The Stories Of 15 More Inspired Young Indians Who Chose Their Dreams Over Stability [Vol. II] - Homegrown

The Stories Of 15 More Inspired Young Indians Who Chose Their Dreams Over Stability [Vol. II]

“My own heroes are the dreamers, those men and women who tried to make the world a better place than when they found it, whether in small ways or great ones. Some succeeded, some failed, most had mixed results… but it is the effort that’s heroic, as I see it.”

-George R R Martin


We believe you’re familiar with our fascination for those who lead double lives professionally, that we explored through the lives of 36 individuals across two volumes (you can check them out here and here). These are the guys burning the candle at both ends, and doing a fine job at it. Then, there are those who choose to go off the deep end and vouch completely and irrevocably for their dreams (and no, they don’t get much sleep either). For these dreamers, we have a special kind of respect.

It takes immense courage – and a healthy dose of madness – to put an end to what is potentially a financially stable life to pursue your real calling, or even what you think is your real calling on your path to finding one, and we scoured the space for individuals who have, at different points in their lives, taken a step back and re-evaluated what their dreams meant to them before deciding to throw their entire weight behind them. The first volume featuring inspired individuals has become a HG favourite, and a follow-up was but natural, flooded as we were with responses to others who had stuck to their guns even when the going got tough.

Homegrown’s back for round two; here are 14 more individuals who’ve truly followed their hearts, and won us over while at it.


I. Amol Parashar - Logical. Everything-analyzer. Insatiable.

From consultancy to theatre...

Who: Amol Parashar works as an actor with 7 years of experience in Hindi and English theatre. He also acts in films and in TV commercials, and directs plays occasionally. Recently, he has started writing for theatre, films and TV.
Amol used to have a desk job in an Indian office of an American Consulting Company, a white collar job he secured through campus placements after graduating from IIT Delhi. He was poised to be a part of a ‘promising’ career, and was looking forward to a job that was, at its core, a number crunching job. “I like numbers,” he shares. “So I loved the work. What I couldn’t love, was the ‘job’. The structure around the work, the rules. At that time, I disliked structure much more than I do today. The image of looking forward to an entire life moving from cubicle to cubicle, to cabins, to boardrooms, to meetings, was very scary... I got out before I got used to it.”

Image Credit: Maanvi Gagroo
Image Credit: Maanvi Gagroo

“Dreams are not as unachievable as we are trained to believe.”

On his passion for acting:

“I am quite unsure whether I left my job for acting. I am unsure because there has been some time and there were a lot of things going on in my head at that time,” Amol clarifies. “Being on stage gave me a certain kind of satisfaction. It made me feel alive. It still does. Any stage actor (or performer of any kind) will agree that there are certain days where you transcend. You can’t describe that feeling. That feeling, for me, was worth all the uncertainty and insecurity. Maybe acting and I were meant to be, one way or the other.”

The biggest challenge?

“I think there is a certain honeymoon period when an artist decides to make his art his profession,” he elaborates. “Slowly, with time, you start to feel the need to include commerce in your day to day thinking as well. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It helps you set certain goals, artistic and otherwise, and you start to chart out a ‘career’ out of your art.

“The challenge, though, is the commerce slyly taking over the art. There maybe times when commerce overrides an artistic decision or choice but you need to make sure that it doesn’t take over your art as a whole. You need to stay true to who you are and keep reminding yourself why you are here.”

One line that inspires him:

”Do it now. Sometimes ‘later’ becomes ‘never’.”

Follow Amol on Facebook & Twitter

II. Arjun Nair - Optimist. Resilient. Positive.

From business development to music & writing...

Who: 27-year-old Arjun Nair is a music producer/singer/composer/arranger/lyricist and voice artist based out of Mumbai, with a special focus towards creating music or films, AVs, Radio and live entertainment.
Currently driving arrangements and performing with Sony Music’s Live act ‘Voctronica’, Arjun is also the founder and lead singer of the Hindie Band ‘Rang’, and the founding partner for ‘Aur Maango Productions’. This is his ‘primary avatar’, which creates music for advertising across mediums, but the list of his achievements seem never ending - he’s also a member of Film Writer’s Association, India, and is working on a TV Pilot, and two film projects. This comes at the end of of 4 years of tremendous learning and exposure to International Businesses in a Biz Dev/Vendor Relationship and Product Development Role with the Directi Group of Companies, which he quit 3 years ago to pursue music and writing full-time.

“My role was challenging, but I worked under some fantastic leadership here. The best part was the trust, and four years here primed me with skill sets and decisiveness,” he says. “I learnt to learn here, something I will always be grateful for. By the end of it, I was doing an average of 14 hour work days + 4 hour jams or music-related work nights, every day, weekends included. I relished it, and it made me feel amazing that I didn’t complain to myself, even if it was extremely tiring.”

