Great brands need their legacy to be carried on, through different perspectives while keeping the essence of the brand intact !

Kuriakose Vaisian , our next pathbreaker, Editor-In-Chief at Tinkle Comics, leads a team of writers and designers, with the responsibility to create brand new Tinkle magazines content every month.

Kuriakose talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about how is love for reading and writing culminated in a role that educates and entertains young readers through new stories and features.

For students, when you come home from work, you need to ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth it, mentally, physically, and financially. And if the answer to all three is yes, then you’re on the right path !

Kuriakose, what were your early years like? 

My early years were spent in Dubai. My father managed a furniture store while my mother took care of things on the home front. It was in ninth standard that I took the decision to head back to Kerala for high school. I was really fascinated by my cousin brother’s life in a hostel at Lawrence School, Ooty. Because my health wouldn’t let me hack the low temperatures of the Coonoor hill station, I found an alternative in Pallikoodam, an ICSE-board residential school in Kottayam, Kerala, set up by the formidable Mary Roy, mother to Arundhati Roy and all-round warrior woman.

From a very early age, I loved to read. Though comics were always my preferred medium, I devoured all forms of kid lit, with all the regulars on my list; Enid Blyton’s fairy tales and mysteries, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Roald Dahl. I also used to really enjoy Illustrated Classics as well, literary masterpieces abridged for a younger audience. And when it came to comics, it was Asterix, Tintin, Archies, Chacha Chaudhary, Amar Chitra Katha and , of course, Tinkle! I used to love quizzing, debates, theatre; I was definitely more the indoor type, although basketball and swimming also did feature in some of my favourite pastimes. Storytelling in all forms really appealed to me, which also explained why I absolutely loved movies and cartoons (and videogames later on)!

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I did my BA (Honours) degree in History from St. Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and followed that up with a post-graduate certificate in Television Direction from the Film & Television Institute of India, Pune.

Tell us, what were the drivers that led you on such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career path?

If I were to say that I chose this career, that would be a lie. It was always the journey rather than the destination that attracted me. For me, all that mattered was if the work was interesting and made me happy. I was always looking to try out new things and new experiences. I always knew I wanted to do something with writing, but that it would culminate in me starting my own production house, or working on feature films, or (the most incredulous of all) that I would become Tinkle’s chief editor is something I still can’t believe nor would have believed. I was always game to take up a new role as opportunities presented themselves. That willingness is possibly what I would call the biggest driver in my professional life.

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

Like I mentioned before, I would be lying if I said I am where I am because of careful planning or a methodical approach. Post my graduation, I started out as a journalist, working with a youth portal called Campus18 that was part of the Network 18 group. I was essentially curating content for a website targeted at college kids. I moved from there to Financial Chronicle, where I learned how a daily newspaper worked, sitting on the edit pages and the sports page. My next job had me focusing on features journalism for Maxim Magazine, which was definitely more my cup of tea, given my love for cinema, music, automobiles and videogames. My job was to review all of the above, and do interviews with various celebrities. And while the job was fun, the pay wasn’t. It was from here that I really started experimenting. I branched out with my then-editor to start what was possibly India’s first long form digital magazine dubbed MOB Magazine. I was web editor, a heavy title for someone under 25 at the time. I used the skills I picked up there to land myself a job with the Malayala Manorama group, leading the redesign of The Week’s digital portal.  It was while I was at Manorama that I heard about FTII and realized there was a formal route through which one could get into the world of film-making. I applied for a course, and as luck would have it, I got in. After two years in Pune, I started assisting on ad films and feature films, eventually setting up a small production house in Cochin. Then, a short project with Amar Chitra Katha eventually translated into a full-time job, where I was looking after brand solutions for ACK’s various clients. After five years at ACK, I eventually worked my way up, from deputy head of the corporate solutions group to editorial creative director for digital and brand solutions, to finally, Editor-in-Chief at Tinkle Comics.

