Creative Industries and Entrepreneurs in India

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The Coalition, Delhi, March 2015

The Creative industries in India are going from strength to strength, with a range of projects, festivals, events and enterprises developing on a daily basis. The young and energetic spirit of India’s youth who consume digital technology, pursue adventure, love to travel, want to avoid the 9-5 work trap, and have an appetite for being the change the world needs, are pushing the boundaries and experimenting. The government here does not support culture and arts development through allocated funds and there is no strategic model or arts policy being implemented here at a national level as such. 75% of people live in slums in Delhi, so the arts are not exactly the Government’s priority at the moment. However initiatives and collaborative ventures have and continue to pop up all over the place. Many entrepreneurs here are keen to collaborate with like-minded individuals to bring their dreams to life and create space in the market for new experiences. What is happening in India at present is what took place in England in the 1960s, but executed differently. The government invested money into art and design schools and the country changed from looking to the world like a grey and dreary place to a vibrant and cultural nation.

The Coalition is India’s annual leading meet-up for such innovators and arty types, that I attended in Delhi from 27 February – 1 March. Here I met many designers, producers and creatives from India and abroad, sharing their experiences and models of good practice through panel discussions and smaller workshops. As well as learning about specific projects and observing pitches for investment for new ideas, there was also a real emphasis on the personal perspective and good examples of leadership; really useful and great to see in this context. Some local government representatives state that they are open to admit they know nothing about the creative industries, but they are very keen to support people and find out what they need. There are currently many spaces available for creative organisations, and the government is thinking about enterprises and start-ups, and also aware of the red tape and corruption involved when trying to set up a new business venture.

Devraj Sanyal, Managing Director of Universal Music and EMI music, South Asia talks about leadership, hitting rock bottom and never giving up. He believes in letting people fail and taking responsibility for this, but ensuring their successes belong to them and are celebrated. Knowledge and experience are key, and controlling the ego, admitting when you don’t know enough or know nothing, and being open to new information constantly. One must know who they are and set goals and timelines to succeed, and fundamentally take risks fearlessly.

I attend a design-thinking workshop, where Mike Knowles, Dean of the Sushant School of Design explains we are wired as a species to belong, to empathise and to civilize. The previous generation researched for information and often kept it to themselves. The current generation has quick and simple access at their fingertips to ideas, thinking, events and debates and is the ‘sharing’ generation. Contemporary ways of sharing, creating and seeing art and the world through different lenses are increasing in India through social, political and change making creative ventures.

Vijay Nair is the founder and CEO of Only Much Louder, who provide entertainment to the youth market through a range of projects and music festivals. I attend his workshop on planning a music event or festival in India that is a real eye-opener. He explains that Europe and other parts of the world are bursting at the seams with a range of alternative music and indie festivals, but there are only a few that dominate the market place in India celebrating local and global talent such as Sunburn, Tomorrowland, Magnetic Fields, NH7 and the Jaipur Literature Festival. Whilst explaining all logistical and creative aspects of developing an event he includes that it is lucky if one breaks even in year 3 of producing such a festival in India, the importance and politics involved in sponsorship, and that 80% of income will be from sponsors and only 20% from ticket sales of which 40% is lost on paying taxes. It’s not impossible, but setting up a festival in India requires a lot of passion, energy, patience, and the right contacts to succeed.

The three days are packed with new insights and inspiration. Connections are made revealing an open and adventurous spirit in the contemporary educated, and creatively inclined young Indian entrepreneur. Watch this space world, India is getting even more colourful, adding splashes of influences from globalization, digital technology and design to its pallet for fresh, new representations of arts and culture in modern India.

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