Questioning by the Executive Council  

The first question was from Harshith Gear, the incumbent Cultural Secretary (Literary).

They were asked to name two stakeholders each, with which Saarang PR was associated and what they would do to improve the experience of the said stakeholders. The question was common to all the three candidates.

Atharva answered mentioning that the Publicity Team and the Saarang Public Relations (PR) Team (under Sponsorship and PR) were two stakeholders. Harshith clarified that he was referring to  Saarang’s general PR outside of the institute and not the PR associated with teams in Saarang. To this Atharva answered that other colleges and their students who attend the festival and NGOS were the stakeholders. He mentioned that increasing offline and online activities would help in the dissemination of information regarding Saarang. He then elaborated his point about NGOs, and mentioned that the team should learn from the success of LEAP and partner with more NGOs – giving them a platform to showcase their work – in which case it benefits Saarang’s PR as well.

Abhinav named student participants who come from all over. Harshith interjected by saying that Atharva had already mentioned them as a stakeholder. Abhinav then responded by mentioning institute students and the corporates who give funding to Saarang as part of their CSR initiatives as two stakeholders. As for the institute students, he intended to better their experience by making Proshows more accessible to all – and mentioned his proposal of the free EDM gallery.  For the corporates, he suggested that providing them with more incentives such as branding spaces would encourage them to contribute more money.

Sankalp inquired as to whether the contingent has been mentioned as a stakeholder. When asked to clarify what he meant by ‘contingent’, consensus was reached that contingents of other colleges are essentially participants – and that it had already been covered.

Sankalp’s two stakeholders were the Proshow artists and the judges who come for events. For the Proshow artists he proposed to provide them with a hassle free hospitality service at Saarang. As for the judges – he reiterated the need for a hassle free hospitality service, mentioned that they’re already being given food coupons. Overall, he intended to make their experience in Saarang better by paying extra attention to their requirements and ensuring great hospitality.

Harshith then proceeded to question the three candidates about how they intended to finance their new initiatives for Sangam in the scenario that the budget for Sangam remained at 20 lakhs.

Abhinav mentioned that his idea for a Cultural Outreach Team, which would cater specifically to the contingents, would ensure that the cost of sending contingents to competitions elsewhere would be reduced and that they would tap into alumni funding for the same. He claimed that he could save around 2.4 lakh through this.

Atharva responded by saying that his initiative ‘Cultures of India’ was purely assistance in terms of volunteers – and that it wouldn’t incur any cost. With respect to his proposed ‘Reading Club’ he mentioned that all of the activities were not cost incurring – the centralized book sharing system had no monetary concerns and calling authors for book signings wouldn’t incur any cost since the onus was on the author. As for NCA – he clarified that the budget did not come from Sangam. When it came to ‘Career in Culture’, since he planned to conduct it in coordination with the Academic Affairs Secretary – the budget could be split, although he predicted that this too wouldn’t incur a cost. For the ‘Leisure Shows’ he planned to hire mentalists, magicians or comedians – through the Proshows’ WCS artists – who generally came for free except for their accomodation and their production. He added that for the types of artists he had mentioned, the production cost would be nil and only the accommodation would have to be taken care of – which is minimal. As for ‘International Students in Sangam’ and the ‘Association with Pratishruth’ had no cost involved, whereas activities ‘Intra Hostel Bonding’ would have a minimal cost – which would come under the hostel budget. As for the Hangout Zone and the Recreational Room, he said that the Dean had told him that he/the Institute/Batch Project would be paying for it since it is a long term infrastructure.

Sankalp answered by saying that he had proposed a ‘Saarang Branding and Associations Team’ that would actively be pursuing collaborations with outside organizations and companies – he could optimize Sangam’s budget. He added that if he executed cost cutting measures for each club – he would save 3.2 lakhs by cutting approximately Rs. 20,000 from the budget of every club. He concluded by mentioning that for all the initiatives he proposed which could increase the budget – the DoSt had told him to not consider the budget as a key issue at this juncture.

Harshith then had specific questions for the candidates.

The first question was common to both Abhinav and Sankalp as both of them had a point on a separate Interdepartment LitSoc for the PGs. The candidates were questioned on the groundwork for their initiative and were asked as to who the point of contact for the process would be.

