Interview With Kapil Gupta, Founder - Frontlist Media & Festival Director; PVLF 2023
on Jul 04, 2022
Kapil Gupta is an entrepreneur, both in thought and in style who believes that the power of a message & its delivery is what causes true revolutions. Kapil Gupta is a parallel entrepreneur who believes in providing true meaning to the various organizations he runs and builds them in sync with one another. He is the founder and the CEO of OMLogic (India’s leading digital marketing agencies), PragatiE (a virtual exhibition platform), Frontlist (portal for the publishing industry), Solh (a mental wellness platform & his current passion project), Advit Toys (a board games company).
He has also written a book called “India Vision: New Age Equality” that became #1 bestseller in sociology on amazon.in within a week of its release. It explores the concept of India, equality and what it means for different people.
Frontlist: PragatiE Vichaar Literature Festival is returning with its 2nd Edition. What novel changes can we foresee through this literary event?
Kapil: The second edition of PVLF will be very different from its first rendition. This year, instead of having a continuous 24-hour Author's Marathon, we will be holding our talks and ceremonies over many days. We will continue to focus on bringing new authors to the front stage and ask them to share their views on the industry and how they plan to revolutionise it. Finally, we will include Hindi literature in the mix and celebrate Hindi authors who have been gaining ground in the past few years. There will also be sessions around the industry with key leaders from the Publishing and Copyright industries participating.
Frontlist: What is the objective behind the theme ‘Taking humanity forward’ that has been decided for PVLF 2023?
Kapil: Revolution is the new evolution and that’s the only way humanity can move forward. We all know that the pen is mightier than the sword and thus it is in our abilities and duty to bring about the changes that will take not just the literary world but also the entire humanity forward. The species that began as little more than pack hunters in the plains of Savannah just a 100,000 years ago have now conquered the entire planet and been to space. The 21st Century is the most transformative age in the entire history. Our socio-economic changes had already left our natural evolution behind but now our technological upheavals have even left our societal evolution into dust. Now, our lifestyles, mannerisms, outlooks and goals change with the black swans that emit from our integrated cyborg society. We need to pay attention to this new age and thus, we focus on new authors and voices that we need to hear if we must continue to the next level. In the era of Covid, war & a tech revolution changing the basic essence of life, what better than the theme of ‘Taking Humanity Forward’.
Frontlist: How does PragatiE Vichaar Literature Festival stand apart as we compare it with other prestigious Literature Festivals?
Kapil: Let me be bold and say PVLF is a literature festival while most others are dialogue forums. We do not get cricketers, movie stars, politicians, or businesspeople. We get authors, the true drivers of literature. The discussions are kept more meaningful versus turning into a star-studded show. It is a one-of-a-kind literature festival that focuses on propelling new authors and voices of the country. Even though we do feature prominent faces of the literary world, they are not the event's protagonists. This is where we separate ourselves from other festivals, as most of them focus on already known authors and drive the conversation towards what is trending. We allow our authors to speak on topics close to their hearts and enable our audiences to interact with them without barriers. Our goal is to innovate the country's publishing industry and bring it to the forefront of the 21st century; thus, our technology integration to bring people closer is also what distinguishes us.
Frontlist: How will PVLF 2023 be advantageous for international authors? Will the publishing industry get more diverse perspectives from international authors this time?
Kapil: Even though the presence of the International Authors in our previous iteration was a bit lacking, we are making sure that we bring a more diverse international author base this year. Of course, the stage will be very advantageous for those authors as they would have the chance to be explored by a market of more than 1.3 billion people. They will also be able to express their opinions on all our topics and comment on what we should do to grow together as an integrated global village. All their perspectives will only add to the conversations and knowledge that will resonate from our festival.
Frontlist: Being a Festival Director, what are your expectations from PVLF 2023?
