Do you think that your college education determines your career? Do you believe that it’s impossible to balance personal and professional life? I am sure you will think differently after you read Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury’s story. Born and brought up in Kolkata, average student, studied Hotel Management & BBA, didn’t get good placement from college, struggled to get first job … Today? One of the leading digital marketing professionals in the country with more than 12 years of experience in the field; he not only worked for various types of businesses, from startups to multinationals in various roles, as a consultant, he has a stellar reputation with clients across the globe. And above all, as much as he loves the world of Internet, he loves and takes care of his family too! In spite of being busy in work and family, he takes time to guide & inspire others (specially youth) who wants to step into the world of social media and digital marketing. Read on to know the whole story.
How I Met Saptarshi-da
I actually didn’t! If you consider meeting in person is the only form of meeting. I got to know about him while I was reading a Facebook note by another very good friend of mine Anirban ( coincidentally his story is also covered in #IconsAround)
I was very fascinated seeing how he guided and inspired Anirban to use Social Media properly. I wanted to connect. I expressed my desire.
And got a warm reply
And got connected. ( Btw that’s the Social way to connect to each other on Social Media, not just hitting the ‘Add Friend’ button. Read 10 Facebook Mistakes to Avoid for more)
Why I Wanted to Share His Story
I was checking his website. And the about me page took me by surprise ( a very uncommon way of presenting one’s profile).
I noticed that he has a Diploma in Hotel Management and also a BBA.
But his Experience and Career Path is completely in different route and interesting
So is his skill set
And then I noticed on Facebook what an wonderful Father and Husband he is !
So if I sum up the reasons for which I wanted to know and share his story, here they are:
- I wanted Youth to take inspiration from him that their career is not limited to what they studied at schools and colleges. They can create successful careers out of something they love, and for that they don’t need a degree on the subject.
- Digital Marketing is the talk of the town now-a-days. So I wanted more people to get serious about it hearing from an expert.
- Unemployment is on the rise, and getting an employment is getting tougher now a days. But only if you are sticking to the age old ways. If you are good at something, you don’t have to waste your time and energy appearing in boring exams. Start as a freelancer. Create your personal brand. Get noticed and get hired. Or become an Entrepreneur. Here you are getting a real example.
- I don’t know who your idols are. But I admire those who are amazing both in their personal and professional life. I wanted to know and share, how a professional like him manage both the worlds.
Ah! Enough intro! Here is his story
Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury Interview
- Q. Tell us something about your childhood and family.
Born and brought up in Kolkata in a typical middle class family – parents and grand parents. Did my schooling at Vivekananda Mission School, never really liked to study but managed to clear the exams with decent marks, though never top of the list. But I loved to read books, used to read a ton, almost anything but schoolbooks. Come to think of it, my reading habit might have really helped broaden my outlook. Otherwise nothing special, a very average next door guy.
- Q. How and when did you get interested in computer
My first introduction to computer was in school – DOS and LOGO, I am not sure if kids today will realize that those terms have anything to do with computers. That definitely picked my interest but that has nothing to do with my current profession. After that computer has been part of my curriculum again when I did Hotel Management but otherwise I did not go through much of formal training on computers and me getting into my current profession is more of a chance factor.
- Q. How was your school and college life
School Life – Amazing… probably the best part of my life. Except for the fact that I didn’t like to study much, I was happy about everything else. Highlights : awesome friends, many of whom I am still in touch with AND fantastic teachers, whose influence I can still feel time and again in my everyday life.
College : Did my hotel management from IHM Kolkata, and more than anything else what those three years did to me is convert a “sada-sidha” (simple), kind of “kebla” (naive) bangali, to a street smart guy, who can fight it out on any ground. I learnt a lot of different things during those three years, from management accounting to cleaning toilets but the biggest thing that I have walked out of the institute with after three years was my attitude and outlook towards life.
- Q. What do you think about Indian academic system
Don’t think I am knowledgeable enough to talk about this but because you asked, this is what I feel: let’s learn for the sake of learning and gaining knowledge rather than just reading for passing exams and let’s stop thinking that academics and getting good marks in exams are be all and end all in life. If a kid wants to play a sport, do theatrics, music, painting or whatever and is serious about it, let’s not force him to get good marks in exam rather motivate him to do what he does best.
