Unbridled cross-pollination of ideas… That’s what happened over two days, 90 talks and 10 workshops at The Goa Project

Over 300 creative professionals — entrepreneurs, filmmakers, performing and visual artists, designers, social workers, travellers, inventors, among others — made it to Goa for a rather unique social experiment and unconference called The Goa Project recently to bond and share ideas by the beach through 90 talks, 10 workshops and umpteen bottles of beer.

“I saw a lawyer master pinhole photography. I saw technologists become engaged with the art of smells and scents. I saw artists collaborate with politicians on urban design. The moments were all beautiful and stimulating. Because they were about more than ourselves, or the type of person we represent,” as Caitlin Marinelli, one of the core group members of The Goa Project, sums up the success of the inter-disciplinary unconference that experimented with cross-pollination of ideas.

Life stories

The sessions were a mix of personal motivational stories and observations of public behaviour. As Vijay Nair, founder of Only Much Louder (the company that launched NH7), one of the keynote speakers on day one, said: “Take stereotypes seriously. Because they are mostly true. South Bombay kids. If there’s a concert in Pune, they would drive down. Goregaon, they don’t show up.”

Or as John Kuruvilla, the innovator responsible for Air Deccan’s launch and take-off, shared how he risked going to jail by almost flouting prescribed safety standards for aircrafts or for pizza kitchens at petrol bunks, to find ways to exploit opportunities in the unlikeliest of situations.

From actor Seema Rahmani’s deeply personal spiritual talk to entrepreneur’s Shiladitya Bora’s hilarious account of his journey to building a brand to traveller Mahesh Murthy’s inspiring session on hacking global travel that instantly made everyone want to take an international holiday, the sessions opened up minds.

“Being at TGP was like spending time in creative wonderland. To discover so many talented individuals in such a gorgeous informal beach setting was exceptional and a first-of-a-kind experience,” says Sandeep Makam, ad man and track manager of Visual Arts, who flaunted a name badge that read ‘Already Drunk. Do Not Disturb’.

People fascination

It was also an opportunity to network with the dream merchants themselves. “During his session, we had the producer of radical Tamil films, Sashikant from Y Not Studios, give out his email address in public, asking people to mail him concepts. We had a pitch session where people could quickly pitch their movie ideas and get feedback from experts,” says Javeeth Ahmed, who managed the Film Track.

For Udhay Shankar, from the core team behind The Goa Project, “It was a way of continuing my lifelong fascination with collecting interesting people. Given both the breadth and depth of conversations on offer, the only thing in shortage was boredom. And sleep.”

The project was put together not by an organisation but by collective collaboration of 40 volunteers.

Sumeet Anand, from the core team, said, “I was sad not being able to attend any of the tracks, but the biggest gift from TGP was the relationships I made, some new, some evolved, some won! It was a meeting great minds, all wanting and chasing powerful dreams.”

And one of those dreams was the success of TGP itself. At the end of it, the hosts Vijay Anand and Preetham VV were in a daze.

“It changed us all,” says Vijay. “In the midst of a meeting of equals — all having goals, and insights and visions bigger than themselves, ego left the building, and opened up an opportunity to share, learn and embrace. As Seema Rahmani said, it’s the union of the anomalies, the unreasonables through which come progress.”