The social media was abuzz on Tuesday with news of cancellation of licence of TEDx Chennai, by TEDx, allegedly due to irregularities in the organising of the recently-held TEDx Chennai 2012.

Lara Stein, director, TEDx, confirmed through e-mail that the TEDxChennai licence had been cancelled.

Ms. Stein goes on to say, “We granted the TEDxChennai licence to Kiruba Shankar in 2009. After repeated violations, we have decided to cancel his licence and he has agreed to step down from his position as TEDx ambassador in India. We do not make these decisions hastily, and this particular decision came after consulting with the TEDx community, TEDx ambassadors and Kiruba.”

Kiruba Shankar, licencee and curator of TEDxChennai, and ambassador of TEDx in India, confirmed he had stepped down as the ambassador.

The letter by the TEDx team addressed to TEDx India licencees which was circulating online also raised a larger objection about repeated violations of TEDx rules in India.

TEDx, is an off-shoot of TED, a not-for-profit initiative that lends a platform to achievers and thinkers from diverse fields such as design, technology, science and literature to present their most inspirational ideas in 18 minutes or less. TEDx follows the same format, but is planned and co-ordinated independently at the community level. A TEDx organiser must first obtain a TEDx licence from TED.

The letter states that it had recently come to their attention that TEDxChennai had flouted rules by “holding a press conference with sponsors, having a venue sponsor as a speaker on stage and speakers that were part of another conference.”

Responding to these allegations, Kiruba, while agreeing that rules were flouted, maintained that it was not for monetary gain. “It was not done with any ill-intention, and when I look at it in hindsight, I should have been careful,” he said. Responding to the specific allegations, he said, “The press conference was organised at Park Sheraton, which was one of the sponsors. We had a venue with a seating capacity of 1,200 to fill up, and logistically, this event was on a much larger scale than the ones that were organised in 2009 and 2010.”

However, he refuted the second allegation by saying that they had two options, of which they chose the second. “Prabakaran Murugaiah, one of the speakers offered to help with the venue. So, we could either have him pay and not have him speak, or vice-versa and we chose the second. We covered the cost of the venue through our ticket sales,” he said.

When the same funding and speakers of a TEDx event are used in an event close to the date of the event, TEDx calls its co-branding, and prohibits it. On this, Mr. Shankar agreed that the 17 speakers spoke at a school and a college prior to the TEDxChennai event held in September.

Questions were also being raised about the theme of the event being titled ‘Life by Design’, which is incidentally the name of the organisation founded by Puja Gupta, one of the speakers. Both, however, maintain that it was a co-incidence. “They asked me for my permission before using the name, and I agreed. But my company’s logo has not been used anywhere. They had the name in mind, and I said okay because it is so universal,” said Ms. Gupta, justifying the usage. TEDxChennai, has previously hosted two events in 2009 and 2010. On the renewal of the licence in future, Ms. Stein, said, “Kiruba was advised on a Skype call that his licence would not be renewed.”

A member of the TEDxChennai team, who organised the event, however, felt wronged to a certain extent. “We were eight of us, and naturally, had differences in perceptions. Though rules were flouted, we took extreme effort to organise the event impeccably. We had never organised an event on such a large-scale, and we made no money as the rules strictly mention that that it is a non-profit effort,” said the member.

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