Abhinav mentioned that he could coordinate with the Research Scholar’s Day (RSD) Culturals Team to act as points of contact. Harshith interjected to enquire about the strength of the team and specifically asked him about the groundwork he had done for this. Abhinav responded by saying that after having spoken to Sudharshan (RAS), it looked like a possible prospective option. Sudharshan interjected to clarify that it would only work if the team agreed to it, and proceeded to ask Abhinav if he had spoken to anyone in the RSD Cultural Team. Abhinav said that he would speak to next year’s team since they would be the ones to decide. Harshith then asked a follow-up question – exactly how many representatives would be necessary to ensure participation for an interdepartmental PG LitSoc? Abhinav clarified that he would initially only conduct a very limited set of events – and that 2 or 3 coordinators would be enough. Harshith then asked if it was logical to assume that 2 or 3 coordinators would match the nearly futile efforts of over 12 PG hostel secretaries. Abhinav drew parallels with the working of the Interdepartmental Sports League – saying that the Branch Councillors had worked as points of contact, and that in this case he would request the Research Councillors to do so.

For the same set of questions, Sankalp responded by saying that he didn’t have any representatives as such who would pull PGs to participate. Instead he would brand the event effectively and take the help of the Research Legislators for the same. He further stated that LitSecs- according to the Students’ Constitution- did not have the duty to make their hostels win, but that it could be an abstract duty in the future.

When Harshith pressed him as to whether he had spoken to any Research Legislators in particular and inquired if they were willing to do the job – Sankalp responded in the negative while quickly adding that purely marketing these events on the department WhatsApp group would not be enough.

Harshith’s next questions were posed to Atharva:

How many people should be interested for a new club to be introduced in the Institute?

Atharva responded by saying that approximately 100 interested students would be required.

What is the process of introducing a new club in the Institute?

He responded by saying that one would first have to approach the Cultural Advisor and explain the vision and goals of the club to her, then the same process would have to be repeated with the DoSt – and it is imperative that he approves, then the SLC would have to be approached to pass a motion for a new club to be formed. For this motion, there would have to be two thirds majority and in that case the SLC will grant it. Then the Cultural Advisor would have to be approached again saying that a positive response was received from SLC.

At this point Harshith signalled that the answer was sufficient.

Harshith’s final question was a hypothetical situation posed to all the three candidates.

They were asked what their plan of action would be if they were told, three weeks before Saarang, by the Sponsorship Team that they had lost a major 10L sponsorship deal.

Atharva was the first to answer, and he said that he would cancel one proshow one part of a proshow night. Harshith responded to this by saying that all artist confirmations and releases were done and that was not an option at that point.

Abhinav offered that the prize money for events could be reduced and the DoSt could contacted for a loan. Harshith clarified that as per his question, acquiring additional money was not an option and that the entire prize money pool was 15 lakhs – and that all 10 lakhs could not be recovered from there. To this Abhinav stated that the way to go would be to reduce money from the different verticals of Saarang. When pressed for a number, Abhinav stated that he could cut around 2 to 3 lakhs from prize money.

Sankalp’s answer was twofold – one would first have to look at revenue sources within Saarang and aggressively market any sales. Next, one would have to devise methods to reduce costs, and for this he would sit down with his Core Team to optimize the cost cutting. He added that in the worst case, he would consult the FR and Events cores and cut down on a part of KV to reduce the rent costs.

Atharva answered again and said he believed that costs could be reduced by lowering the amount of food coupons distributed. Harshith interjected to add that the total amount for food coupons was 10 lakhs and that coordinators were already complaining about the food coupon amounts. Atharva then said that at least 1 lakh could be saved there, alongside FR requirements which could be budgeted, and finally prize money could be reduced.

Harshith’s final follow up question was to ask the candidates to mention some sources of revenue generation within Saarang.

Abhinav mentioned hospitality, Atharva mentioned Saarang merchandise and Sankalp mentioned the event registration fee.

The second round of questions were asked by Nihal K., the Hostel Affairs Secretary.

His first question was to Sankalp. He first enquired about the necessity of Cooking Club to be brought under Sangam, then asked about where the events would be held and who would be called as judges for the events and what the judging criteria would be.

