T Venkat Vardhan, Founder and Managing Director of Diversified New Activity Entertainment Network (also known as DNA Networks), has spent about three decades of his life in the event management industry, and is now planning to retire and be a mentor and guide his colleagues at DNA Networks to continue creating dream-come-true performances and shows in India. DNA Networks, well known for having brought popular international talent to India, originated as a result of Vardhan’s passion towards doing something different and big in the field of advertising.
Edited excerpts from a conversation with T Venkat Vardhan on his years at DNA Networks, his expectations from the company post his retirement this year, and more:
Q. With a family comprising individuals such as Kengal Hanumanthaiah and Dr. T Thimmaiah who were visionaries in the field of politics and education, respectively, what made you choose event management?
Actually, I was studying Mechanical Engineering, which I got because I played badminton for the State. Back then, you either got a medical seat or an engineering seat; these were the only two choices. However, engineering didn’t really catch my attention. And at that time, advertising was just about growing. So, I thought about trying to do something in that field. When I approached my dad with this thought, he said, “Do what you think you’re capable of”. That’s where the journey started.
Q. You’ve brought legendary artists such as Aerosmith, Iron Maiden, Rolling Stones, Metallica, Shakira, andmore, to India. How did you manage to get such big artists to the Indian shoresfor the very first time?
When I was doing business with the UB group with Vittal Mallya at its helm, I bumped into Vijay Mallya. He gave me the idea of bringing MTV to the Indian audience. This led me to network with the music spectrum in the US, which got me thinking about inviting international artists to India. We obtained exclusive rights for MTV Top 20 countdown in 1986 for a period of two years. Back then, the sole television channel that ran across all the television sets in the nation was Doordarshan. However, I think the time was right as people who were into this at that age were a bit senior to me. And they all grew in the international music industry; they are now heading various talent companies.
Coming from the kind of family that I have, it helped me establish trustworthy relationships with these people. We had our first big show with the band Europe in 1988 in Mumbai. Some artists such as Bryan Adams were catalysts in making this happen. Then during the World Cup, Vengaboys had broken out in a very big way. With the help of Pepsi’s sponsorship, that happened. Then Ricky Martin became a sensation at that time in the US. That helped because they were subsidizing and sponsoring the events that I was doing here. All of that helped in establishing a foundation, and from then on, we were able to get the artists for conducting shows here.
Q. Amongst your various accomplishments, which one was a true milestone?
The concert that we organized for Yanni at the Taj Mahal was a milestone. The Metallica concert was also a great accomplishment. Sting and Mark Knopfler were also turning points for us.
Q. After the Metallica concert got cancelled, there were widespread news as well as rumours across media. Tell us about the struggle that you had to face post that.
The media spoke a lot about the Metallica concert being cancelled due to the issue of barricades. But you did not see our company speak anything about it. We had to deliver a show here in Bengaluru and we had to ensure that it happens. It was scheduled the very next day and that is exactly what we did. We were not only able to salvage our reputation but also show everyone that we were not at fault. We were not ready to do something that would bring more media attention in a negative way. So, we let it be and continued doing what we normally do. That’s how we were able to overcome that crisis.
Q. What are your plans for the live entertainment and event management industry?
I am planning to retire next. I will be there as a mentor to this company but not on the executive team. I am going to do what my father had started—focus on the education sector and give back to the society.