Prashant Kakad, AKA DJ Prashant, didn’t start out as a DJ. Born in Mumbai, he came to the US for a graduate degree in polymer science at Cornell University. After school, Kakad landed an engineering job with Intel, which brought him to Portland, Oregon.
But something was missing. “I knew in my gut it wasn’t something I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” says Kakad. His happy place was on the dance floor.
Kakad had been teaching Bollywood-inspired dance classes for kids and adults as a side gig. After work, he’d go out to listen to music and dance every chance he got.
“People would make a circle around me,” he remembers. “The only place I could find a sense of peace was the dance floor.”
Taking a risk to follow a dream
Kakad grew more and more disenchanted with his day job, and increasingly inspired by his second shift in the music world. He moonlighted as the lead singer in a Hollywood cover band. He even taught dance at Intel during his lunch break. His infectious spirit made people want to dance with him, and his deep love of music (as a kid, he made the best mixed CDs) made him a natural DJ.
A turning point came in the summer of 2009 when he hosted a big performance with his dance students outside in Pioneer Square: “There were over 1,000 people dancing to Indian music in this super-white city. It was an extremely powerful moment.”
“The only place I could find a sense of peace was the dance floor.”
Slowly, work started to take a back seat. But leaving his job was a huge risk; Kakad had been in science and engineering all of his life, and he didn’t have a green card yet.
“People thought it was crazy, and looking back, I think it was crazy, too.” Yet it also felt necessary. Kakad was 27. He didn’t have a house or kids. If he couldn’t take a risk then, when would he?
Kakad took the plunge, and Bollywood Dreams was born. Inspired by the culture of his birthplace, Bollywood Dreams Entertainment is a production company focused on sharing Bollywood and Bhangra-inspired music, dance, and cultural experiences.
Bollywood Dreams has a simple yet ambitious agenda — to make people dance all night long to the world’s most infectious dance beats. Kakad’s effervescent personality and charisma instantly strikes a chord with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. According to Kakad, his events are “inclusive to people of all genders, cultures, and identities.”
Growing one memorable event at a time
Kakad started with parties for friends and local fundraisers. Slowly but surely, Bollywood Dreams took off. In the last decade, Kakad has hosted hundreds of inspirational performances across the US, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, and India. Their Jai Ho! Dance Party traveled to seven cities across the country.
One of his missions is bringing the joy of Bollywood music and dance to the mainstream US. “I try to pick not largely Indian neighborhoods,” Kakad explains.
From parties at Portland’s India Festival to a mansion on Frenchman Street in New Orleans, he has a knack for dialing up the energy and fun and leaving people with happy memories. Indian music is often underrepresented at American parties, clubs, and events. And with their high-energy and inclusive events, Bollywood Dreams is changing that. As Kakad says: “When you dance with someone, you’re engaged in a primal form of connecting.”
Using the pandemic to refocus and reconnect
When the COVID-19 pandemic came and shut down the world, Kakad found solace where he always has: connection through music. “The pandemic was a huge challenge,” he says. “It was a blessing that I was able to pivot to virtual events.”
Eventbrite was a powerful tool in helping Kakad plan and execute those online experiences. The new constraints pushed Kakad to dial up the drama: “I went by myself to the top of a mountain and DJed from there; I DJed from a temple in India.” These far-flung virtual events let him reach a wider audience and try out new creative ideas.
“When you dance with someone, you’re engaged in a primal form of connecting.”
As his business has grown, reaching his people has remained essential. Since starting Bollywood Dreams in 2010, Eventbrite has been at the heart of Kakad’s success. He’s hosted some 500 events through Eventbrite. During the pandemic, “it helped me transition to virtual events and stop myself from going crazy.”
Still, Kakad missed the energy he helped to create and ignite in an in-person crowd. The return to in-person events has been full of ups and downs. “I feel like I’m still coming out of it, and navigating what’s next,” Kakad shared. “There’s a huge population of people who are not ready to go out yet, which further marginalizes events like mine.”
“As someone who completely relies on people buying tickets to your event to get the word out, Eventbrite plays a huge part in my business,” Kakad says. It’s more important than ever, as Bollywood Dreams relies on our marketing platform, Eventbrite Boost, and creating social media ads to get the word out. “People who followed me before the pandemic might not be ready to go out again, so we’re finding new people and a whole new audience this way,” Kakad explains.
Kakad appreciates the way the platform has continuously evolved and innovated: “Eventbrite was one of the only choices when I first started. I’ve stayed with it because of the new features they’ve kept bringing on, such as integration with Facebook events and ticketing, the newsletter, the integration with Facebook and Instagram ads, and now a focus on building a creator community.”
“We aspire to create beautiful and engaging high-energy events that bring people together to celebrate the best of life through shared connection.”
Being a small business owner is hard in the best of times; the pandemic has added a new host of challenges. Kakad sees Eventbrite as a trusted partner. “Eventbrite plays a central role in my marketing by being the place where I collect client info, such as emails. I also use Boost to advertise and the newsletter feature to announce my new events and reach out to my clients.” Since using the free newsletter feature, Kakad credits it with driving ticket sales of $5,685 for his events overall.
As he grows, his mailing lists can invite people in new cities to his events. Eventbrite’s integration with Google is also key, as Kakad’s audience comes for people searching for fun experiences in different cities.
After throwing hundreds of parties around the world, one of the most memorable was an event that happened during the pandemic. It was planned before there was a new variant, and so only about 30 people ended up coming out in a space designed for 500. “They danced all night,” Kakad reflected. “It was magic.”
This Holi — an ancient Hindu festival, also known as the Festival of Colors — Kakad hosted multiple parties, and next year, he hopes to bring them all around the US. Kakad believes music and dance transcend and bridge societal divisions. “We aspire to create beautiful and engaging high-energy events that bring people together to celebrate the best of life through shared connection,” which Kakad plans to do, with the partnership of Eventbrite, for many years to come.
Want to join one of DJ Kakad’s dance parties? Follow Bollywood Dreams Entertainment on Eventbrite.
Up next: Read our creator spotlight on Bob’s Dance Shop.