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Even If You’re ‘Still Figuring’, Come – Vijay Nair

Design Log 08 Sep

Meet Vijay Nair, Founder of OML and the mind and heart behind The Coalition. Hear him speak about its history, ethos, intentions and ambitions; who it is really for, what to expect in the Bangalore edition, the streams in focus, the speakers on the floor - all this and a whole lot more.

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What is The Coalition? What is its core ethos? How did it start? 

The Coalition is popularly called the festival of creativity because it is a single platform where the entire creative industry lands up in the same place. Its first edition in Delhi back in 2013 was more like a creative enterprise bootcamp. Today, however, The Coalition has evolved leaps and bounds, and transformed into a medium for the creative community to collaborate, connect and converse.

Did you attend some event that made you go like ‘We need to bring this to India’? What was the history?

I was attending all the other existing media conferences in India that made me want to start something new. The existing formats were way too boring and didn’t target the creative industry at all. We wanted to build a convergence of all the various streams in the creative industry; a place for everybody to meet with each other and find a common ground.

What has been your experience from the editions thus far?

My experience has been that people from the various creative industries really need to know how to run a business. And it definitely feels like we’re filling in a gap. This is not a conference where you come to simply get inspired or take home more creative ideas. It’s really quite focused in what it wants to achieve. Its purpose is to purely try and to get you to the next level of your business.

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(Clockwise from Top)  Geoff Wills (President of Live Nation), Deepak Ramola (Founder of Project FUEL), Tarsame Mittal (Talent manager) and Anjula Acharia-Bath (Manager - Priyanka Chopra)

What made you think such an event was necessary in India? 

When people use the word ‘startup’, nobody even thinks of the creative industry. It’s almost always technology or business. So that was something we wanted to change. We wanted for people to look at the creative industry in the same way. Before The Coalition, we realised that no one officially recognises the creative sector as one single unit. So the idea was really to bring high-performing individuals who’ve been really successful at what they do, and get them to share their methods and tools with people for whom that knowledge would be intensely relevant. 

Who is The Coalition really for? Who do you think should attend?
You could be an artist, an entrepreneur, a student or 'still figuring' - The Coalition welcomes one and all. Anyone looking to learn, listen, collaborate; to harness their creativity and find the tools and resources to bring their ideas to life. It is for anyone belonging to the creative ecosystem - from he who already has a creative setup to he who always had a creative passion but never knew how to convert that into a successful business. That’s the breadth that we are looking at.

What is the vision for this year’s Coalition? What can one expect from this one?

Expect heated debates, no holds barred insights and incredible stories from some of the brightest minds running creative set-ups in India and around the world. Also expect discussions that inspire and impact the creative community, as individuals and an industry.

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 Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief Minister at The Coalition

With respect to vision, typically we have a common vision for the first coalition that we do in every city, to really touch upon the basics and get the core idea of The Coalition across. For now, we’re planning to stick to the same format, but as we progress along, we’ll make it bigger. The idea is to really pick up from where we’ve left off. To try and take it to the next level. To see who are the bigger speakers, to find who have the bigger ideas.

So far as streams are concerned, WeWork x The Coalition are including six creative streams with the intent of exploring these through the lens of experts and innovators in each. Streams in focus include: Music, Performing Arts, Food & Beverage, Makers, Design and Content.

Who are some of the speakers that have spoken previously at The Coalition? And who are the line-up of speakers this year? Which speaker are you looking forward to the most?

Previous speakers at The Coalition include Anurag Kashyap - Filmmaker, Writer, Producer, Arvind Kejriwal - Chief Minister, Delhi NCR, AIB - India's edgiest comedy collective, Harsha Bhogle - Sports Presenter, Hosi Simon - Global General Manager, VICE Media, Zakir Khan - Comedian and many more.

This year’s speakers include the likes of Avinash Kumar, Craig D’Mello, Durga Gawde, Shiva Nallaperumal, Ashish Shakya, Saransh Goila, Rohan Joshi, Samir Bangara, Vikraman Venu, Rohan Abbas, Priya Dewan, Nikhil Barua, Mr. Bingo and more.

I am looking forward to the panel with AIB and other entrepreneurs the most, as they tend to bring out the lighter side of being in the business very well.

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Audience at Talkatora Stadium, The Coalition 2016

There is a quote by Comedian, Zakir Khan on the website which says “Tumhare maa baap ko koi art form se dikkat nahi hai. Woh bas tumhe gareeb nahi dekhna chahte.” In that regard, could you shed some light on the Commerce of Creativity?

Zakir shared this during one of our panel discussions, and I think what he said was absolutely relevant. A lot of the times what we fundamentally grow up believing is that our parents don’t want us to be in the creative field. We conveniently say, "They want us to become doctors and engineers." But that is absolutely untrue. I feel what they really want is for us to be pursuing something that is safe and financially stable. So I think one of the larger challenges of the creative industry is that it is not looked at as secure at all. There just needs to be visible establishments to give them encouragement and make them believe otherwise.

Do you feel the creative industry has finally viable career options?

Of course it does. It has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 10 years. But there is still a big difference between the reality and the public perception of it, and that is what needs to be changed.

There are a bunch of streams spoken about at The Coalitions, right? There’s fashion, there’s music, there’s f&b and the like… To that end, which stream do you think needs more help? And which stream do you think is emerging stronger than the others?

I think every stream seems to need as much help as the other. I don’t think anyone has it easier than anyone else, because each of them has their own struggles. There are some like design and music, which might be a bit established, but still tend to hit a plateau oftentimes and don’t know how to scale up. And then there are the performing arts and the F&B industry which are a lot harder to get into and make oneself viable. So I think it differs from stream to stream quite a bit.

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(Clockwise from top) Mr. Bingo, Avinash Kumar, Durga Gawde, and Shiva Nallaperumal to speak at The Coalition 2017

The reason, I think, we chose to have a larger format where people from different streams come and speak about their journeys is for people to get a sort of cross-functional exposure and understand the bigger picture.

If you were to choose one stream, which one would be the one you’d put your money on?

I don’t think it works that way. It’s all really interconnected. For instance, the film industry cannot exist without fashion; the entertainment & music industry cannot exist without F&B. And that’s the whole point of The Coalition - that no one stream can grow in complete isolation. Either the whole industry grows. Or the entire industry lags behind.

What is the future of The Coalition? What are you planning next?

The future plan is to scale it up and rope in the biggest names from all the streams of the creative industry.  Bombay and Delhi will  always be the first two choices as venues - them being sort of melting points of the creative industry. But we’re surely looking at expanding and doing smaller editions in other cities like Hyderabad, Kolkata and the like as well.

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‘On Air with AIB - Breaking Bollywood' - Neil Bhoopalam, Anurag Kashyap, Richa Chadha, Hussain Dalal and team All India Bakchod

Follow the festival on social media and the website for updates. 

Design Log is a weekly design document logging every relevant art and design occurrence in India. 

Image source: The Coalition