Knowledge Factory began as a casually mentioned idea in the course of an afternoon conversation I had with Amith Prabhu about two years ago. I had intended it to be a brand that offered offbeat lectures from not-necessarily-big-but-inspired speakers on a range of topics. On his suggestion, we decided to develop it into an event as it was more practical to execute. I introduced Amith to Meena Vaidyanathan, who has a hands-on approach, so that the idea could take shape better.
Last week, Knowledge Factory — which we bill as the festival of insights, ideas an trivia — saw its successful launch as a two-day event at the Vivanta by Taj – Ambassador in New Delhi. The response has been touching, with many smiling faces among speakers, quizmasters and an audience that seemed much more interactive and committed than we imagined seeming quite pleased. And so are we.
The purpose of Knowledge Factory was — and is — to break the mould of conventional learning with a passion for “learntatainment.” It aims to go beyond acquisition of skills and build intelligent citizens and well-rounded personalities. It focuses on an inter-disciplinary approach that carefully curates topics and speakers and formats that form an entertaining cocktail for the mind.
This is a challenging proposition in a marketplace where set-piece focus is the order of the day. So it was only in the actual delivery that we could showcase what we really had in mind. We have sound reasons to believe we succeeded, and in the process, we also had learnings that might help us think sharper and better as we explore the sustainability of such an idea.
The glittering array of speakers who inspired with their speeches, conversations and answers consisted of Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO of Paytm; Suresh Narayanan, CMD of Nestle India; VS Ravi, Ex Principal Secretary Home; Keval Arora, Professor of English, KMC; Rahul Ram, Singer – Composer, Indian Ocean; Sudha Raghuraman, Carnatic Vocalist; Vandana Vasudevan, Author and Writer on Urban Life; Aparna Popat, former National Badminton Champion; Jairam Ramesh, Former environment minister and Member of Parliament; Swara Bhaskar, Actor and Activist; Bharti Chaturvedi, Environmentalist; Santosh Desai, Columnist and CEO Future Brands; Anuja Chauhan, Advertising Whiz and Writer; Abhijit Bhaduri, Author and HR Specialist. Quizmasters Rajdeep Sardesai and Gaurav Sri Krishna proved how winning prizes around trivia can actually set the stage for deeper learning. Emcee Rini Khanna and stand-up comedian Papa CJ mixed a serious stringing of sessions with loud laughter to make the event encounter a blend of engaging emotions. Cocktail master Vikram Achanta and beer maven Pradeep Gidwani showed how much knowledge and history lie behind those little sips of glasses that we simply describe as “booze.” The handpicked moderators, Chitra Naryanan, Editorial Consultant, Hindu Business Line; Vikram Sampath, Founder Director – Archive of Indian Music; Meena Vaidyanathan, Founder – niiti consulting; G. Rajaraman, Journalist and Founder, Horizon Sports; Madhavan Narayanan, Journalist; Partha Mukhopadhyay; Senior Fellow – Centre for Policy Research and Megha Vishwanath, Journalist – CNBC TV18 connected the dots in smooth conversations while audio-visuals and videos at the start of each session kindled the appetite for the audience.
One message I received said it was a “joy to watch” while another invitee said “I had not realised that it would be so interesting. Now I am regretting having missed the morning session.” We expect a more systematic feedback later.
Needless to say, there were issues related to speakers facing emergencies, logistics, and the gathering of an engaged, participative audiences. But the team comprising niiti consulting and the Promise Foundation stepped in admirably on various fronts to take my idea from a thought wave to fruition. There is a lot to think about still.
Sponsors ranging from Godrej Properties and PayTM to Axis Bank, Nissan and Viacom18 helped us serve the audience, while leading publishers including Bloomsbury, Oxford University Press, Harper Collins and Rupa stepped in with stalls and prizes to complete the circle. Ola Cabs stepped in as transport partner to ferry speakers and offer audience prizes and discounts to attendees.
It is difficult to thank everybody individually, but a look at the final programme list may say a lot.
Knowledge masters and knowledge catalysts — as we describe the speakers and moderators — shaped minds well enough to break the stereotypical idea of seminars, even as the topics covered an ecletic range that was ambitious in scope. Our YouTube channel should be up soon with the sessions for those who did not or could not make it.
As a journalist who is used to ideating and writing and speaking, there was a lot to learn on what it means when speakers from different zones and mindsets have to physically come together and collaborate on a project. There was breeze, rain and sun during the course of the two-day event. We like to think they shaped fertile minds.
Authored by – Madhavan Narayanan (@)