Azzah Waseem graduated with an Honor’s degree in Computer Science from FAST Islamabad and earned a Diploma in technical writing. She has obtained 4 years of experience in processes and quality excellence management working for renowned global companies like, Nokia, Siemens Networks, PT Siemens Indonesia and Digital Processing Systems.
After working for various established firms, Azzah finally decided to do something on her own. She started her own event management firm based in Singapore by the name of ‘Momentz’ in 2013. “Living in Singapore for many years, I felt a lot of people didn’t know much about our country and visibility of Pakistan on any forum was next to none. Through our events, we aim to promote a positive image of Pakistan in Singapore by bringing forth its presence, culture and artistic heritage... We call this initiative ‘Unveiling Pakistan’,” says Azzah. After the success of her very first event, there was no looking back for this talented woman. This week You! picks Azzah Waseem’s brain for some useful insights regarding the event management business...
You! What skills are most important for an event manager?
Azzah Waseem: It is a client-facing, fast-paced, multi-skilled role with a busy workload, so it’s important to stay positive and calm. They also need to stay motivated and energised in order to remain focused on tasks and meet deadlines. Also, I believe that one should be a risk-taker as there is always a chance of failure in projects. Consistency in effort and hard work should also be adopted for this kind of a job.
You! What kind of events does your company organise?
AW: The events range from formal corporate conferences and seminars to concerts and festivals. We have promoted famous and budding artists in Singapore, and have also built an extensive network in the media, sports and corporate sector of Pakistan over the years. Moreover, we specialise in areas of concept design, corporate events, event marketing and consultation. Recently, we did a fashion show with Ali Xeeshan, literary theatre called ‘Likhae jo khat tujhae’ a Lahori food festival for Singapore, a Shafqat Amanat Ali concert and a charity gala dinner for Shahid Afridi Foundation.
You! What are your priorities for choosing a venue?
AW: We choose a venue based on how it can add value to an event. We also look for options within a reasonable distance from most attendees’ homes or places of work, considering traffic, transportation, and parking options; and the event’s budget plays a significant role too.
You! How do you choose partners (e.g. caterers) for an event?
AW: When partnering for the first time, we screen out potential candidates based on their reputation in the market and the experience we require. It’s crucial to have partners who share same objectives with you. We also choose on the basis of who need help to reach out in a niche market. The best partnerships are definitely the ones in which all parties can benefit and mutual benefit each other without compromising on quality.
You! How do you use social media for your event planning or for attracting customers?
AW: Social media is an important tool to attract potential customers, partners and creates more visibility for us to create an impact and get a targeted audience to know more about the event.
You! Describe a time when you went over budget?
AW: The first few years of any business are challenging from cash outflow and budgeting perspective. It was an Ali Zafar’s concert in Singapore. I had less experience and not that much exposure so we did go overboard with spending, some bad calls were made and the setup was different. It was chaotic but I learnt from those mistakes and that’s what you do keep learning and not everything is perfect, I learnt from those mistakes.
You! How would you manage stress as the date of an event draws near?
AW: Stress comes naturally to me as any event draws near. My strategy is to move away from my workstation for a while, shut my phone off so I come back rejuvenated and more focused. Cooking and spending quality time with people over food also helps.
You! How would you react to technical problems during an event?
AW: No matter how much you organise an event, technical problems are most likely to occur. Being proactive and vigilant is the key to overcoming any technical problem. I remember at one event, our food truck broke down and we were unable to serve food on time to our attendees. Thankfully, my team and I managed to handle it shortly.
You! Describe your most successful event planning experience?
AW: ‘Fun and Funkaar’ has been a huge success for me. It is a 10-day festival that was ranked as one of the top events in Singapore this year. It beautifully showcases Pakistani art, food, fashion and music and was a huge hit for everyone who attended. It brought people from different cultures and races under one roof. Shafqat Amanat Ali’s magical performance was the cherry on top. I was endorsed by the High Commission of Pakistan for my efforts to promote Pakistan and the Senior Minister of Singapore acknowledged the event in a speech at the Pakistan day event.
You! Describe an event management experience that didn’t have the results you aimed for.
AW: Yes, 2-3 years back we partnered with a production house for a play. They claimed that it was produced by a very well known Indian director and producer while it was merely endorsed by him. We marketed the entire play on that lie. The play was flimsy too. What I learned from such an experience is to always test and research your partners before working with them.
You! Does your organisation give equal opportunities to men and women?
AW: We believe in giving equal opportunities to men and women but at the same time, I feel that Pakistani women in Singapore due to stringent Singaporean labour laws are not eligible to work or due to some reason are not able to find work. Hence, we try to get onboard those females who are willing to work and have the relevant experience. Our company only gives opportunities to well educated and professional girls, who are unable to work and get jobs in a tough market like Singapore.
You! Do you think the general mindset of our society is changing with reference to females in this field?
AW: Yes, it is. Progressive people exist and encourage women in every field. Yet, there are still many who think women are not strong to lead in this kind of work. That stereotypical behaviour needs to change!
You! What are the challenges, being faced by Pakistani women today?
AW: I believe that women can do so much more then what they are doing in present times. I feel many Pakistani women are still very dependent on their male counterparts. They feel a need to be submissive towards men, as they have been taught to do. They need to break away from that in order to build themselves individually, and follow their dreams. I think more awareness workshops and programmes on women empowerment should be held to address this challenge.
You! What does a typical day look like for you?
AW: Morning is for work, evening is for family and I reserve my nights for myself watching movies or hanging out with friends.
You! How do you unwind?
AW: I love to cook different cuisines. Besides this, I love trying all restaurants.
You! Do you think a professional can be a good wife and mother?
AW: Of course, they can be. You can juggle both, but very cleverly. Once you gain support from your family, spouse and in-laws, you can easily do it.
You! What advice would you give to other women struggling to follow their own ambitions?
AW: Be confident. Believe in yourself and learn to challenge yourself as to bring out new skills or polish your old ones.
You! Have you ever had to plan more than one event simultaneously?
AW: Yes, the Fun and Funkaar festival, which had multiple events happening at the same time. I believed I could deliver a big project like this with the support of my hardworking team and partners with no compromise on quality or customer satisfaction. Due to its wide range of activities, this drained us but the fact that it created so many memories for others kept us going.