Taking the road less travelled has its own charm, because you discover things along the way, from your love for music to the importance of acoustics in sound design and delivery.
Abhinav Verma, our next pathbreaker, Acoustical Consultant, analyses room acoustics, interior architectural acoustics, room-to-room privacy, isolation from exterior noise, low-vibration environments, and environmental noise in different physical structures.
Abhinav talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his initial interests in music that led him to making audio teasers and DJing that paved the way for a career in Acoustics.
For students, there might not be very much in common between your initial interests and career, but sometimes the guiding light is a vision that shows you the field that you excel in !
Abhinav, Your background?
My dad was working with the central government and due to that i was always moving to new cities, meeting new friends and joining new schools. I have always been inclined towards music. I started with making short audio movie teasers for Radio Mirchi when there was no such culture. They liked the idea and we continued working together. It was almost 18 years back. I come from a family of teachers and trust me, it wasn’t easy for them to see their son showing the deepest interest in music. But I am blessed that they supported me. From then on, I went ahead and started learning tabla, and then became a DJ. Till then, I wanted to be a background scorer with no clue on what lies ahead.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I did my graduation in computer science, because I had to do something in life. I did my sound engineering from SAE, Chennai. And there I was introduced to Acoustics. Then I did my Masters in Environmental Acoustics from the University of Manchester.
What were some of the drivers that led you to such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?
I got to know about Djing (DJing is the act of playing existing recorded music for a live audience) and then learned it from experts. At the age of 19, I think I was a resident DJ. But it didn’t stop there. My dad understood my interest in music and its influence on me. Hence, he asked me to pursue my career in music. I think it was one of the bravest things a dad can do. I did my sound engineering from SAE, Chennai where I was introduced to Acoustics. I noticed that there weren’t many people choosing acoustics as a career. Apparently it’s the hardest. First of all, it doesn’t have much to do with music production and besides that, one needs a lot of patience and experience to make a name in the field.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
When I started working as a trainee in Bangalore, my salary was Rs 3000 and that remained the same for 3 years. I had no holidays, it was sheer work. At one time, I decided to work anywhere to make some money. And then this company MMG Acoustical Consultants hired me. I didn’t join that job for money, it was purely for experience.
Here, my mentor Mr. Mathew from MMG Acoustics, showed confidence in me. He taught me the basics. I was introduced to Acoustic simulation software i.e. Ease and Odeon. They were extensively used to calculate and analyse various acoustic factors. I was involved in designing Acoustics for Auditoriums, Class rooms, Churches I also cannot forget the assistance of my colleague Mr. Padmanabha from Aware Acoustics. They prepped me and boosted my confidence to help me pursue my career in Acoustics. I left MMG with a promise to work together in the future.
I did my Masters in Environmental Acoustics from the University of Manchester. My 3 years tenure/experience helped me get admission into the program. Otherwise, no university will hire computer graduates.
After graduation, I had a job offer in London which I had to decline because of the ongoing riots there. Back home, my family was worried about me. After returning, I did freelancing work for a couple of years. This is the time when I got chance to work for Auditoriums of IIT Delhi. I got recognition and more work. That boosted my profile and confidence. Later I joined Munro Acoustics in Bombay and worked with them on a couple of sound recording studio projects before we decided to part ways.
I struck a deal with PPS to be a country head of India. It was a business oriented role, but the amount of work I was able to bring was because of my recognition and presence in India. That made me realise my importance. And then I started my own company ‘Abenav Designs’ which did pretty well, though I was struggling to manage time and money. That is when my parents asked me to look for a proper job. When you are running your own business, flow of work and money is not consistent and that used to hit me hard sometimes.
I joined T2 as a senior Acoustic consultant along with one of my colleagues. We also had a team to support us on the back end on Autocad and various other simulation software. I worked with them for a year.
How did you get your first break?
Those days, there was only one consultancy company for Acoustics and I emailed them. Taking you back to my story, I remember being on vacation with my dad when I got the call from MMG Acoustics in bangalore.
They wanted to interview me and see if I could help them as an outsourced consultant. When I heard this, I told my parents that I have a job now, though it was a mere interview. They rented me an apartment and I had no clue what to do next. Somehow I knew that I would get this job. During the interview, Mathew sir told me that he would get back to me if he saw me fit for any project. I didn’t want to be rejected because I knew that this was my only chance. I did what I could, to convince him and then he took a pause and said what I wanted to hear, that I could come from tomorrow! I was so excited that I didn’t know my salary until I got my first cheque. Then I knew that this experience would take me places in the future.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
I remember, when I told my parents that I wanted to pursue career in Acoustics, they went haywire. My parents come from a deep academic background. They expected me to look for a regular job. But thinking of Acoustics gave them shivers. It took a while to convince them, and finally we all agreed. I had a vision that this is the only field which can help me excel as a person.
Where do you work now? What problems do you solve in Acoustics?
I currently handle Acoustics projects with Hewshott international. My job is more or less the same but with bigger responsibilities. Over the years, I realized that projects and designs don’t change much, but handling clients and their queries is a bigger task. As an Acoustic consultant, my job is not different from an architect. They make the place look good, we make it sound good. It could be Home Theatres, Airports, Multiplexes. Also, it could be corporate offices, Hotels and nightclubs.
What skills are needed for a job? How did you acquire the skills?
You need good observation, analytical, and convincing skills. Knowing Autocad will surely help. Knowing REVIT also helps. Having basic architectural knowledge or being an architectural graduate can make you a better architectural + acoustical consultant, which is quite a rare scenario.
How does your work benefit society?
There are not many qualified Acoustic consultants in India. And it means there is enough potential for everyone in the future too.
Acoustics is something, which is becoming a standard for living in residential apartments and other habitable spaces in general. It is a luxury on which people are ready to spend. But there aren’t many experienced consultants who can give them the right advice, which leads to confusion. Most of them end up hiring product vendors who happily sell them their projects. Without trained ears, customers can hardly figure out differences and hence vendors profit. Like a doctor who can diagnose the problem, may it be privacy issues between 2 guest rooms or echo in the vocal booth of a recording studio, an Acoustic consultant can portray a bigger picture.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
Every project seems to be challenging for me. When I take over a project, I erase my experience. I take it as a fresh start. Every project is different. Every client is different.
One of the memorable projects i worked on was where i was responsible for the development of an analytical method to understand the impact of rain noise on ‘Car Windscreen and Skylight’ by simulating a force pulse of a rain drop, which was later convolved with impulse response of a skylight ( to add a characteristic to the rain drop). I was doing an internship for a company that used to supply windscreens to various car manufacturers. It came in very handy in designing of windscreens in such a way that rain noise can be eliminated from the windscreen itself without obstructing vision while it is raining.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
In Acoustics, YOUR experience matters a lot compared to OTHERS, but it should never matter to YOU.