This article was written by the Spons & PR cores in an attempt to get their names into the Shaastra newsletter, Diemer. But their intentions were all sincere and from the heart without getting too senti about most stuff.
As Shaastra 2009 winds down to close on the most Vishesh of nights, one can fondly look back with pride at Shaastra 2009 as being one of the most professionally organized and executed Shaastra’s of all time. The story of Shaastra 2009 is a tumultuous one. It is a story of austerity, efficiency and practicality in times of great scarcity of funding and support and it all started with Spons.
Just to put things in perspective, we need to look further back at Shaastra 2008, a true heavyweight in terms of techfests and arguably the biggest techfest IIT-M will ever organize. The Golden Jubilee edition of Shaastra was an industry darling. Sponsorship money poured into Shaastra 2008 like crowds at a packed Saarang Pro-Show. There literally weren’t slots to accommodate any more sponsors by Sept 2008 and the Shaastra account read somewhere near 1 crore rupees. Fast forward to Shaastra 2009. Around this same period this year our books read a paltry 40 lakhs, Shaastra 2009 did not have a main sponsor for the first time in its history. One is forced to mention the efforts of the present Spons team which worked against very difficult odds (recession, companies freezing their publicity/ HR budgets etc) around the clock over the last 5 months. To put this into a mathematical perspective, that’s literally the amount of time the Spons Teams of Shaastra 2007 and Shaastra 2008 worked to get spons for those editions.
However, the core team this year wasn’t as bad as the newsletter has made them out to be and did have the foresight to anticipate this credit crunch and plan various contingency scenarios ranging from grand 60 lakh budgets with no large scale pandemics and clear weather to humble 50 lakh budgets with large scale swine flu outbreaks and disruptions by rain and hail. The core team also had a contingency plan in case BMX ran off to the Andamans to find new fish during Shaastra, which involved making Melons the stand in Co-CAS and having ‘green’ smoke machines in the Laser Show. Thankfully that did not happen (sigh!!) (Will Melons evolve into a Co- CAS next year, that’s a secret I’ll never…………XOXO)
Melons apart, what did happen is a massive optimization exercise amongst all the departments of Shaastra with Finance leading the charge and scaring the living daylights of out of other cores and the Co-CAS projecting only the most pessimistic of Spons projections and budgets. Events rose to the challenge of a reduced Shaastra by cutting down on overlapping events and by increasing the breadth of events (notably elec and aero). A record number of VC’s organized by the diligent (read brilliant) VC team also shows the fact that even though they did not have dough to fly speakers down; they still managed and VCs this year were one of the highlights of Shaastra. A conscious decision was made by the higher-ups to restrict participation to quality participants, partially due to lack of accommodation in insti due to the increased freshie intake. How hospi managed accommodating 700 people is still a mystery to us good folk at newsletter and if core team rumors are to believed, our beloved hospi core ‘Teja will only reveal how his team did so when his hair grows back.
Problem statements in most events – notably Wright Design, Robotics, Fire and Ice were of very high quality. Were events in all successful this year at Shaastra and what does it mean for Shaastra two-o-one-o? We at Newsletter are pleasantly surprised at the success of events this year and firmly believe that having more events doesn’t equate to having better events or a better festival. If Sponsors at Shaastra 2009 are to be believed, all the sponsored events were very well received in terms of event quality, problem statements, participation and the professionalism of the co-ords. The events team may have solved next year’s sponsorship issues with their stellar efforts. We just hope they have better IgNobel co-ords next year.
Shaastra 2009 will probably be remembered for events splitting down the middle and the birth of the first mutant X-Department in Shaastra history. The Symposium on Sustainable Development was Shaastra 2009’s flagship event with everyone from EP to PR shagging their mouths off about sustainable development and all the cool speakers talking at symposium and so on and so forth without having a clue as to what exactly the Symposium was. Evolve also had Start-Up summit and the ridiculously named DREAM under its wings. Evolve was introduced at Shaastra 2009 to push the envelope of events to include multi disciplinary events with a policy thrust and introduce students to cutting edge tech through DREAM. PR aside, did Evolve live up to its hype?
Was it worth all the extra effort to have a symposium during Shaastra? Well, the newsletter team is divided over the success of the symposium. We all agree the symposium was quite an effort and a great start for our institute to be involved in such an academic exercise. However, there are quite a lot of people who felt that symposium should be a stand-alone event distinct from Shaastra given the levels of detailing and expertise needed to run such an exercise. It also set a dangerous precedent of differential treatment of Shaastra participants purely on the basis of their participation in the symposium, which could have been avoided or done with a greater degree of discretion. Start-up Summit in general is an event with great potential and is an event we at newsletter would like to see more of in coming years. DREAM should be called Shaastra Nights or Knights or something else apart from DREAM. Even though we love hating the laser show at DREAM; we will still look forward to it every year and hope to see more laser dinosaurs with flashing red eyes. The Airshow should also have an actual Aero and not a wannabe Aero MA brat MCing the show.
In the midst of all this evolution and sustainability propaganda, the true spirit of engineering shone through and the greatest successes of Shaastra 2009 were the SoEs and Student projects like Shaastra Car. The Tech-Met stole the show during the press conference and the SoE Expo had to be extended for a second day on popular demand, what with reporters all over the city paining PR coords for a SoE story. The EP and PR for Shaastra 2009 have been the best ever in the history of Shaastra with Shaastra 2009 being well attended and covered by participants and press respectively from all over the country. In the midst of all this chaos, the facilities team remained as solid as ever and the QMS team sucker punched TUV into upgrading our ISO certificate to ISO 9001:2008 certificate. The PR team and Team Ritu also sneaked in SOS initiatives to put an energy dimension into the organization of Shaastra and actually put all the green ‘shag’ into practice. We at the Newsletter hope that the next time our certificate goes for renewal we go for the ISO 14000 standard as the success of SOS suggests that we can apply stringent energy and efficiency standards and truly make Shaastra a sustainable festival.
To conclude, the Core Team did realize one thing about running a Shaastra. You don’t need a main sponsor to successfully execute your plans but having one does help in running stuff smoothly. As mentioned earlier, the spons team may claim to be the backbone of Shaastra and although every other dept might claim to be the same, this Shaastra in particular proved the fact that the amount of money garnered does define the freedom in running it although the level of the fest need not be a direct function of the same. This year helped us understand the true spirit of engineering which should bind the individual depts and help solve each others problems, something which seemed lacking in the previous years where most of the ventures appeared too spons-ish. It also helped us realize that nothing is impossible to be executed if we plan well in advance and learn from the mistakes committed in the previous years (Evolve to be precise). It re-emphasizes the fact that Shaastra’s forte is the organizational and planning capabilities of its students, more than anything else. Shaastra 2009 set out in the hangover of the “yes, we can” syndrome. The Die-Mer team is proud to say “Yes, we did!”