- Q. BBA, Hotel Management and from that Digital Marketing. How did this shift happen?
Call it chance factor or desperation…the story is interesting. I completed my Hotel Management from IHM, got good marks but campus interviews didn’t go well. Got a job with one of the companies but didn’t like the same, so passed it. Went to Delhi to search for jobs ( many of my friends were placed in call centers in Delhi, thought I will make it to one of them), stayed there for a few months looking for job, nothing really worked out and came back to Kolkata, completely frustrated. At that point I was just looking for any job at all – then one day I saw an ad from Intrasoft Technologies ( 123Greetings.com) looking for Internet marketing people – the requirement said you need to be an “avid internet surfer” and have good command over English. Though at that point I only knew how to send emails and chat on Yahoo Messenger, applied for the job and after a few rounds of interview I was in. And that started my love story with digital marketing.
- Q. Can you please share your job experiences in different companies?
This one will be an essay if I try to narrate my 12 years of experience in 6 different companies. I have worked in various roles, from in-house marketing roles, to media agencies and software companies. I have also spenta couple years in call centers. While each one of these roles taught me something, I think to summarize there are few key takeaways…
- [Tweet “”If you love what you are doing you will automatically do a good job at it”~ @rishi3211us”]
- Always be open to learning: even people much younger ( or less experienced) to you can teach you something new
- Respect people: age, experience, job designations, money etc should not be part of the equation – respect each individual for who they are.
- Q. How did you start working as a consultant ? Side by side with job?
That’s another chance factor. I wrote some article to promote one of the websites I was marketing; it was on Logo design and was published widely on the Internet. Someone read that, found out my details and contacted me over Yahoo chat and offered me my first freelance work. At that point I had no idea about freelancing, I wasn’t even sure I will be able to do the work he offered, but wanted to give it a try. Consulted one of my senior colleague and he agreed to help – took that job and delivered well. That became a regular source of work. After that I have actively sourced clients for a very short time ( may be a year) and was lucky to find clients who have not just given me tons of work but many of them have become trusted friends. I was lucky that I never had to look for new clients after the first year because my existing clients kept referring other clients to me.
- Some tips for freelancing
Don’t do much freelancing this days but I believe these will help..
- Communicate – you are probably working across continents, so communicate as much as possible. This helps build trust and understanding.
- Keep Your Commitment – If you plan to deliver something on Friday by 12 midnight make sure it goes out by that time and not 5 minutes after
- Be Honest – Making unrealistic promises to get projects is bad business. You wont be able to keep your commitment and eventually lose the client. Give the real picture to the client. If you are in a mess, explain the mess to him – there is a human being sitting on the other side of the table, they will understand.
- Business thrives on relationship not on money: Build relationship. As I said I never had to do marketing after the first year of starting consulting and even today I am in touch with my first client ( no more business, but more as friends). Most of my clients have become friends today and this happened because my priority was never getting a little more money from my client but always making sure that he gets what he is expecting, partnering with him, helping him and that is how relationships are built.
- Don’t short sell: The freelance market is indeed very competitive and most people see short selling as the only way to gain clients. If you are good at what you do, don’t short sell. Explain to your client why your rates are more than others, most of them will understand. You might still lose some clients but they are probably not worth working for – their priority is money not the work you deliver. Trust me I have multiple cases where clients walked away from me because my quotes were higher than other freelancers and then they have come back to me after few months after being burnt by their cheaper freelancers.
- Best freelancing portals
As I mentioned not much experience in this front. I used to be on RentaCoder.com, which has now been merged with Freelancer.com. Elance seems to have much bigger projects but they are also difficult to get.
- Some tips for freelancing
- Q. Tell us about your experience with Startups
I have worked with several startups, in fact the current company PurpleTalk – www.PurpleTalk.com, was a start up when I joined them. I have always found it extremely enjoyable and an immensely learning experience to work in start-ups. You need to do a lot of things that you never expected to do, you are often trusted with a lot more responsibility than you would get in any big company and you learn from your mistakes. There is no better way to learn. Of course working with start ups would always mean that you will need to have a good attitude, should be ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty irrespective of your job role and in most cases you will end up working 15 hours a day.
- Q. Job vs Entrepreneurship – Your pick?
