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Mahindra Cultural Outreach -- Building deep connections to diverse global communities

The objective of the Cultural Outreach initiatives is to support unusual art forms and reach diverse communities

Mahindra has always been a different kind of company, whether it’s the way in which we conduct business or our approach to new challenges. We often look at the issues from diverse perspectives, which helps us develop truly innovative and impactful solutions. One good example of this ‘alternative thinking’ is our Cultural Outreach initiative.

But why is the world’s largest tractor maker and one of the leading SUV companies in India promoting arts and culture? The answer is rather simple. It’s one more way to build deep, meaningful connections with the communities that we serve in India and around the world. It’s also about sparking conversations across different cultures through the perspective of a large global federation like Mahindra.

In selecting a specific art form, the thrust has always been to contribute to the communities that Mahindra does business in. Some of the questions we ask ourselves are – Does the art form need our support? Will it help us make our relationship with a particular group of people stronger? Will it result in the rise of an art form and its practitioners? Will the location of the festival add to the geographical spread of our cultural outreach, and therefore the Mahindra brand?

Explaining the strategic rationale behind the Cultural Outreach initiative, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra says, “For a predominantly engineering company such as Mahindra, there is a tendency to be overly objective and rationale -- to be left-brained. The arts help us use our right brain, which makes us more emotive and creative. Therefore, one of my responsibilities is to inspire creativity in the organisation through whole-brain thinking by engaging with the arts. Our vision has always been to support unusual art forms and reach diverse communities.”

As the man in charge of Cultural Outreach since its very inception, Jay Shah, Vice President, Head- Cultural Outreach, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., explained, “Our sustained presence through our Cultural Outreach programmes can be attributed to the enlightened belief of our leaders that associating with the Arts benefits our brand and our company and at the same time provides much-needed resources to the Arts world. We are proud that we were among the first to realise this symbiotic relationship, create long-running, successful festivals and have, therefore been able to stand out as a company with a heart.”

The Cultural Outreach programmes are also a natural extension of Mahindra’s Rise philosophy, one that ultimately seeks to ‘drive positive change’ in the lives of all its stakeholders, including the larger community and society that it serves. It is not just about writing a cheque and then forgetting about it. Mahindra sweats the details and is intimately involved in the conception and execution of each of the outreach initiatives.

Rise is not only about improving our stakeholders’ economic circumstances but also their quality of life. And we believe that this can be done by improving access to culture. Once you’ve fulfilled your basic needs, how does one find meaning? It’s the cultural actors who give meaning to what we do. It’s the poets, the philosophers, the artists who ultimately examine and tell us why we’re even alive.

In the past decade, the company has invested, honed and popularised cultural properties such as the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META), the Mahindra Blues Festival, the Mahindra Sanatkada Lucknow Festival and the Mahindra Kabira Festival, among others.

META, now in its 15th year, continues to recognise the finest talent in Indian theatre and has become synonymous with truly great theatre. META presents theatrical masterpieces from across the country and brings together unknown theatre companies from all over India with the more established ones on a single platform.

Another very successful initiative is the Mahindra Blues Festival which has truly put Mumbai on the world Blues map ever since it began back in 2011. It has been a pioneer in bringing this unique genre of American Blues music to India and is easily Asia’s largest and finest celebration of Blues music. Over the years, it has hosted legends like Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Walter Trout, Robert Randolf, Jonny Lang, Matt Schofield, Popa Chubby, Shemekia Copeland, Ana Popovich, Dana Fuchs, John Lee Hooker Jr. and Jimmy Thackery.

Mahindra also supports some truly Indian cultural initiatives like the Mahindra Sanatkada Festival, which brings to life the contemporary yet forgotten ‘Lucknowi Tehzeeb’. The festival is organised around a fair involving master craftsmen from the region and provides an opportunity to appreciate the old world Nawabi culture.

Another festival that is especially relevant in these challenging times is the Mahindra Kabira Festival held in Varanasi every year. It relives the profound yet simple teachings of the great poet and mystic Kabirthrough an exhibition of literature and music. Varanasi’s ghats, spiritual and ancient, present the perfect setting to experience the magic of Kabir.

Finally, the Mahindra Open Drive is a liberating drive across the Indian countryside combined with an extravaganza of music, food and adventure in Goa. The event also encourages people to celebrate the good in life — by recognising the common man’s good deeds.

The overwhelmingly positive reaction to these initiatives over the years shows that no other Indian company is perhaps as committed and successful as Mahindra & Mahindra when it comes to the support and patronage of the arts.

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