By Sue Baldani
When Manish Sood of Haymarket arrived in the United States from India in 1997, he set about attaining the American Dream. He wanted to be successful in business and also be a part of his new community.
After running his own travel agency, he realized with the advent of the Internet and the ability to book trips online, he’d better start developing a new business plan.
“I knew I had to find something else,” said Manish. “I’m a people person, plus I like strategy.”
One of these strategies involved giving out his travel business cards to artists’ managers when he attended Bollywood shows. Bollywood, for the uninitiated, is the Indian Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The term is a blend of the words “Bombay” and “Hollywood.” One day, in 2011, Manish got a call from a touring manager with Shri Balaji Entertainment, who was handling Shankar Mahadevan, a singer from Bollywood. He said he couldn’t get in touch with the person managing the show in Washington D.C. and had a large group of people flying out that day.
The touring manager was in a panic because he didn’t have a hotel booked or transportation arranged. When he found Manish’s business card and saw that he lived in Virginia, he asked him for help. However, the catch was that everything had to be arranged within two hours!
Manish took the challenge and within that short time arranged a bus and hotel and even went to the airport to meet Mahadevan and his band and crew.
“It was all done so seamlessly that he [Mahadevan] never realized there was a problem,” said Manish. “The touring manager was so impressed that he told me he wanted to do more shows with me. When I talked to my wife Deepa about it, she said ‘Manish, you don’t know anything about this business!’
“I agreed, but I could learn. If you never jump into the swimming pool, you’ll never learn how to swim.”
Although Deepa was worried about the risk, she saw the passion that Manish had for Bollywood and told him if he wanted to do it, she was with him.
One of the things Manish had to do was promote shows, and at the time, he said, there were no Indian marketing companies around. “With the American companies, the minimum starting budget was too high for me. Plus, they didn’t have an approach for the Indian market. That gave me the idea to start my own marketing company and promote the next show myself.” This was the beginning of Intense Entertainment LLC.
He developed a strategy to amass a list of people and contacts by giving out free gifts and then sending emails about upcoming events. “My first show was July 24, 2011, in Constitution Hall, and it was completely sold out,” he said.
Not only did he develop better marketing skills, but he also focused on producing more elaborate and sophisticated events. “What was common among other promoters was substandard production,” said Manish. “They were cost cutting, but I wanted to give the audience value for their money and a wow factor.”
His events continue to sell out, and now his shows are not just Indian attended events. His audiences are made up of people of all ages and from all cultures.
Intense also holds an amazing Indian Independence Day event at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville each year. Celebrated annually in India on August 15, it’s a national holiday commemorating the nation’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1947. In 2018, the first year Manish did it, he booked one of the biggest Indian singers, Mika Singh, erected a huge light pole with a flag on the top, and brought in helicopters to drop flower petals on the crowd.
In 2014, he started his IntenseDMV (Dynamic Musical Vision) Radio app, and in 2020, he expanded into IntenseDMV 102.9 FM. “It’s the only South Asian radio station broadcasting 24/7 worldwide,” said Manish. It has a mix of classic tunes, new songs, news, celebrity interviews, talk shows and more. The radio station also plays a big part in promoting live events and local and regional businesses.
Manish did not stop there. He also developed Intense Café, a virtual coffee shop where he literally gives out free coffee. “The first thing people do in the morning is have a cup of coffee, so they pull out my coffee bag and see my brand,” he said. “And then they may get in their car and tune into Intense DMV radio. When they get to work, they may see an email from Intense showing upcoming events. They cannot ignore me!” he said laughing.
When COVID came on the scene, he was worried about his entertainment business, so he created another endeavor, Intense Realty Team. “Deepa and I went for our real estate licenses as a backup. It’s been a very successful venture.”
Today, Intense Entertainment LLC is one of the top event planning companies in Washington D.C. representing the best in South Asian entertainment and Bollywood in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Even with all this success, Manish wants to do more. “Growing these businesses gives me a sense of satisfaction, but I still feel that there is a long way to go. I really want this to happen in other cities and states. I would also like more and more American participation and when I see 50-50 participation, that’s when I will be happy.”
Manish and his wife have truly obtained their American Dream. And it was their partnership that made it all a reality.
“There are a lot of people out there like me who may want to do this, but they have to have the vision, and the guts, and a wife like mine who stands behind me,” he said. “People want it to be easy, but there’s no easy way. You have to work hard.”
To find out more about Intense Entertainment LLC, go to https://intensedmv.com/.