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College fests lose spark as recession hits home
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December 24, 2008

It's the first time in many years that IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Delhi's [Images] annual festival Rendezvous was held without a title sponsor. The five-day September fest, that saw companies dishing out nearly Rs 20 lakh for the title sponsorship till last year, found no takers this year. Bindaas TV was Rendezvous' title sponsor in 2007.

IIM Bangalore's Unmaad 2009 to be held in January is also looking for a sponsor. "It is too early to comment on sponsors as we are still in talks with them, but we are looking for rationalisation of expenditure this year," said Arup Haldar, cultural secretary IIM-B. Unmaad expects a 10-15 per cent budget cut this year.

Clearly, recession is affecting media and sponsorship spends of companies that are no longer loosening their purse strings for the annual festivals of major educational institutes like the IITs and IIMs. Held mostly between September and January, college fests had no dearth of sponsors earlier with telecom brands such as Idea, Vodafone and Tata Indicom leading the way.

Fashion and youth accessories' brands like Hero Honda [Images], Sunsilk, Pond's, Cafe Coffee Day and Barista looking for exposure to a young crowd too associated with college fests.

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In the past, ONGC [Get Quote] and SAIL [Get Quote] have also sponsored select festivals of major colleges. Food, beverage, transport, accommodation and publicity are usually sponsored by different hospitality and the media companies, while the sponsorship money is used for star performances, concerts, prize money and sundry other costs.

In 2007, IIT Delhi spent Rs 39 lakh on its fest. This year, however, the budget was brought down to Rs 31 lakh. The prize money, too, took a hit. Company executives did not wish to comment on why they are spending less on events this year.

An organising committee member of IIT Kanpur's annual festival Antaragni said that several companies are open to helping in kind but express their inability to support the event with cash. The organisers of the Kanpur fest too are struggling to find sponsors.

Liquidity crunch is an issue even if sponsors agree to pay cash. "Immediate liquidity was a problem, as our sponsors wanted to pay us two weeks after the fest was over," said  Sanjit Rajayer, event head of National Law School of India University's (Bangalore) rock fest Strawberry Fields.

To economise, many institutes are opting for less expensive performers, while maintaining the standard of the event. Rendezvous that had Kailash Kher performing last year invited two Delhi-based bands Parikrama and Bandish this year. IIM-B on the other hand will have only one big event compared to two major shows including one by the Pakistani band Strings at Unmaad in January this year.

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