Sankalp justified his proposal by mentioning that the event was soon going to be included in Inter IIT Culturals, so it was time for it to be included in Sangam and as part of LitSoc events. He adds that he would call chefs for judges. He also said that even if he conducted only a single Cooking Club event in the year, he would be satisfied as he would have started a culture. As for venues, Sankalp said that he would try to get some ground floor venues. Nihal interjected to add that he was entrusted with the messes as venues only because he – in his capacity as HAS – could be held accountable for the same, and that would not happen with a Cultural Secretary. To this, Sankalp said that he would take the help of the HAS only to bridge the gap between himself and the mess authorities.

Nihal asked Sankalp how many Cooking Club events he plans to conduct and asks about the budget for the club this year.

Sankalp responded by saying that had not planned the number of events explicitly, but aimed to maintain the current number of events while adding one LitSoc event. As for knowledge about the budget, Sankalp responded in the negative.

Nihal then asked Sankalp about the process of moving the food club from the domain of the HAS to the Cultural Secretary.

Sankalp replied in the affirmative and explained the process – one would have to pass the bill in SLC, then it would go to the Board of Students, and then it would then head to the Senate and if it is passed by all three – the Cooking Club would be brought under the Cultural Secretary(ies).

Nihal then questioned him regarding his plans for the Cooking Club budget, and how he would plan to budget for building the inventory of the Cooking Club from scratch.

Sankalp responded by saying that he would try to increase the budget of Cooking Club, but it would decrease from what it currently is. His guesstimate for the inventory is Rs. 50,000.

Nihal then had common questions for all the candidates.

He asked them to detail their contingency plan in the situation that ticket sales through iKollege is scrapped.

Abhinav replied that he would route it through Townscript, since it was partly being implemented already, and rely on on-ground sales during launches and other events. Nihal then asked Abhinav if he would be running at a profit or loss. He replied saying that they might face a loss initially but ultimately the cost of the artists and shows would have to be cut down ultimately.

Sankalp’s answer was to first look for any alternative websites, and next to sell tickets through the DoSt website and to adopt an aggressive marketing strategy with pre-merchandise and pre-ticket sales. As for the idea on the DoSt website, he mentioned that he had brought it up to the Dean but he hadn’t gotten a clear no or a clear yes.

Nihal then clarified stating that while paying hostel fees, every student is mandatorily required to pay Rs. 2000 as contribution towards Shaastra and Saarang – which they later may or may not use to purchase merchandise or tickets. If the ticket sales were to be scrapped from iKollege – then this would no longer happen – and this is the primary reason for wanting to do so. Therefore, shifting to the DOST website, according to him, would not help the situation since this pool of money which could have potentially been used is now gone.

Sankalp responded by saying that if the students did not want to pay that amount by default – then he would adopt aggressive marketing strategies to make up for the loss in ticket sales, and implement some of the cost cutting measures he had mentioned earlier – such as cutting down on part of KV Grounds.

Atharva said that he would talk to CCW to inquire about their reasons for doing so – and try to convince them otherwise. He proposed that he could implement a system wherein for every ticket sale through CCW, CCW would get a commision amount of sorts. Nihal then interjected to add that wasn’t a point of CCW wanting money. Atharva then reiterated that he would try to convince them, and if it did not work out – he would look at other alternatives such as Townscript – which was used for PGs this year. He also added that the sales were almost similar to those of the previous year’s – therefore hosting sales on an outside platform wouldn’t be detrimental.

Nihal asked his final question to all three. In the hypothetical situation that Saarang could provide accommodation in hostels for neither institute participants nor participants from outside, how would they ensure that Saarang maintains its footfall and generates revenue? Only points apart from collaboration with outside hotels would be considered.

Abhinav answered saying that he would talk to nearby colleges, which may not have academic sessions running at that time, and collaborate with them to offer accomodation.

Atharva pointed out that that would happen either because insufficient incentives were being provided to them – or because the students must be causing an inconvenience. For this, he proposed to increase the per day fee for the room and as for the issues pertaining to security – the hostel secretaries and security guards could be spoken to. Nihal clarified that the situation was hypothetical – that getting accommodation was not an option – and that his plans would have to take that into account. Atharva said that he would inform all participants and attendees beforehand while trying to scout for other avenues in accomodation outside of the institute.

Sankalp said that in such a case, his first option would be to approach hotels outside especially OYO rooms as there is an existing deal with them. If that didn’t work out,  he would look at other avenues – such as hostels, other colleges and PGs as well.

