Breaking the shackles: IIT Bombay to Mass Media to IIM Indore
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Picture this: you’re 17, you’ve cracked the JEE, and you’re stepping into arguably the best engineering institution in the country. But the longer you spend inside the famed hallways of IIT Bombay, you get the feeling that this isn’t for you. What then?
Enter Chirayu Lokhande: a dual degree holder from IIT Bombay, who bit the bullet, battled societal expectations to enter the world of media.
His first job post his engineering? Mass Media! An up and coming news channel, REPUBLIC TV.
Currently on his way to IIM Indore, Chirayu tells us that breaking the mould of what an IIT-B grad meant. He details the many battles he fought- both on personal and professional fronts. But isn’t that what makes it all the more of a learning curve?
Read on to find out more about following your passions, no matter how outlandish they may be in the ever-watching eyes of the samaaj.
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While naming premier institutes of the country, IIT Bombay is one that crops up almost every time. Undoubtedly every student’s dream, and I was getting to live it.
However, some realisations have the potential to drastically change the course of a fairly predictable journey.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have a general idea of what the media industry was. But with a laptop for myself, high-speed internet and the luxury of having some free time at my disposal along with a curious mind, I discovered the dynamism, the massive creative and as well as executive input that goes into creating media and most importantly, the impact it makes on the society as a whole. The power of the mass communication, be it TV news, infotainment, films, series or advertisements and overall marketing campaigns for big brands, couldn’t be missed.
The media bug in me was seemingly impossible to get out. On some level, I didn’t even want it to leave as I was enjoying its stay. But the question remained: would this ‘interest’ evolve into something bigger? .
Semesters passed by and the inclination grew only stronger to a point that during the final semester, made THE decision. My career path was going to be in the Media. I wasn’t sure which sub-industry, but I had already chosen to jump ships.
The storm was coming and I braced for it. I had to.
Sink or Swim, Baby.
When one jumps ship, he either lands on the other directly or falls into the water and has to swim a bit.
I had to do the latter, and boy was the water rough. I had two degrees from IITB and I was at home, jobless. My loved ones tried to convince me to find a job of a ‘calibre’ which was a “good fit” to match the coveted degree certificates I had just been awarded. I was being constantly told that the decision I was about to make was just a hobby, a temporary interest, “just a phase”. After several weeks of unprecedented back and forth, I got a reluctant go-ahead.
Next, I was battling a dual onslaught, professional and societal. Not that I cared much about the second one, but the pressure is so real! On one side, my (kinda) ambiguous job search wasn’t bearing any fruit, and rightfully so. I looked more like a boy who has lost his way, rather than looking like a brave engineering grad who had decided to follow his inclinations.
But at the same time on the other side, people (the “log”, starring in “log kya kahenge..”) constantly kept asking what I was up to, to which my response used to be, “I’m done with the graduation, now am looking for a job”. That’s when the degrees I carried, which otherwise would have been the greatest assets a youngster would have, were starting to look like huge baggage. The same response about graduation and job hunt generally has a positive impact as people wish the best to the fresh grads. But my coming from IITB evoked weird responses, primarily because I didn’t secure a job from IIT’s famed placement system and secondly, my plans, which didn’t align with what I was ‘supposed to do’.
When I used to tell them about my inclinations, the reaction I received was generally of bewilderment, followed by the unsolicited free advice which was almost always against what I stood for. I was bombarded with a heavy dosage of the cons of the industry I was aiming at. I, however, am fortunate that I was as determined and didn’t let that noise disturb my quest for securing a job.
Soon, I discovered a clever bypass to avoid all these nauseating conversations. Whoever asked what am I up to, I begun replying with, “I am preparing for CAT”. Little I knew back then that I’ll really be doing it sometime later.
But funnily enough, the most amusing thing happened. Suddenly everyone was happy. Everyone was proud. The reason was simple: A fresh IIT grad now aiming for IIM was one of the alternatives I was “supposed to choose”. It still amazes me as well as infuriates me how much people think they are a stakeholder in one’s career choices, and comment on the same, questioning to the extent of interrogating them without any hesitation.
One large weight still burdened me- I was still unemployed. It was January when I got to know that Mr Arnab Goswami, after quitting Times Now, was coming up with his own offering. It was called Republic TV and they were hiring.