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“Dreams are a comment on the possibilities you are free to embrace, and fuel to a mind that endorses imagination.”

On his passion for creative entrepreneurship:

“After four years of balancing a heavy work schedule, I realized that creative entrepreneurship is what really made me feel fuzzy,” Arjun says. “I was hooked on to working on my own ideas, and at 24, I decided to jump at the opportunity to invest in myself, and my calling was always in the field of music, writing and entertaining.” 
“When I’m ‘working’ now, it helps me sleep at night, no matter what time it is, to wake up everyday, and decode the food for the soul on my own, or on demand. It’s no bed of roses, but I’ve always felt wonderful to meet like-minded people and drive ideas forward. I learnt the hard way that happiness is a state of mind, and you give yourself the best chance of having a positive impact on the world around you, if you’re doing what you’re best at - and most importantly - what’s natural to you.”

The biggest challenge?

Arjun reflects that he’s always been a guy with an independent mindset, and has tried to be self-sufficient as far as possible. “The biggest challenge as for every entrepreneur is obviously the conundrum of ‘money needed to survive to make money to survive’. It takes time to get going, and we’re all tested every day in how far one’s willing to go to support your dream. Music demands a lot more than money from you, and isn’t for the weak-hearted. The more you enter the field, you realize that you’re living at a time where mediocrity decides what’s good and bad, and you have to be crystal clear on what your beliefs are. Finding the middle line between what’s good work, and what will work for today’s tastes, is a challenge we face everyday.” 

One line that inspires him:

”If you think people are dumb, you’ll spend a lifetime doing dumb work.” - George Lois, Advertising Pioneer.

Follow Arjun on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin & SoundcloudAur Maango Productions on Soundcloud; Voctronica on Facebook & Twitter.

III. Arjun Charanjiva - Visionary. Passionate. Curious.

From corporate management to entrepreneurship... 

Who: 43-year-old Arjun Charanjiva is currently the CEO of Kulture Shop, Bandra, and had previously spent the bulk of his career working at Mars Chocolates in the USA, and then in India.

“No more button-down shirts tucked into trousers by day only to change into something more “me” (aka tee, cargo pants and sneakers) by night,” Arjun shares. “My work environment today is completely different.” Having grown up in South Bombay, Arjun went away for college in the US, and following his MBA in Marketing, he dedicated himself to a marketing job at at Mars Chocolates (M&M’s, Mars, Snickers, Twix, Galaxy aka Dove, Skittles, etc) and, over time, gained recognition as one of the top brand managers in the organisation.

Arjun credits his time with Mars for making him who he is, as a professional and a leader. “I learned to be creative, to be analytical, to plan, to execute, to strategise, work with people, sell to people, what have you.  I got to travel the US and the world,” he reflects. “But I didn’t see anything dramatically new coming for me. I was looking for a very different challenge.  Something was telling me to look toward Mumbai and get involved in some way with the arts. I had this desire to make an impact here in India and recognized a few gaps I could help fill.”

arjunC
arjunC

“Dreams are only dreams till you wake up and make them real.”

-Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story

On his passion for the independent and alternative arts:

”My love affair with the independent and alternative arts blossomed in New York City, where I lived for 14 years,” he begins. “I worked at Mars during the day, and the evenings and weekends were reserved for discovering new music which included dabbling (quite unsuccessfully) at DJing, photography, experiencing alternative/experimental art and finding interesting cultural collectibles and oddities of the past & present. So when I left Mars in 2010, I was set to live a more artistic existence, if you will, knowing what I wanted for the second half of my life. Two lives in one, I figured!”

The second journey started right back where he had grown up – Mumbai. Arjun did consultancy gigs at Blue Frog and Sunburn in 2010-11, and found it useful to get an insight into businesses dealing with the arts. By now, the entrepreneurial itch was getting to him and the idea of Kulture was born shortly thereafter – a lifestyle brand curating and supporting the independent arts & culture.

Arjun has always dreamed of having an indie line of graphic tees, and in 2012, he decided to just focus on one arm of Kulture – Kulture Shop – which was based on his love of the graphic image. This was to be a curated crowdsourced collective of Indian graphic artists selling their work on affordable art products. Having seen his wife Jas struggle with monetising her art and design, he figured the best way to make her and other talented graphic artists money (and out of the clutches of evil non-paying or late-paying clients) was to put about 50 of them together and to shine a light on them so that they could be seen, appreciated and make the money that their talents deserved.

“To demystify and democratize art, to support talented Indian graphic artists and drive an Indian graphic art movement - it is my hope that Kulture Shop will, in however small a way change the contours of our visual identity and culture. I am responsible for my own destiny, so it means everything for me to reach the goals I set and to help those I can along the way.”

The biggest challenge?

