Bilal Mukhtar is the elusive entity whose name is attached to events ranging from lawn launches to movie premieres. Having had moved to Lahore from Faisalabad to study for his undergraduate degree, he made Lahore his own. Bilal, who started in the fashion industry as a director for Fashion TV, took a leap of faith and founded his own event management and public relations company. Bilal is the go-to person for event management; be it a multi-brand fashion store, the newest lawn contender in town or restaurant openings-his events are attended by the likes of A-listers; socialites, celebrities and bloggers. We have all heard of Bilal Mukhtar Events and PR and now it is time to get up close and personal with the man behind the company.
You stayed on in Lahore after you finished your undergraduate degree. What made you choose Lahore as a place to settle?
Lahore is a very happening city. Something or the other is always happening here. There always something to look forward to and for the career path I chose, it was the ideal place to start.
How did you decide to pursue a career in event management?
After finishing my degree I joined Fashion TV Pakistan, as a director. One day my friend Khalid Sulman asked me if I would launch his culinary brand, which I agreed to. Due to my extensive experience in PR and media management, the launch was a success. Since then there has been no looking back.
What was the biggest hurdle in pursuing this career? How did you overcome it?
I was very lucky in this regard and can say there were no hurdles for me. I was already on very good terms with everyone in the industry due to my time at Fashion TV, which I believed helped a lot when I started out.
Was there always a market for event management or have you had to struggle in creating the market?
There wasn’t a market for event management. When I started out, people like Aamir Mazhar , Qasimyar Tiwana and Jalal Salahuddin were part of the handful who were in this field. The demand for event managers has definitely gone up in the recent past- almost all weddings and every event is now planned by a professional event manager, which I believe says a lot for all our progress.
You have been in the event management business for about seven years now. How has the industry change since you started?
When I started my company, the concept of event management was there but perhaps was not considered as a career path. Since, the field has really taken to an upward trend, where people hire professionals to take care of all facets of their events. Event managers are now taken more seriously.
How do you select the clients that you want to represent? Is there something you particularly look for or avoid in clients?
When you start a new venture, you want to get work from everyone and anyone so that you are able to show what you can do for a client. Initially I wasn’t picky at all but now I tend to make sure I feel entirely comfortable with the client. It’s important to see that the client and you are on the same page. This is essential because if the client is unhappy or constantly nags you then there is a high probability they will try to find some excuse out of their commitment to pay you after the event. I also tend to make sure that the clients I am taking haven’t had a falling out with other event managers.
Describe your ideal client.
An ideal client is one who would trust me enough to plan, execute and manage the entire event. Such events have turned out to be some of our best events! I do understand some clients have their own ideas they bring to the table, which is also great. But generally a client who gives me a free hand to plan the event is ideal.
What is the one most common problem you face when planning out an event?
Vendors can be very difficult to work with. They are quick to take on the jobs but to have them follow your instructions is a whole other ball game. Getting work out of them on time is perhaps the most common and difficult problem I face.
What is your average work day like?
My average day starts at 11:00 am and never before that. The day is spent getting work done at the office. My meetings are scheduled for evenings and my nights are spent socializing and that too is part of my work day since PR requires socializing and networking.
What event did you enjoy planning the most?
I thoroughly enjoyed organizing two major events this season: the HSY Lawn Launch for Ittehad Textiles Lawn and the Cross Stitch Lawn Launch. It was essential that these important clients were catered to properly. The events for both required attention to all details, major and minor and the result was spectacular!
My personal favourite event that I have planned so far has been the premiere for ‘Breaking Dawn Part 2’. For this event, we recreated the wedding scene from the first part inside the cinema. It seemed like it was right out of the book and was truly magical.
Is there someone in this event management business that you aspire to be like?
No one in particular. This business is extremely versatile. There are some truly brilliant event managers out there but at the end of the day we all carve out our own niche and thus end up setting our own terms.
How stressful is the lawn season in terms of event management? How much do you think the launch itself effects the sales?
Lawn season is perhaps one of the most stressful times of the year. Since these launches are scheduled on strict timeline, that is one after the other usually, you have to think on your feet and come up with new ideas every day. It is important not to revamp or reuse an idea. With the current lawn craze, ever idea has to be unique. A launch isn’t just introducing the product to the market; you have to create the hype, which is the driving point for all designer lawn launches. Creating the hype is half the marketing. The trend towards aggressive lawn marketing means millions are spent on advertising in print and broadcast media, so why not spend some on the launch as well.
Getting work done from a variety of people, as stands true with event management, is surely a stressful job- What’s your mantra for maintaining your composure?
To be honest there is no one answer to this question. When there is a workforce involved in organizing an event, there is always some room for error- its how you deal with that error and go on with the show that counts. After gaining a fair amount of experience you tend to learn to just breathe and take a decision there and then.
What is an achievement you are most proud of?
In this society for someone to come as far as I have, you need to be very well connected. I’m proud and humbled that I was able to do this all on my own.
Where do you see your event management company in ten years time?
We have already started BM Signature Weddings, BM for Kids and BM Postal PR. From this point on, the sky is the limit.
What advice do you have for people wanting to pursue a career in event management?
Initially, you do not get paid in this line of work until of course you have a portfolio. People don’t appreciate how much work and time goes into managing a single event and that is perhaps a reason people starting out don’t get paid. Get involved on a voluntary basis in projects, so that you are able to demonstrate your skills. In this career, it is your experience that counts and becomes a selling point for you.