Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve heard about the extravagant spectacle that’s grandly unveiled on January 21 at the Atlantis Royal, an ultra-luxury resort in Dubai. The most talked about moments were unbelievable without Beyoncé’s stunning performance, her electrifying return to the stage, the evening’s vibrant backdrop and dazzling fireworks display in the skies of the UAE.
Unforgettable night is undoubtedly the result of the joint efforts of many creative people.Beyoncé-founded entertainment company Parkwood Entertainment was inspired to partner with leading entrepreneurial women in the Middle East, with entertainment Founder/CEO Sonavala-Palma. Now run Sonal I am with her managing partner Ash Palmereveryone here came together to pull off this truly historic event.
IAM Entertainment describes itself as a home-grown company based in Dubai, founded with the mission of creating, growing and changing the cultural and business gap between the Middle East and the West. They are alchemists driving cultural transformation in the Middle East through powerful storytelling and immersive experiences in live, TV and film production, endorsements and brand expansion, facilitating cross-border collaborations for artist-led businesses.
To fully understand how this powerful couple got to where they are today, you need to better understand their career journeys leading up to this exciting time in the global entertainment industry.
“Growing up, there was always food and music at home,” shares Sonal, who was born and raised in Zambia, Africa, of South Asian descent. “Entertainment was a natural path for me – the secret A-List hideaway, the Hempel Hotel in London, was my gateway into the world of music and entertainment. If you didn’t launch at The Hempel, you didn’t launch at all – it was London parlance in the early 2000s. As the “gatekeeper” of the hotel, the likes of Elton John, Amy Winehouse, 50 Cent, Usher, Black Eyed Peas and Victoria Beckham would walk through my door with unreleased material and products, please I curate shows for them. During one of our stays in 2006, we once had to tear down an entire wall to accommodate Michael Jackson.”
Sonal added: “At a listening party for Elephunk’s Black Eyed Peas album, I met a young executive producer named Venus Brown who introduced me to the nuances of making music and navigating the industry. He He later became chairman and head of US creative at Sony BMG and advisor to the founder of Buddah Brown International – for me, he was my mentor.”
With the opening of the world’s only 7-star hotel, Burj Al Arab, in 1999, Dubai began to emerge, showing the world its untapped potential.
In 2006, Sonal received a call that changed her career trajectory, the same year she recalls Ash moving from Singapore to Dubai. Sonal remembers a new energy building in Dubai at the time, still somewhat underground, where fashion, entertainment and music began to drive a cultural shift and bring people together.
The catalyst for IAM’s origins began when Sonal was able to expand her services to multi-billion dollar projects in the Middle East, such as World Islands and the original Atlantis, The Palm, attracting top star talent to various projects, thus elevating IAM Entertainment’s reputation for professionalism. Even in fashion, IAM has brought game-changers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Donna Karan and Valentino to the region to design first-of-its-kind commercial projects valued at between $150,000 and $20 million.
Ash, who officially joined IAM Entertainment seven years ago, came from a completely different career path than Sonal. “I was born and raised in London,” Ash told me. “I have worked on trading floors in London, Singapore and Hong Kong for over 10 years. It is like living in wolf of wall street. When Sonal and I sat down to show how we wanted to take IAM to the next level, we both understood that a business of this size needed a full corporate structure to grow into multiple divisions and have the All aspects of the business offer a full suite of business opportunities for every talent and artist we work with. Celebrities are growing their brands globally, and the Middle East is an exponentially growing and untapped market. We provide the perfect bridge and platform for brands to enter and grow new markets, IAM is a trusted partner backed by our history and integrity. Acquiring, building and growing businesses is in my DNA. “
Sonal and Ash are now married and live on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah, just minutes from the Royal Atlantis hotel, where they had their biggest achievement yet.
Ash added: “In today’s day of storytelling and the creation of a first-of-its-kind project for the Middle East, staying true to our vision is why we are entrusted today with massive government-led programs and multi-million dollar budgets.”
In 2021 and 2022 alone, IAM includes live performances from Mariah Carey and live performances from Alicia Keys and the Black Eyed Peas, as well as a list of top clients. IAM has worked on video commercials with influential Hollywood figures including Kevin Hart, Coldplay, Tony Robbins, Ciara, Leona Lewis, Hilary Swank, Nicolas Cage, Adrian Ambrody, Eva Longoria and Steve Harvey, and a string of A-list Bollywood talent.
IAM’s list of illustrious clients continues to grow, with current partnerships with Vogue Arabia, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, FIFA, Qatar Tourism, Dubai Tourism, Dubai World, Atlantis, Royal Saudi Arabia Cooperation with the committee and the UAE government. Over the past few years, their in-person and live-streamed performances have generated over 5 billion impressions in 52 countries.
Ash said of IAM Entertainment: “As we continue to grow, the focus is on building IP and commercial revenue streams for the artists and talent that trust us, and opening up entirely new market share for many others. With the region opening up, Tour opportunities have also increased. Over the next 18 to 24 months, we will focus on introducing a touring format to enhance the audience experience. There is an underrated fanbase that wants to see their favorite stars on stage .”
Sonal and Ash are also working to bring more movies and TV shows to the Middle East.They recently produced a film called North of 10th, filmed in Abu Dhabi with renowned writer/director Rhyan LaMarr. They are also teaming up with Academy Award winners John Battsek and Alex Gibney on a two-part documentary about tennis legend Boris Becker, which is expected to be released on Apple TV+ later this year.
Going back to Beyoncé’s special performance at the Royal Atlantis Dubai, I wondered how Ash and Sonal could best describe the experience they were able to witness during that very unique opportunity.
“In all the years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve never seen an audience as emotional as these audiences,” Ash recalls.
Sonal continued, “Witnessing men and women cry is a testament to the performance, production and spectacular setting.”
Both hardworking professionals identified as entrepreneurs at this point in their careers, I asked Sonal and Ash what they believe will be the attributes of a productive and successful entrepreneur in 2023.
“Resilience,” Sonal said first. “I think resilience, knowing exactly what you want to achieve and how to achieve your vision.”
Ash added, “Agile. The pandemic has shocked a lot of people. Before the pandemic, we didn’t have a TV and film division. documentaries, and a film was released.”
As I begin to wrap up my conversation with this powerful couple, I wonder what sets them and their IAM Entertainment agency apart as they continue to take pioneering steps that raise the bar for how we think about modern entertainment The standard world of sex.
Says Sonal, “Whatever we accept at IAM Entertainment is never forced. It’s a very natural, organic way of doing business, and we believe that’s what sets us apart.”
Recently, Ash and Sonal have been taking time off stateside to network with other leading professionals and popular celebrities, most recently at Grammy weekend in Los Angeles. They told me they were being approached by entertainment fund managers and hedge fund owners in the US to invest in their latest funding round for IAM Entertainment. Their rare type of superpower is clearly visible, if you will, as they continue to effectively link the West to the Middle East.