As a school boy, Mumbai based Bonnie Fernandes wanted to be a disc jockey and never missed an opportunity to liven up his friends' parties. When he was in the ninth standard, he had his brush with destiny. "One of my relatives had a couple of events lined up and wanted someone to compere the programme and handle the music. He decided to give me a chance, and I discovered my true talent," says the now 31-year-old.
At the event, Fernandes got his brother to play the music while he hosted the show. "My relatives loved what I pulled off, but since I was hardly 14 at the time, I did not get paid for it. The show, however, boosted my confidence," he says. In the course of the next one year, Fernandes hosted several birthday and anniversary parties for close relatives and friends, albeit for free.
It was only in 1995, that he started making money off his hobby. "This happened because I started getting requests from distant acquaintances through word-of-mouth publicity," he explains, adding that, "My fee used to be Rs 400-500 per show." In the meantime, he added to his repertoire by hosting communion parties, christening parties and weddings.
"I have learnt on the job. And I often take suggestions from people involved in a similar trade as well as tips from people like cameramen, decorators and caterers who help out in the events I host," he says.
It was during his college days- he opted for Mechanical Engineering from Mumbai University in 1999—that he really scaled up his income. According to him, he raked in around Rs 4,000-5,000 per month from the shows he hosted, which took care of his college expenses.
After completing his studies, Fernandes joined his family business of creating prototypes for plastic companies using SAP. "Though I was involved with the business and had a busy schedule, I could never give up hosting shows," he admits. Today, he handles about 4-5 shows a month, working only on weekends when he can spare time from his day job.
While a big chunk of business continues to be generated through word-of mouth publicity, Fernandes has now started advertising his work on his Facebook page. "These days I charge Rs 4,500-5,000 per event. In peak seasons like during Christmas or Diwali, I end up handling around eight shows on an average per month," he says.
According to Fernandes, hosting events is no child's play. To begin with, he learnt that it's not a one-size fits-all trade. "When I started, I used to plan the whole thing, be it the games I would introduce to the crowd or the jokes I would crack. But then I realised that different audiences need to be catered to differently."
For instance, the kind of entertainment that seniors enjoy is completely different from what the youth want and what little children enjoy. He has also tapped his talent to do good. "I am involved with autism awareness. Every year, I do a show with Priyanj Special School to create awareness on World Autism Day," says Fernandes.
For wannabe event hosts, he has two tips: Never be in a hurry to wind-up the event and keep updating your material to entertain people.