My pick will be Entrepreneurship. But then you might ask why I am still doing a job. Well, I have thought of taking the leap a number of times but it didn’t happen for some reason or the other. I do realize that its never too late to take the leap, so may be some point in the future I will start off on my own.
- Q. Some suggestions for wanna be Entrepreneurs?
Again, I am probably not the right guy but the only thing that I can say is, if you want to start on your own, get started. It is much easier to take the leap when you are young.
- Q. Some tips for creating Online Branding & making money online?The biggest tip is that there is no easy way to make money online. Making money online is as difficult and involves as much hard work, if not more, than what you need to make money offline. Creating an online personal brand is definitely a necessity today and the social media platforms could be of great help for the same. It might be a bit too long to provide detailed tips here but for those genuinely interested, you can refer to this post about personal branding with Linkedin (http://www.digitalsrc.com/blog/tips-on-how-to-use-linkedin-for-personal-branding/ )
- Q. What is your daily routine?
I am a late riser and fortunately my company allows me a relatively late entry ( and this is going to change soon ). I wake up around 8.30-9 ish and is typically in office by 11.00 am. I finish off a few calls on my way to office most days. I am at office till 7.30-8.00 ish in the evening and then back home. A couple of hours rest, some family time, dinner and then back to work. On week days I am typically working till 1.30 am, on weekends it extends even to 3.00 in the morning some times. Weekdays are typically work and home; it’s only in the week ends that I can get some time to finish off the household chores in between my work on the computer.
- Q. How do you balance professional and personal life? ( hats off dada! )
Hmm.. tough question. I think the credit goes more to my family than to me. A few months into our marriage my wife said she is my third wife – first being my laptop, second being my BlackBerry ( yes, I had one during those time) and she comes third. Now after these five years, I believe she has got used to it 😉 Jokes aside, without the support from my family it would not have been possible. My parents are based out of Kolkata and I try to ensure that I speak to them at least once a day. My wife has been managing a lot of the household chores, giving me more time to manage my professional work. However, now that I have my darling daughter, she always has the highest priority for me.
- Challenges you faced that you would want to warn to newbies
Wouldn’t think of it as a challenge but rather a temptation. While on my first job, I got another job offer from Hyatt, which offered me three times my then current pay. I didn’t take up that offer for the only reason was that by then I was in love with SEO. Had I taken up that offer I doubt if you would be interviewing me today. [Tweet “Often times money becomes a big temptation that tends to take us away from our passion. “]Do what you love to do, you will automatically do it good and if you are good at it, money will automatically follow.
- Any special suggestions for Bengali community
I might sound a little “antel” but few things…
a) Love your language: I don’t know why but often times I see Bengalis, specially teenagers prefer to speak in English than in Bengali. We have a beautiful language; let’s not neglect it.
b) Don’t be afraid to step out of Kolkata / West Bengal: I have seen people refusing job offers just because they don’t want to step out of Kolkata. It’s a big mistake.
c) Doing business on your own (however small it might be) is as much of a respectful profession, if not more, than doing job in a MNC.
- Your suggestion for youth
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I would say..
a) Do what you love to do, but do it seriously
b) Don’t go after money, go after what you love to do, money will follow
c) Be honest to yourself
Some Reference Links
Some Published Articles
Search Engine Journal : http://www.searchenginejournal.com/author/saptarshi-roy-chaudhury/
Wired : http://insights.wired.com/profiles/blogs/strategy-the-key-to-mobile-success#axzz2the3huyT
Interview on Yahoo : http://voices.yahoo.com/the-changing-face-digital-marketing-interview-with-12117271.html
Tell me what you think about the interview. I’m inspired! Aren’t you? Do you want to ask any questions to Saptarshida? Feel free to post in the comment section. Do you have a story to inspire? Or do you know anyone whose story can inspire others? Please let me know. I’d love to feature that in #IconsAround series.
Past #IconsAround Interviews:
- Prasenjit Paul-The Guy Who Resigned IBM in His First Day
- Mandar Tulankar-The College Kid Who Invented Shoe Powered Moibile Charger
- Anirban Saha-TCS SAP Consultant, Photographer, Blogger, Model, Social Media Evangelist – One Guy Many Identities
- Shilpa Shrivastava- ASocial Networker in The True Sense of The Term