Entrepreneur Sunil Chandurkar on My Theatre Cafe, a holistic platform for performing artists.
So, tell us what motivated you to start My Theatre Cafe(MTC)?
I am an actor myself. I have been doing theatre in Hyderabad since the last six and a half years, while I was also working as an IT professional at a company called CA technologies. I realized that amateur artists struggle to find a platform for themselves. So, after undergoing the struggle myself, I came up with this idea to start a platform where amateur artists can stage their performances, especially in cities like Hyderabad where there is a need for such platform, when compared to other cities like Pune and Mumbai, where it is a relatively easier for artists and artists groups to find platforms. In many cities in India, people want to make their career in theatre, but do not find platforms for the same. Hence, I started My Theatre Cafe, a platform for every artist and art lover. Artists can use this platform free of cost to stage their performances.
When was My Theatre Cafe started?
My Theatre Cafe was officially started during September 2010. Though, I started the ground work much earlier, a couple of years back, I quit my IT job in August 2010 and started My Theatre Cafe in September 2010.From the time you have started out, what is the impact that you created with My Theatre Cafe?
Though the time frame is not very long, the impact has been relatively high. We got one of the most talented artist groups from a very remote tribal region near Kolkata. We got 26 tribal artists all the way from Bengal to Hyderabad, they don’t speak any other language except for Bengali. We brought their performance to Hyderabad. I consider that a huge success for My theatre Cafe. We arranged for their performances in multiple places in Hyderabad. We managed to get them coverage in ETV Bengali. Now, this group is quite famous in Kolkata. They also got a chance to perform at Arangham. This is one impact story of My theatre Cafe. We got two theatre groups from Pune to Hyderabad. One of the theatre groups has an original script in German, set during civil war. They contacted us personally through MTC’s Facebook page. I had seen their play and since then I was producing their shows. So far we have produced two of their shows in Pune and two in Hyderabad.
There is another group in Pune, which is a group of very old people, they had to leave theatre because they didn’t have any resources or funding. They reached out to us and we sponsored their shows in Hyderabad.
And we strictly take the stand that My theatre cafe is not a theatre group, we are no competition to any other theatre group, we are a platform for theatre groups, any group who can’t afford to spend from their own pockets, but think that they have a very quality production and think that they can entertain people really well, we invest our money into their production. The response for which had been great so far.
How do you sustain yourself? Is there a revenue model around it?
It is very difficult to sustain yourself especially while working with amateur artists. The model that is in place right now, doesn’t sustain us. My Theatre Cafe is a self funded company. I sold my car and invested all the money that I had to set up the company. Our model right now is that, every show is a ticketed show. We haven’t yet started proactively approaching sponsors, and we are not looking at show level sponsors. We are looking for all India sponsors who want to associate with a cultural brand. My vision is that on any given day all across India, My theatre Cafe should be running at least 100 plays. That is the margin I want to grow to. I am looking for supporters, sponsors who can help reach us there. Currently, I pay the artists, apart from producing their shows. When I make profit out of the show, I share 50% of the profit with the performing group. So far a show either breaks even or its a loss for me. In most cases, we were breaking even. We have just recently started operations in Pune. We have a marketing and sales team in place now.
How do you reach out to the artists?
We have a website called mytheatrecafe.com and people reach out to us via the website and Facebook as well. We also distribute pamphlets at all our shows. Word of mouth has helped us a lot.
How big is your network right now?
Our network right now is quite big and we have people from all across India starting from Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Jaipur, Pune, Nagpur, and Mumbai apart from Hyderabad. We have people in these cities who actively promote and also work for My Theatre Cafe.
Do you have any partnerships ?
We do not have any partnerships right now. But, I want to convert performing arts into an organized industry. So, we are looking out for partners. We are looking for people who have the vision and people who also have the money to invest in this. We are looking for partnerships that can add value.
You have built a network of hundreds of artists in a few months, and most of the artists that you are talking about are amateur and from rural backgrounds, can you give me an insight on the demand in this market? Whats the size of this market?
Before I started MTC, for over an year, I carried out a research, what I found out what was that there is a huge demand for performing arts in India, especially in Pune and Mumbai. Because in these areas, school kids very actively participate in theatre and can write scripts of plays. That awareness is missing in other cities. My philosophy is that art makes you a better person. So at least we should be able to create awareness, which generates demand. Honestly in Hyderabad, there are a lot of artists and people interested in art, but the awareness has not yet grown to a larger level.
Anything else that you want to tell us?
The way I take My Theatre Cafe is not solely from a business perspective. I myself I am an artist, so MTC is my passion. Through this platform, we want to allow people to explore art. If you are passionate about art, then you should be able to make your career out of it, and I see MTC as the biggest network of performing artists enabling this.
We are inspired by Sunil’s vision and belief that art makes you a better person! Do check out http://mytheatrecafe.com and let us know what you think about this platform. Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org