What to learn from college festivals
Rashi Varshney, 01 Apr 2014

TO say that top Indian colleges are known for academics would be stating the obvious. The little known fact is that some of these colleges are hugely popular for their big fat cultural fests as well. A refreshing break, they act as a whetstone to sharpen students’ soft skills. They take them beyond the mundane, letting them unleash their potential. So what exactly do they learn here? First and foremost, how to work in a team and gain managerial skills.And the guaranteed by-product? Interaction across sectors.


Contests and more

What kind of learning is reaped post and pre fest? The common events at these college annual festivals - fashion shows, dance competitions, star nights, brainers like quiz, creative talent shows, domain-specific competitions, international food fiestas et al let students fuel their creativity and rub shoulders with international culture.


AMITY: Brand name, time and team-management, corporate (national and international) exposure, and decision-making.

VIT Vellore Work delegation, crisis management, teamwork


Aamir Khan at IIT Bombay’s Mood Indigo Fest

‘A free MBA’

Amity’s fest organizing team seems to do an MBA course without paying a penny. At the third edition of Amity Youth Fest (AYF) in February 2014 -- a big ticket fest claiming a Rs. 2 crore-plus budget -- the participants learned brand management, corporate exposure, skill management and more. 

The event saw at least 10,500 teams competing in 300 events. And the audience included at least 50,000 non-Amity students besides the 22,000 in-house students. Some of the prominent participating institutions were IIM Kozhikode, IIM Lucknow, IIT Delhi, IIT Bombay, BHU, JNU and DU. Food fiesta, Russian dance troupes and Kazakhstan artists added an international flavour.

The fest gets no money from the college. It is 100 percent sponsored. Holding true to its ‘free MBA’ philosophy, the core team honed their skills with industry interactions while adding some sponsors to their kitty. Most of them said the event gave them a good chance to create the right team, apt team-heads, and industry interactions, especially time-management. “It’s a free MBA for us, we touched almost all the managerial skills while organizing this fest,” said Anant Agarwal, AYF-14’s organizing secretary, who is doing his third year B-Tech at Amity.


College fests touch a chord with students on 14 principles of Henri Fayol, the father of management

  • Division of work

  • Authority

  • Discipline

  • Unity of command

  • Unity of direction

  • Subordination of individual interests to the general interests:

  • Remuneration

  • Centralization

  • Scalar chain managers in hierarchies are part of a chain like authority scale.

  • Order

  • Equity- Equality of teammates

  • Stability of tenure of personnel

  • Initiative

  • Espirit de corps: management should encourage harmony and general good feelings among employees

Money Vs. ethics

The AYF-14 core team put ethics before business practices while hunting for sponsors. Akanksha Khullar, a first year MBA, and the sponsorship head, said it was tough to reject proposals of companies selling products like alcohol. “We were apprehensive about the kind of message it would leave,” he said. With active help from their professors, the fest was a roaring success with footfalls increasing by one-and-a-half times, compared to the previous year.


Value of scale

At a smaller institute like IIT Gandhinagar, students learn the value of scale and geographical presence by organizing the two-day Blithchron. “The more students in the college, the bigger fest it can be as we can distribute the work efficiently. Even the core-team seniors did multitasking and the first years’ took up sponsorship and marketing,” explained Sanket Shah of Marketing division, Blithchron. The team had only 15 members for the 6th edition in January ’14. The budget was roughly Rs 15 lakh, about 20 percent higher from last year and still got 100 percent of sponsorship from corporate partners. 

Blithchron is known for the event ‘Jobless’, where each participant is given a fake   résumé and has to defend it in front of a panel of judges. The experiences are similar to that of a real interview; however, in this case there’s no time for preparation!

The Butler Did It (TBDI) challenges participants to solve a high-difficulty criminal case. Participants are shown a 20-minute clip, made by IIT Gandhinagar students. They are provided forensic reports and interrogation records of a few characters. Then they are left to don their thinking caps and crack the case. The annual fest helps the freshers to ice-break as they come out of their shell and take up responsible positions, helping them develop soft skills and groom their personality. 


Anant AgarwalAnant Agarwal,

Organizing Secretary, AYF-14

“It’s a free MBA for us, we touched almost all the managerial skills while organizing this fest”

Sanket ShahSanket Shah

Marketing Division, Blithchron.

“The more students in the college, the bigger fest it can be as we can distribute the work efficiently”

Anchal GargAnchal Garg

Core team member, VIT University


“We faced a last minute problems in distributing certificates to the external participants, but  in the end teamwork helped us”

Here comes a four-day Riviera

VIT Vellore’s Riviera had 107 events and 11 workshops apart from celebrity shows on each day of the fest. The exclusive events and workshops in the February event included VIT Roadies, DJ workshop, pottery workshop, and Vaakyudh - the events that tests knowledge of Tamil, English, Telugu and Hindi.


