Building the Best Creative Experiences: An Interview with Jaytirth Ahya
A few months ago, our Sr. Growth Manager, Mahi Baid attended a festival like no other – the FofX Forest Festival for Creators. She came back with inspiring stories, new ideas, and a stronger vision for the company.
Intrigued by her creative transformation, we got in touch with the founder of the festival, Jaytirth Ahya, to learn more about where it all started. Join us as we speak to Jay about his journey at curating programs for creative individuals.
1:Could you please tell us how it all began? How did the idea of a residential event occur to you?
The idea was conceived in 2013-14 while I was attending a conference. I was working as a designer for a start-up, then. At the conference, I met some fascinating people. For instance, there was a 22-year-old professional who was addressing women-centric issues with the government, an art director from Ladakh who was working for climate change for 8 years, and a former pilot from the US.
2:That's very interesting. So when did the shift take place?
Well, I noticed that all those people were leading a life full of passion, they were doing things that were different, out of the ordinary, and I believed in them. At that moment, all I wanted was to go on a road trip with them!
3:Most people start with coffee or dinner. You really had a vision, didn't you?
(Laughs) Absolutely! These were all people that inspired me, and I wanted to spend a few days getting to know them and understand how others could benefit from their journeys.
4:That makes sense. Did you succeed?
I wanted to make it happen, but I had to think of how it would benefit everyone on the trip. I decided to start an application process so I could carefully choose the group of people (creators) that would go on the trip. I put together a website, and since word of mouth was so strong, I received 150 applications from 3 countries. Incidentally, the fifth application was from a company I once wanted to work at.
5:That's a great start. Tell us more. Where did you finally go?
Initially, we wanted to go to Ladakh, but we eventually settled for a 12 day trip to Lahol, Spiti, in 2015. Since this was my first attempt, everything that could go wrong, did! Let’s say I learned how to ‘not’ kill people. But all in all, I knew there was scope to bring creators together on the move.
6:Excellent, what happens next?
Moving forward to 2016, and we went on our second road trip, this time to Nagaland for 16 days. Having learned from experience, I knew that people would be from all sorts of backgrounds, professionally as well as culturally. Most spoke multiple languages, and that’s what made it such an interesting group.
We did over 20 collaborations on the trip, including a mural revolution and painting a fisherman’s boat.
After the trip, we did 40 more! We worked on the Aravali art project with the transgender art community, where we painted 200 walls. We collaborated with a French muralist to paint the first village – project 72 hours – to promote cleanliness.
7:That's amazing! So your once whim became a real game-changer for not only the people on the trip but for the communities they support.
Yes, and that’s what kept us going. As I met more people, my ideas evolved, the platforms also evolved, and soon we came up with the Beachhouse project.
8:That sounds nice. What's the twist on that one?
So, it’s primarily for creative individuals and professionals who want to come together and create or collaborate. The twist is that once you sign up, you only know the location you’re going to. We host you in an all-inclusive secret luxury villa for your stay, where you undergo workshops and collaborative sessions with 14 others.
9:That's really well thought of. Was FofX an extension of the same concept?
Yes, and no. FofX was meant to bring together creative thought leaders. We wanted to ensure that each dominant creative style was covered, and that’s why the entire festival was divided into 4 parts – hand, heart, brain, soul.
Of 2500 applicants, we initially planned to select only a few but then increased the number to 250 participants and 50 organizers over the 4 days that the festival was held. We wanted to make sure the speakers and participants were at the same level and could openly converse (no speaker lounge).
10:Wow, your initiatives keep getting better with time. How did you know who to select?
That’s a tough one since all the applicants were amazing in their own way. It finally came down to looking at what each individual would bring to the table, where they are currently, what’s been their story, and how relevant could FofX be in their growth and personal journey.
11:That makes sense. So Jay, since you meet so many people from around the country and the world, how does everyone communicate, especially strong ideas or emotions?
There’s no universal language, but everyone knows how important communication is when it comes to such projects. Take, for example, the Aravali Art Project, where two transgender people were speaking. One was uncomfortable talking in English and spoke in Kannada instead, and you could see the emotions come to life. The other was translating to English.
12:You're right. There are some things best said in one's native tongue. So what's next?
We’ll we’re going to continue to better our current projects. We’ve also recently completed a new project called the story collective, which follows the new house framework but helps individuals narrate their story. Master storyteller Raghava KK facilitated it. We plan on having several such projects.
Always a pleasure, and your team is welcome anytime!