“When you go entrepreneur your lifestyle can change - mine certainly has,” Arjun tells us. “Whereas earlier I lived every second of every day, traveled a lot, consumed a lot, was very social, today - it’s all about work. I miss holidays! You’re putting your heart & soul into your baby 24x7, and all your money too!

“The key, as they all say, is balance. I do this by taking time to read the paper, seeing what’s trending on social media and elsewhere, getting out a couple of times a week to unwind, socialise and network.”

One line that inspires him:

”Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.” - George Bernard Shaw

IV. Balaji Maheshwar - Cheerful. Intense. Ambitious.

Who: 27-year-old Balaji Maheshwar is a self-taught photographer, who actually graduated as an engineer. In 2014, he started Madras Photo Factory with his friends, a production house based in Chennai.

Balaji used to watch a lot of world cinema during his childhood and had always wanted to be involved in a creative field. “I believed that this chapter was over and that I could not work towards my passion anymore when I had to study Engineering and started working at Infosys as a Software Engineer in 2009,” he tells us. “I never liked the job as I worked in night shifts for 3.5 years and it was hectic.” He still recalls the first day at his company, where he sat with 2,000 other employees in a huge auditorium. “The first thing I heard was a song where a woman sang in a strange accent about glory, values and dreams. It was like making me to get ready for a battle of virtual dreams. I realized I don’t belong here.”

Today, he works as the creative director at Madras Photo Factory and is also planning to start a Wedding Photography Company called ‘Magic Elephants’ which will focus on documenting weddings and making wedding photography more affordable to people from all walks of life.


balajimaheshwar
balajimaheshwar


“Dreams are real.”

On his passion for photography:

Balaji bought his first camera in 2010 and started taking photographs. He used to travel a lot and eventually, he developed an interest in creating photo documentaries. He travelled to Sivakasi and witnessed the major blast that happened in one of the firework factories; this changed his attitude towards photography, and now, the process of clicking has become an integral part of his life.

The biggest challenge?

“Maintaining a balance between my personal photography projects and the commercial assignments.”

One line that inspires him:

“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” -Stanley Kubrick

Follow Balaji on Facebook, or get in touch with him over mail; also - check out Madras Photo Factory

V. Karan Talwar - Sexy, sexy, sexy.

From segment marketing to a comedian...

Who: 34-year-old Karan Talwar has been a comedian/content creator for 3 years professionally, and runs a tiny studio where they create 8-10 videos a month. He is also the founder of SnG comedy - a group boasting of some of the most popular comedians that are not AIB.

Karan worked in corporate America for an electricity company called Reliant Energy, with a job in segment marketing - to figure out what value customers were looking for in the products/services. “It was fun and I learnt a crap load about working with different people and getting things done,” he says.

karantalwar
karantalwar

“Dreams are for when you sleep. Wake up and do something, you lard.”

On his passion for comedy:

“I left it because I had been doing it for a couple years and I didn’t see myself lasting there,” Karan shares. “I’m the kind of person who gets bored with things pretty quickly. This is the biggest reason why comedy was attractive. Plus, I don’t have to wear pants everyday anymore.”

The biggest challenge?

“Drop in income,” Karan doesn’t mince words. “Switching careers means you have to be ready to be broke.”

One line that inspires him:

”Spiral out. Keep going...” - Lateralus by Tool.

Follow BollywoodGandu on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Youtube and SnG Comedy on Facebook, Twitter & Youtube.

VI. Papa CJ - Spontaneous. Passionate. Horny. 

From management consultancy to stand-up comedy...

Who: Papa CJ - who berates us for asking his age so rudely - is a professional stand-up comedian who has done over 2, 000 shows in about 20 countries across 5 continents.
Papa CJ used to work as a management consultant in London after his MBA from the University of Oxford. “It sucked balls,” he explains. “So I joined the Homeland Security division of the company. And if I told you any more I’d have to kill you.”

Today, he has performed in stadiums, on a plane, in a bus, on a boat, on a train, at comedy clubs, theatres, universities, hospitals, royal palaces and even at a police station in London to get a friend off the hook for driving above the legal limit! He has performed at comedy shows, corporate shows, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and even baby showers; he adds, “Basically every kind of event you can think of besides a suhaag raat - but you never know, even that night might come!”

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IMG_1023

“Dreams are normally wet.”

On his passion:

”I left my previous job to to become a male stripper,” he says. “However, each time I dropped my pants, they laughed. I figured I might as well move to a profession where laughter was considered a good result. So I moved to stand-up comedy. And they stopped laughing. Bastards.”

The biggest challenge? 

“Working alone and coping with the exhaustion from an overdose of groupie sex.”

One line that inspires him:

“Don’t let the world change your smile. Let your smile change the world.”

 Follow Papa CJ on Facebook & Twitter.

