Storytelling is not just an art, it is a responsibility. And when you have a highly interactive platform to connect with your audience, you have the power to influence society in a positive way.
Aditi Dave, our next pathbreaker, Digital Content Creator, writes, researches and publishes news and features for a South Korea based media company, which focuses on startups in the country.
Aditi talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about initially starting as a Print Journalist, and then switching to broadcast journalism, filming documentaries and creating digital content, driven by the power of interactive storytelling.
For students, if you have the ability to capture the attention of an audience through storytelling, the world has many opportunities for you !
Aditi, tell us about your background?
I grew up in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Both my parents are bankers. I had a decent school education, and my parents encouraged participation in a lot of extracurricular activities. So I had a great school life with art classes, dance & music lessons, drama participation, sports activities, learning new languages, etc.
My parents never pressured me about choosing any particular field or profession. Of course, they did expect good results but never put any pressure. They were supportive of all my endeavors as far as it was done responsibly. I had a busy school and college life – with education and extracurricular activities. I learned French, went to textile design classes, was part of theatre groups, etc
Also, my grandparents had a great influence on me with them teaching me new things, telling stories, encouraging me to read books, newspapers, motivating me to be adventurous, and even giving me lessons in finance.
What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?
I have done my Masters in Economics from Gujarat University. Economics was also my major in graduation, with the minor subject being Advertising and Marketing. I also have a postgraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from University College Falmouth, UK.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I am a journalist/ writer/ digital content creator/ storyteller. Like every young student, when I started my journey to decide about my career, I was confused and, at the same time, had fantasies of professional life. I wanted to be an architect, pilot, fashion designer, MBA graduate, and many other things.
During that period of struggle post my graduation, I happened to get a job in ‘The Asian Age’ newspaper in Ahmedabad. This changed my life within six months of my joining; I witnessed the Gujarat riots of 2002 as a journalist. It showed me the power of media and communication during times of crisis. So I had no intention to be a journalist, but the career happened on its own. Besides, I always had a flair for writing and storytelling, which helped me as a journalist. I then pursued a degree in journalism from the UK.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted?
I would say I have a kind of spiral staircase type career path with one common theme or thread as a storyteller. I started as a print journalist, but I was fascinated by the other forms of reporting or storytelling. So I learned about radio and TV journalism in the UK. I worked with broadcast media in the UK and India. Then I got fed up with the ‘breaking news’ culture in India and explored the in-depth version of storytelling – documentary films. I worked with a Mumbai production house –with the famous 90s show ‘Surabhi’s host Siddharth Kak’s company Cinema Vision India. I traveled across India and abroad as well for the company’s projects. I worked as a director, researcher, writer for film projects about Indian culture, food, travel, diaspora, festivals, etc., which were telecast on National Geographic, Fox Living, Star channels, digital platforms, etc.
I had some very interesting experiences as a non-fiction filmmaker like a series on Indian diaspora made for Ministry of External Affairs and Minstry of Overseas Indians Affairs. I travelled with a small team to four Caribbean countries and captured the rich Indian Diaspora there. I travelled across South India to make a film on “Festive Toys of India” about handicraft toys from the region.
I worked with celeb hairstlist Aalim Hakim for his show “Style Inc with Aalim Hakim” where I got to see the glam world up and close for TLC India.
I am actually not a foodie because I am a marathon runner so I have a very strict diet. But somehow in recent years I have ended up with food related projects for the digital medium.
Two of recent interesting digital video content projects I did are Amul’s recipes and a series on old restaurants of India existing since 1947 – “Khaane ke Kisse Kahanaiya”. Amul’s project involved filming about 50 video recipes using Amul products like – Milk, Paneer, Curd, Condensed Milk, Cheese, etc. I directed all the 50 films and also we had to translate it to 10 regional languages. So we made 550 films of about 3 to 4 minute duration. It was an interesting project as it involved total studio shooting with food specialists and the production process was also quite intense involving voice overs & detailed editing.
Second project “Khaane ke kisse kahaniya” was about restaurants in India that started before 1947. It was a very interesting research based project with amazing stories about food and the founders of the places. It was made for Dainik Jagran’s Facebook video page.
Eventually, the travel bug caught me, and I decided to travel more and find a career path that can sync with it. It is not easy to get many travel-based shows or films all the time. So I started looking for more writing assignments that can enable me to travel and work from anywhere. Fortunately, I kept getting some good jobs, and I became a ‘digital nomad’ or digital content creator. Currently, I write and manage a Korea based media website ‘koreatechdesk.com.’ We write about the startup ecosystem in South Korea. I work from anywhere now as far as I have my laptop and internet dongle. I live in Mumbai, but I keep traveling a lot. For e.g. in 2019, I traveled to Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, for about two months and worked from there.
How did you get your first break?
My first break as a journalist came as an accident. I got to know about this job opportunity in ‘The Asian Age,’ and I wanted some work experience before my MBA admissions, so I started work there. It eventually became my career, and I pursued post-graduation in journalism over a business degree. I worked as a reporter in Mumbai for ‘The Afternoon’ newspaper and then went to UK to study broadcast journalism which included radio, TV & since it was beginning of digital journalism – little bit of that.
