Mehboob Studios, the iconic Bollywood studios in the heart of Mumbai comes alive with the best Blues talent the world has to offer during the Mahindra Blues Festival, every year. Buddy Guy and Taj Mahal were here, so were Robert Randolph, Poppa Chubby, Shemekia Copeland, Ana Popovich, Jimmy Thackery and many more. The best of Blues, in an unusual venue, in an unusual city, you may surmise.
The Mahindra Blues Festival is a celebration of an art form far away from the Mississippi Delta, its place of origin. In a culture so seemingly different; astounding commonalities have emerged. Mumbai is a tough city – but a city of dreamers. Struggle and strife is just as abundant as triumph and victories. There may not be a better connect between this genre of music with any city in the world as there is with Mumbai. Our audacious vision is to create the biggest destination festival for the Blues outside of the United States. We are already are the biggest Blues Festival in India. We would like to make Mumbai to the Blues what Montreaux is to Jazz.
In the absence of a practice of an individual giving to the arts and the preoccupation of the government with greater compulsions of providing basic living essentials to the masses, art and culture have seldom been supported by institutions in India. Sporadic acts of benevolence for a particular artist or an art event do occur, but these lack a holistic long-term plan or vision. We are convinced that corporate houses must help bridge the gap. We are convinced that the Arts and the Corporate can coexist with mutual benefit.
The Mahindra Group spans international geographies and straddles businesses as diverse as automobile and tractor manufacturing to retail, finance and holiday resorts. We engage with over a 100 nationalities of customers and employees present in all continents except perhaps, the Antarctic. As a global company we believe we are in a unique position to enable conversations across cultures and have taken a long-term view of promoting art and culture as an enabler of admiration of our brand. Moreover, our cultural outreach activities are directly linked to business strategy, hence are sustainable. They help create shared value between our brand and our stakeholders, securing a positive mind space for our brand.
For greater success in exploring alternate funding sources, art institutions may wish to closely analyse business plans of specific companies and help them identify ways in which they can derive long-term advantage by supporting a particular art form. If one sees a strategic connect and business benefit, funds will flow and art will thrive.
And what strategic connect does the Blues have to our business you may wonder? Mahindra is the largest manufacturer of tractors in the world. The hobby farmers of the Mississippi Delta are our most discerning customers in the United States. They have begun to relate to us on a different plane. We are not just another foreign company trying to sell them a product. They view us as a brand that takes pride in their heritage, celebrates their culture and helps propagate it in distant lands. Our market share has risen and our customer satisfaction levels are amongst the highest. Our products are of course the best one can buy. But our culture connect has significantly boosted our brand’s likability.
As Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group observes, over the years, this festival has become a movement and has garnered a cult like following. The audiences have become believers, a tribe of followers.
Jay Shah is Vice President, Head – Cultural Outreach at the Mahindra Group. He helms several projects in the culture space – Mahindra Theatre Festival and the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards in New Delhi, The Mahindra Blues Festival in Mumbai, The Mahindra Sanatkada Lucknow Festival in Lucknow, The Mahindra Kabira Festival in Varanasi, The Mahindra Open Sky near Jodhpur and also collaborates with The Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur. In addition to these, Jay uses Culture to propagate essential messages and build a sense of connection and common ethos between the 200,000+ employees of the Mahindra Group.