I had the pleasure of interviewing Kapil Srivastava, founder of Guitarmonk India. He is an international, multicultural musicologist, and a guitarist who is bridging the gap between nations through the universal language of music. Kapil coined the brand name “Guitarmonk” and pioneered a number of creative milestones under the same label. He runs India’s largest chain of guitar centres along with a publication and record-label. Seeing a need for community involvement as well as culture and heritage preservation, Kapil also established Guitarmonk Social, the CSR division that promotes awareness on various socio-health issues and involves charitable activities across India through promotion of music for health and leisure and culture enrichment. Guitarmonk learners are spread across 150 Indian cities and in more than 28 countries while Guitarmonk technical and production teams are rolled out in over 50 nations around the globe.
Kapil also won notable awards and wrote for several publications including government magazines. Honoured by all three government ministries and several MNCs, Kapil also created music for Bollywood movie and collaborated with various celebrities including Grammy Winner Pt. VM Bhatt, Padam Bhushan Ustad Sultan Khan and many others etc.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I fell in love with guitar at first sight. When I was around 10 years old, I got exposed to a guitarist doing a live performance playing Bollywood tunes that really struck me. I got fascinated by the sweetness and uniqueness of this instrument. The desire of knowing more of this mystery of creating sounds and learning this art paved the way which later on evolved into what and who I am today as Guitarmonk.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
It is very difficult to pick one or two but I can share with you the philosophy behind our name. When we formally launched the company in 2005, there were lots of unmatched brand names that came up, which were very attractive but not deep enough to represent who I was or who we really are. And then a very interesting thought came into my mind and that was the idea of the fusion of the guitar and a monk passionate about music. Hence, the name Guitarmonk came into fruition. It was the perfect representation and image for me and the company.
I have always visualized Guitarmonk as a character. A musical character, with a guitar in hand, the character with reason, passion and a mission. I see Guitarmonk as a talent with power to overcome difficulties in life, which today came out as a solution provider concept. Guitarmonk was more of a personality, a lifestyle or a life spirit than a mere firm or company name to me. In the heart of Guitarmonk is a merger of western and eastern world, cultures & genres, materialism and spirituality. As you can see, almost 15 years down the line, and we are still on track naturally to the same philosophy and spiritual path.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This has been the funniest, so far. We were the first music brand in India to have a franchise model in 2008. And we invested a lot of money and time in designing the project. It was a matter of both pride and honour to achieve this milestone and we’re excited to head for our first franchise event. It was the first biggest business exhibition that we conducted in a 5 star hotel for 2 days. It was also the most expensive event we did that cost us Rs. 1,00,000 a day. Previously, we used to conduct International and City book fairs for our publications, which were actually a lot easier and economical. As there was a lot at stake, so I carefully guided my team to make use of this event at all cost. We all have to be there in our suits and ties. We have to entertain every visitor (basically a non-musical investor). I even made sure that select staff will reach there on time with business plans and start entertaining the clients. It was a paid event and 2000 investors were expected in 2 days. We were expecting somewhere around 200 pax to visit our booth. And each one of them needs to be counselled & assisted effectively. The first day we had a marvellous battle and we captured 150 leads for both national and international. The second day, all my staff felt like army generals and they were completely overwhelmed as the crowd was huge and the booth was jam-packed. There was a long list of people on waiting area who were all eager to hear what we have to say. All entrance passes were with my staff and I was waiting outside the gate so they can escort me inside. The long waiting time was beginning to get on my nerves and I felt like breaking in through the gates, I believe I waited for 2 hours until one of them missed my presence and called me up. When I entered I had no time to question them simply because there was no time for it. The war was on. And I was up for the game. My learning with this is that we are the best person to take responsibility and accountability for ourselves instead of relying too much to others.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As Guitarmonk, we wanted to build a concept and a model that would eliminate the limitation on this industry. It would set a new perspective and new way of looking into the guitar, music or arts. There are millions of Guitar Teacher, Guitar Institutes and Guitar Players in the world and most of them are struggling. This struggle is not only limited to Guitar but most of the art-forms be it fine arts or performing arts. There is not much we can do by being in such framework and boundaries. As music is regarded a lifestyle and only comes as a second priority, after our survival. It’s not a cup of tea for people with survival lifestyle. It is important that we extend our boundaries of functions and perception and break away from conservative approaches. At Guitarmonk, we no longer choose to be in the same rat-race cycle to survive. We are determined to move beyond the regular functions and to strengthen our capacity to be a successful platform rather than just be a platform seeker. We decided to build our enterprise and own our infrastructures and expand our boundaries. We created work for national awarded artists, celebrities and talents worldwide. Guitarmonk as a company have implemented several verticals to make that possible, to grow the perception of people of seeing us beyond the regular impression as an institute, teachers or guitar players to a concept and a cause that creates a difference in the lives of people in so many ways.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not get “burn out”?