The next set of common questions were asked by Vamsi Krishna Mula – the Co-Curricular Affairs Secretary.

He asked the candidates whether they had an issue with Shaastra having an EDM Night.

Sankalp replied that it would be conditional on whether Saarang would be permitted to have technical sponsors. Vamsi agitatedly questioned if he – as the Cultural Secretary – would resort to playing games with Shaastra and the CoCAS. Sankalp clarified that there should be a collaboration and if Shaastra has an EDM night, Saarang should be allowed to have technical sponsors – although he would have preferred to not approach technical sponsors. Vamsi asked him if he would stop his Sponsorship Team from contacting technical sponsors and conducting technical workshops if Shaastra dropped their EDM night. Sankalp responded in the affirmative.

Vamsi asked if Sankalp was open to collaboration and thus if Shaastrang was a possibility in his tenure. Sankalp responded that he was open to collaboration but categorically stated that Shaastrang was not a possibility in his tenure.

Moving on, Atharva said that he was not in support of Shaastra’s EDM. Vamsi  immediately retorted by asking if he thought that the Cultural Secretary could control the activities of another fest on campus. Atharva clarified his stance by stating he wanted to avoid internal clashes and that it was necessary that there be harmony – so it was better to draw clear boundaries. Vamsi then asked him if he was for the idea of having clear and distinct boundaries with the CoCAS – to which the candidate responded in the affirmative – and if he had spoken to the aspiring CoCAS about it – to which the candidate responded in the negative.

Abhinav was also against the idea of Shaastra’s EDM as it would affect Saarang’s ticket sales for the ticketed EDM show. He added that he was willing to collaborate through Saarang’s embassy contacts for WorldFest – to spot technical artists and shows for Shaastra. Vamsi then pressed him to categorically state if he would encourage his team to ‘put fight’ for Shaastra, and if he would be willing to share Saarang contacts for Shaastra. To this, Abhinav responded by saying that he would be open to collaborate, and that he was willing to do so as long as the ticket sales for Saarang’s WorldFest were not being affected.

Vamsi’s next question was to Sankalp.
He pointed out that Sankalp was from the ED Department – which mandates a 6 month internship in the even semester of his prospective tenure – and that the ‘anyway unanimous’ candidate for Cultural Secretary Arts was also from the ED Department. To this, the ex-Speaker of the SLC, Nikhil Bharadwaj Namburi asked Vamsi to clarify what he meant by ‘anyway unanimous’  since there was a reject option. Vamsi then rephrased his question to point out that in the highly probable scenario that the reject does not take place – and if Sankalp won – how would the Cultural Secretary duo manage the sphere in the even semester when they would both be absent from the institute? He also adds that while one of the incumbent secretaries was also from the ED Department – his counterpart was not, therefore that example would be invalid.

To this Sankalp replied that he while he couldn’t control the hiring practices of companies – he would try his level best to get an internship in Chennai. He also added that a project under a professor in the department would also count for the 6 month internship – so if he doesn’t get an internship in Chennai, then he would do a project here. To this, Nikhil asked him if he would promise this on the floor. Sankalp asserted that he was willing to make that promise.

Vamsi then enquired about the post titles ‘LitSoc Volunteer’ in Sankalp’s credentials on his manifesto – and asked if it was a PoR.

Sankalp clarified that when it came to Jamuna, the group was named as ‘LitSoc Volunteers’ and that there was no hard demarcation between LitSec volunteers and SocSec volunteers. Vamsi then asked him if being a volunteer under a hostel secretary counted as a PoR. Sankalp then said that he wanted to specify his contribution to his hostel, to LitSoc and to Sangam and that is why he included it.

Vamsi then asked Abhinav if he would put in his best effort – and not an effort to just tell people that he put the effort – to achieve whatever he planned to achieve for the betterment of the institute.

Abhinav then responded he definitely would. Vamsi then reads out messages from his phone – stating that Abhinav had texted him – on 11 February 2019 – to enquire about whether Vamsi was free to meet him – presumably for fundaes. While Vamsi mentions that he didn’t reply to the message, he follows by asking Abhinav if he had made any effort to meet him after that. Abhinav then pointed out that they had met at a common fundae session conducted by all the secretaries. At this point, Vamsi interjected to ask Abhinav if he had approached him to clear any doubts regarding co-curricular affairs. To this, Abhinav responded by saying that all the doubts he had were cleared in the aforementioned session.