Kapil: My expectations are something that can't be contained with one festival. Joking, I want the festival to accomplish what my team wants it to accomplish: to drive conversations that can showcase us a map to drive change in the industry and the world. I want as many readers to hear about it, be a part of it, and connect with their favourite authors to be inspired to be like them. I want authors to recognize PVLF as a centre stage for presenting their work to the world, and I want developing authors to aim to win an award here someday. I am not much interested in what it does than who it impacts. If even one person walks out taking in a new perspective or being inspired enough to act upon it, I would consider PVLF 2023 successful.
Frontlist: PVLF Excellence Awards is one of the significant parts of this Literature Festival. How are these awards reliable, and what value can they add to the Publishing industry?
Kapil: First, I have an extremely low view of industry awards. Perhaps because I get one email every week for my digital marketing agency being selected as the top agency, just that it needs to be paid for. The PVLF Excellence Awards is perhaps the only unbiased, equal, and fair system of selecting the most impactful authors, books, and publishers in the contemporary world. We have partnered with Nielsen, the #1 research agency in the world. Our extensive coverage through Nielsen Bookscan Data awards the genuinely deserving ones. There are different criteria for authors, books, and publishers; but the focus is on transparency and fairness.
Frontlist: Since its inception, how has Frontlist brought a dynamic change in the Publishing Fraternity?
Kapil: I started Frontlist since there was a vacuum in the Indian Publishing Industry. There is no representative ecosystem that talks about Indian Publishing. I want to create that ecosystem as a philanthropic initiative and then own the ecosystem as an entrepreneur. It is a premium place for authors and publishers to come together and showcase their work so that it gains more visibility worldwide. The digital nature of the platform allows us to reach a younger audience and thus increases the prevalence of books and publishing in our society. But first and foremost, it is a place for debut authors to come into the spotlight and shine for the world to see. We support new works and back new age thinking, we want to change the way we read and judge our artwork, and we want to revolutionise the publishing industry so that it supports art more than the business of art.
Thoughts on the theme of LGBTQ+
Frontlist: What are your thoughts on LGBTQ+?
Kapil: I have always believed that sexuality is a very personal topic. Who fucks who or gets fucked by who, who dressed like who, and who has what genital organs shouldn't even be a part of our identity. I have the same thoughts on women and the same on other differentiation based on caste, religion, colour, and other identifiers. These are conversations that mattered in the 20th century, not now. We need to move beyond. I understand it's easier said than done, but my mission is to provide an equal environment. Oppression and privileges are entirely ruled out.
Frontlist: Do you think it is justified to oppress the LGBTQ+ community as they are also an integral part of our society?
Kapil: It is never justified to oppress anyone, not even beaten Nazis, so how can it be justified against an entire spectrum of people? They have been here since the dawn of time; we see homosexual behaviors in hundreds of species of animals. It is not just natural but a part of who we are. Sexuality is fluid, and each one of us lies somewhere on the spectrum. If religious and societal persecution wasn’t a thing, who knows how many people would recognise their closeted behaviours. Let people be people and choices be choices; who are we to stop them? This oppression is against God, against nature, and of course, it is against Science. The funny thing in India is that the people who justify their bigotry cite historical precedent in response but don’t realise that homophobia is a colonised trait that did not exist before Victorian programming. Take a look at Hindu scriptures and read about the history of India’s society, and you will find LGBTQ+ people not just everywhere but also in positions of power.
Frontlist: Being an advocate for equality, what if someone from a family is defined as a third gender. What would you do to stand with them despite falling out with your family members?
Kapil: They will be treated as people, EQUAL! No special treatment, oppression, or privileges. This attack that the bigot family will feel upon its honour, upbringing, and ‘Sanskar’ would be something I would genuinely enjoy witnessing. I would stand by them and protect them from the constant chauvinistic toxicity that would belch out of the family. I would even suggest my family take counselling to shed these enmeshed behaviours, and if they can’t keep themselves in check, then I would ask the family to leave them alone for good. Of course, I will try my all to show them the right way, but the dunning Kruger effect is too strong with some people that forget facts; not even God can change their ways.
