Corporate bodies are willing to sponsor culture, but only if they have something in it for them. Lakshmi demands incentives to back Saraswati. The India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), a grant-making organisation for the arts registered as a public trust in 1993, has been exploring this avenue so that it doesn’t have to depend on charity for wherewithal. Headquartered in Bangalore though it is, 20 per cent of the grants are based in West Bengal, said Anmol Vellani, executive director of IFA, in town on Tuesday. “That is well above average,” he remarked. In terms of the number of applications received, West Bengal is second or third in comparison with other states. But in eastern India, corporates are not famous for their generosity.
Vellani added that some grants definitely go to people and bodies that are hardly known. However, he admitted that in this state, known names do keep cropping up, for “Calcutta dominates West Bengal” and no “hinterland” has developed yet.
The IFA has developed a two-phase corporate partnership strategy, linking activities or fields in the arts with brand values, product profile and target audience of companies. IFA will sell corporations the idea of backing the activities of grantees that will, in turn, guarantee publicity for the latter. Organising high-profile art events is one way of doing it. Corporates that already have an interest in the Foundation are persuaded to underwrite a certain event and thereby get mileage.
The idea was test-marketed in 2001, when IFA organised four-day children’s workshops in Delhi and Bangalore, where grantees from various disciples who have worked with children got together on a single platform. The package offered to schools appealed to brands for children such as Britannia, Cadbury’s and Parry’s, for it created the impression that they were genuinely interested in developing children as well-rounded personalities.
A traditional artiste such as Shiv Kumar Sharma was invited to contribute time and corporates like Park Hotel and Godfrey Philips sponsored the Delhi event. Money was raised through the brochures. Similarly, corporates pitched in for dance performances by Alarmel Valli and Aditi Mangaldas in Bangalore. Money was also raised by selling donor passes. This promotes the image of culturally conscious brands. “We have to reinvent ourselves. We look at delivering something and keep refining the product without losing sight of what we want to do,” said an IFA spokesperson on Tuesday.
The IFA has also sold a package of three Ismat Chughtai short stories, produced by a group called Motley and directed by Naseeruddin Shah to Brooke Bond’s Taj Mahal tea, Titan, Spice Telecom, ICICI and Park Hotel at a price much less than prevailing market rates. The IFA also pocketed the box-office returns. In one case, Hyderabad-based VST Industries supported Dastkar Andhra, a project to revive traditional designs, for the benefit of its own employees, to build the image of a concerned corporate body. IFA’s annual report and the cost of maintaining its website, too, have attracted sponsors. But it is difficult to raise money for Calcutta, they admitted. Corporate bodies do not seem to be interested in image-building in eastern India. And we all thought Calcutta was the country’s cultural capital.