Year 1-4 we were audacious (evam) – we had made a claim that we would make a living in the Arts; that we would make Theatre count professionally; and that we would make people value it and make enough people interested and get them paying for it; and that we would build a Brand!
We did all of this actually! Our shows were all sold out – except for the occasional flop; younger people were finding coming to the Theatre ‘cool’; we had efficient management systems to handle all operations and hungry for increasing revenues; we had become a ‘Brand’ that was being touted around in Success Stories and Startups – and this at a time when neither ‘Startup’ nor ‘Theatre’ spelled optimism or sounded buzzy!
BUT! We were operationally bleeding… Auditorium costs on the model of Performing Theatre were prohibitive – Suppliers unfriendly and not understanding – no Eco system beyond us, because all other players were only keen on keeping the form Amateur and hence dependence on ‘Sponsors’ was not considered abhorrent, as we were beginning to consider it, and no Full Time talent available to perform our shows year round – we could only use them when they could make time ‘available’!
We didn’t tell anyone this – We continued to peddle stories of Profitability and Optimism… only because we couldn’t afford to give up the fight! Why? Because Evam was a symptom of Optimism in the world of the Performing Arts – even the most severe critics of our Artistic output held a mental candle to the need we were filling in the market for the future of the Arts and Sustainability…
We lied! We told everyone that we were doing Fab! Coz outwardly it did seem so – Houses were packed, and more and more shows were being lined up, new markets were being opened… we were a mini phenomenon!
We paid everyone we promised to pay – we had very few full time resources – we couldn’t afford to over pay our talent, and therefore didn’t insist on them losing their ‘Amateur’ status – we weren’t paying ourselves… this was bleeding! We were winning Battles – the War seemed lost for sure!
I didn’t sleep many a night! Not many knew why… Oh these Artists are never satisfied, they lamented!
Why didn’t we Quit?
I knew we had to channelize this attention and goodwill coming our way – the light was at the end of the tunnel… but the tunnel was getting brighter somewhat! People were taking us seriously… they knew we meant ‘Value’!
It was upto us to find out what People wanted to do with the Arts – how did they want to engage with it… not just figure how we wanted to Engage with it… the answer lay in the world outside – and how they wanted to play with our ‘Produce’!
On that foundation of Operational negativity – but Brand Positivity – the entire road ahead… we mapped Theatre onto Human Resource needs in Organisations, onto Children’s developmental needs, Hobby Explorations of the Urban ‘Curious’, even Societal release for the Stressed with Comedy and Satire… the rest is history – and last Quarter’s P/L!
But why didn’t we Quit?
Coz doing what we did didn’t feel like Hard work!
Even the hardest obstacles, and greatest failures seemed like worth tiding over…
The Wins were mighty Sweet and highly personal – no one knew when ‘we’ felt like we won, only we did!
Coz we genuinely felt that we were making a difference in a field where noone was doing what we had set out to do – like Explorers in the unknown with a Treasure map to Rumoured Rewards – a Map that no one believed… but our Water compass was going mad indicating something!
It didn’t feel like Losing… it didn’t feel like Winning, yet, either!
Today we are on our way – but resilient much – we know we can power through the next Wave that could come crashing at us…
But as long as you are Operationally Profitable – the game hasn’t even begun… the Value is not reflecting… you are creating something and havent been able to make the World place a higher value on it.
Hey Grofers, Flipkart, Zomato and all you Eyeball seeking Business models – I don’t understand how you think of yourself as Valuable, when your Customers see you as Cheap! Even your investors don’t believe in you – they believe in the ‘time’ being right for you… that time will pass, and then what?
Make the customer see value – and that relationship is the starting point!
#YouAreYourDream #Theatre #Startup