We’ve just arrived at the Percept offices in Mumbai, happy to get out of the 35°C heat and into the spacious coolness of the reception area. We’re here to meet Shailendra Singh, the founder of the Sunburn festival, one of the biggest electronic dance music events in Asia.”
Just as we are about to sit down in the stylish waiting room, a young, definitely not Indian woman comes up to us: “You must be Maarten and Anouk! I’m Nicole.”
“Your accent makes me guess you’re from the U.S.,” I say. “How did you end up here in Mumbai?”
“I just wanted a change really,” says Nicole with a smile. “Eight years ago I was working for a big company in New York and one day I realized that my life was made up of commuter trains, work and coffee breaks and I decided I wanted something more out of life. Something less predictable and also more meaningful.”
“Nice! And so now you’re working for Percept in Mumbai! How is that going?”
“Great!” says Nicole. “As you probably know, we organize the Sunburn festival, an electronic dance music event which was first launched in 2007 in Goa. It’s grown to be the hottest dance event in Asia: in 2012 we had the first Sunburn city edition in Mumbai. We also created Sunburn Arena, concerts set in large arenas with top international DJs. Just recently we had Swedish House Mafia’s One Last Tour and Avicii’s debut in India!”
“Cool,” I say. “It sounds like the event not to miss!”
“That’s right!” says Nicole as she accompanies us to Shailendra’s office, which turns out to be more like a spacious living room than an office, with a lounge area in the middle of the space. We find Shailendra sitting on one of the sofas, phone in hand. As soon as he sees us he gets up to welcome us.
“CoolBrands guys… welcome! Sit down,” he says as he points at the lounge area.
“Thanks,” I say. “It’s great to meet you! Nicole was telling us about the Sunburn festival, which sounds like it’s growing from strength to strength. How did you come up with the idea of creating an electronic dance music festival in India though?”
“It came from an observation I made a few years ago: we saw young people sitting together, but not talking to each other. They were all looking at their mobiles. And if you then think that the two most popular activities in India, cricket and Bollywood, are also spectator activities where you remain a passive onlooker, we realized that we are slowly creating a generation that is incapable of social interaction.”
“And how would a dance festival change that?” I ask.
“Well, a festival is about meeting people and talking to each other. It’s not like a concert, where you just come to listen to the music. A festival spans several days and is really more about being together.”
“Interesting, so you’ve actually created a counter movement to the digital individualization of Indian society?”
“You could put it that way,” says Shailendra. “The bottom line is that I like to create and I like to create something with a purpose. And we believe that getting young people together, getting them to interact is not only good for them, but also for India.”
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