The first India Nightlife Convention & Awards (INCA) killed it and how!

On 25th and 26th September, Mumbai witnessed the advent of change. This change was late in its coming, but nonetheless absolutely essential to an industry that has contributed so much heart to this country. Recognition has not exactly knocked on India’s nightlife industry’s door in a big way, inspite of its gracious contribution to the country’s GDP in terms of income and employment. Not to mention, its immense contribution to relieving a tired office-goers mental state of mind after a long, hard day at work.

INCA was born out of the need to reward a hard-working industry with a two-day exclusive celebration. And trust me; it was nothing short of a grand affair. Conferences were packed, coffee cups were refuelling, big names were networking; attendees made the most of India’s first-ever Bar and Nightclub Convention and Awards that was held at St. Regis, Mumbai. After all, INCA was by the industry, for the industry.

The brainchild of Riyaaz Amlani (President of NRAI, CEO & MD of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd.) and Aman Anand (founder of Kickstart Entertainment), INCA brought together the biggest of names from around the nightlife world to share a common platform and address a common interest.

Credits: INCA

The Sherp was lucky enough to have a quick chat with the busy Mr. Amlani and ask him a few questions. Here’s what he had to say; “Nightlife is not taken as a serious business, even though it has the maximum impact on a city’s tourism, revenue and social-culture. Even though this recognition has taken its time to come along, we want tell people that this is a serious business, promote best practices and encourage people who’ve done great work for our nightlife. People are getting the opportunity to meet, network, exchange ideas and look at possible collaborations.” 

DAY 1:

Credits: INCA

Aaditya Thackeray, leader of the Yuva Sena, inaugurated the programme by discussing his vision to see Mumbai as a 24*7 destination. With this positive speech from such a young mind, Day 1 only got better and better. Conferences took place in quick succession and were greeted with enthusiastic participants and eager listeners. Topics ranging from ‘Scaling up the bar business through differentiation’ to ‘How liquor companies can help build your business’ were debated and discussed. International speakers Bradley Drummond, Ewan Gunn and Lutz Leichsenring opened their world to us. The Sherp managed to catch hold of Mr. Drummond and Mr. Leichsenring for a quick word. Here are the excerpts.

Bradley Drummond:

Credits: INCA

How important a role does the ambience play in a club setting, where people usually turn up for the crowd and the music?
The ambience plays a very big part in the success of a venue. Customers want to have a unique and enjoyable experience when going out and a lot of things factor in to that; the interior design and flow of the room, quality of sound system and music, lighting and even the customer service. It is important to keep things fresh and have the ability to adjust the environment throughout the night to keep up with the patrons.

After having worked for several years in two of the world’s biggest party pads, LA and Las Vegas, how far behind is India’s nightlife in comparison?
Nightlife is very different in all parts of the world. Even LA and Las Vegas venues have a lot of differences between them but they are matched well with the market they are in. Nightlife is all about people going out and having a good a time and if you keep customers happy you can be successful. Venues all over the world are constantly changing and evolving to provide new and exciting experiences and it will be great to see the next phase of nightlife in India.

What does India need to turn into the next big party destination?
Customers want to have a unique experience. There is a lot of competition in nightlife and you need to have something special for customers. Venues need to differentiate themselves from the competition locally as well as internationally. People will travel for an incredible one of a kind experience that they can’t get anywhere else.


Lutz Leichsenring

Credits: INCA

How do you compare the nightlife in Mumbai to that back in Berlin?

Creative Industries and tourism are one of the biggest industries of Berlin. Nightlife influences both industries a lot, so it is very valuable for the city. In Mumbai there are huge opportunities to develop nightlife culture and businesses, but it doesn’t have the high significance than in Berlin.

The underground club scene is relatively unheard of in India. Can you enlighten us on the same?

“Underground” doesn’t mean to be illegal. It just defines that in these clubs, niche music (e.g. electronic, alternative,…) is played and performed in particular. So these spaces target a relatively small group of people who share the same passion for certain artists and experimental music. What is special, however, is that these people and venues create a unique nightlife and drive innovations in fields like fashion, media and city development.

You’ve worked extensively with the Clubcommission to protect clubs in Berlin. What are the positive changes projected by your efforts in the club scene today?

