Jaldi 5 with Nitin Chaudhry, HT Media: More than just media sponsorship of the Kala Ghoda Festival

04 Feb,2014

It was a coup of sorts for Hindustan Times when it was awarded the title sponsorship of the the Kala Ghoda Festival. Built over the last few years as the leading festival of art and culture in Mumbai, the newspaper group has attempted to go beyond the role of a media sponsor and integrate with the events. MxMIndia spoke with Nitin Chaudhry,  Business Head – West and part of the HT Media leadership team on the Hindustan Times association with the Kala Ghoda Festival 


01. How is the Hindustan Times Kala Ghoda Festival different from last year’s The Times of India Kala Ghoda Festival?

Well, a few things on the programming side have changed. We have tried to make it bigger. We have international authors coming in for the first time, as compared to Indian authors only. We have bigger stars like Farhan Akhtar this time. More importantly, we have added a very Mumbai-specific vertical. Earlier it used to be all around art and culture, but we have Urban Architecture and Design. We have installations and panel discussions some of the issues that Mumbai as a metropolis faces – whether it is unplanned growth or traffic despite the fact that we have the best public transport system in the country.


02. And how much of these changes are thanks to HT’s involvement?

In fact, this is one big difference between previous Kala Ghoda festivals to this year’s edition. We have been very involved with the designing of the whole programme right from the beginning. Other than programming, we also looked at how do we make it more accessible and spread more awareness to people because the festival happens at multiple venues and people get overwhelmed with the schedules and how to get there. We have developed an app which does two things: one is at the tap of key it gives you the calendar of every day, of every vertical. You don’t have to download one big app from the internet, all have to do is scan the Kala Ghoda logo, which is available everywhere and the app downloads on you phone, whichever phone you have.


Second thing is, if you go to kalaghoda.hindustantimes.com, the microsite syncs with your Outlook calendar and you can pick and choose events. Most of these changes have happened because both of us have been talking for the last few months, wanting to make it better and more accessible to everyone. The promotional campaign was not limited to the newspaper. We have created a full programme for radio and have a live studio at Rampart Row where people walk in and talk about their experience. On the social media, we have created a Facebook page, there is a Twitter contest and there is also a photography contest.

There’s also this huge wall which displays the pictures our photographers have taken. So we tried to bring out the role of a newspaper in a far more integral way that rather than just supplying our ad columns for generating awareness.


03. The one problem with associating with events which have had a long relationship with another publication or sponsor is that people still recall the old association. Like in the case of the Screen Awards, it was Star and in the case of the Kala Ghoda festival, The Times of India was the sponsor for many years. Did you factor that when you took this on?

Yes, it had an association with The Times of India. But what we also figured was that the association was more in the minds of the media audience than that of readers or consumers. No one called it Times of India Kala Ghoda Festival, it was Kala Ghoda Festival. But yes, nevertheless the transfer of the association and the brand will have to be done, which is why the connect can be seen throughout the city, in all media. Because we want to make the transfer of the association and the brand as quickly as possible…


And is this a five-year contract?

To begin with, it’s a three-year contract. But the intention is to make it a life-time one.


04. Since Kala Ghoda is located in South Bombay, people from the suburbs are hardly able to make it there to partake in the festivities. Have you thought of doing other festivals elsewhere or will it be only this one?

I completely agree with you. Mumbai cannot be served by one event. We talk about the western suburbs, the central suburbs, Navi Mumbai and South Bombay separately, although I would still think, the decibel level created in the market has reached everywhere. But given the commute issue, the distances and the hectic lifestyle of people, it is very difficult for people to reach the venue and we should ideallty have multiple events in multiple geographies throughout the year. And we will also be working towards that. So, for example, last year, when we launched the Navi Mumbai edition and although the scale was smaller than that of Kala Ghoda, we had a mini-cultural event in Navi Mumbai over two weekends, where we called artistes, did plays, musical recitals, and concerts in Navi Mumbai.


05. The worry is that when events such as the Kala Ghoda Festival which are all about culture, art and literature, have an association with a paper like Hindustan Times, the competition between various publications comes in the way of the coverage of the festival. And hence art and culture suffers.

I completely agree with you. It is very unfortunate. If you look at the Hindustan Times of the last four, five or seven years, even though a rival publication was sponsoring it, we always published schedules, carried photographs of people having fun, of what is happening, and that is the spirit one should have. It is a festival of the city, ahead of it being a festival of The Times of India or Hindustan Times.

If a small play were to happen at the NCPA or Rang Sharada, everyone covers it. Why then should we not cover an event where four or five lakh people come and have fun? It is unfortunate that the rivalry comes in the way, but that’s not how it should be.


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