While in UK I learned a lot about how the international media works and how BBC works. I was awarded a scholarship also by BBC in the region of my university and got internship with them for 6 weeks. It was a life changing experience as I learned up and close how some of the finest journalists in the world work. I was with BBC Plymouth for 3 weeks and BBC Leicester for 3 weeks. I got to work on news reports – remarkable event being getting to interview senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani for the Hinduja brothers’ case outcome, Asian music shows – I attended Nikki Bedi radio show, Famous Mentalist Derren Brown’s show. The study I did in UK has helped me evolve as a media person.
What were the challenges? How did you address them?
When you work on a straight path, you usually have precedents to help you overcome obstacles. For e.g. being a journalist for a newspaper for the most of your professional life, would mean that you do have an idea of your career growth path – from reporter to bureau chief to associate editor to editor, etc. But when you have dabbled in a very uneven road, you have no precedents to follow; you are sort of forging your path. It sure is a very uncertain path, but for an adventure-loving person like me, it is exciting. So the biggest challenge I have faced has always been from within. When you are making your own path, you do face a lot of self-doubts. People who started their career with you are perhaps ahead on the ladder while you have switched to a different medium and are a step below them. But then you do overcome such challenges and self-doubts when you realize that you have a vast spectrum of experience compared to those who have just been on a straight line. So while I might have jumped from print journalism to broadcast journalism to documentaries to digital content writing, the kind of skills and experience I have today, none of those people who started with me have. This is a very enriching experience in itself. I feel that it is the ultimate goal of having a career to evolve as a professional with more skills, more experience over more money or prominent positions. Nothing wrong with money and better designations, but when you aim for skills and experience, those things follow.
Where do you work now?
I work for a South Korea based media company’s website koreatechdesk.com. I am the vice-editor-in-chief for the blog on the startup ecosystem in South Korea. The website informs people about Korean startups, their products, investment news, etc. I write content, edit content, handle the site from publishing news to working on SEO optimization for the blog. My team in Korea sends me reports or research material in English and then many times, I write reports or edit reports sent by colleagues and publish them online. When I started with the website in 2018, I was just a writer, but then I studied about SEO optimization and now I also handle that part of the website. I am still a ‘work in progress’ for SEO optimization skills, but that’s a new skill I have acquired.
I also do other freelance assignments like travel write-ups, translations, transcriptions for audio-books or documentary film interviews, etc. Besides, I get documentary film projects or nonfiction show projects once in a while. I love my job because I have the freedom to work from anywhere and there are new things to learn every day.
How does your work benefit society?
Storytelling and stories are a much-needed element of the society. Whether it’s a news report, an opinion piece, a documentary film, or a work of fiction, stories are an integral part of human evolution. They are informative, entertaining, and educative pieces of necessary communication. So from a macro point of view, my work as a storyteller across various mediums throughout my career – print, broadcast and now digital, is highly important. In my current job, the website I work with primarily is helping enterprising Korean startups showcase their services and technology to the world of investors. I hope my write-ups and blog management benefits the startup ecosystem in South Korea and across the globe.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
There are many memorable projects that I have been part of in my career, but the one that are very special are the ones you have done at the beginning of your career. I was a cub journalist when the 2002 Gujarat riots broke out. We were going out in the field and seeing the brutality of mob attacks. In such times, I came across an old Muslim man, who was ‘caretaker’ of a 600-year-old tradition of lighting a lamp for Hindu Goddess Laxmi at the ancient heritage site gateway of the walled city –‘Teen Darwaza’. He was faithfully doing his duty of lighting the lamp daily despite curfew and the lurking danger of mob attack. It was a fascinating story of hope and faith that I did write about during such grim times of 2002 Gujarat Pogrom. It is one of the most memorable moments of my career as I rode on my two-wheeler to a tense area of the city and came out with a positive story. It was perhaps also a turning point of my career as it made me aware of the power of media and communication. Besides, I have had many other special moments as part of my job – traveling to Caribbean countries, the London bomb blast, the Mumbai terrorist attacks, meeting Indian crafts masters to write about new technologies and innovations.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
There is no defined path to success. Everyone is on their own journey and you should choose what fascinates you most. You should enjoy the job and never stop learning, always upgrading skills, being up-to-date with technology and aware of global developments.
Whenever you have self-doubts, think about the bigger picture in life and ask the question to self ‘how much will this matter to me five years from now?’ This method has helped me a lot to clear my mind and keep moving ahead in life.
I want to keep working as a digital nomad or digital content creator. In times of COVID-19, when everyone is unsure of their jobs, my skills and career choice have made sure I have a job. I may have to shelve my travel plans for some time, but my career is secure. I will definitely continue to write for digital media and since I have broadcast skills, I will be utilizing it to make videos and audios for digital platforms in the future. So it seems like in the next five years also I will be working as a digital content creator. And when times come to upgrade skills, I shall be doing it and forge a new path.