Non-fiction fest founder from Mumbai plans Asian literature fiesta
Kumaar Bagrodia says literature from the subcontinent will focus on Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and of course India.
There were about 60 literature festivals in India but not a single non-fiction festival and to Kumaar Bagrodia, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur who self-confessedly reads no fiction, it was an amazing thing.
“India doesn’t have the benefits of a high-level disposable income and high living like in Western Europe,” the 37-year-old explains. “We are struggling to meet basic needs. Of the 1.2 billion people in India, how many have the luxury of time or money to read fiction?”
People, especially youngsters, are growingly concerned with getting a degree, then a job, followed by a better job. Their interest lies in issues like personal development, leadership and women’s empowerment, which add value to lives and bring people up. However, there was no suitable platform to exchange thoughts on such subjects.
“Philanthropy, parenting, relationships, fitness, food, the economy, cinema… these sub-genres of non-fiction are very important in today’s living,” he says. “Even if people might not be picking up a book, they are studying the subject online.
“There was no platform to promote the authors of these sub-genres. And not just authors but columnists, successful NGOs, entrepreneurs, bloggers.” Bagrodia wanted to create a platform to celebrate this non-fiction and that was how the India Non Fiction Festival started. Hosted by LeapVault, a consultancy where he is the CEO, the festival is held in Mumbai and New Delhi, focussing on India.
“It has become a thought leadership forum,” Bagrodia says. “There is a wide chasm in India. While a part of India doesn’t have enough income to put dinner on table every day, on the other hand, another part can spend millions of dollars on a car. With all this disparity in lifestyles, what should be the way ahead for India?
“I am not sure whether we can bridge the chasm but the fact that we can provide a platform for discussing and debating these issues is important for us. This is a social obligation.”
However, having established such a platform, Bagrodia is now going full circle. Realising how “dry and dead society would be if we didn’t have fiction” — and possibly the glamour and business potential of literature festivals — he is now planning to add his own litfest to the existing plethora.
However, this would be an event with its own niche. He is planning a festival of Asian subcontinental literature that will focus on Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and of course India. And it’s not just for A-list authors but others as well, like bloggers, self-published authors and columnists. “The notion of any litfest will have to change,” he predicts.
For his niche fest, Bagrodia is looking at Dubai as the possible venue. “Dubai is a natural fit,” he says, ticking off the reasons. “It has a very open society and is a cultural melting pot with a fantastic mix of people across the world. Then there is a sizeable South Asian diaspora. It makes sense to be here.”
Tentatively dubbed Foil, the festival would be held at the end of the year if he finds the “right kind of people to partner with”.
Bagrodia says they have to be careful about who they pair with for the non-fiction festival: “We are unable to take money from certain kinds of brands. There has to be a common ideology, transparency and order of intellect. The partnership has to be good for the country and the public.”
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