VII. Prateek Kayan - Ambitious. Non-Conformist. Positive.

From commercial banking to design and entrepreneurship...

Who: 25-year-old Prateek Kayan is the Founder of and designer at Kolkata-based Brown Boy, and has literally been known as ‘Brown Boy’ by many for the past three years.
Prateek Kayan has a history with entrepreneurship going way back to boarding school, when his friends and him opened a Dorm Cafe. Today, he works out of his studio in Kolkata, where everything is designed and made in-house. “It took almost two years of perseverance to bring everything together,” he relates. “From finance to fashion, it was a complete switch. I learnt everything I know on the go. Although my inclination towards the artistic and creative experience has been there ever since I can remember, so everything pretty much led up to this, I guess.”

Prateek used to work at J.P. Morgan in New York City in their Commercial Banking Department, providing banking solutions to American Companies that wanted to expand in Emerging Markets. His wanderlust made it hard for him to stick to the desk job, which he found quite unsettling and although he enjoyed everything about his job - living in Manhattan, wearing suits to work, working just 5 days a week, getting a pretty decent pay, eating at the finest restaurants everyday and, of course, the view from the 42nd floor - the only thing he stopped enjoying was his job. “It was a very uptight and non-conducive environment for someone like me,” he shares. “I realized this first when one day at work, I was wearing a brown suit carrying a really cool satchel in a room full of people wearing black. The look I got from my director was nerve wrecking.”

prateek-kayan
prateek-kayan

 “Dreams are energizers. they keep you alive.”

On his passion for design and entrepreneurship:
“I should have realized sooner that I was good at designing and at being an entrepreneur; I had it all along,” he reflects. “I think walking in that room wearing that brown suit sort of solidified that realization. I wanted to work on both these passions, so after returning to India, I immediately started working on Brown Boy. It took more than 18 months to build the company. Right from designing the collection, to learning how to make stuff, bringing a team of craftsmen together to making the website and crowdfunding.”

Prateek strongly feel that when one works with honesty and an “unputdownable” passion, there is this uncanny magic that makes thing happen. He has been working 24/7 for the past three years, and has realised that the more he works, the more he falls madly in love with it. “Constantly bustling with new ideas and designs that I want to do, ideas I want to incorporate to seeing Brown Boy become the favorite men’s clothing brand. This energy literally fuels me.”

The biggest challenge?

“I think ‘challenge’ is the illegitimate child of entrepreneurship,” he confesses wryly. “You don’t want it, but there it is - always staring at you. Initially it was switching from finance to fashion. I knew what I wanted but didn’t know how to make it. So I learnt everything I know on the go, and made tons of mistakes. Keeping focused, working with very limited funds (self-invested) to get things eventually rolling was tough and now, the biggest challenge it to keep it sustainable and to reach out to people - to tell them we exist, and are awesome..”

Brown Boy is 100% Fair-Trade + Organic which in itself is a challenge, especially economically, he says. “Without deep pockets it’s just harder and slower. But not impossible! Some people have been amazing, though…from everyone at GQ India, to all those celebrities who wore Brown Boy, and everyone who made that happen. Also, I think I need to work a lot on myself. I need to learn how to trust more, delegate and socialize more.”

One line that inspires him:
“If you want to learn how to swim you gotta jump in the water.”

Follow Brown Boy on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and check out their website here.

VIII. Priyanka Kochhar - Noisy. Impatient. Pessimistic. 

From entertainment journalist to model...

Who: 29-year-old Priyanka Kochhar is a fashion model represented by Inega Models India, and Apple Models & Wilhelmina One abroad. She has been featured in editorials including publications such as Vogue Italia, Vogue India, Grazia, Elle India, Harper’s Bazaar and has done commercial work for the likes of Orra, the Myntra print campaign, the Anokhi Campaign, Svenska campaign (Who’s Next, Paris) and Miuniku campaign (Paris & London).

“My job is to stand for a minimum of 8 hours in 6 inch heels on most days and work it to produce something that’s different from the last time I was doing the same thing,” Priyanka relates. “Unfortunately, it’s more complicated from my last job as a journalist, where I also stood for hours on end - but instead to be the first to out a piece of gossip on celebrities. The only difference was I didn’t always have to look good there and of course, I was the queen! (in the eyes of the PR peeps)”

Priyanka remarks that she never would’ve thought that the tables would turn, and she’d be the one in front of the camera. She moved to Bombay and worked at a PR agency, before getting an offer from Times Now to work as a reporter for the entertainment beat. “I was on a graveyard shift there for months chasing after celebrities and I wasn’t even making half of what I was making in PR. Not enough to make rent, for sure!”

