Launch Feature: Interview with Jey Anand, Creative Director, Maritime Heritage of India Project

Stars of Startups, as part of its Launchpad feature, connected with Mr. Jey Anand – Creative Director of Maritime Heritage of India (MHI) Project and the founder of Happy Labs.

jey anand
Jey Anand – Creative Director, Maritime Heritage Project

Finally, MHI is happening – How do you feel?
Jey Anand: It’s a fruit of one year’s work. A lot of study, effort, time and money was dedicated in getting this done. It is definitely a feather in my cap and with the Prime Minister of India himself launching the book, there is nothing more I can ask for.

How is the book relevant to today’s India? Young India in particular.
Jey Anand: India has been and always will be a maritime nation. Our roots to this maritime legacy was lost during the medieaval times, which lead to the colonisation by the Europeans. The book will help and aid the young Indian to find his roots. They would get to know about its history and legacy. They will find the relation of this great nation with the mighty seas and how they ruled it for millennia. It’s all up to us to regain the glory and grandeur of the past. This book is just an opportunity to take a sneak peek into our past so that we can set focus on our future.

How is your one plus year experience with the Navy? 
Jey Anand: My goal has been to work with the best and when I got an opportunity to work with the Indian Navy, I made up my mind it was not something I would let slip by.  The project was huge included a lot of travel and dedicated effort to complete on time. The experience of working with the Indian Navy was special as I got to do this project with some of the top officials and the learning curve, personally was amazing. The Navy was more than friendly and receptive to most of the ideas we submitted. The overall experience, in one word, has been fantastic.

Anand with his cycle – a western coast sunset – a day from the times of MHI content research

And do you recommend youngsters to consider a career in the Navy?
Jey Anand: An officer is one level above a gentleman. And a career in Navy is not for everyone. If you believe you are elite and if you think that you can maintain impossibly high standards, then look no further than the Indian Navy. The Navy is one of the premier institutions in the country that not only trains and shapes young minds but is transforming our maritime legacy and bringing it up to relive the past glory once again. Apart from generous perks and quality of living guaranteed to its officers, the Indian Navy is definitely every youth of the country should consider if he believes he is worth it.

Can you talk a little about the team you put together – designers, editors, writers…
Jey Anand: The biggest task was to compile all the data and curate content for this book. This book is not only about history but also heritage. It was a result of a study of over a hundred books, publications, articles, papers, etc., written by subject matter experts, both Indian and non-Indians. Discussions and interactions with prominent historians of India over the last year further provided material for this book. All this would have not been possible without the able and apt support provided by the Indian Navy and the MHI Project team which included researchers, analyst, content writers, editors, artist, designers, web developers, photographers and project historians.

Rains in Payanur – each drop talks about the history of the spot

An interesting mix was worked out by the Navy and team Happy Labs.  We had senior writers from IIM to a budding musician who had a penchant for writing. So this gave us an interesting style of content flow and chapterisation.
We were able to classify India’s Maritime heritage into 8 unique chapters, which widely covers the story of 7500 years of India’s history and heritage.

How much did an ‘nationalist fervour’ get invoked in you and your team on this? Any interesting stories? Say about Payanur?
Jey Anand: There was nothing nationalist about this. Anything south of the Indus river was named India back in the Harappan period itself. This nationalism is a very recent brainchild. India was a country with 1000 other countries with different prevalent cultures, languages and geographies that were creating a border between themselves.

We were located in a scenic location inside the Indian Naval Academy in Payanur, Kerala. There was no dearth of inspiration at all – we got it whenever we needed. The location also had a lot of historic relevance to the spot with Vasco da Gama using the Mt. Delhi lighthouse there, as a identification enroute to Calicut. The cadets exercising everyday and undergoing training was a sight which always made us wonder if we can have this high RPM life.

MHI Launch
A Glimpse of the book – a fruit of creative passion

Considering that this is a large scale, and high visible work, how could you make MHI happen? What is the future of MHI?
Jey Anand: It was a team effort. Though there were plenty of hiccups throughout with meeting strict and tough deadline set by the Navy. They were equally supportive and helped us to meet those timelines every time. It has been an honour and privilege to work with Navy and to do a project that reflects on India’s history and heritage.

It was something unfathomable at start. It was a labour of love and at places we went beyond the call of duty out of pure passion. It was not the money, but the knowledge gained and the people we interacted with, made it completely worthwhile.

We started off analysing the project. Then I did a trip to Delhi to interact with a few historians. Then the visit to libraries happened. The presence of a library within INA’s campus did help and we made it our base. Next we shortlisted the team and the process we were about to go through. All the writers and analysts were brought to Ezhimala and were put up in a guesthouse.

The most important part was to chapterise the whole project with all the tangible and intangible resources we had and then the project took shape. Different chapters were taken by different writers and analysts and we were slowly able to complete the book after the content that were curated and vetted by the historians.

Post this book, there will be a project taken up by the Indian Navy, which will renovate and protect places of maritime significance.

What are the surprise elements of the book?
There are plenty of stories in the book. In fact the whole book is a compendium of tales and folklore. Some of the stories are about the Romans trading with India during ancient times and emperor Nero prohibiting trade with India because they literally ran out of gold. Another one is the Tamil bell story –  A native maori finding a bell with Tamil inscriptions in the 14th century off the New Zealand coast which happens to be from shipwreck of a Tamil trading ship. This shows our sailing prowess and reach, way before the western European countries claiming to discover them.
Another story is the story of how biriyani came to India via the sea.  Another story is that of  the undefeated admiral of India –  Khanoji Angre – a swashbuckling commander of Shivaji’s navy who took on the might of both the British and the Portuguese and kept them clueless and at bay for decades.  The unsung heroes – lascars and their role from ancient times to the World Wars.
Take us through the launch plan.

Jey Anand: The Indian Navy has its own style, when it comes to awe people.  This book launch is exquisitely planned. During the International Fleet Review in Vizag on 7th Feb this book. Maritime Heritage of India will be released by the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra modi. After the city parade and in between naval exercise, a paratrooper will jump from 35,000 ft with the book, land in front of the dias and hand over the book for the PM to release it to the entire world.  The Prime Minister would also proceed and launch the ebook version of the same.

Like Anand, we all feel proud of our Heritage, our Navy and look forward for the launch of the Maritime Heritage of India, Photo Essay book.  For details visit


2 Comments on Launch Feature: Interview with Jey Anand, Creative Director, Maritime Heritage of India Project

  1. Jey Anand, my dear friend and a mentor, is always equipped with a avalanche of curiosity and intelligence. I’m sure, this book won’t be the same if there was someone else doing his role. Happy for happy labs.

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