What do you call London's first-ever Tamil daytime social event featuring Gaana music, drinks, and delectable foods? If you guessed Gaana Brunch–cheers to you! Gaana Brunch transcends the typical club scene, uniting the Tamil community in London over their favourite music.
Established by London native Nanthu Sangeetha Navendren, Gaana Brunch is deeply rooted in her connection to Tamil culture. Despite the rich tapestry of Tamil heritage, Nanthu noticed a significant absence of events in London actively celebrating this cultural identity outside the realms of weddings, receptions, and family gatherings. Recognizing this void, she viewed it as a missed opportunity to unite the community through unique and inclusive events.
In 2018, the brunch scene gained popularity, with community-branded socials like reggae brunch and afrobeats brunch emerging. Nanthu envisioned, "What a cool thing it would be to have something like this for the Tamil community." From an idea, Nanthu swiftly turned it into reality. Today, Gaana Brunch is London's first daytime Tamil event management company, having operated for five years, with each event selling out at 100% capacity.
I had the opportunity to interview Nanthu, delving into the story behind Gaana Brunch and her journey in establishing this esteemed company. Read on to uncover what distinguishes Gaana Brunch from traditional club events, the challenges Nanthu faced as a woman in the entertainment industry, and the future outlook for Gaana Brunch.
Being new to the concept of a Tamil daytime social, I inquired with Nanthu to elaborate on the essence of Gaana Brunch.
Nanthu explains that the core idea was to establish a space where people, particularly those aged 21-30+, could come together for a versatile and inclusive experience. The primary objective is to curate an event that seamlessly combines food, music, and drinks, all within an inclusive environment where individuals can unwind and enjoy without judgment.
I asked Nanthu to elaborate on some distinctions between Gaana Brunch and a traditional club event.
She points out that the primary distinction is that Gaana Brunch is a daytime event. Nanthu emphasizes how the daytime setting fosters a more relaxed and casual atmosphere, intentionally sidestepping formality by encouraging attendees to dress as they please. "Our approach is quite casual, unlike most nighttime events with strict dress codes due to tight security."
Another notable feature Nanthu emphasizes is that for about 90% of the events, they offer an hour of unlimited cocktails as part of the ticket. This "bottomless brunch" concept lets guests feel at ease and casually mingle.
She explains that her company meticulously selects venues with open, vibrant, aesthetically pleasing spaces compared to traditional clubs. The chosen venues include a dance floor section and a designated area for people to unwind, drink, catch up, and listen to music. Attendees can relish music casually without the expectation to dance. The combination of a relaxed and social aspect of Gaana Brunch reduces the likelihood of peculiar behaviour, as the well-lit environment fosters a more natural and genuine atmosphere.
Nanthu highlights that their advertising strategy differentiates Gaana Brunch from other event companies. They market the event as a secret location within London. The locations are typically accessible to a London train or underground station but are disclosed only a week before the event via email. "This element of surprise adds an intriguing touch to the experience, creating anticipation among attendees."
As I inquired more about Nanthu's company, she revealed she is the sole founder with two associate managers, forming a cohesive team. Impressed by Gaana Brunch's growth and success, I asked Nanthu about her experiences as a woman in the entertainment industry—her challenges and how she overcame them.
Nanthu faces challenges regarding being taken seriously, finding that in certain situations, her assertiveness might be interpreted differently based on gender. She reflects, "For example, there have been instances where my assertiveness is misconstrued as unfriendly or difficult to work with." Finding the challenge that some men might struggle to associate female energy with authority or professionalism.
However, over time, Nanthu noticed that as she gained more experience in the industry, there was a corresponding increase in the respect given to her for remaining persistent and present in her venture. She states, "Now, compared to when I started five years ago, I feel a significant shift in how I'm perceived within the industry."
While Nanthu is now a respected entertainment industry member, she still faces challenges in receiving the same respect from male attendees. She explains, "When I am working on the door, the male Gaana Brunchers sometimes don't always respect me; they can be rude when I ask for their tickets." However, when Nanthu is managing the door with her two male managers, she notices a change in attitude from male attendees. She expresses, "I find that frustrating as I'm just doing my job. Being a woman and showing authority at the door doesn't always work in my favour, but I continue to do it because it's my job, and I want to maintain consistency."
Although the entertainment industry is male-dominated, and Nanthu finds it challenging to find female vendors, she consciously seeks, supports and collaborates with female vendors, such as female photographers. She believes in providing opportunities and breaking gender stereotypes within the community. Nanthu expresses, "I wish to see an abundance of women in the entertainment industry to collaborate with more like-minded females in this space."
I followed up with Nanthu's response to ask, "Do you believe that time is the only factor for being taken seriously, or are there proactive actions that one can take?"
Nanthu replied, "Listen to your gut! If you want to do something in a certain way, do it that way." She shared her experience working in the industry with women and men who offered her various suggestions for approaching certain situations. However, Nanthu relied on her intuition to stick with her decisions and communicate what felt right to her.
Nanthu also believes in the value of maintaining consistency. She explained how she wasn't willing to change the daytime aspect of Gaana Brunch. Even when a prominent figure in the event industry advised for a change, she held her ground and remained consistent in her vision. "Navigating collaborations and considerations is important, but staying consistent with your vision is paramount."
In her journey to establish Gaana Brunch, Nanthu found that remaining consistent, believing in herself, and listening to her gut helped her stay true to her vision. She also ensured that she surrounded herself with positive people who believed in her idea, minimizing the impact of negative criticisms. "Early on, I encountered individuals who supported the idea and encouraged me to stick with it, emphasizing that success would come with persistence and collaboration."
I asked Nanthu where she sees Gaana Brunch in the next 5 years.
Nanthu explains that she wants to branch out internationally. While they have hosted events in Germany, she aims to continue growing the Brunch concept in countries like Canada. "I envision us growing more, collaborating with more amazing people in the industry, and hopefully, having a few more creative partnerships or single events."
At previous events, Nanthu worked with artists like Stylo G, which sold out the venue with 1,000 tickets, and she wants to continue bridging connections with artists to expand the Gaana Brunch brand, creating an inclusive environment beyond the Tamil community.
I concluded the interview by asking Nanthu, "What's one advice you would give to others who want to pursue a career as an entrepreneur?"
Nanthu boiled it down to two things. First, she emphasized the importance of believing in oneself and "going for it" without self-doubt.
Go for it. And if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. There's no shame in that. There's this concept within the community where it's like, 'Oh my God, you tried, and it didn't work, right?' However, it shouldn't be looked at that way. Regardless of the results, take pride because you got the guts to do it.
The second piece of advice Nanthu pointed out is to be patient with oneself, reminding everyone that great things take time and that there's no need to rush success.
Give it time. You can't build a business within a day. It takes grind, consistency, and dealing with rejections." Nanthu highlighted how these are necessary hurdles to overcome to come out on the other side, emphasizing, "Don't give up on yourself because once you do, that's it. Remind yourself that you can do it, and hold onto the positivity from it.