Looking back, the one thing I realized I did do quite consistently was to constantly learn new things and upskill myself. My time at Financial Chronicle and MOB taught me about web design and social media, my years at FTII and running my own production house taught me about film direction and editing, and my stint at ACK has made me a lot more proficient in design, be it Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign. It wasn’t just software though, it was also soft skills. Working with Campus18 and Maxim played a huge role in making me self-assured in starting conversations and reaching out to people across the board. So, if today, I am writing columns for leading newspapers or performing stand-up comedy or interacting with Tinkle’s young readers confidently, it is because of all the things my former places of work and my colleagues taught me.   

How did you get your first break?

My first job was through a lot of networking. In fact, a lot of my jobs have come through networking. The one thing I’m very grateful to my alma maters is the vast network they provided, be it Pallikoodam, St. Stephen’s or FTII. There is also a lot of following up and sending out resumes and trying, trying, trying again, of course. But the leads came through friends of friends of friends. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

Frankly speaking, I don’t think I have had many challenges. I am an extremely lucky person and privileged. My parents were always supportive of whatever it is I wanted to do. I had the privilege of going to some of the best institutions in the country. So my journey has been a lot easier than most. And for that, I’m grateful. I think I’m most grateful to my parents though. My parents were always supportive of whatever it is I wanted to do. A lot of my friends have had to deal with immense pressure from home when it came to their studies and careers. It’s a trend that unfortunately continues till today. A lot of children write to me about how they don’t know what they want to do in at life. They are hardly 13 and 14 ! Contrast that with my parents who didn’t bat an eyelid when I switched from Science to Arts in my 11th standard, who were 100% on board with me dropping a well-paying job at one of the biggest media houses in the country to make films, and who had my back when I decided to shutter my business to go back to a 9-to-5. It’s because of them that I am not afraid to take risks and I’m not afraid to fail. You need to fail many, many times till you taste success. On the other hand, if you are too scared to try anything at all, then how will you ever realize your true potential? I still have a long way to go though. Lots of failures ahead of me yet. 😊

Can you tell us about your current role as editor-in-chief at Tinkle?

Currently, I serve as the Editor-In-Chief of Tinkle comics. It is the most prestigious job I have held till date, with some mighty, mighty shoes left behind for me to fill. My job entails leading a team of writers and designers and creating brand new Tinkle magazines content every month. Currently, we put out one monthly print magazine full of new content plus weekly digital editions with bonus stories as well. That’s roughly about a 100 pages of new stories and features for our young readers to enjoy. While I do write occasionally, my job is more managerial in nature, making sure all the teams are meeting their deadlines. There is also an ideation and copy-editing that goes with the job, stuff that I absolutely love doing. I also take an interest in the design side of things, given my years working with the design teams here, and handle all brand-related projects that come to Tinkle. Over and above the magazine work, we also have a content website for Tinkle, which I actually led the redesign on, prior to me taking over chief. There’s also managing editorial budgets, maintaining freelancer networks, meeting new clients and making pitches for commissioned content, pitching to TV channels and OTT platforms to explore new formats for our characters, the list goes on and on and on. And I love every minute of it. Okay, maybe not the budget part. And meeting clients. But everything else, yes! 

How does your work benefit society? 

I honestly believe I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get paid to read and write comics. How many people can say that? Having said that, our work at Tinkle hopefully goes a long way in getting our younger generations to read more and to enjoy reading. Reading is so important. It educates you, evolves you, helps you grow as a person, opens your mind and your world view. The more people read, the more empathetic they become, the more imaginative they become. And the fact that I get to steward that in some way is something I am thankful for constantly. The other thing I have come to enjoy a lot in my role as editor is the chance to talk to my readers and to help out whenever I can in any way I can. Kids can teach you so much.  

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

Honestly, everything I have done in my professional life has been memorable. I have had quite the wild ride and I wouldn’t change it for anything. 

Your advice to students based on your experience?

At the end of the day, when you come home from work, you need to ask yourself if what you’re doing is worth it, mentally, physically, and financially. And if the answer to all three is yes, then you’re probably doing better than most.

Keep learning. Read as much as you can. Be open to taking chances. But don’t be foolhardy and take off without a plan. Everyone might not be as lucky as me. 😊

Future Plans?

I want to write my own feature film someday, maybe even direct. I also want to do a few stand-up comedy specials some day, I’m working on my first one-hour right now. I want to write a book at some point. Oh, and I want to start a restaurant. I have always wanted to start my own restaurant!