Any creative person living in Delhi NCR would know about Delhi Art Foundation. For all those who don’t, the DAF is driven to create a platform for artists to showcase their work so that their raw talent, which otherwise would have remained in the shadows of more mainstream art, is brought forward for the world to see. Every artist’s work should be recognized and the Delhi Art Foundation wants this to be a reality. They want, in their own words, that “every brush gets a canvas, and every narration an audience.”
The Yellow Sparrow had the opportunity to interview the founder of DAF, Pratyush Pushkar, about his journey as an entrepreneur, his struggles as an artist, what drives him and keeps him going, hardships he’s faced as a person and inside scoop of DAF, his secrets to ensure he has a successful fool-proof business plan and much more! Read on to know more about this inspiring man.
What’s the one experience that would define your journey as an entrepreneur or struggling artist?
There has been a journey of experiences, stories, and anecdotes that have in their own unique ways defined the different trajectories my life has taken. Growing up was hard, not in the sense of the struggle to find peace and happiness, but in the difficulties of meeting the material expectations of life. This is where my family has been the pillar of my life. Whether it was learning in simple classrooms with tin roofs and no benches or the hardships faced at home with few possessions, none of it came in the way of the respect and self-worth that each of us in my family held for one another. That acceptance and love gave me real freedom to always pursue my dreams.
What were the hardships you faced as a newcomer in this field?
Coming to Delhi to pursue my higher education was a life-changing period in my life. There was a culture shock as I felt completely out of my depth. As a naturally curious being, I was fascinated by too much all the time. And I wanted to learn as fast as possible about as much as I could. Conversations and interactions made me feel out of place as if I had entered an alternate world. Since I had never been the kind of person who accepted being left behind, these challenging moments drove me constantly. I joke sometimes that I was a Pentium 1 core processor put along with the I3 generation of computers.
In this industry, it is a challenge to become noticed, connect with one’s audience and stay relevant and inspiring. My whole journey has been overcoming these challenges and working on my craft, staying true to my ideals and respecting my audience.
What triggered you to start up? What was your inspiration?
I have always been able to connect to all forms of art – be it music, dance, literature, painting, photography or writing. The fact that I have seen and endured my own struggles makes me value the struggles borne by others, for they are the real projection that the Delhi Art Foundation chases. This respect, not pity or sympathy, underlines the motivation behind my vision, which sees DAF as a platform that also nurtures the talent of struggling artists.
What’s the most gratifying thing about having your own venture?
A year back I would look at a struggling artist and simply not be able to help him/her. Now, I do not have to let go of that striving talent. I can give that artist an audience, which is the most deprived element of a struggling artist in the making. The very fact that I can draw in an audience for an artist gratifies my purpose. We at DAF treasure our artists.
Do you think it is good to get some experience in the corporate world before starting up? Why?
In my opinion, corporate experience is crucial in the shaping up of a successful entrepreneur as it sets in a habit of hard work, teaches one how to maintain official relationships and also develops a sense of professionalism despite the dissatisfaction of not being credited.
Working 12 hours for another person will create the vigour in you to work 20 hours for your cause without regret.
As a struggling artist, how did you counter rejections?
Rejections can be dangerous if you allow them to swallow your confidence. This is why self-belief and humility is important.
Take in criticism as constructively as you can; every bit helps one grow into one’s strengths and polish up on areas one needs to work upon.
How did you expand in the industry?
The process was initially gradual but one of my strong traits has been my patience. Establishing me as an artist – photographer and writer – took a few years but once I was able to secure my profile and ensure my professional integrity, things acquired a wonderful momentum. I am most grateful to the people who have believed in my vision and worked together to achieve DAF’s goals.
How did you get financial aid for your business?
As an entrepreneur, these are very real challenges and will quite often have to be responded to creatively. I decided that the best policy for me would be to link my projection as an established artist towards developing the initial funds for DAF.
One of the ways I accomplished getting funds was by giving lectures and workshops on photography, which took me to the country’s most reputed campuses and institutions.
This built my credibility and expanded my network as I conducted fresh workshops at new campuses based on previous experience. Yet another personal policy of my business plan was to let them quote the charges, even if it were as minimum as Rs. 100 per attendee. Since the campuses had significant student populations, that amount would be equally significantly multiplied.
Aside from this, Aditya Priyadarshi, the co-founder of DAF, added to my personal investment. While he earned working for Food Corporation of India, he invested the maximum possible because he believed in my dreams and has had immense faith in me.
How much was the initial investment capital when you started? What are your current revenues?
Talk about the initial investment? I was in debt when I started DAF. The URLs, the domain, the copyright were all done taking debts. In that way, I was extremely fortunate to have people who believed in me and trusted the sincerity of my dreams.
Current revenues? Healthy. Beautiful. Wonderful.
What was your team size when you started? How much has it changed since then?
Dirty secret: for the longest time I was the sole member of the foundation. I would propose workshops on my name with a different ID. I did whatever I could to sustain it. And today, I can happily tell you that at least 70 people from across the globe contribute to the progress of DAF every day. From our director of communications, Sara Docampo Sierra in Spain, to Melissa Cyrill in Delhi, to Amaan Imaam Ghazee in Jaipur, to a bunch of lovely artists in Japan, Taiwan, France and where not.
Has your business plan changed from what it was when you started up?
I took a good 4 years to design everything. The DAF Tree, which is my blue print for the organisation, is being followed the way it was designed, only that we accommodate more and more every day.
How easy is it for you to change your plan of action, if the initial one fails?
When you begin your own venture, you have to be prepared for any failure. Patience, preparation for struggle, tremendous hard work and well researched and observed plans have all been essential to DAF’s growth.
How difficult was it to convince your family and above all, yourself in the face of challenges?
My family has always been my strongest and constant support system. DAF is co-founded with my childhood friend, Aditya Priyadarshi and our partnership works because we complement each other’s goals and strengths. Coming from similar backgrounds, we both share the same focus and passion for DAF.
How would you describe your journey in one sentence?
“Chasing projections and ultimately becoming one.”
We agree with everything Pratyush has to say! He’s someone who never gives up, someone who gets right back up when he falls and perseveres through the toughest of times, someone everyone can learn something from. He’s had ups and downs but his vision has never faltered. If that isn’t inspiring, we don’t know what is! To read more about him and DAF, check out their Facebook page.