Around four days ago, a bunch of lurid green and white posters came up almost overnight on walls and pillars around Bangalore’s Koramangala area, which many consider the most active startup hub in India. The posters purported to be from an entity called Sri Hariprasad Ventures, which advertised itself, unequivocally and seemingly without irony, as a “VC for Startups” in big, bold letters. The posters also claimed that Sri Hariprasad Ventures was “looking for startups with great vanity metrics and excellent knowledge of buzzwords. Preferably fintech, blockchain, or enterprise. Open to other fields but must be disruptive.”
The last word was highlighted in yellow.
This was the work of someone looking to have some fun at the expense of startup-obsessed Bangalore
Reddit users called it “Peak Bangalore“. Initially, several people took the posters seriously, as the comments on the Reddit thread show. However, as more and more people started visiting the website, shpventures.com, mentioned on the posters, it became clear that this was a parody project started by someone calling himself/herself “Keeda” (‘worm’ in Hindi, but also used as a slang substitute for ‘obsession’). This was the work of someone looking to have some fun at the expense of startup-obsessed Bangalore.
I reached out to Keeda on the email ID on the website, asking, “Can we talk? I’m extremely intrigued. What is your message?” and he/she responded promptly. “SHP Ventures is a satirical, public installation project. It’s modelled after the ‘PG for Gents/Ladies’ posters that plaster all bus stops and walls in Koramangala. There’s a huge influx of people moving to Bangalore/Koramangala to get into the ‘startup scene’ or start their own venture…,” wrote Keeda.
“The posters are a statement about the kind of startups desperate for funding, usually those that are without a business model and jump on to new tech bandwagons. Funding is seen as the ultimate goal, rather than establishing a business, because of how skewed the perspectives are.”
“The posters are a statement about the kind of startups desperate for funding, usually those that are without a business model and jump on to new tech bandwagons. Funding is seen as the ultimate goal, rather than establishing a business, because of how skewed the perspectives are” — Keeda
Keeda says that within the first 24 hours of putting up the posters, on May 9, there were a “ton of serious responses” from people reaching out via the website, asking for funding. Finally, Keeda put a disclaimer on the homepage about it all being a “parody”.
On further questioning, Keeda added that he/she is a designer/artist by profession, and this is a public art project run anonymously because “anonymity helps artists remove self from their work.”
Keeda says that within the first 24 hours of putting up the posters, on May 9, there were a “ton of serious responses” from people reaching out via the website, asking for funding. Finally, Keeda put a disclaimer on the homepage about it all being a “parody”
This is not the first time graphic artists in Bangalore, which has a thriving design and street art scene, have used anonymous graffiti or street art to convey a message by getting people involved or exasperated or just plain curious.
Around a year or so ago, walls around the city were graffitied with the words ‘Mohan kaun?’ in English and Hindi, and ‘Mohan yaaru?’ (Kannada for ‘Who is Mohan?’) written in a bold, playful font. There was a high density of the intriguing graffiti around central Bangalore, especially in and around Church Street, one of the buzziest streets in the city with an active pub scene.
It turned out, a bunch of artists belonging to a collective called Klatsch was trying to engage people’s attention for an old building in Chickpet called the Mohan building, and through it, to the neglected heritage of the city which has now come to be identified almost solely with gleaming glass and concrete structures housing IT companies and startups.
There are subversive elements among street artists themselves
There are subversive elements among street artists themselves. Last year, when the St+Art Foundation was running a street art festival in Bangalore, with several well-known artists painting murals on walls across the city, a cheeky artist took a dig at the initiative and made fun of it through his/her own graffiti.
The city is also home to the celebrated anonymous collective The Ugly Indian, which transforms public spaces by roping in an army of volunteers. We wrote about them here.
Anonymity is crucial to this form of subversion. About the ‘SHPVentures’ project, Keeda says: “Anonymity is not useful if there’s commercial intent (getting more work, selling a product, or using this as a ‘growth hack’ for an actual PG startup). But for the purposes of this project, the only intent is to plant an idea in people’s head and get them to think about it!”
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Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.