At this point, Vamsi asks Abhinav to define ‘Co-Curricular’.

Abhinav replied that it was something that assists the student, apart from academics. Vamsi then brings up the ‘Co-Curricular Course’ point in Abhinav’s manifesto – mentioning that he was trying to include something that was ‘apart from academics’ into academics and asked the candidate to elaborate. Abhinav responded by pointing out that co-curriculars are activities that one can take part in outside of their academics. Vamsi pointed out that he was proposing courses – but called them co-curricular, seemingly implying that it was paradoxical. Abhinav pointed out that those courses would be cultural, and that cultural events technically came under the co-curricular sphere. To this, Vamsi retorts that they would be ‘extra-curricular’ and not ‘co-curricular’. Abhinav then said that one could always call it co-curricular – to which Vamsi seemingly disagreed – before adding that he had Googled the word’s meaning before he had included it in his manifesto.  

The next set of questions were asked by the Research Affairs Secretary, Sudharshan R.

His first question was to Atharva. He inquired about his idea of utilising the unused quarters – and specifically if he knew whose jurisdiction it fell under – since he had mentioned that he had spoken to the DoSt about it.

Atharva replied saying that it would be someone from the administration – and added that this solution was suggested to him by Dean (Planning) and DoSt and that they had told him that they would personally guide him to the concerned authorities if he planned to implement it. Sudharshan clarified that the actual authority laid with the Registrar, and the Housing Allotment Committee – chaired by Prof. P. Sriram from the Department of Aerospace Engineering and added that the candidate should have spoken to either of them.

To Abhinav, with regards to his manifesto point on ‘Cultural/CoCurricular’ courses, Sudharshan asked if he was aware that a course passed through the Senate could not be taught by anyone apart from faculty of IIT Madras.

Abhinav replied that it was possible to get visiting faculty. Sudarshan then asked the candidate about the need to get approval from Senate if it was only a guest lecture. Abhinav responded by saying that every course in the institute had to be passed by the Senate. Sudharshan then quips that if it was a course – then he could not get a guest lecturer. Abhinav then reiterates that hiring visiting faculty was an option before adding that, according to what the Dean (Academics) told him, the institute pays approximately 3.5 lakhs per semester for each visiting faculty. Sudarshan then asked him if he knew the process of hiring a visiting faculty and if he had spoken to any any visiting faculty. Abhinav began to mention the course on Defence Strategies, but was interjected by Sudharshan who, again, asked him if he knew the procedure to appoint someone as a visiting faculty. Abhinav began his answer by noting that the person would have to have a minimum level of credentials and educational qualifications. Sudharshan asks him for an answer specific to the procedure – to which Abhinav responded that he didn’t know.

Sudharshan then asked a question common to all three of them – ‘Who should organize the PG Freshie Nite? The RAS or Cul Secs – and why?’

Sankalp replied that it should be the Cultural Secretaries as long as it not perceived as a loss of ownership by the postgraduate students. His rationale was that, at the end of the day, it was part of the cultural scene.

Atharva replied that the RAS should organise it, because he felt that the RAS was more connected to the PG students but added that he would support the RAS if at all he needed help. At this juncture, Sudharshan asked him if ‘the RAS would be associated with all of the PG people’. Atharva began to respond by saying that the RAS would definitely have a better idea – when Sudharshan interjected to ask him if that was the case for ‘all PGs’. Atharva responded in the affirmative. Sudharshan then asked Atharva if he knew what the electorate of the RAS was. Atharva said that, in this case, it would mean every non UG student – which would include M.Techs, MScs and PhDs. At this point, Nikhil, the ex-Speaker of the SLC, intervenes to repeat the question while Sudharshan reframes the question to ask ‘who votes for the RAS?’. Atharva began by enlisting the PhDs, MScs, M.Techs – before being cut off by the current Speaker of the SLC, Amar Jyoti, who quipped that he needed some clarity on the Student’s Constitution.   

Abhinav responded to the original question and mentioned that it should be organized by the RAS with logistical help from the CulSecs and justified his opinion by adding that the cultural secretaries had the resources and logistical expertise for it – while the RAS had more access to his electorate.

