The ‘Jaipur Literature Festival’ has proven itself as a calendar-marked event for many since its establishment in 2006. Spanning over five days, it is an annual phenomenon that attracts diverse audiences from across the globe every January to the pink city. The scale of the festival has grown exponentially over the last thirteen years. From an incidental gathering of seven thousand people in a local hall that could accommodate not more than 300, to hosting millions at the Diggi Palace reflects the positively sloped growth of the JLF (Saha-Mint 2017). There are reasons to believe that the expanse of the Jaipur Literature festival has not happened in isolation. Thus, this article explores the specific case of the Jaipur Literature festival as more than just a literary assembly of authors and avid readers. In fact, it deems to suggest the annual event as a prime business opportunity for all parties involved. As a space that allows for the convergence of commerce and literature, it may even be fair to say that the Jaipur Literature Festival is not too far from being an annual business conclave.
The choice of Jaipur as the sight of the festival is not completely arbitrary. In fact, the festival owes much of its success to the locational advantages as provided by the city that is known to be pretty in pink. Having Jaipur as the city of the festival has made it the commercial capital for the literary and publishing world. In an interview with LiveMint, Sanjoy Roy, the director of JLF, reveals the reason behind the success of Jaipur as the flagship city of the festival. Further, he compares its merits to Delhi and suggests that Delhi could never be home to the festival. This is because Jaipur offers unique economic advantages that surpass those provided by Delhi. He states that the choice of Jaipur over Delhi is the similar to that which premium Edinburgh enjoys over London in the festival circuit. Reasons for its superiority include capitalization of the heritage value of the city, a strategic locational proximity to Delhi and its already established status as a luxury tourist city. This adds to the appeal of the festival since it also caters to wider demographic of people who are interested in Jaipur beyond the festival.
Apart from attracting loyal and diverse audiences year after year, the inherent advantages of Jaipur also allow for the flourishing of several other industries in the city. The scale of the yearly event is expansive enough to fuel the operations of varied sectors of the economy within Jaipur. If restricted to just author panels and speaker sessions, the festival would not fetch the kind of numbers it does now. A large fraction of the festival’s revenue comes from a range of activities and events included in the five-day extravaganza.
The Jaipur Literature Festival claims itself to be the only free-entry festival in the country. It uses that factor as its unique selling proposition and justifies its growing numbers every-year. While this is true for the fee-less author panels, the events that add to the glamour and exclusivity of the festival come at a substantial premium. These come under the ambit of ‘delegate privileges’. Delegates of the Jaipur Literature Festival get the opportunity to experience the festival as an all-inclusive affair. Their privileges include luxurious long winter lunches, glass clinking cocktail parties, musical evenings at the Amber Fort, an invite to a special baithak, access to the delegate lounge and customized JLF merchandise.
To ensure a smooth delegate experience and the execution of the promised privileges, the festival requires a high degree of cooperation and collaboration from the tourism, hospitality, transport and craft industry in Jaipur. Furthermore, not only is their participation required for the festival, the success of the festival inadvertently promotes the interests and business of these industries. The development of this symbiotic relationship between industries and the JLF leads to the flow of a lot of capital within Jaipur.
The Jaipur Literature Festival was initially a venture of the Jaipur Viraasat Fund and organized as a part of the Jaipur International Heritage Festival till 2008. From its inception, it never restricted its audience to any specific demographic and has always welcomed professionals and amateurs from across disciplines. These include aspiring writers, established authors, editors, publishing houses, members of the press, business enterprises, and entrepreneurs etc. Thus, there has always been room for creative overlap leading to the creation of business opportunity. The festival is not only a space to showcase one’s literary work and engage in related discourse, it is an assembly of all those who are interested in promoting the commercial agenda of literature.
In a world that is desirous of ‘quick and easy’ content, it is necessary to make literature appealing to audiences and the Jaipur Literature Festival successfully pulls this off by investing in the romance of literature. It extends reading as a private experience to a public affair.
To further ensure the longevity of the festival in the public sphere, a constant flow of capital is essential. This is made possible by using the platform of the JLF as a launch pad and mouthpiece that advertises literature as a marketable venture. Thus, the events included in the festival are not incidentally ceremonial. Instead they possess the agenda to further the impact of literature on a bigger audience.