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Articles September - October 2023

Capturing The True Essence Of Sound New!

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Articles September - October 2023

Photo Feature: Studio Showcase New!

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Mastering The Art Of Sound With Donal Whelan New!

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Mumbai Studio Explores New Verticals With Genelec Monitors New!

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IRAA Awards 2023: Jury Reflections New!

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Gray Spark Audio Opens New Studio For Academy Students New!

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Articles September - October 2023

Firdaus Studio: Building A Sonic Paradise For Recording Artists New!

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Articles September - October 2023

Naveen Deshpande Elevates Stand-Up Comedy with Bespoke Lighting Designs New!

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The Sharp End

China manufactured lighting gear is becoming a staple on Indian live stages. But what are the repercussions (or not)! Seasoned lighting designer Atul Sonpal discusses the consequences of being at the sharp end of the business.

In recent years, the Indian lighting industry has seen a tremendous growth. A decade ago, we had to rely on international lighting designers for many shows because India had only a handful of designers (including me). We would design lighting for International artistes in India, as well as Indian artistes touring abroad. I have gone to Australia for AR Rahman shows and have done lot of shows all around the world, which are very much in tandem with international standards.

In terms of inventory, all the equipment had to be sourced from Mumbai at one point in time. But, today almost every tier 1 city has its own cluster of lighting distributors and engineers, who are capable, well equipped and trained enough to deliver whatever is needed for the show. Even in non-metro cities like Indore, Nagpur and Pune, the growth of the industry is very much visible.

There was a time when laser lights were not easily available in the market, but today, the Indian market has an array of choices. Technology too is evolving rapidly with regular updates on products.


Although the lighting industry is on the upward curve with continuous growth, there are certain roadblocks, with budget constraints being one of them.

Lighting is the life of every show; every big stage requires a lot of lighting, which cannot be compromised. Every client wants a great show with great lighting effects on stage, but no one wants to pay for it. Very few shows in India have the kind of budget, which would allow us to use only branded equipment. This is the reason why some of the better products from major brands are missing from rental inventories.

In order to meet the requirements and expectations of the client, lighting rental companies have to choose cheap Chinese products over good branded products.

Years ago, I was charging Rs 50 to 60 lakhs per award night, but now I am doing those same shows for 10 lakhs, because of budget issues. The first thing that every client says is I do not have the budget, but they all want a good show. In order to match their tastes and requirements, we have to use Chinese products.

Nevertheless, the industry is evolving gradually and many suppliers are demanding good quality equipment. In the next couple of years, India will witness a shift to quality products.

The other major challenge is the limited set-up time we get. Even for big EDMs and Music Festivals, we get only one night for set-up, in which we have to complete the loading, trussing, light installations, cabling, testing, take care of work force, security & safety measures etc. We have to do this in a very short span of time so that the sound people can then fly their speaker systems and the artistes can take the stage for the final rehearsal. Only few big budget shows give us ample time and enough budgets.

Indian market & Chinese products

Chinese products have become an integral part of the Indian lighting market and I don’t think that the market can survive without it. Chinese products have captured 90% percent of the market.

This has led to a catch 22 kind of situation. The cheap costs of the lights allow us to use more inventory and lighting effects on stage, which in turn makes the show look good. The client is happy, so again the next time they offer us the same measly budget.

We are trying to change this trend from our end with the help of visionary clients. For instance, we used only quality lights for AR Rahman shows, as I had support from A.R. Rahman’s production team, as Mr. Rahman is very quality conscious. The artiste too has to be like-minded; unfortunately, most other Indian artistes do not care about the sound and lighting gear used on stage.

Claypaky is the first company in the world to introduce the Sharpy to the lighting market, but the Chinese came out with cheap copies and they have now earned more than Claypaky has in the Indian market.

If one Clay Paky costs 2.50 lakhs, in the same amount you can get six to eight Chinese lights. Small rental companies go for cheaper lights with the ideology that even if two lights fail, the other six will work and there isn’t a huge difference in the effects that both the lights deliver.

Adding to this dilemma is the fact that big brands come up with a new products every three-four months. For instance, Claypaky came out with a Super Sharpy after the Sharpy, but bigger rental companies who brought the Sharpy, have not yet got their ROI from the earlier Sharpy. Meanwhile the Chinese have already copied the Super Sharpy and even a small rental company has a higher version than the bigger rental companies have.

Investment on Lighting Consoles

When it boils down to the controllers however, all companies want a good quality original brand because the console is the heart and soul of any lighting design. It is the console, which makes the lights, work the way they do. Most companies do not invest in Chinese consoles because if there is a problem in the console, it can ruin the entire show; none of the lights will work. In contrast, if you have 100 Chinese lights and 10 are not working, nobody will even notice.

There are of course Chinese companies who make copies of Avolites and sell it at one tenth of the price of Avolites, but there are few takers for this.

Also, most brands come out with new consoles only once in two-three years, unlike the light inventory, wherein new lights can be found in the market every quarter.

Market for Big Brands

International shows and EDMs typically have international brands like Claypaky, Robe, Martin etc. on their riders. Therefore, for big popular brands, the market in India lies in shows with international artistes, for which big rental companies need to be equipped with good equipment.

In order for all lighting companies to invest in quality brands, we need many more international artistes coming down to India. Nobody wants to invest in expensive lighting for just one or two shows in a year, but yes, if in a month there are two shows then more companies are bound to invest in quality equipment.

Market Growth

I have been working in the industry from last 25 years and year after year the industry is just growing. A decade or two decades ago there were only six to seven lighting companies in India, but now there are 60-70 lighting companies. This growth is mainly because of the Chinese products market though.


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