Sudharshan’s final question was addressed to Atharva. He inquired about the PG specific information dissemination groups mentioned in the candidate’s feasibility report, and asked him if he was aware that a group with all the hostel Literary and Social Secretaries existed – and why a  PG specific group was needed to begin with.

Atharva began by mentioning that he had spoken to all of them, and added that since those groups have so many members – they tend to ignore the messages as they perceive most of the contents as spam and miss many messages. To address this, he plans to have a group consisting of only the Cultural Secretaries, the Events Cores and the PG hostel secretaries. Based on the feedback he received from the Brahmaputra SocSec secretaries, he also proposed to have informal meetings at hostels at the start of the semester. Sudharshan pointed out that GBMs themselves attract very little participation – and asked him how these new meetings would work. Atharva then quoted that the Krishna and Brahmaputra secretaries themselves said that while they received emails and messages regarding the events – it would be beneficial if someone came down to explain the working of the clubs and provide a timeline of the events that would take place.

The final questions from the EW were from the Speaker of the Student Legislative Council, Amar Jyoti.

He posed a common question to the three candidates and asked them if they knew what the roles and responsibilities of the Steering Committee were, and what could be done to better the functioning of the team.

Abhinav named the members: faculty members from different departments, Advisors for different departments who help the cores organise better, the Chief Security Officer (CSO), and Executive Council members from the students side. In response to why it wasn’t functioning optimally, he said that while the Cores and Advisors interact with each other, but that there wasn’t enough interaction among the Cores and the other Faculty Advisors during the semester, when there would be no meetings held. His solution for the same was to have more meetings to address this issue.

Atharva believed that the expertise of professors from the various departments could be used to better organise and conduct Saarang. He believed that everyone from the Steering Committee should be spoken with, so that the people with expertise in any particular aspect of any department could help out with the same.

Sankalp stated that the Steering Committee consisted of the Executive Council, the Cultural Advisor, the CSO, and Faculty Advisors of various departments, and that its main function was to hold the Saarang team accountable and to help the cores execute Saarang efficiently and transparently. He said that his top priority would be to rectify any issue that the Committee has, and to take the advice and suggestions of the steering committee to improve Saarang.

Amar raised the issue of financial misappropriation which had happened in Saarang 2014, and asked the candidates what checks and balances were mandated by the Students’ Constitution to prevent the same.

Abhinav replied that it was the Financial Accountability Committee, and that its roles and responsibilities included members not holding any other Positions of Responsibility, and to keep track of all financial transactions.

Atharva, on being asked if he had anything else to add, said that his answer was the same as Abhinav’s.

Sankalp incorrectly expanded FAC as ‘Faculty Accountability Committee’ and expressed regret for the mistake. He then answered that apart from the FAC there was the Cultural Advisor, DoSt Office, and Steering Committee who are involved in the procedure, and that he would make the whole process transparent.  

Amar’s follow-up question was on whether it was only the monetary transactions, or the kinds of sponsorship deals which were monitored as well.

All three candidates stated that it was both.

The International and Alumni Relations Secretary, Dhruv Jain, was absent but his questions were asked by proxy by Amar.

His questions to all three was to enquire what they groundwork had done  with regards to getting funding from the alumni.

Sankalp stated that he did not have any manifesto point involving raising funds from alumni. Atharva stated that the Development Cell within I&AR dealt with getting funds from alumni, and that he had met Mr. Subramaniam from the Development Office, who suggested using portals such as the Joy of Giving portal, and that his manifesto point related to contingents. Abhinav replied saying he had met Ms. Sujatha from the Development Office, along with three others from IITM Foundation and the IITM North American Alumni Association and had discussed his plans with the same.

 

Core Team Questioning

The Core team of Saarang questioned the candidates next. Anshuman, the Events Core, asked the candidates how they intended to tackle the issue of a general decline in enthusiasm among the freshies regarding cultural events. He added that this is mainly because freshies are focussing all their attention on internships and placements. Abhinav replied that his initiative to collaborate with Chennai 36 would be instrumental in tackling this issue. He suggested that the alumni could contribute articles describing how their participation in culturals has helped them in their professional lives. Atharva said that he disagreed with some of Anshuman’s ideas and opined that the decline in participation among freshies was rather gradual and not sudden. He believed that he could tap into the freshie enthusiasm through his initiative called ‘Career in Culturals’ – which involves having professionals come and speak about the importance of culture and about the job opportunities available in a particular cultural activity. Atharva proposed some solutions, including the glorification of certain unconventional career choices, as well as making the cultural scene in the institute more accessible.

