We first try to identify art forms or themes that need support — areas where there is a significant void and sizeable progress can be made with our participation.
The Mahindra Group is one of the few conglomerates playing an active role in promoting art and culture in the country by way of its cultural outreach programmes.
Their primary agenda for spearheading community-engagement initiatives is to give back to society. Another factor that drives the group’s affairs with culture is its quest for discovering and promoting local talent.
“Each of our programmes has a strong emphasis on promoting local talent or discovering new talent. The Mahindra Blues Band Hunt is a popular platform for young garage bands, while the Mahindra Kabira Festival is replete with local talents, who get the scope to perform alongside nationally acclaimed artistes,” says Jay Shah, vice-president and head of cultural outreach at the Mahindra Group, in an interview with Isha Arora. Edited excerpts:
Corporates adopting cultural outreach programmes is a very new and niche concept. What led the Mahindra Group to come up with the idea?
The Mahindra Group has supported various forms of community-engagement initiatives during our 75 years of existence. It is in the last 15 or so years that we decided to focus on a few carefully chosen programmes of cultural outreach to make an impact on the chosen art forms and leverage them adequately for our brand. So, the idea to focus on a few programmes and sustain them over a period is more recent than the participation in community engagement, which has been prevalent since our inception.
The art and culture space is huge. You’ve targeted conventional areas like theatre and music, and also explored poetry and art of darning through the Mahindra Kabira Festival and Mahindra Sanatkada Lucknow Festival, respectively. How did you decide what areas to target?
We first try to identify art forms or themes that need support — areas where there is a significant void and sizeable progress can be made with our participation. We also simultaneously ascertain whether it will help us connect with a certain customer profile or help us mould our brand personality to our advantage.
In what ways do you promote local talent through your cultural outreach programmes?
Through each of our programmes, we put a strong emphasis on promoting local talent or discovering new talent. The Mahindra Blues Band Hunt is a popular platform for young garage bands to try their luck. The chosen band is given a platform at the Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai. The Mahindra Kabira Festival is a melting pot of local talents, who get a chance to showcase their talents alongside nationally acclaimed artistes. META — Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards — is all about discovering theatre artistes across the length and breadth of our country.
What new engagement programmes have you designed for the upcoming edition of the Mahindra Kabira Festival? Are there any notable names from the music circuit slated to perform?
The format of the Mahindra Kabira Festival, a fairly young festival, remains similar to the previous editions — morning music and afternoon literature sessions on Guleria Ghat, and evening music at the Shivala Ghat. This is peppered with food and heritage walks. We are delighted to have Shabnam Virmani, who has done such noteworthy work on Kabir back at the festival as also at Kabir Café. Kabir is presented in a unique avatar that speaks to the youth. This year is expected to be more special with their collaboration with the hugely entertaining Mooralala Marwada from Kutch, whose authentic style is much loved and enjoyed
How important is the development of cultural outreach programmes in a corporate sphere? Do you see the concept gaining traction among leading Indian corporates now?
We are strong proponents of nurturing and promoting our cultural outreach programmes. As a responsible corporate, we believe that it is important for companies like us, who gain so much from the communities we do business in, to give back to them. And if carefully selected, not only does the art form benefit but it gives a prominent halo to our brand.
Are there any new projects under cultural outreach at the Mahindra Group in the offering?
Yes. We are working on a very exciting programme that will engage a diverse range of people, especially the youth. We will be making an announcement in a few months.