The Clubcommission’s work helped to change public perception on nightlife. Today all political parties have nightlife issues on their agenda and we advise them when it comes to changing laws or policies. We recently launched an online map in behalf of the senate of city development, where all music venues are charted. This helps to prevent that new constructions enforce clubs to shut down, because the real estate companies have to do the noise protection on the new buildings.

How important is it to have a body like Clubcommission stand up as the voice of an unprivileged sector like nightlife in India?

A network makes work a lot easier and strengthens the rights of individual promoters and venue operators. In our work we focus on three issues to support our members: Access, awareness and education! Access – to journalists, politicians, authorities or public administration. Awareness – about the impact and significance of club culture for urban societies. Education – on law and legislation, health, economics etc.


DAY 2:

Credits: INCA

After Day 1 pulled all the right strings, Day 2 deserved a bigger platform. The conferences were assigned two internal venues where people could alternative between two ongoing talks or choose their preferred one. The topics, once again, proved to be of complete relevance with both venues catering to a packed audience. Gaurav Gupta, CEO of Danke Exim India Pvt. Ltd, the prime sponsors of the event, commenced the first session of the day with fellow beer barons to talk about their favourite topic; beer ofcourse. Simultaneously, the other venue hosted a discussion with famous names in the music industry on creating a live music scene; also one that couldn’t be missed. But the one session that turned out to be the biggest crowd-puller, was a discussion on the nightlife scene in the four major party hubs of India; Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Goa. The audience enthusiastically booed or clapped when asked to give their two-bits on the nightlife scenes in each city while the two representatives for each city tried their best to prove why their city trumps the rest.

Actor Imran Khan enlightened us on his journey to challenge the legal drinking age limit that was, not too long ago, pushed to 25 years.

Credits: Festival Sherpa

Alan Miller ended the conference evening with a talk on Night Time Industries Association UK, of which he is on the board of directors. We also had a chance to catch hold of him for a quick Q&A. Here are the excerpts:

Alan Miller

Credits: INCA

How do you rank Mumbai at an international level when it comes to the nightlife? And why?

I think as a city, it ranks very high. However, for clubbing and nightlife alone, it may come down somewhat sadly due to the early closing times, which I honestly think would benefit everyone if they could be adjusted and improved to go on more flexibly later. Mumbai, Delhi and other cities would then have everything anyone could want and I’m positive that India Nightlife Convention & Awards (INCA) and the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) can help in making the much needed change.

People still don’t perceive the night time industry as a source of steady employment. How can perceptions be changed?

It is important to use statistics and facts and figures as evidence to prove the case. Also, to demonstrate how a bar, club and restaurant amplify all of the activity in the surrounding area, so it is not simply their own employment, taxes and brand value, but the “multiplier” effect on those around them. More than this however, is the enormous cultural contribution. Why tourists come and where the next cultural phenomenon has hatched and planned…

Any tips for people working in the sector on how to make it big?

Be brave and bold. Go for your dreams. Plan meticulously. Don’t expect overnight success. Be kind to those you work with and meet…


And finally, the award function was underway, followed by an unforgettable party that marked the true celebration of India’s nightlife. Here are the winners at INCA 2016:

Best Bar Chain – Social

Best Beer Bar – Doolally Taproom

Best Nightclub – Trilogy

Best Wine Bar – The Tasting Room

Best Debut Bar – Masalabar

Best Bartender/Mixologist – Nitin Tiwari

Best Bar Interior – Social

Best Lounge – Asilo

Best Pop-up – Playground

Best Promoter Award – The Wild City

Best Artist Manager – Only Much Louder

Best Live Bands/Acts – Peter Cat Recording Co.

Best F&B Director – Mayank Bhatt from Social

Best Venue for Live Performance – Bluefrog

Best Dive Bar – The Ghetto and The High Spirits Cafe

Best Resto Bar – Café Zoe

Best Sports Bar – Underdoggs Sports Bar & Grill

Best Open Air Bar – AER

Best Cocktail Bar – PCO

Best Bar Food – Monkey Bar

Best Bar in Hotel – The Library Bar

Best Café Bar – Heat Cup Coffee and The Beer Cafe

Best Concept Bar – Bar Stock Exchange

Bar of the Year – Social

Best Music Event Festival – Bacardi NH7 Weekender

DJ of the Year – Nucleya

Lifetime Contribution Award – David D’souza

We can say with complete conviction that INCA 2016 was everything it set out to achieve. There is no doubt that the tradition will continue for years to come. Long live the nightlife! Cheers!