Garo Varjabedian (Egyptian/Armenian) is the founder of the illustrious events management and production holding company, Events Plus Egypt, founder of the renowned New Year party brand ‘Soirée’, co-founder of the authentic Italian restaurant ‘Pepenero’, and the exquisitely themed 1920’s restaurant and bar ‘Nineteen Twenty Five’. Varjabedian studied Electrical Engineering and photography. He is also a board member of the Egyptian Basketball Federation (Cairo sector), the Armenian Sports Club and the Armenian Community in Cairo Executive Board of Directors.
You’re the mastermind behind one of the most inventive and original event planning companies, how did your amazing career begin?
Actually, my career started in a different direction. The family business (Studio Garo since 1946), which I am third generation in, is photography, so I studied photography in parallel to Electrical Engineering. After graduation, I started working as a professional photographer specialized in portraits, commercial photography, resorts photography, etc. I wanted to expand so I established a video shooting company. Later on, one of my client, Mousa Abo Taleb, and a friend, Mohamed Abo Elezz, came up with a very nice idea, to partner up together and publish a sports magazine. My role was to cover all the photography part of the magazine, while they took care of the sponsorship & content part.. Surprisingly, in a year and a half, the magazine called ‘El-Estad’, boomed and we started to get offers to cover and organize sports events. This led to us to eventually get into the business of planning corporate events.
Tell us more about how Event Plus kicked off.
In 2005, we came across our first challenge, the opportunity to organize an event with the German rock band, the Scorpions which was a great successful concert. Financially, the event was a huge loss for us, to the point that we were contemplating closing down the company, but we stood our ground and learnt from the hard lesson. Following that, we started organizing some corporate events for big telecommunication companies. From 2006 to 2009, we started our own production and branding company. We partnered up with the musician/artist Ousso, and started SOS Music Festival. West El-Balad, Cairokee, Massar Egbari, and all the underground bands that became big hits and are doing great now were first hosted and introduced to the crowd through SOS platform. Succeeding that we started doing our own gigs, like Julio Iglesias at the pyramids, Tiesto, and many other international acts.
The 25th of January Revolution was a very hard period for us because everything was on hold; similar companies in the field decided to quit and moved to Dubai. So we had a choice, either to do the same especially that we had a lot of connections in Dubai, or just to wait and have faith in the country that everything would settle again. We chose the second option, and thank God it paid off. In 2012, We structured the company that’s when Ahmed Khattab, the GM joined me. We became quite busy with corporate event and international gigs like Armin Van Buuren, Kelly Rowland & Future Sound of Egypt with Ali & Fila ( at the Great Pyramids of Giza & Karnak Temple ).we also hosted Football celebrities such as ;Ryan Giggs, Carles Puyol & Patrick Kluivert & UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour. We also have our own Ramadan Tents which we partner up with our sister company.
How have you built such an excellent career in the event industry?
The most important thing is reputation. In order to maintain a good reputation, first off respect your employees. I tend to think of them as the kitchen behind cooking any successful event. You have to show them respect and create a bond between you all. Here in our company, no one works for someone. We all work together, and the company reaps the benefit of this spirit. Secondly, you have to choose the best suppliers. Don’t be greedy and pick average suppliers in order to save money, always get the best. It will reflect the quality of the event. Also, the chemistry between the company and the suppliers plays a major role in our success specially with our clients. I make it a rule that all the suppliers get paid on time, and if it happens that I get paid from the client earlier than planned, we call them on and ask them to come and collect their money earlier than the payment due date. This builds a bridge of trust between us and these people. So when I have a packed week, like having four or five events at the same week, and there is a cash flow problem, the suppliers always say yes when I ask them if I can postpone the payment, because of the trust between us. This is how you build a good reputation.
What are the event industry’s biggest problems today?
I wish to see more specialized departments in the government; an entity that understands our business, who would be fair and square about the approvals and disapprovals of events, instead of haphazardly rejecting events. Luckily this has never happened with us ,as we are on the ‘green list’ ,but a lot of agencies in the business suffer from this issue. Their events can get turned down because of problems that happened in similar events. When it comes to taxation, there are big improvements lately. Few years back there was a lot of corruption, but now actually they are doing better, I can’t really complain. They equally need to have some fixed and clear guidelines in the Musicians Syndicate. For example if today I hired a DJ/artist for an event and I paid ten thousand pounds, the next month I might pay twenty thousand pounds to hire the same DJ/artist We are in the desperate need of guidelines.
The theme of our issue this month is ‘The Road to Success’. You already mentioned what the keys to success in the event planning field, but what are the keys to success in life in general?
My Motto is ‘Respect to be Respected ‘
Again it is all about reputation; your relationship with your family, with your friends, with your neighbours, with your coworkers. I don’t work hard in order to have a good reputation, but I work hard to avoid making any mistakes that could ruin it. You have to work on yourself, always find what you’re missing and improve it. For instance I was one of the candidates in the Armenian Sports club’s election for the new board; I got almost 95% of the vote. Of course I was very happy and grateful for the people who voted for me, but I couldn’t help but wonder why the remaining 5% didn’t! I wanted to know why they think I wasn’t fit for the position, in order for me to work on myself and earn these people’s votes in the next election. Furthermore, respect people. That’s what I try to teach my kids, to always respect their friends. They are still too young to understand that, but I’m planting the seed inside them. These are my keys to success.