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The Master of Ceremonies: The Silver Fox describes how big fat Asian weddings are evolving

Business Life 18-03-2020

Raj Somaiya is one of the country’s most reputed wedding planners. The founder of Silver Fox Events is renowned for creating some of the most luxurious and memorable events on the planet. He was followed by an army of cameras on C4’s My Big Fat Asian Wedding designing some of the country’s most lavish weddings. Raj has just launched his first restaurant GupShup, in Manchester, with his wife Sheetal. He tells Asian Wealth how the Asian Wedding industry has evolved to offer a once in a lifetime experience for guests.

When attention to detail is everything

“In this industry we’ve always been at the pioneer stage… innovative, breaking norms, and thinking out of the box. I’m a bit OCD about planning and attention to detail. There is so much detail, logistics and planning involved in events. We are a team of five, managing a handful of select, high-end weddings and events worldwide.”

Thinking big started early

Raj has been in the industry since 1986, when he began to sell balloon displays from the family’s Post Office in the mid 1980s with his mother.

“My mother was probably one of the only Asian wedding planners at that time. She established our catering division, Payal. I wanted to go back to event planning, design and architecture—what I loved the most, so I set up Silver Fox Events. We’re now doing around ten bespoke events a year, with Payal catering for 200 events a year.”

Mastering the industry

“We’re really good wedding planners—probably the best in our field. And when we come up against our competitors worldwide…with our knowledge and the way we deliver an event, we really are up there. That comes from 30 years in the business. It would be hard to touch us on an Asian wedding. We’re constantly striving to be better, or different.”

Keeping ahead

“It’s the smart entrepreneurs that will move their business with the times and come out at the other end. If you don’t get savvy with technology, you’re finished. We are now looking at using technology to help our corporate or wedding clients, from apps, payment facilities to online contracting. There are a lot of things you really need to do to keep up with the business. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you need to think about the technology environment in which we’re living right now.”

Industry trends for 2020

“In the UK, Asian weddings started in community centres, then sports halls, town halls, then more upmarket hotels. From 1996 onwards we went into stately homes. Now the buzzword is destination. Weddings abroad were just becoming a trend five years ago, whereas now we’re looking at spending the majority of our time out of the country. There will be an acceleration in destination weddings and I can’t see it going away. I believe the UK wedding economy will struggle a little bit and by 2025, the whole wedding scene will be abroad.”

What’s so hot about getting away

“There is a beautiful community spirit that happens with families and friends over three days. You’re never going to get that bond anywhere again. Numbers drop with destination events. You’re not having to look after 700 people at the Natural History Museum, but a more intimate, select group of up to 200-300.”

Make the world your oyster

“At a destination wedding, you need to work out how to take a country and provide an experience typical of that country. We’re going to Thailand soon, and we’ll be at an elephant park so we’re going to utilise the forests, serve dinner surrounded by lush greenery and animals. There are countless, beautiful things you can do so guests can experience that country – look at their culture, understand it, be educated, and also have a wedding reception around it. You don’t need to worry about putting a million pounds worth of décor into a room when you’ve got a forest around you with live elephants in their natural environment. Trends are changing from spending immense amounts of money on lighting and production. It’s more about spending on entertainment and experience now.”

Partnering pays

“As we are getting closer with our partners around the world, planning such experiences are becoming easier. We’re part of DWP, destination wedding planners, where you bounce business off each other, share profits and networks with other planners and work together to plan weddings. Times have changed and if you don’t change your business and move with the times, then you might as well shut shop.”

Bringing people together over food

“Over Christmas we opened the doors to GupShup, a rapid fine dining restaurant and bar in a former bank in Hale, Manchester. It’s fine dining without the frills…good quality food, nicely plated, a dining experience that people can enjoy that product without being wrapped up in Michelin merriment.”

The taste of authenticity

“The GupShup menu has been curated to offer the very best of Pan Indian food and will use only the finest quality ingredients. You’re going to get some traditional dishes in there that you’re going to love, but it’s also a place where people could get together and enjoy each other’s company. The plan is for this to be the first of 5-10 restaurants to be rolled out.

“We’ve been running around for 30 years doing events, catering for up to 200 events a year, so now we want to back up a little bit. To stabilise our income this will be a really nice diversification for us, and take the pressure off the constant travel.”

Interview by Nima Suchak
Photographs by Rory Gullan for Asian Wealth

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