CSR or corporate social responsibility is a fairly big thing now. But CCR – corporate cultural responsibility – is slowly picking up steam too. Of course, businesses have in the past supported culture – think Shriram group in Delhi – but today, we are seeing corporates extend patronage to music, arts and culture in ways that connect beautifully with the brand ethos.

For instance, Asian Paints has invested in beautifying public spaces through art. It is involved in the Sassoon Dock Art Project, which is open for public viewing till 22nd February. The paint maker has also spread its canvas to Delhi’s vibrant Lodhi Art District.

Or take the way the Dalmia Bharat group has got into the maintenance of heritage sites, adopting the Red Fort as its Monument Mitra as well as the 13th-century Gandikota Fort in Andhra Pradesh. Beyond the upkeep of these monuments, the group has been introducing cultural experiences too – for instance, it launched a new immersive new sound and light show, with dance, drama, puppetry at the Red Fort recently. Last year it organised a 10-day celebration called Bharat Bhagyavidhata, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. Given the “Bharat” in its company name, contributing to national assets has great synergy.

The new sound and light show at the Red Fort

The new sound and light show at the Red Fort

Anand Bhardwaj, CEO, Heritage and events, Dalmia Bharat Group – an interesting portfolio for an executive at a cement and sugar firm – describes how during the event, more than 70 artisans from various States and regions were invited to show their craft. “It witnessed a massive footfall of more than 1,50,000 visitors over a period of 10 days,” he says.

But it’s the Mahindra Group that has taken cultural interventions to new highs. Jay Shah, Vice President, Cultural Outreach at the Mahindra Group, describes how it all started some 16 years ago, when Anand Mahindra reorganised things at the group, focussed on “creating a corporation in tune with today and with an outward community element to its personality”.

In its over 75 year history, the group had supported sports and other community driven activities, but his idea was a more strategic exploration of how the brand could benefit from its association with culture. “Both elements – the corporate need for having a personality change, and culture’s need for patronage were to be kept in mind. That was the direction he gave,” says Shah. Thus began commitments like the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards held in Delhi, the Mahindra Blues festival in Mumbai, the Mahindra Kabira festival in Varanasi, the Mahindra Sanatkada festival in Lucknow and the Mahindra Open Drive festival outside Mumbai.

“This year will see the launch of two brand new festivals – Mahindra Roots, aimed at Gen Z, and Mahindra Percussion, throwing the limelight on the diversity and history of the instruments,” says Shah.

Humanising the brand

Shah describes how Mahindra as a brand had a very macho rugged image and as the corporate diversified its products, got a growing base of women consumers, and went into areas like vacation rentals, there was a need to humanise the brand. What better way than culture.

Mahindra Blues festival 

Mahindra Blues festival 

The Mahindra Blues festival actually had a strategic business intent to it. Shah describes how when they wanted to expand the tractor business to the US, they launched the festival to connect with farmers in the Mississippi Delta. “Blues is the fount of American culture. It is the music of the disadvantaged, yet full of hope and positivity,” describes Shah, explaining why they decided to get involved with this genre. While the festival is held in Mumbai, whose residents experience the same emotions, a Mahindra Blues weekend is organised in Chicago as well.

Shah points out how all the Mahindra festivals have been around for a long time. “What we have realised is that if you sustain your patronage, the brand gets a halo of lambi race ka ghoda,” he says.