The next question was by the FR core regarding the plastic ban in Chennai and how they intended to tackle it as banners would not be allowed during Saarang anymore. Atharva suggested exploring other avenues for branding, citing the example of Vodafone’s Zoozoo branding. In this way, sponsors may be promised logo presence while not requiring plastic banners. Sankalp replied saying that he would encourage sponsors to come up with alternative ideas for branding, and bring new branding material that did not involve plastics. Abhinav also agreed that the sponsors could look into other ideas for branding.

The Proshows Core, Sreenidh, asked Atharva about his timeline for Classical Night and when and to whom he intended to circulate the poll, with respect to his Choose Your Artist initiative. Atharva replied that as the main act is already finalised in the summer, the other act, say a fusion act, could have the list of potential artists released to the public. Sreenidh asserted that this was circumstantial, and asked him what his plan would be in the event that the chosen artist could not be finalised. Atharva replied saying that he intended to ensure transparency in operations and would reveal all of the reasons to the public immediately. When Sreenidh asked him if he would disclose reasons such as not being able to afford the artist, Atharva replied that when he had spoken to the former, he had been assured that all of the proposed artists were within the same price range. Uttaravalli Abhinav, the other Proshows Core, asked him about Indian Rock and Comedy, stating that if he were to release these names the budget would increase. Seeing as proshows already makes a loss of 15 lakhs, would he be okay with further increasing this loss? Atharva stated that the hype surrounding the artist once they get confirmed would urge people to buy tickets. Sreenidh asked him whom he would release these names to, to which Atharva replied that it would be to the students and faculty.  

The Sponsorship Cores then asked Abhinav about the proposal of free EDM gallery tickets. One of them argued that there is an associated risk involved in having a free EDM gallery. It was also pointed out that the figures regarding the free EDM model, as listed on the candidates’ presentations, were inaccurate. Abhinav responded saying that the free EDM proposition would enhance the show experience by a lot, and then addressed the issue of boosting the proshows events, suggesting that more money needs to be spent on boosting. Finally, it was asked how the security concerns would be handled in the worst case scenario – that the entire student body comes to the show. Abhinav suggested that Saarang could follow the same system as the one followed by IIT Bombay and distribute vouchers during the day, and that entry would be on the basis of first come first served.

Sankalp was questioned by Tejas Ambati on the former’s decision to increase the hospitality tariff by Rs.50 to account for the free adventure zone. The Hospitality Core clarified that the team intends to increase the tariff by Rs. 50 anyway and that this additional increase by him would entail a hospitality cost of Rs. 450 per person per day – making it more expensive than OYO rooms. Sankalp replied saying that he was unaware of the decision – when the Hospitality Core asserted that he had told him that already in the fundae session. Sankalp then clarified that he might raise the accommodation fee marginally – by say Rs.25 – and added that he had arrived at this numbers from Saarang 2019 data – while he planned to receive better concessions on the free adventure zone through partnerships with the vendors for Laser Tag. On being grilled regarding the accommodation price hike yet again – he conceded that he hadn’t known that OYO rooms were cheaper and that he would reconsider his plan. The last question to Sankalp was regarding having a UPI for Saarang – especially as to how the transactions would be tracked. Sankalp’s solution was to either follow Suprabha’s model – to make a note of all the transactions, or if it is too cumbersome – he would have a QR code that redirects to a RazorPay portal for each stall – since RazorPay provides live tracking of transactions, even if it may be slightly inconvenient for the users – but adds that that would be his Plan B.

