What it takes to organize a B-School Fest – Avenues 2014 at SJMSOM
Three weeks into our MBA course, one fine evening while going through my mail inbox, a certain mail caught my eye. The subject read “Avenues Volunteers”. Not sure what to expect, I clicked it open. The mail came with an attachment in the form of a Google documents form. It read out “We start off the selection process for Avenues 2014!!” and the form consisted of preferences to be filled regarding our choice of events, in which we want to volunteer for. “Why now?” I wondered aloud. It was just the end of July, and Avenues, the Business Festival of Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, IIT Bombay, doesn’t start before October end. Now, when there’s just a few more days to go, before the 3-day mega event actually starts, I realize what it actually takes to organize a business festival. Months of dedicated hard work from the Overall Coordinators and the Volunteers, meticulous planning and thoughtful innovations in framing new events is what is required to make sure that the event takes place without hassles and technical glitches.
In a business context, ‘Avenues’ means ways of approaching a problem or making progress towards something. The event, currently into its 9th year, started off with the theme “Winning Matters”, where there were games spanning across various management functions, and were modeled on real life scenarios. It was the first time in 12 years since the inception of SJMSOM that the students had come up with the idea of organizing a business festival. However, unlike most B-school festivals and competitions, the idea of Avenues started with the firm resolve and commitment towards ethical practices, thereby eliminating any kind of bias by not allowing anyone from SJMSOM to participate in the event. The sole purpose of the event was to give a fair chance and an exciting opportunity to students across various B-schools to participate in the event. In 2007, Avenues was organized as a part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of IIT Bombay, and featured International teams for the first time. Over the years Avenues has grown and has reached out to as many as 200 business schools in the last edition. This year, it started on a similar note, but with the steely resolve to “Breach the Zenith!”
The planning of the event begins months ahead, with the singular purpose of defining “Why are we doing it?” The answer to this question is simple: The best ideas often come from young minds searching for an opportunity to showcase their talent. Avenues provides them this platform, and in return receives accolades from people all over India and the world, who recognize the college as one of its kind, which is essential in today’s world when we have MBA colleges teeming everywhere. The next, and even more important step, is to set goals and targets to be achieved. First, is the financial aspect and preparing an estimated budget for the same, next, is the social aspect, which is of utmost importance today, as without socializing both online and in the real world, we simply cannot expect to reach out to people around the world. The last one is the personal aspect, as to what we think our college can achieve through this and how do we all personally gain valuable insights from such an event. The Avenues events are categorized into Flagship events, Domain specific events and Online Events. Apart from the events, every year the Global Leadership Summit (Alankar) and the Avenues Musical Night (ProNite) are also organized.
So, how did it all start? First and foremost, a team of seven members known as the ‘Overall Coordinators’ for Avenues 2014 was formed, who were responsible for setting up an action plan in the coming 3 months before Avenues and managing the entire event. A business festival is the most effective way of showcasing the organizational skills of the students of a premier B school. What does that require? Volunteers. Skilled, enthusiastic people with a flair for innovation. Since the senior batch of the college had experience of handling Avenues last year, the selection of teams responsible for flagship events and domain specific events was a simpler process. However, selection of candidates from the first year batch of 117 students was indeed a tough task. Based on the student preferences interviews were conducted, focused on the interests, skills and abilities of the students. The best part was that, even a candidate who was not found suitable for any of the preferences listed out by him/her was further judged on the basis of his/her resume, knowledge, hobbies and interests. It was then decided which particular team or event would be most suitable for them. After an informal introduction, the tasks were explained to the junior team, following which the juniors were asked about their own ideas and how they would have proceeded had they not been given a plan. Apart from regular activities, any student who had corporate or media contacts were supposed to share their details with the team.
Organizing a business festival that spans across 3 days, attended by several dignitaries and students from various management colleges in India and abroad, requires a huge budget. For this, various corporate houses are contacted through mails, phone and continuous follow up is maintained. In the process, the title sponsor and associate sponsors are decided. While marketing the event, it is essential to keep the target audience in mind, which is mostly students. Word of mouth publicity along with social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and print ads go a long way in promoting an event. Apart from this, it’s essential that the event goes on-air, partners with online, print and audio-visual media. The preparations for these activities start about a month before Avenues. Radio FM announcements about Avenues start about 2 weeks before the actual event, calling out to people across the city and elsewhere to register for Avenues and attend the Business Festival. In a campus as huge as IIT where programs and festivals are ubiquitous, finalizing the place by booking the lecture halls, auditoriums and convocation halls is an essential part of the event, without which the entire planning would fail. It is also of equal importance to take care of flight, cab and hotel bookings for the dignitaries and at the same time, booking guest houses and hostel rooms for the students from colleges outside Mumbai, who would be participating in the festival.
October is the month when the registrations for the various events begin. It is then that the advertising and marketing of Avenues starts full swing. Before that, the IT team of SJMSOM designs the website of sjmsom-avenues.com, where the event descriptions and registrations are made open to all. The branding team of SJMSOM works day in and day out to prepare the posters so that they are made available before the launch of a particular event. With new event launches every other day, it is indeed a tough task to handle. About a month before Avenues, the Overall Coordinators and the Heads of various clubs and teams then collaboratively decide and prepare a draft schedule and action plan of the event. At this point of time, it is necessary to get all questions and doubts sorted out. Does everyone know their obligations? Are they comfortable with any and all issues? The head of the team meets with team members and volunteers to brainstorm any problems that might arise.
A day or two before the event, the items needed for the event are arranged. There needs to be an eye for detail in arranging everything from medals, mementos, prizes, or certificates down to pens, first-aid kits, sound equipment, signs, furniture, batteries, and extension cords. Contacting caterers, who would be providing refreshments in breaks is done atleast a week prior to the festival. The arrangements for light and sound, and testing them prior to the events, checking the venue and making sure everything is in order, and last but not the least contacting the participants, dignitaries and judges before the event to make sure that they are well informed. The organizers and volunteers spend sleepless nights trying to ensure that there are no loose ends, and it is then that we know that whatever happens, we’ve got it covered.
What happens on the day before Avenues starts and on the 3 days of the mega-event is an extremely hectic schedule, and that’s a different story all together. All I can assure you is that at the end of it all everyone is left with a feeling of content that simply can’t be described. A business festival like Avenues doesn’t happen just like that, and it goes much beyond the usual competitions that are organized now and then. To know what it is like to be here, come visit SJMSOM, IIT Bombay and be a part of the grandeur, the festivities and the awe-inspiring competitions at Avenues 2014- Breach the Zenith!
A student of SJMSoM, IIT Bombay
For more info on Avenues, visit the web page here.
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