Twenty eight-year-old Arjun Jain hasn’t slept peacefully since September — the month he finally sealed the deal with Creative Artistes Agency for having the final leg of pop sensation Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” tour in India. Today, hordes in Mumbai, many from cities across India and the neighbouring countries, are headed to DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai to greet 22-year-old Bieber. The “Beliebers” are likely to park themselves early, just as 500 cops, 1,500 security personnel and a huge number of drones guard the enclosure. “It entails a lot of research and spadework to be honest. This one has been a ride of a different sort. It will be the first time in history that a mainstream artiste of this stature is visiting the subcontinent,” says Jain, Managing Director of White Fox India, in an email interview done in between the preparations for the concert. In putting the concert together, Jain has spent four million dollars (approximately Rs 26.8 crore), a substantial chunk of which is Bieber’s artiste fee.
British band Coldplay’s recent visit can also be called worthy of the same history. Before this, king of pop, Michael Jackson had visited India in the October 1996. Concerts by Norah Jones, Bryan Adams, Backstreet Boys and Enrique Iglesias took place in India when these artistes were past their heyday.
For Bieber, an artiste whose glorious days had gone past mending in the last few years — he spit from a balcony in Toronto while fans stood downstairs, threw eggs at his neighbour’s house, relieved himself in a mop bucket and on a visit to Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, he made the world cringe by writing in the guest book, “Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber” — the mania and enthusiasm in India may seem a little overbearing right now. The tickets that cost between Rs 4,000 and Rs 75,000 are 80 per cent sold out. Part of the credit goes to Bieber’s celebrity status among teenage girls, his blend of EDM and pop, and some to his 2015 album Purpose, which has gone down well even with those who flinch and grovel at everything Bieber. “Bieber today attracts a universal age group and has matured as an artiste. He has the second largest fan base in India,” says Delhi-based Jain, who started White Fox Entertainment in 2013, after graduating in finance from University of Massachusetts.
While growing up in Delhi, Jain recalls enjoying watching people having a good time at gigs and wanting to be “a part of their happiness”. It was in Boston, though, where he first discovered how big hip hop was in the West and thought that he would someday curate a hip hop festival in India. However, the first gig he hosted back home was of Dutch DJ and producer Laidback Luke at Arjun Rampal’s nightclub, Lap, in Delhi. EDM gigs were trending all over the world. Jain decided to swing the mania. In the end, he lost money but not his heart. “It was a great learning experience and it helped me get to where I am today,” says Jain, who then brought big names such as Tiesto, Steve Aoki, Axwell, David Guetta, Above & Beyond and Hardwell to India. Aoki’s gig got caught in entertainment tax issues and eventually had to be moved from Gurgaon to Hotel Lalit’s bar in Delhi.
Currently, Jain realises that there is an EDM overload and he wanted to break away. “From our past experience, we feel pop gets far bigger traction than EDM — from sponsors, media and the fan community,” says Jain, who had attended Bieber’s concert in Monaco last year and found an opportunity to meet American talent manager Scooter Braun there. “There were multiple agency pitches for this concert but I guess we worked really hard to win this one,” says Jain. Excited that India has opened up to international artistes, he adds, “Right from the money invested to the production value of the show to sponsor engagements, it has been quite a journey. India is yet to become a superpower when compared to global competitors but it’s a gradual process and we hope after Bieber this trend continues. Most pop artistes command a steep price to perform here now,” he notes.
Though the artistes are welcome, the logistical challenges are plenty. “The governing laws are very complex and the taxation is heavy. Skilled human capital is also lacking, and this needs to be improved through learning programmes. The absence of proper event venues, technology service providers, air transport network and so on, makes conducting large scale events tougher,” says Jain.
Post Bieber’s concert tonight and an all-night afterparty, the entrepreneur plans to get down to business again. “There are a lot of artistes we are looking at bringing to India. I would love to now get a female popstar to the country. My partners, Mani Singh Cheema and Aman Kumar, are also looking at expanding in the global film production, brand management and hospitality business, apart from sports where we have stakes in mixed martial arts and poker already. Overall, we want to contribute 35 per cent to the event and entertainment business going forward,” says Jain.