Playing good guitar and getting financially stable via guitar are two different things; they are not two sides of the one coin. They are not by-product of each other. They are different facets. You definitely need to be a good guitarist to maintain a good career but not vice versa. It doesn’t mean your career is going to be stable and good if you are a good guitarist alone. If you want to make money and grow financially, you need to understand the market, the demographic opportunities. You also need to have a career and life coach or mentor apart from a technical adviser in music. A sound body and a sound mind is also your key towards success not just in career but in life in general.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person whom you are grateful to especially those who helped get you to where you are now? Can you share a story?
There is not just one person because every person I met both in person and professionally has helped shaped my lifeline. They inspired me, motivated me directly and indirectly to be where I am today. For example – My first teacher exposed me to his own live performances and I was like his intern or apprentice. I was not paid but it was a great exposure. My second teacher guided me about recording studios and the list goes on. My computer friends inspired me to learn computers and programming. I developed my first website on my own and edited the html coding. My business gurus showed me the ropes on how to have fun, freedom and power in being an entrepreneur. I got the opportunity to market, manage and lead the team. I am grateful to each and everyone who has become part of my journey.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have a different philosophy. I have learned that if we are doing well even without the intention of spreading goodness, we will still receive lots of good things in return. I believe that what goes around comes around. It’s a perspective. I never intended to spread goodness and yet a lot of people still mail us, saying they feel inspired and grateful for our presence and they appreciate the work we do. Success has the capability to inspire others but every human being also owe themselves the responsibility to be successful . Being Indian, with a spiritual upbringing and heritage, I am inclined on raising self-consciousness and achieving spiritual growth.
Do you have a favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how it is relevant to your life?
I wrote one quote that says, “If I can let a terrorist hold a guitar instead of a weapon, we will win the war. Music or any art is a way to include beauty, emotions and gratefulness in one’s life. We can transfer these values to our surroundings by sharing and teaching them. Art is not just a popularity contest; it is indispensable to personality growth, peace of mind and way to ameliorate life.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
If I can turn back the time, I would really appreciate if someone will give me the following tips:
- The best investment that you can make is in yourself; invest for self-growth and development and everything else will follow.
- Compensate your time and efforts invested in the business by giving yourself a salary.
- Make your health a priority. Sometimes we sacrifice our health to gain wealth only to later on spend our wealth to regain good health. Our health is our asset and an investment so we can run the business with a sound mind and body.
- Find gurus and mentors to guide you with your business plan and strategy as well as to help empower you as you grow emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially
- Take time out to enjoy your personal life. Do not forget that you still have a life outside the company premises.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
We can apply music in our lives in so many creative ways. More than entertainment, music is a great tool for healing depression and relieving stress. It can be a formal engagement for school-age kids and adults in corporate via employee engagement. Also, a great mental training for restless minds, a good vehicle for emotional ventilation, and brings endless fun and joy to our daily lives. We can inspire, empower and communicate many things through music. It is also an effective marketing tool. At Guitarmonk, we use music in all different ways. Besides entertainment and education, we are applying music not just commercially but socially and therapeutically too.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can connect with me through facebook.com/kapilguitarist
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!