Priyanka went on to work with News X, working out of the Bombay bureau on entertainment for a good 3 years, reporting, anchoring and producing. She started to test the waters after this, and was eventually spotted at an event by the editor of Femina magazine, who asked if she’d like to be a model for an editorial on a tribal spread. She did it for fun, got contacted again and there’s been no looking back since. “I quit my job, Vj’d for a bit on a show that nobody probably watched and then decided to take the plunge into the evil world of modelling,” she recalls.

Priyanka Kochhar, New Girl in Town editorial.
Priyanka Kochhar, New Girl in Town editorial.

“Dreams are me being able to own a large capacity multi-cylinder motorcycle, sign with a well-known agency in NYC soon and make my personal life work.”

On her passion:

Priyanka was told to continue working as a journalist when she was first signed a year and a half ago, because she would ‘only ever be considered for editorial work’ which is unpaid in India thanks to her ‘imperfect-edgy-pouty-strong and sharp face’. Today, she is blessed with a good mix of the two because editorials will always be her first love.

She started to model at the age of 28 when most models abroad are done with it, and while she’s had qualms about revealing her age in the past, today, at 29, she has bagged a contract with one of the best agencies abroad and is pretty sure she’s over the the whole age thing. “I’m going to do this till I can pass off as a 23-year-old. When the day comes that I know that my face doesn’t work anymore, I plan to jump to do something more fun.” She also hosts many luxury car events in India, and has been one of Mercedes’ go-to model-hosts for nearly 3 years and is now working with Audi and Jaguar as well. “There is a major adrenaline rush every time I strut down the runway, which I only get when I ride a really fast motorcycle,” she says.

The biggest challenge?

“My folks! I come from a not-so-backward Punjabi family that might actually occupy half of Pune. My parents have always wanted me to do an MBA and get hitched (India syndrome),” she tells us. “Well, I’m 29, unmarried, have a not-so- stable income - but I know they’re trying their best to be proud.”

One line that inspires her:

”Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself.”

Follow Priyanka on Facebook & Instagram

IX. Rohan Mathew - Hyperactive. Spiritual. Dreamer. 

From business analyst to design supervisor...

Who: 32-year-old Rohan Mathew is a Design Supervisor at Uberdogg Design, a small interior design and architecture firm started in January 2015.

“I started my corporate life with American Express, right after my BBA specialised in finance,” Rohan cuts to the meat of it. “After getting utterly bored with my daily job routine, I tried to work in a more creative field among the corporates, which was advertising.” He worked at DDB, Dubai, and Publicis, New Delhi, during which he applied for scholarships in Europe, and managed to get one for an MBA specialised in corporate social responsibility in Netherlands’ prestigious Universiteit van Amsterdam; soon after, he bagged a job as a Business Analyst in Transaction Services (Mergers & Acquisitions) in PricewaterhouseCoopers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, following a jaw-dropping 9.5 hour interview.

“Despite being in an exciting city like Amsterdam for 3 years, I felt like I needed to escape this very lush and secure prison for my mind and body, my job.” Rohan confesses. “The pay scale, the car, the free fuel card, the Dutch driving licence and visa wasn’t enough to dowse the restlessness inside. After 4 years in the MNC world, I started feeling like I was wasting my youth making the rich richer only for a ’nano-crumb’ of the pie. I also couldn’t delay any further the calling I had, to contribute towards the healing of the planet and its people.”

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rohanmathew

“Dreams are boosting mankind’s evolution!”

On his passion for sustainable design:

“To be completely honest,  I have no formal education or training in design, except for my observations through travelling and living around the world,” he shares. “My passion had, for long, been sustainable, energy efficient, eco-friendly and yet aesthetically pleasing design, a combination I like to call ‘sacred design’. Not having a science background made it impossible for me to get into product design itself, but whoever wills the end, wills the means.”

After he left the corporate world, he took his savings and then some, to go to Australia and learn about sustainable design. “I lived in an off-the-grid sustainable community and ‘green school’ called Starseed Gardens for 6 months in Byron Bay, New South Wales, and also did a Permaculture course for the next six months,” he shares. Rohan has now found a perfect balance between work, contribution and play - he takes weekends off from work at Uberdogg Design, to work on real sustainable development projects outside Delhi mostly. “Work environment at our studio is also just apt for my lifestyle, as I get time for morning rituals like meditation/yoga and a workout before I even get my work day started. This means only by 10am do I need to check my emails and appointments for the day. For me, this is priceless.”

The biggest challenge?

“There are no paid positions or even a recognized job profile for an actual sustainability consultant,” he explains. “Most of the jobs I have had the satisfaction of doing with some real sustainable value in it, has been for NGO’s and or rural communities. But I have the pleasure of working in the hospitality and retail space design industry and implement at least a few energy efficient ideas like passive solar design and water harvesting, along with application of natural energy boosting practices like Vaastu and Fengshui.”

Looking to the future, Rohan has full faith that people will slowly start incorporating and requesting for more resource based ideologies while building any site whether residential or commercial.

