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Swagatha Sundar is a singer and also runs a very successful event management company ‘TBag Entertainment’ based in Chennai. Within four years of existence, TBag has organized around 380 events. They organize events for 37 corporate houses and 7 media houses. Some of their clients include TCS, CTS, Infosys, Aricent Technologies, IBM, HP, The Hindu, Times of India etc.
As we sat down to talk to each other at a coffee shop on a balmy day in Chennai, I noticed how eager and enthusiastic Swagatha was. I sat thinking how important a trait it is in an event manager.
Swagatha please tell us about your life so far and how did TBag happen?
I am from Madurai. I am the third of four sisters. All four of us had cultural interests and we were always in the spotlight for all cultural occasions and events. Our father was keen on making us smart and sensible individuals who learnt from experiences. My dad has always been more of a friend to us. My mother is an iron lady. Music was always a part of our lives. We would make music, organize events and fashion shows for the colony. While growing up, I knew that I wanted my own business. I think this was perhaps because my father wanted to be involved in business but couldn’t. I knew I will stick to my passion, no matter what I lose.
Suvarna, my eldest sister used to learn music. I was 4 years old then. I tagged along with my dad to pick her up from music class one day and her teacher asked me to recite a song. After hearing me sing, the teacher requested my father to start sending me to class as well. Music has been an inseparable part of my life since then. I have performed at various concerts/kacheris since then. I also sing songs for tamil films. Music is for my soul and not to make a living. I find tremendous joy in singing.
What is your educational background?
I took up engineering after Grade 12 and joined Amrita College of Engineering, Bangalore. I did learn a technical analytical approach through engineering which helped me in TBag where we have designed and built a system for managing events. But when I look back, I wish I went to music college instead.
Even during my engineering days I organized a lot of events. In 2007, my sisters and I organized an event ‘Thamizha Thamizha’ for mentally challenged children in which we also performed. There were close to 800 people in the auditorium and we managed to collect a sum of 1.5 lacs. There were several other events which I organized for free. In 2008, I participated in TV shows such as SPB’s Vaanam Paadi, Kalaignar TV. In Vaanam Paadi, I qualified in the Top 6 singers. These shows gave me an opportunity to meet various media artists.
Suvarna is the reason why I ventured into the events space. I owe it to her. In late 2009, TBag became official. In 2010, I graduated from engineering. Since then, I’ve been living in Chennai and organizing all events that come our way.
How did you foray into Event Management?
I am very proud of having HDFC on-board as one of our clients. It all happened through word of mouth. We didn’t even have a social networking page till 2011. We have a huge supplier network for every category. I still work with the suppliers with whom I worked with for my first event. They like working with TBag, because we believe in clarity and commitment. Even with clients, it’s the same policy – no false promises. We deliver to what we have committed to. Every client is important. I am very proud of what we’ve achieved with T-Bag. Even clients who declined our offer initially have come back to us. My team has Karthick, Senthil Kumar, Ibrahim Basha and me. I have some brilliant coordinators – Mahesh has been with us for the longest time and I owe him a special mention. My other dear ones are Aparna, Vignesh Ganesalingam, Dilip who are by my side and help in wonderful production of every event. We are a very close knit team.
There is stiff competition in the field of event management. I attribute my success to hard work. Time management is crucial too.
We organize 20 events on average monthly. The months of October, November and December are very busy. Not much of activity in the month of April.
A special mention about my school, TVS Matriculation higher secondary school, Madurai which has been fundamental in my growth as a singer and an event manager. The school provided me stages to perform, supported me completely and felt proud of me. My school has been an enormous motivator in my career.
What do you love about what you do? How did you end up in an offbeat and unusual career such as this?
The feeling of creation. I build with my imagination. For instance, we did an event for a real estate client for whom we organized a house-building competition for kids. It was a huge hit.
What are the aspects you don’t like about what you do? Or challenges
Lots of challenges. One of them- there are many clients who take more than 6-9 months after the event to release payments. Managing cranky people in the system is a challenge as well.
What are the skills important for the work you do?
You have to be enterprising. You have to work hard. Work with passion.
Technical training is very important. I worked with 100 events as apprentice before I started managing entire events through T-bag. Experience is the best teacher.
Please tell us about some memorable moments
We have had very very memorable experiences throughout our career span where we had acute challenges of managing 3 large scale events in a single day for 3 corporate companies. We completed the projects with a 4 star rating from all our clients and a huge appreciation by the CEO of the company that made our day.
We have won confidence of clients overseas who have believed in us during each of the events we have handled for them. We have seen tears of joy and experienced hugs of satisfaction from our clients whose weddings we have planned.
We have had under privileged kids run to us and shower us with kisses and love when we raised funds for their welfare by organizing charity shows. We organize charity, sports and cultural events for unprivileged kids and shower them with gifts and we donated food packets for homeless people in Chennai on a regular basis. Since we are young and full of energy, differences or any kind of negativity has never crept in.
We have been constantly supported and loved for what we do. This has been a very significant motivational factor.
What are your dreams for the future?
I want to be the most preferred event manager in India owing to our perfection and affordability.
Who or what are your inspirations?
My parents. My family. My mentors. My pets.
What career advice would you like to give?
Event management does not mean easy money. There is a stereotyped thought that event management is not for women. I would say event management is a very good career option for women because it comes naturally to them. Just keep yourself safe.
Choose a career that you like and that will also help you survive in this world. Take time to think. There is no limit to ideas and possibilities.