With neither the experience nor inclination in core journalism jobs, I applied for the production jobs as it had more to do with the visual communication. I vividly remember the interview which lasted only 5 minutes. The interviewer, the executive producer, broke the ice with some jolly leg-pulling. “We’ve called you just for curiosity purposes” was followed by a laugh from both of us (only one of which was real). Very quickly, I was posed a blunt straightforward serious question, “You are an IIT graduate. Why are you here?”.
My reply was, “Because I want to (be).”
I immediately went on to elaborate but was interrupted with the words “That answer is actually enough”. I was glad I met someone who understood what it’s like to be me. A small talk regarding my decisions ensued and I was hired as a Trainee. Thus, began one of my greatest learning experiences so far.
Well, the “swim” concluded with me finally getting a job. Though I was welcome at this new place, a lot of people worked overtime to convince me that I shouldn’t be there or I shouldn’t be doing what I was doing, solely due to my educational background.
As usual I didn’t pay heed. But after that, I kept a pretty low profile/went ‘undercover’ as far as my graduation details went. I had come out of IIT as an academically average student and that too from a relatively newer branch. However, the monetary compensation of the profile I was working at was way lesser than what I would have secured at campus.
The jobs my classmates had secured paid higher by many times, but I am pretty sure I enjoyed higher job satisfaction. It made sense- and that was when I was finally convinced that whatever I did was justified, no matter what everyone said. And that’s all that mattered.
Republic TV was yet to be launched. I saw the production/desk teams being built from scratch, the trainees being trained on a war footing, teams coming together during mock drills (as the actual systems weren’t set up yet). All these frantic moments filled with an incredible amount of adrenalin and positive vibes from a place abuzz with hardworking young professionals working day and night for the launch day.
Finally, we were on-air. I got to see the BIRTH of a national news channel. How many get to experience that?
With these cherished memories and the steepest learning curves, I got the hang of how a news channel or any organisation for that matter works. I went on to work at Republic TV for 19 months. Working and observing everything at my workplace gave me the confidence that through exploration and learning, one could understand and execute seemingly very complex things, which I later saw for myself. Running a national channel is not that complex. It’s not rocket science. Nothing is, except maybe rocket science itself.
The Plunge 2.0
During this time, I began thinking of ways to provide myself with better and more holistic (alert: mandatory cliché word) skill sets to get me bigger responsibilities. I wanted to have an opportunity to add bigger value, and I knew it could be from my other interest which was equally dear: Marketing and Advertising. I enrolled in diploma and certificate courses to learn more about the domains. Marketing was the field I had set my eyes on now. Simultaneously, looking at my bosses at the workplace as well as the celebrated global business leaders, the undercurrent of management was always present. The management aspect allows one to further understand how the industry, its economy and the related ecosystems function. That drove me towards the next crucial step, MBA!
Remember the clever bypass to avoid questions from the ‘log’? Well, it was really happening now. Converted IIM Indore and thus the part of my journey with making the big unconventional (subtle plug) decisions concluded (for now). What lies ahead, is the hope of making it big, using whatever I am going to learn in the next 20 months. I will try to keep adding value, inducing significant positive changes and making my mark in the ever-changing world of Marketing, advertising and content industries.
My unsolicited advice
I went for engineering as that is seen as the most popular option smart (or book smart) kids allegedly want to go for. Had I had some liking towards biology, I may very well have gotten into an MBBS course. All I would want to tell is to try and find your true inner inclinations early on and choose your streams accordingly to avoid the hectic manoeuvres I had to perform. Yes, those jumps taught me a lifetime of lessons, but a smoother journey is always possible, which I wish for everyone.
And if it’s later in life, one can still find a career which will provide them with greater job satisfaction.
Even if that causes an impending financial crunch, think of joy + average salaries vs great money + getting yourself in a deep rut. Yeah, do that math.
Needless to say, once you get better (or go for an MBA to get even better), pay scales definitely won’t be a problem. Be it the rigid social, academic or even professional structures, give it a go, paying no heed to the status quo. If you think you don’t feel like doing what you are doing or “supposed to do'', if your heart wants out, go for it. Ask yourself, how many people even get to do that?
Be proud, you are not the crowd.
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