When Students Become Stars
The once-modest college fest is now all about big bucks, high-profile sponsors.
In the last four months, Simran Mehta, 19, has rapped with Yo Yo Honey Singh at KM Vasudevan Pillai College in Panvel, participated in a Chinese dragon boat race at IIT Bombay, run a neon night marathon with model-turned-actor Milind Soman at IIM Bangalore, met actor-filmmaker Farhan Akhtar at BITS, Pilani, and attended a Jimmy Choo-themed private after-party with friends at IIT Delhi. Mehta, a student of Delhi University, is just one of the many students ready to party their study blues away at various college fests across the country.
With footfall of 50,000 students, budgets that exceed Rs 1.5 crore, over 40 different competitive events and exclusive concerts by the best of the entertainment industry, the once-modest college fest is now all about big bucks, professional management, high-profile sponsors and luxury parties spread over three to four days. “Festivals are a platform for students to show their creative side. It’s important to let them have these few days to enjoy and relax, especially after the stress of half-term exams,” explains Dinesh Singh, Vice Chancellor, Delhi University.
THE ONE-CRORE CLUB
While organising most festivals costs Rs 10 lakh to 20 lakh, a select few stand in a league of their own with expenditure of over Rs 1 crore. For such festivals, the big bucks not only cover costs but also help capture the attention of both the media and students. In February this year, Unmaad, the IIM-Bangalore fest sponsored by Van Heusen, collected sponsorships worth Rs 80 lakh from corporate houses. Together with their technical event, Vista, the management school spends a whopping Rs 1.6 crore on cultural fests each year. Similarly, when Alegria, the annual youth festival held at KM Vasudevan Pillai College, announced its events line-up for this year, the organisers made it a point to highlight their budget of Rs 2 crore.
“We usually start approaching potential sponsors months in advance. Professional artists and celebrities can charge anything between Rs 20 lakh to
STUDENTS ENJOY A CONCERT AT SYMBIOSIS CENTRE FOR MANAGEMENT STUDIES
Rs 25 lakh. Add to this the prize money, money needed for decorations and event supplies, security expenses, marketing costs and you’ll realise how important it is to get the right sponsors on board before the festival season kicks off,” explains Abhaas Shah, a student coordinator for Unmaad.
So if colleges run around trying to raise enough funds to arrange a mindblowing festival, for the sponsors, it is simply a question of finding the social event that guarantees maximum visibility both as a consumer brand and as an employer of choice. “If students are your target audience, then college festivals are a great chance for marketing your product. The reputation of the college and the magnitude of the festival are obvious considerations when decid- ing on sponsorship,” says Saloni Arora, marketing manager of Fossil India.
INNOVATION IS KEY
Sponsorships alone do not guarantee that the event is a hit with students. Creative events, themes and parties are also a must. Whether it’s an ‘extreme’ robotic wrestling event at Alegria, a royal casino gaming night at Mood Indigo, or an inter-college Bollywood flash mob at Oasis, festivals today spare no effort in enticing audiences with playful titles, shimmering stages, hightech gadgets and lots of desi masala. “The manner in which an event is put together has to appeal to the new generation. A plain debate, dance and music programme sounds boring and unappealing. However, if you turn these into, say, a Bluffmaster debate, a street dance contest and an acoustic jam night, it sounds more interesting almost instantly,” explains Lohi Uppalapati, 22, a student at BITS Pilani.
CELEBSTRUCK IN COLLEGE
Another sure-shot way to draw in both sponsors and crowds is to line-up stars and concerts at your fest. Hoobastank, Mike Portnoy, Farhan Akhtar, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Shah Rukh Khan, Abhay Deol, Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha are just some of the celebs to have visited various colleges last year. Students work hard all year round and they really look forward to the fest season for some lighthearted fun and enjoyment,” says Aman Mittal, director, Lovely Professional University.
If it’s not performances by mega stars, then it’s concerts by popular student bands, DJs and classical singers. In February, when St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai hosted their 40th annual music fest, the college witnessed classical music lovers trooping in to catch a performance by Kathak legend Birju Maharaj, flautist Hariprasad Chaurasia and vocalist Kaushiki Chakrabarty.
With many colleges looking to rope in more international acts, it seems that the race to become the country’s grandest college fests has only just begun.
(FAR LEFT) FARHAN AKHTAR WITH HIS BAND AT IIM-BANGALORE; AN ARTIST PERFORMING AT IIT-KHARAGPUR
Photograph by ABHIJIT PATIL