Abhinav was then questioned by one of the three Sponsorship and PR Cores – Tanmay Bagree with regards to his proposal of a Saarang Confluence. Tanmay mentioned that this attempt was already made 3 times in the past four years – and that they had failed each time. He also added that the structure mentioned by Abhinav in his feasibility report was exactly the same as what the team had tried and failed at this year. He proceeds to ask Abhinav what he would do differently that would change the outcome. Abhinav mentions that the model of Indian Schools for Debating Society could be looked into. When pressed for specific changes he would make in Saarang – Abhinav mentions a second group called ‘Daan-Utsav : The Joy of Giving Week’ which had volunteers in different parts of India. He said that he had spoken to their organizing team and that they were very open to having one of their meetings in Saarang. At this point, another Sponsorship Core – Aniket Kamthe – mentioned that Abhinav’s claim of having spoken to him involved a singular message on the day of the manifesto deadline. As Abhinav began to speak – Tejas moves on to another question. He asks all three candidates if they knew why ticket prices are maintained at/below Rs.499. Both Abhinav and Sankalp began to answer the question – Sankalp answered the question first and mentioned that it was because anything about Rs. 500 would incur a GST – and Abhinav concurred.

 

GSB Questioning

The floor was finally opened up to the GSB. The first question was posed to all three candidates, on what they would do to ensure events achieve greater recognition as opposed to the nights which end up overshadowing the former. Sankalp did not agree with the point, stating that other professional shows were catching up to Saarang, and that what made Saarang stand out was the quality of events. Abhinav and Atharva had similar answers, stating that Saarang was known for its events, and the latter mentioned that he added unique events to his manifesto that would draw out more people to participate.

The next question was from T5E, wherein all three candidates were asked to respond to the following statement: Sangam’s structure pushes students after their first year into organizational roles. Did they think this is pushing the most talented people into organising events rather than participate in them? If they agreed, how did they propose to change this? Abhinav responded first, saying that he thought there could be a mix of both, for instance if there was a music club coordinator who was talented in the same sphere, giving them the opportunity to develop their skills in both these roles would be beneficial to them. The follow-up to this was that it was an optimistic approach and that limited time prevented people from doing both, leading to the culture dwindling. To this, Abhinav responded that insti teaches one time management. Atharva responded next by saying that as someone involved in the cultural scene, he planned to build a culture within the club wherein people involved could take part in various events and represent IIT Madras in contingents sent elsewhere. Sankalp said that the notion that in order to be more involved in a club’s activities, one had to be a coordinator, had to change. He emphasised on the need for more bonding not only within the team but also between those interested in the activity and people in the club. He agreed with Atharva’s point on promoting ‘contingent culture’.

The next question was addressed to Atharva regarding his proposal to introduce a reading club with a centralised library – as the literary secretary of Atharva’s hostel, he had used 25K from the hostel residents’ money so that he could use the books to send to other people. He asked if he had met the current or aspiring Literary Secretaries of his hostel, to which Atharva replied that he had his personal opinions and referred to a private reason as to why he did not approach him- but that he had met with other the Secretaries of other hostels and received a positive response. The next question was addressed to Sankalp regarding the necessity of his proposed branding team within Saarang and reminded him of the existence of such a team which works within I&AR whose responsibility it is to brand the institute. Sankalp responded that the institute branding team already had a lot on its hands, his team would look for associations, make social media more engaging and improve its accessibility for all students.

One interesting question posed to all three candidates was what point they would take from the other’s manifesto if they were to be elected. Abhinav replied saying that he would take the inclusive social campaign as part of every core’s responsibilities from Sankalp’s, and nothing from Atharva’s. For Atharva, Sankalp’s point on collective responsibility was appealing and he wished to take none from Abhinav as he thought that the latter had not done enough groundwork. Sankalp answered that he would take the improved branding point from Abhinav’s and the initiative to include international students from Atharva’s.

Atharva was asked about the similarity between his idea for an international fest and an existing vertical under IAR, asking whether he had spoken with the latter regarding the same. To this he replied saying that he had spoken to the Head of the International Relations Cell and added that the international day being referred to was just for a day with limited events and facilities. Saarang on the other hand has larger numbers of coordinators and cores and is thus better able to handle various tasks. The Head, as per Atharva’s discussions, was in favour of this and wanted to include them in Sangam and Litsoc events as well.

Finally, Abhinav was asked why he did not have any point regarding vernacular events in his manifesto unlike the other two. He answered saying that he did not consider this as a manifesto point rather it was the responsibility of the cultural secretary. When asked if he had spoken with the heads of any Sabhas or Samitis and if yes, which ones, Abhinav replied that he spoken to some, concluding that they all wanted independence.

 

With this the soapbox session was officially concluded.

 

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