By Anoop Babani
Just like it is easy to assume that Goa Chitra space used to formerly be a private home, another common assumption to make is that the collection and the resources on which the museum runs comes significantly from inherited property. In the following piece, Anoop Babani dispels these preconceived notions, giving the readers an insider’s perspective about the funding of Goa Chitra.
I met Victor Hugo Gomes just when he was starting out less than a decade ago. His mission was to preserve Goan (indeed, human) heritage and to live with it. And how could one do it? Well, build a museum just below your bedroom! That’s exactly what he and his gracious wife, Aldina, chose to do.
From the beginning, Victor came across as one of those guys who was undaunted by the challenges he was to face, and very confident and committed. He put his hard earned money where his mouth was – quite unlike many other young, propertied Goans who were busy buying a yacht or a Ferrari in exchange for ancestral lands. I cared two hoots if someone was to sink his yacht or crash his luxury car, but was definitely concerned, indeed worried, about Victor’s venture. That’s why our meetings and discussions in those early days invariably veered around financial viability of Goa Chitra, the first in a series of museums ‘below the bedroom’. I understood money, albeit moderately, having spent almost four decades in analyzing corporate sector and dabbling in stock markets. So, we would often talk about revenue streams, return on investment, one-time corpus, gestation period, gate fees, and so forth.
There was one difference though. In my early working life, money matters were discussed in close-door air-conditioned rooms. With Victor, these deliberations always took place in South Goa’s open-air country bars over endless rounds of what he calls ‘kop’. And these financial summits would invariably end in the wee hours of morning, with Victor proclaiming: “Listen man, I will continue to chase my mission. Money will follow.”
Money did flow, but not smoothly. Victor and Aldina used to organize musical and cultural evenings to raise working funds for Goa Chitra. Victor himself received several sponsorship and even lucrative sale/partnership offers which he rejected outright. “How can I part with my baby, man,” Victor would exclaim. Fortunately, Goa Chitra began to gain traction – first among school and college children, and then among the local populace. However, the fee-paying footfalls increased dramatically once the conscious Indian and overseas tourists to Goa began to look beyond sun, sea and sand and scout for experiences in the local heritage. Victor gauged the opportunity and began tweaking his marketing plans to attract high-end, heritage conscious visitors to the museum. Simultaneously, he expanded the complex to include two new museums – Goa Chakra and Goa Cruti.
To sustain and further expand the display of his vast collection, Victor is currently tying up with international agencies and building high-end residential infrastructure to extend a holistic experience to potential visitors. This model is bound to succeed. To that extent, I am happy that Victor today understands money more than me. Victor has created an institution unique to his own personality and style. No doubt, it will be copied but never the way he built it.
Anoop Babani is a post-graduate in Economics from University of Mumbai. He has specialized in building business databases, first as a founder-member of India’s largest and most-respected think tank, Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, and then as database head at the Press Trust of India (PTI). A journalist for more than 30 years, he has worked with PTI, Times of India, Update magazine, Herald Review magazine and Business India magazine. Presently, he is building a selective and qualitative database of World and Indian Cinema.