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Ambani Pre-Wedding Security, Costs, and Considerations

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In the first few days of March 2024, the world looked on at the Ambani pre-wedding celebrations that drew thousands of some of the most famous and influential guests from around the world. 

But what are the security implications for a major event of that size and what goes into planning and ensuring the safety of your guests? Today, we’re attempting to break it all down and dive deep into the Ambani pre-wedding security.

The Ambani Pre-Wedding Event

On March 1st, more than 1,500 guests arrived in Jamnagar for the pre-wedding festivities of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant. Anant is the youngest son of Asia’s richest man and billionaire, Mukesh Ambani, worth an estimated $113 billion. The event itself is said to have cost more than $120 million and drew some of the most influential people in the world, including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Rihanna, and many others.

To ensure no guest would have to eat the same dish twice, the Ambani family hired twenty-one chefs, to prepare more than hundreds of meals. Besides the countless staff working the event and 1,500 guests, that posed an incredible security challenge.

The Ambani Pre-Wedding Security

While there are still no exact reports on the sheer scale of security it took to cover an event of this size, we do know a few things. 

First, all guests had to go through a heavily guarded checkpoint before entering the venue. Close to a dozen vehicles were part of Rihanna’s security detail for Anant Ambani’s and Radhika Merchant’s pre-wedding. But she’s just one of the many celebrities to attend and comes with incredible security detail. In attendance was also Gautam Adani, the billionaire founder and chairman of the Adani group, who was pictured with his tight security. 

The Armed Forces Claim

A few days after the festivities, stories came out that the Ambanis used armed forces as security detail for their son’s wedding. The claim was being made because of a photo where Nita Ambani can be seen in frame with several officers in uniform.

However, the photo was taken days after the pre-wedding took place. The true story is that Nita Ambani hosted a musical fountain show for the seven thousand members of the Army, Navy, Paramilitary Forces, the Mumbai Police, and the Railway Protection Force.

Doing executive protection and security services for an event of this size is a huge undertaking with hundreds of agents present. The questions we have for you are: what goes into planning for an event like this and what are the most important factors to consider? Which security considerations are key and which are often overlooked?

To help us shine a light on the Ambani pre-wedding and what goes into planning security for an event this size, we’ve talked to Varun Kareparambil. Varun has been in the industry for over 19 years and below, you’ll see his thoughts.

Defining Success

When it comes to high-profile Indian weddings (or pre-weddings) – there are usually two categories. For this article’s sake, let’s call them Mega Wedding 1 and Mega Wedding 2.  Mega Wedding 2 will make the headlines but the Mega Wedding 1 types will dominate the headlines.

Mega Wedding 2 is grand, attended by A-listers, and requires elaborate planning and meticulous execution. However, Mega Wedding 1 is like the Superbowl – it sets a whole new standard. These don’t come along often, but when they do, it leaves people mesmerized.

The Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant pre-wedding celebrations did just that – they left people mesmerized. And, this is what the Ambani family wanted. They wanted to leave their guests with an unmatched and unforgettable experience.

This is where the security planning starts for an event of this magnitude. It starts by addressing one super-important question – What does success look like for the hosts? Everything else is downstream from there.

Security Planning for an “Ambani-Style Event”

A good security plan is one that will help the hosts in achieving their success. When it comes to large events hosted by the Ambani’s, a few things are guaranteed, typically these are:

  •     Opulent hospitality
  •     Delivering novel experiences
  •     Inclusion of strong cultural values
  •     Presence of the global and domestic elite
  •     Zero compromises on the success envisioned 

The security planning is expected to consider all the above. Now, let’s dive into some of the key factors that require careful attention when it comes to the security plan.  

The 3 Phases

Phase 1: Preparatory

This stage takes up a majority of the chunk among all three stages. The overall planning for this pre-wedding would have easily taken more than six months. Unlike cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, etc, where you have several venues, hotels, and desired resources to choose from, Jamnagar had to be readied from scratch for this event.

Overall planning, vendor selections, and venue preparations would have taken place during this phase. For the security planning, close coordination would have been required with the primary agencies. While the security risk assessment may have thrown up a bunch of issues, mitigating those risks would have required absolute buy-in from all key stakeholders, including members of the Ambani family who were reportedly closely involved in everything.

At this event, one of the key expectations from the hosts would have been that the guests should feel secure, but they shouldn’t “feel security.” Risk mitigation measures would have therefore required careful curation.          

Phase 2: Dry Runs

For the immaculate execution of this three-day Ambani pre-wedding event, nothing could have been left to chance. In the days leading up to the pre-wedding, multiple rehearsals of the event flow would have taken place. This phase allows for addressing any last-minute hiccups.

Security is no different. For the security plan to succeed, it would have needed in-depth integration with the overall event plan. The security plan would have been put to the test too during this phase.

