Home-grown world entertainer developing the local industry

Aug 24 2016 07:46
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg – Entertainer and global entrepreneur Yarisha Rajcomar-Panday was first exposed to the entertainment industry at the age of 15. She now uses her skills and background in her role as founder and president of Imagination Unlimited Group (IUG), a creative company.

Rajcomar-Panday has been involved in the arts for more than a decade and has developed business platforms and opportunities for fashion and the entertainment industry. Her list of accomplishments includes producing a reality TV show for Sony Television for over three years.

She also founded and produced South Africa Bridal Fashion Week and other fashion showcases, as well as career and wedding expos. She has also produced full-length theatre productions and international live shows and concerts featuring global artists. She plans to launch Africa Bridal Fashion Week.

As a result of her passion for empowering women, Rajcomar-Panday is developing an online portal on her website, #WorkingWomenWorldwide. The platform will offer women career and business advice and networking opportunities. She draws inspiration from the likes of Coco Chanel, Oprah Winfrey and Helen Keller.

Fin 24 caught up with Rajcomar-Panday in between her travels to find out what drives her to transform the entertainment landscape.

Why did you decide to combine your entertainment background with business?

I started in the entertainment industry as an actress and dancer; my career took off really well with me acting in movies, performing on international stages and working on radio dramas on SABC radio. While I thrived in performing, my business mind clicked very early on.

I noticed the lack of professional platforms for talent and the difficulty faced by artists in South Africa when trying to earn a living as a performer. I decided to open my own company that allowed me to produce international television shows, theatre productions and live concerts and provide opportunities for local artists to develop their talent. They could earn from their performances and work with international artists in concerts I produced in the country. 

Your company has various arms including fashion, marketing and entertainment. Was that the vision you had for it initially?

We were originally just Imagination Unlimited and focused only on entertainment. However, with each project that I worked on, the marketing side of me blossomed. I believe that marketing is essential in every project that I work on. Having the professional experience and education in marketing allowed me to offer a new dimension to our company.

This is when we developed our brand into a group, with the introduction of our own international events, projects and brands such as fashion weeks and fashion related productions, which included showcasing international and local designers and brands on a global spectrum. 

Working with entertainment projects led to marketing opportunities which led to our fashion arm; it all developed rather progressively and overlapped in many instances. I have been able to use entertainment-driven projects as marketing opportunities for the fashion and branding industry, allowing for unique platforms to be created.

In your journey, what would you consider to be your key achievements or milestones?

I started my journey at the young age of 15; this allowed me to earn many accolades as the "world's youngest" with regards to being a fashion week founder and director as well as an international television reality show producer.

I have also become the pioneer in developing and introducing "first of its kind" multi-cultural projects, I have conceptualised and created the first of its kind wedding related exhibitions and events that saw the merging of different race groups and cultures all in one event, which had never been done before.

Rajcomar-Panday at one of the concerts she produced. (Picture supplied).

What were some of your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

While being young allowed me to earn much credit, it was also very intimidating as many times I was the youngest in the room proposing concepts and projects to large corporates and senior executives. This allowed me to build a strong level of business etiquette and confidence from a very young age.

The other major challenge was funding - it was much harder to lock down partners and sponsors for projects that were entertainment based in South Africa as most funding went to sports-related projects. Many projects early on in my business were self-funded by profits of previous financially successful projects. I was strongly averse to taking loans and am proud to have run my company debt-free.

Instead, I spent time working on unique proposals that allowed me to attain international and national partners and sponsors, like leading hospitality companies, financial corporations, media organisations and large corporates.

What message would you share to encourage a younger generation of businesswomen?

Failure is a stepping stone to success; only those who fall can truly learn to rise. Never fear the workload or the intensity of a project - rather learn to strategizse and compartmentalise your tasks.

In business there will be moments when you will certainly feel overwhelmed and even want to throw in the towel, but there is no better and more rewarding feeling than when you push yourself beyond your own expectations.

One should always strive to be a student in their industry, never doubt the power of educating yourself, and never feel that your learning has ended. Try to get a mentor and keep thinking of improving yourself. That is the best investment for your business.

How has endorsing the Raymond Weil brand impacted your career and influence as an entrepreneur?

Endorsing an elite global brand such as Raymond Weil has allowed me to receive international recognition, which expanded the extent of my sphere of influence in the business fraternity and added value to my personal brand. 

As an entrepreneur, it has allowed me to value the power of a brand and the positive brand association that comes with it. I do not want to promote any product to the world if I do not use or believe or appreciate the brand.

The local film industry is tough; what do you think set you apart to make a success? 

My ability to ascertain the lack of funding and longevity in concreting an ongoing career in the local industry certainly allowed me to benefit in the long term.

While opportunities were offered to me to enter the entertainment industry in India as an actress, I made a tough decision not to go chasing fame and fortune. I took the road less travelled and built a business for myself in the entertainment industry instead.

This decision is the main reason why I am still able to enjoy working profitably in the arts field. While colleagues were preparing to go on auditions, I was building business ideas and proposals to produce my own productions and work with international artists to extend my business reach.

My success is also attributed to my wide network of international artists, whom I have been able to showcase in productions across South Africa. I was able to be a producer of works that brought with it great international and national recognition that built my name in the global industry.

How can artists contribute to develop the local entertainment industry, as opposed to looking for opportunities abroad? 

I think that it is an exciting time now for local artists in South Africa as the promotion of local talent seems to be activated. While most artists look at moving overseas to pursue a career in the arts, it is not as simple as perceived.

Rather, I believe that artists should focus on honing their talent, getting as much industry experience as possible and promoting themselves vigorously to market their body of work. There are many developments locally that have opened doors for artists in the country, and I strongly believe that artists should only continue in this field if they take it as a serious career choice.

They need to dedicate time and effort towards building the local industry by collaborating with each other and working together to create pieces of work that can meet international standards, so that the local industry can be acknowledged on a global stage.

What are some of your goals for the future?

I have acquired several key clients from across the globe including the US, Europe and Asia. This has allowed for my business to enjoy an extended reach, and has resulted in the need for global expansion to have a local presence in countries overseas.

In the next year, I aim to have a physical head office in the US and a presence in India and Europe thereafter. Not only will I be able to continue to service clients from abroad, but I will also be able to create more job opportunities and collaborations between countries.

What led you to create a website? What do you hope to achieve through it? 

I decided to launch my own personal website as a creative outlet to provide a behind-the-scenes perspective to my life, business and to also include lifestyle-driven content. 

I have now reached a stage in my professional career where I want to give back and empower other women, especially since no such opportunity was made available to me. This is the reason why I have decided to include the #WorkingWomenWorldwide initiative to the website, as a dedicated platform to reach out and educate, inspire and motivate women from around the world to reach their goals.

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design  |  business  |  fashion  |  art  |  women  |  entertainment



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