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Corporates new patron of local culture

December 13, 2004 11:51 IST

In the days gone by, the monarch was the chief patron of the arts. Later, India's rulers had sought to develop a socialistic pattern of society.

The government then took up that role. Today, it is the turn of the corporates to step in and what better place to do so than Bangalore which has put India on the global technology map.

Bangalore Habba, the multi-faceted arts and crafts festival, is only two years old but is well on its way to becoming a key cultural event in the city's calendar.

What makes it distinctive is it is entirely privately run and funded, bearing testimony to the prowess of non-government bodies of the city and the social concerns of its burgeoning corporate presence.

By the time the week-long festival, covering a wide spectrum of the performing arts and numerous crafts, is over, it will have played host to over 300,000 visitors.

Making it all possible are the Artistes' Foundation for the Arts, who conceived it, and companies like Spice Telecom, ING Vysya and Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd who are the main sponsors for this year.

"Though we are a multi-national company, we at Toyota have a simple business philosophy -- Think Global, Act Local. We are looking at our participation in the Bangalore Habba in this context.

"We are a local company employing local talent and hence it is only proper that we encourage local art and culture. Over 99 per cent of our team members are Kannadigas, hence the company felt it should support the event," says K K Swamy, deputy managing editor, Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt Ltd.

While successful branding is the only big mileage the sponsors can get from such an event, the decision to support stems from the fact that harnessing local culture and tradition is the best way to establish local presence. Bangalore Habba 2004 is not being used by any of these corporates to sell their products.

Supporting a cultural Bangalore comes easily to Spice Telecom, another key sponsor, as it is an old horse among the cellular operators in Karnataka. The company has always branded itself as "truly local".

Its Yakshagana ad campaign, featuring a prominent local folk dance tradition, as well as its association with events like Vasantahabba (the cultural event promoted by Protima Bedi's Nrithyagram) bears testimony to this.

Sean Dexter, CEO-Karnataka Circle, Spice Telecom says, "When I compare Bangalore to other places in the world, its multi-cultural society clearly stands out. We see Bangalore Habba as an event for recreation. Of late, people are so busy they really do not know how to recreate. These type of activities are important to us as we are a local player. We have always identified ourselves with the local culture."

Padmini Ravi, who is part of the core group of AFFA, feels that the corporate sector is emerging as the only saviour of the rich culture and tradition of individual states.

"Any performing or visual art has remained a lower priority for the people. Art needs continuous patronage and there are no specific government policy to enable this. Therefore the corporates are the only ones who can do this. Any civil society has be culturally adaptable. Culture does not manifest itself physically. By supporting such events, corporates are contributing to the social fabric."

Adds Toyota's Swamy, "Bangalore is a melting pot of a lot of cultures and this is reflected in the varied cultural programmes that adds grace to life in the city everyday. Last year, the Habba opened a new venue for promoting culture in Bangalore. We look at our participation in the Habba as a token of support for the local culture. Karnataka is our home state and we are only participating in a festival that espouses the cause of local artistes. We believe that this is just another way of recognising the support Toyota has received from Karnataka."

In fact, supporting local events of this magnitude is not new to Toyota. The company supports cultural activities in 140 countries. On an annual basis, Toyota organises a Toyota Classic -- A World of Harmony, where it brings world-class performers like the London Festival Orchestra and Spanish Cadaques Orchestra to countries across the world. Toyota has been been organising the Toyota Classic events since 1990.

Spice's Dexter is clear that events like these cannot be used as a place to sell products. Spice is happy to be associated with the Habba for the interests it creates in local culture and traditions.

"These events are not a point of sale for us. We know that people do not go to these events to buy SIM cards. It's purely in branding that we get a mileage. It is not just about handing over the money to the organisers. It is our commitment to be part of the local culture and tradition as we ourselves are a local player."
R Raghavendra in Bangalore