These could have been some of the aspects that were tested:

  •     Secure transfers of guests
  •     Access to the venue, accommodation, and other areas
  •     Select emergencies and major incidents

Phase 3: The Event

Finally, it’s Go Time. Everything comes together during this phase (at least that’s what you’re hoping for!). The work put in during the preceding two phases would be tested in real-time.

For this event, the execution of the security plan would have started with the rollout of the first action item on the primary event plan.  

Continuation of Existing Protection Measures

The Ambani family has had a history of receiving death threats, coupled with intelligence reports indicating that some of those threats are to be taken seriously. For this reason, the family receives the highest level of security (Z+ category) from the Indian government.

Protection protocols mandated under the Z+ category would have applied during this event too. In fact, owing to the family’s extended exposure due to this event, it’s highly likely that certain additional protection measures would have been implemented. This would have included working closely with several government agencies.

Collaborating to Counter Elevated Threat Levels

Some of the world’s biggest business leaders, and global and Indian celebrities were in attendance. A number of these individuals have a threat profile that requires them to have their own protection teams. But this also means that some of the threats they’re exposed to, cannot be ignored. Also, some of these protection team members may not be familiar with certain specific expectations of the Ambani family.

Early communication and close ongoing coordination between the visiting protection teams and event security management teams would have been crucial in ensuring successful expectation management at both ends.

Catering to Extraordinary Requirements

The scale and profile of such an event require addressing numerous special requests. For example, Jamnagar Airport was going to be witnessing an influx of private jets. However, the airport wasn’t a designated international airport before this event. This was changed – the airport was designated an international airport from February 25 to March 6.

During this period, the airport witnessed 524 domestic and 54 international flights. In addition to enabling this special exception, the airport would have been provided with supporting resources as well to manage the spike in passenger footfall.       

With the arrival of so many elite guests, their requirements, such as specific vehicles, dietary restrictions, safekeeping of their valuables, secure internet connectivity, accommodation for support staff, etc would have needed catering.

Proactive anticipation, successful liaison with external agencies, and extensive coordination with other teams would have served as the secret sauce here!         

Managing Emergencies

While the hope is that there wouldn’t be an emergency to deal with, time and again, an emergency pops up that needs to be dealt with. Health emergencies are among the most common, especially at such events.

Several attendees tend to have known health issues, while some are hit with an unpleasant surprise. The presence of on-ground medical support teams, ambulances, and air ambulances is non-negotiable for an event of this magnitude.   

Managing Fans

Movie stars and cricketers are absolutely adored across India. They tend to draw fans wherever they go. Some of the biggest names from the Indian movie industry, cricketing world, and even some global artists were present at this event.

Keeping them from being swarmed with fans or media, and ensuring their safety would have been an important task. Some of the measures implemented which can be seen in publicly available videos are large teams of security personnel tasked with specific responsibilities, the creation of secure movement corridors, and designated spaces for media to name a few.         

Countering Adverse Media

When an event of such grandeur is taking place, social media is abuzz with all the latest updates combined with some fun content. However, it’s also a great opportunity for potential adversaries to target the family or the event itself.

Although not malicious, during this pre-wedding celebration, images of footballer Christiano Ronaldo attending the celebrations and Elon Musk dressed in Indian attire riding a horse, made the rounds. Both these were debunked as misinformation.

As a precautionary measure, it’s also likely that guests were advised against posting specific types of content on social media which could turn into a potential PR nightmare.

Comprehensive measures to counter adverse media are likely to have played a significant role at this event.     

Centralised Monitoring & Control

Orchestrating the security plan needs a centralized control and command element. An Integrated Security Operations Center (ISOC) was set up for this event. An effective ISOC will have comprehensive visibility of the event security operation and is instrumental in ensuring the successful execution of the security plan. This ISOC is likely to have been the hub from where the event security operation was monitored and controlled.           

Managing Egos

With so many high-profile attendees gathered in one place, heavy egos are at play. Security must carefully balance between executing security duties, while sensibly managing those egos.

Security cannot afford to come across as insensitive, inhospitable, unaccommodating, or rude. A poorly managed interaction can turn into a sour experience for the guest – something the hosts would deem completely unacceptable.

Final Thoughts on the Ambani Pre-Wedding Security

This piece is not a guide to planning the security for a high-profile Indian wedding. It touches on a few key factors that go into the planning of an “Ambani-style” event. However, it all starts with addressing the key question – What does success look like for the hosts? Every aspect of the security planning needs to ensure that this question is being addressed positively.

About the author: Varun Kareparambil has more than 19 years of experience within the private security risk management industry. He started his career in the United Kingdom in 2004. Since then, he has delivered security risk management projects across India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Tanzania.

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