‘If everyone profits, there will be no fatigue’

19 Sep,2019



Rajesh Kejriwal isn’t your typical advertising industry maven. He says he is a businessman first, but interesting in adding value to the fraternity’s lives. While he is a popular face in the trade thanks to his advertising awards and ZeeMelt conference, what earned him much respect and fame was the Kyoorius Designyatra, the annual design fest that he has been conducting for over a decade (14 years!). We caught up with him a few days before this year’s edition which starts today (Thursday, September 19) in Goa. Read on… 


How’s this year Kyoorius Designyatra different the ones you’ve had thus far? 

In terms of the curation and speakers, not much difference. It is the same as every year. We we research a diverse mix of speakers and we get them. The number of speakers is the same as earlier. But having seen the ground reality or the so-called sentiment or recession or market bloodbath as it is happening, we decided we will take two steps forward and see if we can save the delegates some money. So instead of starting in the morning at 9:30 as we do every day and every year, we are starting the first day at 5 pm, which reduces the cost of one day’s stay for people and saves them one working day. So, we start at 5 but the number of speakers are still the same … 23-24 or whatever we have every year. We end the first day late in the evening at 9 and then there is dinner etc. for everybody. And other than that, if you ask me what the difference is: well, we have a little less registrations than every year because every corporate has come back with lesser numbers than last year. The design community is the same, the student community is the same, the young blood community is the same. We filled those gaps but the corporate community number has dipped.


So blame it on Narendra Modi?

Ha Ha… Whatever


But one thought the design folk wouldn’t be as impacted by the slowdown as, say, the advertisngwallahs,right?

Design unlike advertising is more long term, so  there may be no short-term impact in design. Whatever is planned is planned for a longer term. So, impact-wise I don’t think designers lose too much of business. They may lose a bit of revenue because of the client bargaining a little more and cuts in budget. But I think real estate has been a bit of a dampener for the design community. Because, there was a huge amount of work happening out of real estate where they were paying a lot of money. That’s completely vanished.


How many of the people you get at Designyatra are repeats? 

Yes, about 50% of 12-1300.


Has that changed at all?

Quite a bit. For the first six years, we had 80-90% repeat. From 2011 till 2015 we had about 50%. Now it’s come down to about 30% repeat.



Yes, 70% new.


Does that indicate anything at all? 

Well, I think there are two or three reasons. If you see every year we sponsor 300 students or subsidise 300 students heavily. The student community keeps changing so there is no repeat there. Most of the students are in their final year and after they graduate their company many not sponsor them. Also, earlier about 400-450 were from corporates, this year that number has fallen by 250. Only 200 are coming.


No event organiser talks so openly about the downers. But you are pretty open about it?

I don’t think it is negative news. It is market relevant. It’s relevant to the market today. I have never said I have 1000 people, I have never said I have 1500 people. If I have 1000,  I have that number. So be it. And if I’ve got less this time, I’ve got less. Big deal! It’s relevant to the context of today’s market scenario. The sentiments.


Is that going to impact your bottomline significantly?

Of course, the costs are the same. There is no change in our costs.


So, reducing the time to half day hasn’t helped you very much?

Has not helped me one bit in terms of costing. It’s the same number of speakers, same number of nights, same number of lunches, same number of dinners. No change.


Interestingly, while in the rest of the A&M domain, there has been some fatigue in terms of attendance in conferences, this hasn’t impacted Kyoorius Designyatra. What do you think is the reason for this?

I don’t think it is right to say there is a fatigue in media conferences. I think the fatigue is there where the events are not curated well, not researched well, not made relevant to the changing scenario every year. If you go back and see Designyatra…. Way back when we started, we just looked for legends globally and we brought the legends here. With the internet opening up, the legends were not that relevant as much as the people who were doing new work. Today if you see, we are getting some inventors who have at the age of 17 have done great work. There is one Indian at age 17 has invented two or three things which are truly groundbreaking. So, if you research well, curate well, have a diverse set of speakers and ensure that the people go back from the conference and have profited from being there year on year, I don’t think fatigue will set in. You look at it this way, there have to be three profits that event organiser has to look at. Most event organisers look at their own profit. But unless they look at profit for the organiser, which is correct….profit for the delegates, and profit for the speaker, there is no overall profit. You ensure that the speaker gets something out of coming to the event. Delegates come to Design Yatra and get profited by being there and the event organisers obviously profits from both revenue perspective and satisfaction perspective then I don’t think fatigue will set in anytime.


There is a definite difference in the kind of audience which comes in  for Zee Melt.. there is hardly any one standing outside in the Designyatra

There is a difference between Melt and Designyatra. Designyatra is a very linear conference… just one hall and every speaker speaks in that hall. There’s nowhere else for anybody to go. Also, the destination, it’s in Goa. So people have left whichever city they are in and they have come into there. There’s nothing much to do and they are there. And unless there is a speaker who is totally not relevant to them or etc, they may walk out but other than that there is nothing that’s not happening there that is not relevant to them. In Melt there are many disciplines… Designyatra addresses only design. And there are only people there who are interested in design. There is no grey area for anybody. But if you look at Melt there could be a big name speaker but speaking on measurement and measurement is not interesting for more than 100 people. Or there could be something on Ad Fraud. So there are multiple halls…multiple sessions on diversity etc etc…and there are some sessions which are relevant for only a few. I seriously believe that the world of advertising and marketing cannot have a linear conference. And all advertising and marketing conferences that are still being linear will face fatigue.


And with Design Yatra it is a linear conference… although even design has changed considerably 



So are you at any point of time looking at changing that also?

Maybe. We are exploring how can we make it more experiential. We are not changing from linear to something else but we are looking at how can we make it more experiential. So, can I take another hall and do something more … there is one hall where the speaker comes and talks which also great for the students…. But can I take another hall and so something more for the students…. Can I take another hall and do something more for the young professionals between 23-28, whose learning curve is something different from that of the student. Likewise can I take another hall and do something for the age group of 35-45  who think they know it all but don’t know it all because they are not so used to technology as the youngsters are…. So they need to learn. There are 45 year old designers who don’t know what Instagram is. So there is something that I can do to help that curve. So these 3 buckets is something that we may change over the next 2 years.


And do you follow the same rules that you don’t repeat people for 7 years.

Yes. At least five years.


And, how much time does the curation of Designyatra take?

One full year. We have five speakers confirmed for next year. The work for the next year has already started. The dates for next year are already frozen. And you can’t….if you do that in two months time it can never happen.


But it will be Goa? You want to stick to Goa?

Next year is our 15th year so we are exploring different locations.


You’ve done Jaipur in the past.

I think Jaipur was not a wrong choice. Jaipur worked because Jaipur as a city has character and that’s great for designers.



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