of EDM Music Festival and the thrills & trials of the entertainment industry
 
The system is difficult for sure. But there are people campaigning for the process to become smoother. Right now, the rules are different in every state. It would help if the permission process was more consistent. Also, we as organisers have to be well planned, submit everything on time, so that the authorities can review it.
 
Whenever you get negative feedback on the job, you need to analyse it at an individual level. Sometimes it's just whining and it's not really your fault - here you have to be thickskinned and not be affected by that. But when it reflects poorly and on a mistake we have made or a gap in our planning, then is the time to look at it constructively. 
 
Did you see it as a betrayal when Nikhil Chinapa left your event to launch a rival festival, which was held at the same time, in 2013? 
 
Obviously he worked with us for a long time and we did great work together. Today, we have a cordial relationship. But, for many reasons, we parted ways and after that I just didn't think that doing the festival on the same days and the same location as us was a good business decision. It went on for three years and I think it hurt both companies - them more than us. I think it is better for everyone now that there is no direct conflict between the festivals. 
 
How do you keep the event drug free and safe? 
 
We do everything possible. We communicate it before the show and we have very strict checks of everyone who is coming into the event. We're contemplating that this year we might not even let people bring in bags to the event. We take safety and substance abuse very seriously. 
 
What is it like working with your father? How current are his musical choices? 
 
(Laughs) My father is totally into EDM. He is into deep house and techno as well. When we're entertaining at home, he's always the one plugging in and playing music. I respect him. He's been in the industry for 35 years and is a fantastic professional with an amazing work ethic. We often have differing perspectives on many things but that's good. It leads to healthy discussions. 
 
In 2007, how did you cope when drug charges were levelled against your father (in Dubai)? What did you learn from the experience? 
 
I think that we stayed strong as a family. We knew that it would pass and that justice would come through. 
 
This year, your father and uncle (Shailendra Singh) worked out the family settlement and the separation details of your company. How do you feel about it? 
 
I think it eventually came to an end because it was the best decision for all the parties involved. The exit was structured in a way that it took care of everyone's interests. So, it was a forward-looking decision by both of them. As a family, we are all still close. But we do try to keep the business and family separate. 
 
Do you find it easier doing shows abroad compared to India, where the system is sometimes unnecessarily difficult? 
 
We do have a long way to go. I mean India is the land of opportunities and challenges. For us, to do the shows abroad is more about reaching out to different countries where we have a niche fan following. The challenges in India are many and we've been dealing with them for a long time. We've hopefully figured out our way around and how to handle them. 
 
You've brought down a number of artists - how do you deal with the demands of superstars? What has been the craziest so far? 
 
When Avicii had come down he had asked for a Lego set. We went and got the biggest one we could. Afrojack wanted a PlayStation. Sometimes we have to deal with egos but overall they are understanding. I mean they have demands but they are not ridiculous. Most of the DJs who come here want to do sightseeing and we are happy to organise it for them. It's just being good hosts. 

What music do you personally enjoy listening to? 
 
My music tastes are quite conventional. My current playlist includes my favourite I Don't Want To Wanna Live Forever by Zayn Malik and Taylor Swift and Rockabye by Clean Bandit. I am a big fan of EDM too.