One line that inspires him:

”At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.” - Goethe.

Follow Rohan on Facebook & Twitter.

X. Sameer Chib - Fun. Relaxed. Friendly.  

From being in the Merchant Navy to becoming operations partner...

Who: 37-year-old Sameer Chib is the Operations Partner in a group called Shilton Hospitality, and has previously worked in various fields ranging from Events and Marketing in the hospitality industry to working in the Merchant Navy. Sameer had tried his hands at various different kinds of jobs before zeroing in on that which he was genuinely passionate about. Besides those mentioned above, he had been involved in the managing of a small boutique hotel and also worked in Retail ops with Puma and Burberry. “I never found my sweet spot with work, was never satisfied and never driven, though,” he shares. “For me, that was a means to an end, and nothing more. My passions lay elsewhere.”

He eventually realised that he was happiest managing people, and his partners agreed that it would be best suited to have him oversee the operations of their properties within the 2-year-old company, which has 3 Restaurants/bars: The PUMA Social Club (the first of its kind in the world), Watson’s (a brand created by them), Ulsoor and Watson’s, Vasanth Nagar - all in Bangalore.

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“Dreams are meant to become reality, like a seed is meant to become a plant!”

On his passion:

“It was a leap of faith for me because I do not come from a business family at all,” Sameer shares. “It just wasn’t in my blood, or so I thought. I however had a wonderful set of people - my partners - who helped me get out of the corporate rut I found myself in. I had always dreamed of having my own restaurant or bar, but wasn’t really sure how to go about it. I did however, promise myself that somehow I would change that by age 35. Now I feel in my own skin, happier, motivated, satisfied and just running with it.”

The biggest challenge?

“The challenges remain the same whether working the corporate life or the business life. The risks are obviously higher, but then again, so are the rewards.”

One line that inspires him:

“Well, I try my best
To be just like I am
But everybody wants you
To be just like them
They say sing while you slave and I just get bored
I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”
-Maggie’s farm, Bob Dylan

Follow Sameer, PUMA Social Club & Watson’s on Facebook.

XI. Sandeep Gonsalves - Industrious. Pragmatic. Innovative.

From branded content manager to creative entrepreneur...

Who: 28-year-old Sandeep Gonsalves is the co-founder of SS HOMME along with his now wife, Sarah. The company was founded 3 years ago.

Sandeep used to handle the branded content division for Hindustan Unilever through GroupM, and while he thought the people he interacted with and the working environment were all great - he knew it was nowhere close to what he saw himself doing in 5 years.

“So I had to make the move then and there,” he explains. “Sarah and I initially started off meeting clients from my living room and two months later, started off with a small tailoring unit and a studio in Khar.” Between the two of them, they shared the marketing and design responsibilities, and the whole process of creating the perfect suit took every single weekend of theirs, not to mention some painstaking hard work. “We initially travelled to Savile Row, England, for tailoring techniques & fabric sourcing, and carried out a ton of research to back our designs and take SS HOMME to the next level. The gradual expansion of our label had us opening our first flagship Bespoke studio in Bandra, followed by the Pret-a-porter section. The entire SS HOMME team is young and dynamic, and we’re extremely proud of it; I made sure I hired people from various fields, but the same passion.”

sshomme
sshomme

“Dreams are purely memories, unless you make something of them.”

On his passion for creative entrepreneurship:

“Branded bespoke remains an unexplored territory in the Indian market,” Sandeep explains. “Menswear as a segment in India is rapidly growing and massively untapped and after a lot of in-depth research, we decided upon streamlining the bespoke process with emphasis on quality, design, precision and client service. Since people loved the attention to detail and personalisation, we wanted to stick to our guns.”
He concludes that even though they have carved a niche for SS HOMME, they still believe there is enough scope for improvement.

The biggest challenge?

“Initially it was getting out of your comfort zone,” Sandeep shares. “A big fat salary is nothing, if satisfaction hasn’t signed it off.  Being an entrepreneur is a full-time involvement with everything at stake.”

One line that inspires him:

”What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between, does what he wants to do.”

Follow SS HOMME on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram

XII. Sarthak Sardana - Impassioned. Self-effacing. Zealous. 

From Chartered Accountant to artist...

Who: 25-year-old Sarthak Sardana is a producer turned DJ, who was previously pursuing a career as a Chartered Accountant. Sarthak used to work with Deloitte as an Audit intern for 18 months, what he describes as ‘definitely the most painfully boring job anyone can have’ which ‘entailed staring at numbers all day’. Today, a normal day for him starts with a strong cup of coffee that gets his creative juices flowing and helps him beat the traffic en route to the studio.

