Portrait by Madhav Nair for 1 Finance Magazine
Spot Illustrations by Studio Paperheads for 1 Finance Magazine

Newman D’silva has hosted over 500 events since 2013 — but that’s not all he’s been up to. He is also an illustrator, especially when it’s off-season for weddings. In a former life, he used to be a dance instructor. Back then, he’s performed on stage at the IIFA awards and toured the USA with the Bachchan family, appearing alongside A-listers like Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Madhuri Dixit. For One on One — our exclusive series of leisurely interviews with people building fascinating careers that are far from traditional 9-to-5 jobs — we speak to him about his work and how he aligns his passion with his finances.

This conversation took place in December 2022. It has been edited for clarity and length.

What drew you to emceeing weddings?

My introduction to weddings was through my dad who is a wedding photographer — he has been one for the last 35+ years, since before I was born. I’ve always been kind of aware of the space and how everything works because he works out of home. A part of what I used to do is help my dad with video editing. So that’s what gave me an idea of how the whole “wedding flow” runs.

Do you recall your gateway gig?

I’ve always been on stage in some way or another since I was a kid. Before emceeing, in my years as an instructor in a dance company, teaching students across ages and across cities helped me gain the confidence to speak in front of a room full of people. I would host the student recitals that were regularly held. When I moved back to Mumbai, my dad said to me, “Why don’t you just try [emceeing]?” He had a client who had hired him as a wedding photographer, and he pitched me as an emcee for the wedding — this was 2013. There was another key event I hosted in 2014 — the wedding of a family friend. That was an event that changed the way I host because I still meet people who remember me from that wedding.


How do you balance your passions — art, dance, and hosting events?

The dance thing is, at this point in my life, completely out of the picture. The only dancing I do now would be at events. A few years ago, it used to balance itself out. I would treat visual arts as a day job. Most events happen either post 6pm or on weekends. This year, I made the active choice of not taking on any new design work during wedding season — from November to February — because I know my calendar is decently occupied with events.

What, in your experience, makes for a great event?

It’s very hard to predict how an event is going to go. Alcohol does help, I’m not going to lie; not for me, but for people attending the function. But beyond that, I would say, because I host weddings the most, the couple getting married really sets the tone for everything. If they are stressed out, that passes on to their family, which passes on to the other people around them. So, one of the first things I like to tell couples is “For only one day, you need to be present. Relax, and chill. Because if you’re having a good time, everybody’s having a good time.” What also works is not overplanning. That’s a big one because sometimes people are very particular about minor details, and it affects them so much. The DJ plays a very important role in all of this. A bad DJ can ruin a great crowd.

DJ crowd

Do you remember when you first realised the importance of managing your own finances or when you first took the initiative to invest? Over the years, have you encountered any experiences or learnings around managing debt and liabilities?

I don’t remember a specific moment, but saving money is part of my personality. I used to DJ part-time when I was in college — even then, I would save about 50% of what I got. FDs are a big part of how I save, I’m pretty old-school like that. I want to get into investing in mutual funds, which is something I’ve been talking about for the last five years. But, for some reason, I cannot wrap my head around how they work. I don’t have any experiences dealing with EMIs or loans. The only time I buy myself stuff is when it’s for work. In fact, the only investment I’ve made in the last couple of years would be buying myself suits because I use them for events. I really want to buy myself a house, but at this point I am averse to the idea of taking on loans, which is probably why it will take me a bit longer to achieve.

Financially, with work being concentrated at certain times of the year, how does that play out?

December is the peak. I would say I end up earning from the few months at the end of the year. Of course, more work is good, but if the start of the year has been a bit slow, and I’ve had a lull period during the monsoons, once I know my calendar and bookings, I know the end of the year is going to cover up for any lost income.

Did the decision to follow your passion affect your personal finances? If yes, how?

I would say it’s definitely been a positive impact. Doing what I enjoy doing has taken a little bit of time to become fruitful, but as of right now it’s great.

As for how I handle my money, I feel like I’ve become even more cautious. I have no issues spending for my family or people I love, but I think I have a weird aversion to spending money on myself. I also have this weird fear of dying broke. Maybe it’s this subconscious need to save money for the future.

spending money

When you started emceeing, did you experience any anxiety with regard to embracing a new career path?

When I entered this new industry, I think the insecurities I had were about being able to sustain myself at least for the next ten years; I want to get the same amount of work that I get now, and that is an insecurity I still have. Ten years from now, I may not be able to do the type of work that I’m doing, at the energy level that I have right now. I can probably do it for another five years. But then I kind of need to tweak my approach and continue doing what I’m doing.

How much can someone working in this space expect to earn?

I can give you a rough idea. The pricing range has changed quite a bit over the last few years. In the Catholic wedding market, a good emcee, someone who gets booked at least a year in advance, would cost you between ₹25,000 to ₹30,000. It could be more but this is the ballpark. That being said, you can also get an emcee who will host an event for ₹3,000. Of course, the pricing comes with the quality that they offer. The rate is per event, and each event usually runs for about four hours. Internationally, I know that emcees charge per hour but here it’s not that way.

Do you have any specific financial goals that you’re working towards right now?

I want to buy a house in Goa. That’s what I’m working towards but I’m in no hurry. Another goal would be having enough money to sustain myself over the next 15–20 years. In terms of saving every month, I know I’m saving enough. I don’t have a specific amount that I want to set aside, because as I mentioned, I’m very careful with the way I spend my money.

Tell us a little bit about what you’re looking forward to and/or working on next.

In terms of hosting, 2022 has been my biggest year yet. As of mid-December, I have hosted 152 events in 2022. The goal for the year was to earn a certain amount of money that I’ve now crossed off my list, so I’m thankful for that. I would like to do the same amount, if not more events, next year — without killing myself. I also want to do more art. I want to get back to illustrating daily, just for myself.

Newman D’silva’s MoneySign™ is Vigilant Turtle. Discover yours here.

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