Frontlist: LGBTQ+ members get an equal opportunity as well as other genders. But we treat them quite differently from us. What are your thoughts on this?
Kapil: Everybody gets equal treatment in all businesses owned by me, but that is inherently not true with the community. Bigotry is so embedded in the system that discrimination is not just prevalent but also common. But even if somehow we eradicate bigotry from all opportunities, how will we eradicate it from people's minds? How can we erase something people feel is a part of their and their community's identity? It is ingrained in their ways so much that even a question against it is an attack on their being itself? Of course, they treat people with fluid sexuality with such hostility that they make their survival a pain. They dig them with constant jabs, taunts, and malignant moves that make the person feel more isolated than a dying pig in an endless pit. It's like people get off on hurting others and project their insecurities and venom onto them.
Frontlist: Since you do not uphold privileges, should we provide reservations to LGBTQ+ community members?
Kapil: I think reservation is controversial, and my stand on it has always been negative. In the 21st century, our quest should be towards equality, not reservations, subsidies, and privileges. At the same time, in some specific pockets, for a predefined short timeframe, with very strict policing and guidelines, I am okay if they are needed for some people to attain an equal status amongst their peers.
Frontlist: What change would you like for LGBTQ+ Community to give them a sense of equality in society?
Kapil: Well, for me, it's simple, treat them equally. :)
The only way to bring an actual change to make someone feel welcomed and equal in a society is by destroying prejudice and obliterating systematic bigotry. From the very beginning, this can only be done by educating people to understand sexuality as not a process to give birth and propel our species but as an expression of one's self and a way of love. Teach people to accept other people's right to their bodies and lives and the right to love amongst consenting individuals. I would uproot the law so that no religion, belief, or tradition can impact people of LGBTQ+ in a malignant way. People have the right to practise their beliefs as long as it doesn't affect others or restrict them in their ways. I would curb the so-called Social police composed of uneducated hordes that do nothing but spread their hate onto others.
Most importantly, I will call upon the people of LGBTQ+ to prove themselves on their merit to enrich society. Some already have; however, a lot more remains to be done. It is upon the LGBTQ+ people as well to consider themselves equal. The better ones shouldn't be begging for privileges to move forward. Instead, they struggle and make it on their own to stand as guiding lights for those to follow.
Frontlist: Frontlist plays a significant role as a carrier of the Publishing industry updates to audiences. Apart from English and Hindi Literature, don't you think you should encourage LGBTQA+ Literature? Please share your views.
Kapil: We don't just think; we encourage more writers from LGBTQA+ communities and cheer for more writers to build more characters with LGBTQA+ representations. I think it's time for their voices to propagate more in the literature world. It's a shame that so many great books have been written without mentioning the sexual spectrum. But it's never too late, and we see more writers incorporate people of the LGBTQA+ in their stories, not just centering their characters on their sexuality but also giving them an equal and suitable representation. On the other hand, the internet is already filled with an entire cornucopia of shipping theses where people pair their favourite fictional characters and write their stories, not always in an NSFW way. Change is coming, and it can be accelerated with all our efforts.
Frontlist: What is the relevance of LGBTQA+ Literature to flourish the contemporary society in terms of education level as well as conscious level?
Kapil: There is a term floating around ‘woke culture.’ It is used as much as a derogatory term as much is used to propel movements of representation forward. But we must save ourselves from misrepresentation and tokenisation. Representing for the sake of representing and building stories around a character that is nothing but a shell of a person by being there just being gay must be shunned. We must instead embrace the changes of fluid human sexuality in its evolution in the following age. Exposing our children to the absolute truths to destroy any seeds of bigotry and writing marvellous fiction inspires us to find aspects of those characters in ourselves. We must recognize the place of sexuality in our lives and allow people to express their love in unique ways.