With so many talented classical musicians being unrepresented, Aishwarya Natarajan, of Indianuance, says that entrepreneurial opportunities in this field are plenty.

By winning the British Council's Young Creative Entrepreneur Music Award 2011, Aishwarya Natarajan, owner of Indianuance, becomes the first woman and first Indian classical music entrepreneur to win it. Indianuance is an artist management and concert-programming outfit that is dedicated to Indian classical music.

When asked how she feels about it, she said “Honestly, I didn't know I was the first woman to win the award until I saw it on one of the write-ups. It's an incredible feeling and I'm still getting used to it. Keeping the woman and the Classical music entrepreneur bit aside, I'm just happy to be one of the people who identified the need gap in the business and the tremendous potential it poses. I'm happy to have taken the initiative and been recognised for it.”

Opportunities abound

Winning something like this is almost like winning an Oscar in your field. Apart from congratulations, have you seen a sudden rush of offers and opportunities come your way?

She responds, “Whether it's phone calls, e-mails or people just sending in congratulatory messages. Earlier I had to talk about my work, but now people already know about it. In fact, a few artists that I had spoken to earlier have now gotten in touch with me, to find out if we can work together. There's nothing like being part of this growing community of young entrepreneurs.”

“Whether in my line of business or not, with the sort of opportunities and networks such an award open up for you, you never know what new idea and what person can lead you onto something bigger and interesting. The backing the British Council name gives you is great. There is nothing like recognition for your work and the faith people show in it. It is bound to bring in business, create networks and open up new avenues. It gives you more credibility and has been a benefit to me.”

Take off

Talking about her journey that led to that conception of Indianuance, Natarajan explains, “About four-and-a-half years ago, when I was working with artists like Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hari Prasad Chaursia on some projects, I realised with time and association that the concept of a professional manager was almost non-existent in their field.”

“There were various reasons for this, most importantly being that working with classical musicians requires a very different sensibility which is not something any manager can do. And most of the old time musicians have faced a lot of difficulty and struggle to establish themselves. Theirs is also a very different cultural mindset. I then set out to slowly understand this and find out if entering this line was a workable possibility. Working on various other genres of music where ‘artist management' was an integral part, helped me understand the nuances of this business better.”

She adds, “I never perceived myself as an entrepreneur, but moving to Mumbai and meeting so many young professionals pursuing their dream, made me take the plunge. I bounced the idea off some artists and very slowly, over a period of time, built the idea into a cogent business model. It has not been easy and I don't think it will be, going forward. That's the challenge in any business. But the support musicians have shown has been immense and I think it's best when your work speaks for itself.”

“We are on the artist's side and that is something we have to maintain no matter how big we become. We don't exist without them. And we like to believe we have a lot to offer them.”

Aishwarya’s pick

Though there are just four artists on your roster, it speaks of class. Who are the performing Indian Classical musicians you dream to represent? Natarajan exclaims, “That's a tough question to answer. Yes, the quality of music we present through our musicians is very important. When you are driving a business on your own you ought to believe in it yourself before you can get others to, which is why we are very focused on classical music and its allied forms!” Further segregating, she describes “I would ideally like to have two categories of musicians to work with. One being the established musicians who are recognised for their music but who need professional management that can help them grow and focus on music, and the other being the smaller, slightly lesser known musicians who are known for their art, but need wider representation.”

“I have begun work with Shujaat Husain Khan, which is very exciting. I would love to work with Pt. Rajan and Sajan Mishra — their music is fantastic and I think they have a lot of potential to be seen as artists in larger venues.”

“I even want to work with U. Srinivas as he is doing so much for the cause of Carnatic music; his goal is to only play Carnatic music, irrespective of who he collaborates with. But it's really hard to pick musicians; there are so many great masters out there!”

The award

The Award was open to entrepreneurs between 25 and 35 years old, working with the music industry in India, across all fields (artist management, music development and management, music broadcasting, music retail, music journalism).

Aishwarya will now go on to the UK where British Council will make introductions between her and likeminded entrepreneurs in the UK music industry, creating the opportunity for new collaborative projects between the two countries. The aim of YCE is also to strengthen cultural the ties between the two countries and to learn from each other.

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