“I tread further into music production after I enrolled at a production/sound engineering course at Beatfactory in Delhi,” he said. “There are many Youtube-taught producers these days but I couldn’t find all the answers online so I decided to go through with this course. Post completing the course, I spent close to 2 years mastering the DAW. Eventually, my debut release got signed to Black Hole Recordings in 2013.”

Image Source: Sartek, Facebook
Image Source: Sartek, Facebook

“Dreams are waiting to happen if you have to courage to follow them.”

On his passion for music:

“I always wanted to do something in the creative space; even if it meant having to sacrifice some luxuries as this is where my heart lay,” Sarthak confesses. Growing up, music was an integral part of his life and he was an avid fanboy of the band Michael Learns to Rock, whose songs really inspired him. He was just a couple of exams short of being a certified Chartered Accountant when an epiphany hit him and he asked himself, “Why waste my life calculating numbers and making presentations when I could be doing something I really wanted?”

He joined the music academy without telling his parents he had given up on their dreams of seeing their son becoming a CA, and went on to skip his exams that year.

The biggest challenge?

“The greatest challenge I had faced in pursuing my passion was getting my parents to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t born to be a CA,” Sarthak shares. “They prompted me to finish my exams so I had ‘options’ but I was quite adamant.”
He had already joined the music course by this time, and his mind had been made up; he started putting all his efforts into the studio to prove to himself that he wasn’t ‘playing the fool’ by dropping his CA career.

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XIII. Shalini Datta - Compassionate, Creative and Persevering

From software professional to social entrepreneur...

Who: 36-year-old Shalini Datta runs a social enterprise called Aftertaste, which works towards empowering women to earn a livelihood using art and craft.
Fuelled by her personal inclination towards art and craft, Shalini started implementing the idea of empowering women using art and craft in October 2012 with two women in a slum called Ambuzwadi in Malwani Malad West. The idea came into being with processes and structure from January 2013, and since Aftertaste’s intervention, livelihood opportunities for 14 families have been generated, with 60 indirect beneficiaries in all. Shalini has also been a Teach for Indian fellow from 2010 to 2012, which enabled her to a better understand the challenges faced by women belonging to low-income communities, and the importance of empowering them with financial independence.
From 2000 to 2009, though, Shalini worked as a software professional, having started her career with Infosys Technologies immediately after graduating as a Chemical engineer. “Apart from learning technologies, it taught me to deliver under pressure, be solution-oriented and work collaboratively. My work trips abroad exposed me to new culture, people, and taught me to be adaptive. I was financially independent and had access to a certain lifestyle and comforts.”

Shalini
Shalini

 “Dreams are not something which you see in sleep but that which does not let you sleep.”

On her passion:

Shalini, despite being in her comfort zone, started questioning the inequities we witness every day, and coupled with the disparity was the general apathy and cynicism which kindled her dormant social inclination. “I realized, I did not want to be a passive participant in such discussions,” she explains. Her work started with a group of like-minded individuals at work involved with the Corporate Social Responsibility wing of Cognizant. Both ‘challenging and gratifying’, it strengthened her desire to work in the social sector. The final push came one morning while she was waiting at a traffic signal in a cab on my way to work, and an 8-year-old boy came to her cab and started begging.
”I engaged in a conversation with him, asking him his name and whether he goes to school... soon, the cab started up, and to my horror - the boy hurled out a few abuses at me, and hit me on my chest with his hand. I was taken aback and too shocked to understand what he actually did or why? He left his hand print on my shirt which I washed later, but he left an indelible mark on my heart.”

Towards the end of 2009, Shalini quit and discovered TFI the next year, where she applied for the fellowship. “For our women at Aftertaste,” she comes back to the present. “None of these women is simply an artist or a craftsman. They are mothers, wives among countless other things. Each one is an amalgam of the various roles they play and AfterTaste is a representation of that power that lies within.”

The biggest challenge?

”In our heads, we have very rigid definitions of what is acceptable, socially in terms of a job, and many fail to fathom that someone’s passion can be pursued as a profession,” she says. “While trying to run Aftertaste, my biggest challenge has been, to make people empathize with our work. I have realized we find it easier to show sympathy and be charitable. But it is very difficult to engage people in a sustained long term manner.” 

One line that inspires her:

From the poem, Invictus:
”It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul,”
~ William Ernest Henley

XIV. Tanya Jacob - Dreamer. Believer. Lover. 

From a product manager to a photographer...

Who: 33-year-old Tanya Jacob is a lifestyle and portrait photographer for children and families based out of Santa Barbara, California, and started her business Tanya Jacob Photography almost 8 months ago. She has previously worked as a Senior Product Manager for a Telecom Company.

