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Dynamic Duo

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rhea Dhanbhoora talks to school friends Pia Shivdasani & Atmika Didwani to find how they took their mutual love of entrepreneurship and created Ave 29, a versatile events space located at Hughes Road

Going into business with a friend is risky, but for 24-year-old Pia Shivdasani and 25-year-old Atmika Didwani it has been smooth sailing. With a degree in business management and marketing, Pia and Atmika, who has a degree in psychology and cinema television, love working together so much that they recently opened Ave 29, a space that can be customised for different events.

Tell us how Ave 29 was born.
Pia: I have always wanted to start something on my own. I love the adrenaline rush of putting together challenging events and take charge of the marketing and PR for Ave 29.

Atmika: Coming from a family of self-made entrepreneurs, I always dreamed of starting my own business, even though I worked for three years in film and media. Establishing Ave 29 enabled me to pursue my professional dream without compromising on creativity. I handle client servicing and creative aspects.

With the space you have, you could have opened a restaurant or a shop… why Ave 29 in particular?
Pia: We wanted a versatile events space, which Mumbai lacks. We wanted a place that was different from banquet halls and hotels. We wanted an open, luxurious space that is multi-purpose and could be customised.

Atmika: We didn’t want to limit ourselves to a year-round restaurant, when we could chose to convert it into a pop up restaurant with a different chef every day of the week.

Did you’ll design Ave 29 yourselves?
Pia & Atmika: We gave a lot of reference images for the look and feel that we wanted for our minimalistic space and worked closely with our interior designer to attain that. We were here almost every day while it was being renovated to ensure that it would turn out the way it is now.


You can design, decorate and tailor it to suit individual preferences — do you charge individually for those services?
Pia & Atmika: We have an events team that helps ideate, plan and execute the layout and we also have several freelance tie-ups with graphic designers, florists, printers, PR experts and production companies, who we consign to projects when it’s required by the client. When a client needs special production or décor, we outsource it to one of our tie-ups and they charge the client accordingly. A huge advantage is that we don't charge an event management fee but offer all the event planning services. We also help them market their events through our social media, email database and flyers.

Do you’ll ever have to compromise on ideas?
Pia: Atmika and I have a great relationship and 95% of the time we're in sync. It’s our first venture so we get scared and enjoy the perks together. Atmika is creative so she takes the lead on that and my strengths are related to marketing and planning. Mostly, we are on the same page but of course here and there, one of us will compromise.

Atmika: Pia and I are very different personalities with a common drive for entrepreneurship and growth. Pia lets me take all the calls in my department and I grant her the same freedom. We trust each other’s judgment and devotion to the brand.

Did you’ll face challenges along the way?
Pia: Anyone who says they haven't faced any challenges with a new venture would be lying! Putting together financial feasibility is a challenge and it took us a while to confer if we should go ahead with our plan. Since we are not just a venue but also event planners, we have to ensure that we are maintaining quality, coming up with new event ideas and keeping our clients happy.

Atmika: Of course there were challenges! We’re also struggling to prove our excellence, as people are skeptical to give new businesses a chance. However, it is all part of the process of establishing a brand name, which takes time to do.

What sort of events have you had so far?
Pia & Atmika: We’ve had hula hoop workshops, pop up shops, bartending classes, NGO workshops, creative writing workshops, freelance journalism and exhibitions such as Carnivale, Fashion Vault, Maison and Judith Leiber. We hosted an event for the French Tourism Board and our launch week had stand up comedians such as Tanmay Bhat, Varun Thakur and Aditi Mittal.

As businesswomen, do you think it’s now a level playing field between genders?
Pia & Atmika: Luckily, society has moved forward and I think we actually have an advantage of being businesswomen who have started our own venture. People respect us for it and especially in events, women have strengths such as creativity and expertise in marketing (understanding mindsets), so I think that has helped.

Any tips for young women entrepreneurs?
Pia & Atmika: It’s important to ensure there’s equality in a work place. We didn’t think we were ready to take on such a responsibility, but you meet someone who’s on the same page as you and you end up where we are now. It’s hard work and a lot of pressure, but at the end of the day it’s worth it. We love our job, it’s important to love what you do.

Visit them
For workshops and seminars,
Ave 29 has subsidised rates as they want to encourage creativity and activities for people in the city. They charge `2,000 for half the space and `3,500 for the entire space. When it is an all-day rental for an exhibition, prices range from `20,000 - `60,000, depending on requirements. For an entire week, they work out something between `1 - 1.5 lakh. They’ve also recently opened Ave 29 at The Savoy in Santacruz (W).
Where 4, Kohinoor Mansion, 29 Hughes Road
Contact 23804981/ 23804536/ 2380462

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