For those with a streak of adventure, Riviera added Go Carting, Sumo Wrestling, Paint Ball, Water Zorbing-to name a few. The debate tournament saw participation from six countries: Singapore, Bangladesh, UK, Malaysia, Philippines and Australia. Some of the colleges included North South University, Dhaka, University of Manila, NTU Singapore and Oxford, UK.

Riviera registered participation of at least 500 colleges amounting to 4000 external participants in addition to VIT University’s 25,000 students. The fest began in 2002 with a budget of just Rs. 3 lakh, which has now grown to Rs.2 crore, said Brijesh Nair, VIT faculty and organizer of Riviera. The organizing committee of Riviera had 24 student organizers. Some 20 faculties with one faculty serving as Convener guided them. They faced last-minute problems in distributing certificates to the external participants. But teamwork saw them through. “We had to assign a coordinator for each building in VIT and they made sure we received the lists on time. We also set up a special desk at the car parking area, which handled the certificate distribution for the external participants without much hustle,” said Anchal Garg, a key team member.


IIT-BombayNo authority support!

At times, professionals have to handle tough situations without their bosses around. Jadavpur University’s students learnt it the hard way. “JU students organize annual fest Sanskirti on their own. There is no support from college authorities,” said Aniket Goswami, of the fest’s core team.

Sanskirti, organized by Engineering Department is popular on Kolkata’s cultural landscape. The 7-day fest in March holds competitions to stimulate students’ creativity and innovation.

The students find the fest rejuvenating:  meeting up with friends and getting a chance to innovative.  “Sanskirti is like fresh air, like a breeze that cools down every tension, all sorts of worries in our life and allows the students to express their innovative selves,” said Goswami a 4th-year engineering student, involved with the fest for the last four years.

The budget of Rs 15 lakh is raised through collective effort of a core organizing team of 20-25 students. “We raise our fund mainly from our alumni and senior contributions; sponsorships contribute about 30 percent of our total fund. We get almost nothing from our university authorities,” said Goswami. 


A cultural oasis

On since 1970, Oasis is the pride of BITS Pilani. The 5-day October fest sees 60 common events and 12-13 exclusive events across genres like dance, drama, music and quizzing. The fest is completely run by the students. “Oasis 2013 had a budget of Rs. 70 lakh. And about 25-30 lakh were obtained through sponsorship, and the rest through merchandise, professional show ticket sales, registration fees etc,” said Himanish Ganjoo, one of the organizers. The plus point is that one learns how to monetize an event.



Dance forms come alive at the cultural festivals of most colleges, bringing out the latent potential of the participants to unleash their talent on stage to the rhythmic beat of percussion instruments

‘Star and Style’ at IIT Bombay

With Bollywood for company, can IIT Bombay lag behind? The cultural fest Mood Indigo sets the stage on fire. Its name is studded in the Limca book of Records for the maximum number of international artists at any cultural festival, 180 to be exact. Besides the 1.6 lakh people on campus, the show attracted another one-lakh plus footfalls. “We see a similar yet ever increasing footfall every year,” said Abhirath Sharma, Media Head, Mood Indigo.


Mood Indigo rocks

The bands that have performed here include Livewire Nite - Porcupine Tree (a popular progressive rock band) and Simple Plan (perhaps the most popular punk rock band). Some of the rocking performers included world’s best drummer Mike Portnoy, among others. “The performances of these bands in Mood Indigo were their first,” Sharma added.

Highlights of Mood Indigo 2013 were - the interactive session with Aamir Khan, the four concerts, the International music festival and Nike 4k run - in which at least 1,800 students ran the length of the 550 acre campus.

The hard work yielded top results. Corporate sponsorship pumped in a cash budget of Rs 1.6 crore. “We mark year-on-year increment of about 10 percent to 20,” said Sharma.

What are the plus points of conducting such a demanding festival? The team learned dedication coupled with smartness. They learned that one must stand by the team whatever may come, that there are a lot of hidden talents in every one, that managing and talking to people is one of the most indispensable skills of life, that a lot of learning takes place outside the classroom.


Presence on social media

The fests help creating college brands and hone the skills of students in social media marketing. The fests promoted on social media get huge ‘likes’. 

A Facebook post on Mood Indigo page shows a four-way tug of war. A college fest is ultimately that. It pulls you in all directions. But the ultimate winner is YOU. 

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