On a regular day, Tanya can be found drowning in cars and capes mixed in all things chaotic with her curious, little 3-year-old son but she makes sure that she gets her cup of chai before her day even begins. Her shooting style focuses on capturing the beauty and magic of childhood and finding the unique bond of each family and their circle of love. “I like to be inspired by real life and being able to recognize and capture those moments that you consider mundane which truly in fact is what makes a moment unique and special,” she says. “This journey has shaped me quite a bit as a photographer and as a mother.”

At her previous job, her role involved a lot of ideation, creation and analysis of new product lines for the telecom company, and she confesses she quite enjoyed her role as it was always challenging and evolving. “However, I experienced a mind shift once I became a mother. The journey began to differ and the purpose of why I was here also changed.”

IMG_6568-w-WM
IMG_6568-w-WM

“Dreams are the pillars of innovation.”

On her passion for photography:

“Photography was always something that I grew up with and I lived and breathed it since I can remember,” she recalls fondly. “My mother was a hobbyist photographer, who was very snap-happy when it came to her children and who also won a few awards during her heydays. I never thought that I’d be behind that lens someday, though, and that my son would be the reason to bring me there.”

It started off innocently when her husband picked up a DSLR for her as a birthday gift back in 2011, which coincided with a time in her life when she was craving for a creative outlet, and ‘literally bursting at the seams to get her groove on’. “Photography became my canvas and my son, my inspiration. Today, after pursuing it as a business, what elevates me most as a person is when I see the finished piece on my clients’ walls and how it lights up their faces when they see that special moment of their child/family captured. That’s when I know my works is done.”

The biggest challenge? 

“I guess one of the biggest challenge is that be it where you are in this new journey, you have to constantly prove to someone that it’s better than leaving a full time 9-5 job and a masters degree in computer science, for a more flexible, meaningful and purposeful career,” she ponders. “What isn’t tangible equates to zero worth in some parts of society even today, and so you have to keep proving them wrong and educating them otherwise.”
One line that inspires her:
“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” —Steve Jobs

 Follow Tanya Jacob Photography on Facebook.

XV. Vikram Poddar - Relentless. Restless. Relator.

From investment banker to stand-up comedian...

Who: 31-year-old Vikram Poddar is a former investment banker who is now India’s first corporate stand-up comedian and founder of Boredroomcomedy, and a regular performer at the Canvas Laugh Club and Comedy Store.

“Boredroomcomedy allowed me to combine my corporate and creative passions in a combination that would address both my interests and also, a very unique need of my clients,” Vikram explains. He has previously worked across Management Consulting, Investment Banking and Consulting. “I am not of the guys who said the corporate world sucked and left a dead-end job; I loved a lot of the aspects of the work, especially concept selling, connecting with clients or the time we worked on the buyout of Thomas Cook India.”

Vikram realised from the get-go, though, that he was never thinking of climbing the corporate ladder, but rather wondering, “Can I get some new business line and become a partner?” About 8 years of this and he decided that going his own way was the best way to make this happen. His niche areas have been Corporate Comedy Solutions for Leadership Development, Marketing and Employee Engagement, and he has worked with the Vir Das Company (Weirdass) as a corporate content and business development specialist and remained an independent consultant.

“It’s been two years since I quit Investment Banking and I am quite happy with the way things have progressed,” Vikram says. “It’s very satisfying to know that you made some positive impact on the target audience or inspired them to also pursue their dreams.”

Vikram-Photos-3
Vikram-Photos-3

“Dreams are just reality with a dose of faith and dollops of courage.”

On his passion for comedy:

Boredroomcomedy conducts unique workshops that use comedy as a tool to achieve Leadership and Learning Goals with clients including Aditya Birla Group (LEAP/LEAD Program), Maersk, Vodafone, Nomura, SBI, ICICI.

“Standup Comedy is one of the most amazing arts,” Vikram gushes. “It’s intense pressure and yet intense engagement at the same time. The mad jitters every time I get on stage are equally matched in intensity to the high I get from a closing applause. The comedy circuit is very closed-knit and the feeling of being a part of something bigger and intense is quite amazing.”

He elaborates that contrary to popular perception, most comedians (including himself) are not all happy-go lucky cheerios once off stage. “Most of us are awfully serious especially in our approach towards our comedy. What really makes a comic is not necessarily being the funniest but simply the ability to relentlessly be prepared for failure, bomb in front of an audience and come back again the very next day. It wasn’t easy and continues to be so.” Vikram shares that he is really keen for Boredroomcomedy to become the One Stop Consultancy for all Corporate Comedy Solutions.

The biggest challenge?

“Self-discipline and figuring how to allocate time across content development, operations, business development and well.. life. The last one is the key to the rest! Should I sit and write, or go out for a party where I may meet a potential client, a personal interest (umm let’s talk about that some other time) or even get a great joke idea. Always, DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS!”

One line that inspires him:

”In life you will always regret the things you didn’t do, more than the things you did.”

Follow Boredroomcomedy on Facebook & Twitter


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