When Stu­dents Be­come Stars

The once-mod­est col­lege fest is now all about big bucks, high-pro­file spon­sors.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Son­ali Achar­jee Fol­low the writer on Twit­ter @son­a­li­achar­jee

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

Pho­to­graph by NILOTPAL BARUAH

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