We interviewed the dynamic, super busy, chairperson and MD of Sunburn, Mr. Harindra Singh and asked him about the past, present, and future of Sunburn. Specialties of Sunburn10 at Pune this year, issues they faced, why we should attend, and a lot more. Read on to discover more about what promises to be the best edition of Sunburn yet.
GVO: We’re really excited about Sunburn this year, and #SunburnHills is a new concept for your property. We know that you had to shift out of Goa, but why did you select Pune?
Harindra Singh: So we actually outgrew Goa and you know things used to get messed up sometimes during Sunburn time but it was still manageable till 2014. But in 2015 we realized that some of our own people took as much as 3 – 4 hours to get to the venue, for a very short distance. Our headliner DJ, David Guetta, nearly didn’t make it.
So we moved out of Goa because we couldn’t handle the infrastructure constraints and then we looked at the other options.
Our options were Hyderabad, NCR, and obviously Maharashtra as it’s the commercial capital of the country and we’re based in Bombay. So we looked at all these options and came to the conclusion that our best bet is Maharashtra. Within the state we had options like Alibaug, Lonavla, Aamby Valley, Khandala, Lavasa, and Bombay itself. So we approached the government and they were absolutely excited and proactive about hosting Sunburn.
We as Sunburn are very close to nature and at the same time we need infrastructure, assets, hotel rooms, F&B as we get a large number of people. So one by one all these beautiful options got deleted and we narrowed down to Pune and this particular spot was actually a godsend as you might have seen in the video of Sunburn Hills. I can’t think of finding anything as pretty and as natural as this, so close to civilisation.
GVO: Is this expected to be a permanent venue?
Harindra Singh: If everything works right then we will stay here as long as the place can take us, then we’ll see.
GVO: That’s great. So there were these news reports about protests happening in Pune against Sunburn coming to town.
Harindra Singh: You know it’s unfortunate that people jump the gun and the basis of these protests are drug abuse, indecent dressing, and something about the music itself.
We’ve tried to communicate to whoever gets in touch with us and the media that Sunburn is all about music and experience. If you take a look at our music, it’s the same music that exists everywhere, we aren’t making it. If this music is okay everywhere else, then it should be okay here. In terms of dressing, we’re just selling hoodies and t-shirts as merchandise.
People come to Sunburn the way they normally dress, as they live in society. Sunburn is only about being yourself. Goa might have been a bit peculiar as December end in Goa is a bit warm and it’s a beach place, but if you see the Sunburns in the rest of the country, people are just normally attired. So we’ve addressed these issues and met with protest leaders. We have a zero tolerance policy on drug abuse; we don’t allow even water or cigarettes from outside.
If we find anyone on grounds, we ban them and hand them over to the cops. We have 200 CCTV cameras, private security, and dogs, everything. We love our brand and we want people to have fun and we want us to grow so we won’t do anything that’s going to destroy us. We work with all the law enforcement agencies; Central Narcotics Board, State Narcotics Board, we follow all their security guidelines and everything.
We’re very compliant that way but since we’re setting up in a new place people are reacting to whatever somebody tells them. Maybe people have an ulterior motive, so we all we can do is deal with these things as they come and hope it doesn’t become an issue. Once we’re done people will see that it works and be okay with it. We’ve given out about 500 tickets and invited them to come take a look themselves, that’s just how it works.
GVO: Any plans of Sunburn to expand internationally?
Harindra Singh: Actually we’ve been working at it for a long time. We did something in Dubai, Sri Lanka. Last year we concluded a deal for South Africa, Russia, and we were close to closing a deal for Jakarta, Indonesia as well. We’ve had various conversations going; Singapore, and we did something small in Bangkok.
The only challenge is that India itself becomes such a huge challenge for absolutely unnecessary reasons and our bandwidth gets restricted and it becomes a big task to do this. Once we stabilise in our new venue we’ll have more time and mind space to look at new avenues and then we’ll do it.
GVO: Any new festivals coming up from Percept?
Harindra Singh: We just did EPL (Eat Play Love) last weekend in Bombay and it turned out pretty well. We’ll probably do Calcutta, Hyderabad, and a couple of other cities before March. We’ve got Bollyboom, that’s going to be New, Refreshed, Remodeled, Bollyboom coming up soon. It’s quite an experiment actually because everybody loves Bollywood music but at the same time they don’t want to be seen loving it. It’s so funny. So our challenge is to make it cool and to make people publicly love it.
Once we crack that code we’ll be done. It will be 100 times bigger than Sunburn. We’ve got little bit of Bollywood in Sunburn as well this year and not that we are moving away from EDM. It’s just an inclusive approach to make Bollywood a little cooler so Bollyboom can take off.
GVO: Soon we’ll have 10 years of Sunburn behind us. How do you keep coming up with ideas to keep it interesting?
Harindra Singh: It’s so easy. We make sure that all the people working on Sunburn, aren’t older than 26-27. All the key people on the team are of Sunburn target age group. We don’t talk too much, we listen to them and then we use our own experience to try and use that knowledge to create a new experience. It’s fairly scientific too, we follow trends on social media, we keep looking at the chatter, and we see which way preferences are going and analyse all that data on a real time basis.
Let me give you an example.
This year we were so enthused to do a massive stage with nature. Then we got into this conversation with people about what they think is going to work.
The feedback we got was SFX, LED, and Technology. That’s it. So we had to go back to the drawing board. Sunburn is all about nature, it’s all about partying under the sky. Imagine from this hill, urban youth will actually be able to see stars.
That’s a big thing. For the first time it will actually be like sitting in a planetarium and partying because you will actually have a clear blue sky on the top of your head and you will be able to see stars that you read about. Now in this environment, we got 90% of the youth saying that it still has to be tech heavy. So we went back and redesigned our mainstage which is going to be 340 ft wide and 150 ft tall which is the biggest ever. Last year Goa was 200 x 67 ft. This is like double the size. So we’re doing this and it’s got 5,000 square feet of LED. That’s like nearly 8 times the LED composition that we had last year at the mainstage.
GVO: So it’s going to be an amazing mix of tech and nature.
Harindra Singh: That’s what differentiates us quite honestly. Anybody can book a DJ and throw a party, it’s not a big deal. The experience this year is really killer. We’ve got this 70-80 acres of land, parking space for 10,000 cars, we have a private road leading to our event, so the main check point is actually 2.5 kilometres away from the festival space. Loads of F&B as it’s not in a commercial space like Goa. So we’ve put loads of focus there and on sanitation. We’ve really spent a lot of time preparing for this one and executing it.
GVO: I just want to ask you one last question. Anything you want to say to the many attendees that will be coming for Sunburn10?
Harindra Singh: Don’t Miss It. You know, we’ve worked our asses off to put this together so be there!