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CSR: Corporate patronage of art and culture

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Given the myriad challenges facing cultural institutions in the country today, it has become more important than ever for the private sector – especially corporates and business houses – to step in and contribute to the development of art and culture in India. Schedule VII of The Companies Act, 2013, allows for corporate patronage of art and culture to be counted as CSR, giving corporates an effective and worthwhile cause to invest in.

How does it work?

By instituting a comprehensive CSR strategy that addresses long term goals and investment priorities of the company, companies can use their CSR funds towards corporate patronage of art that does not accrue any direct benefits in terms of branding but provides valuable reputational perks and visibility benefits.
The large availability of space, the legal and technical expertise in fundraising and fund collection, the presence of vast corpuses dedicated to CSR funding, and the business expertise of marketing and organising events all come together to make corporations ideal patrons of culture in a rapidly changing economy.
Such patronage yields valuable benefits for corporations too: in an increasingly competitive business environment, where consumer choice hinges upon company reputation and public perception, funding of art and culture leads to an accrual of goodwill for corporates. Moreover, such funding – when directed in the right manner – allows for the creation of ecosystems that feed an increasingly valuable and high budget cultural economy.

Corporate patronage of art in India

Corporates across the country have realised the value of such an investment in culture, and have slowly but steadily increased their funding of the arts through varied initiatives. Companies like Godrej have set up centres like the Godrej India Culture Lab within their campuses, while those like ESSAR have created bodies like Avid Learning, which organises workshops, panel discussions, and other programs to foster creative learning across cultural fields. Other companies, like the Apeejay Group, have incorporated culture into their commercial activities: the Oxford Bookstore chains routinely have book readings.
Similarly, other companies like Mahindra have sponsored festivals like the Mahindra Blues festival and set up awards like the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) to maintain a sustained engagement with the cultural sphere. The growing interest in corporate patronage of art and culture stems from the increased awareness of the tangible benefits of such funding.

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