The drudgery of everyday work is the price we pay to make the remaining 16 hours of our day bearable. But not everyone wakes up on Monday morning dreading the hours ahead. Some jobs stand out because they are fun, despite having bosses to deal with and many hours to clock in.
Last year, we received tremendous feedback to our first cool jobs special issue. You loved reading about the guy who buys books, the lady who reviews spas and the man who makes toys—all for a living.
So, this year, we hunted down a few more of this rare breed and investigated what made their jobs cool. Find out how they got there, why they do what they do and why we think their jobs are awesome. We also asked them to tell us about the rough that goes with the cool.
The party planner
Chief fun officer
Infosys BPO Ltd
Backstory: After a postgraduate course in human resources, Sreejith, 27, worked as a recruitment executive in Hinduja TMT Ltd for two years, and then moved to business human resource in the same company. Then came the offer to be “fun officer”. How could he not have jumped at a job that had the word “fun” in the designation? Sreejith now spends time making sure his employees stay cheerful, hale and hearty.
Why we think it’s cool: Well, the job involves hours of strategy on how to have fun. Now, come on, it doesn’t get better than this. His job is to create quizzes, puzzles and games, and plan celebrations and parties. In effect, he is into the serious business of fun.
Why he thinks it’s cool: With a designation like chief fun officer, it is hard for Sreejith to stop smiling but he says that is just the way he is. “I am a naturally relaxed person, and don’t get easily stressed. I spend my working day planning how to de-stress more than 8,000 employees at Infosys BPO. The perk is that I am responsible for putting excitement and joy on faces that look tired and strained after a week of work, and that too at odd hours. And, of course, I love the fact that I can let my imagination go wild.”
The flip side: The job can be quite stressful when big annual events are being planned. That’s when a chilled out Sreejith begins to bite his fingernails.
If he wasn’t doing this, then: Sreejith would be training new recruits in various skills for their jobs.
The cricket tourist
Anchor for ‘Extra Cover’
Backstory: The 26-year-old won the Get Gorgeous contest on Channel V in 2004, and like every aspiring model’s dream come true, was whisked off to Rome for the fashion week. After modelling for a few months, she started veejaying for the channel and hosted shows such as ‘Very V’ and ‘Get Gorgeous 2’. She also hosted a travel show for them called ‘Freedom Express’ that went on to become quite popular and in 2007, Vijaya got an offer to host another travel-based show with NEO Sports. This time around, she would be travelling with the Indian cricket team to cover the action off the field. Starting out as a freelancer, she travelled to the West Indies and then Sri Lanka. Her ability to interact with people helped, and the channel signed her on to continue hosting the show.
Why we think it’s cool: A travel show is great; a food and travel show, even better. But a food and travel show with the men in blue and other cricketers from around the world—that’s a job that’ll make millions of cricket lovers envious. Mandira Bedi started it, but it was definitely not as much fun for the woman who was criticized for everything—from her clothes to her comments. Vijaya gets to sport the same noodle-straps, but doesn’t get judged on her knowledge of cricket. When she’s in action, she’s going around “experiencing the culture, the cuisine and the people” of the place where a match is taking place. She gets to go shopping with Andrew Symonds, play ‘dandia ‘with Irfan Pathan and visit Sreesanth’s house, all as part of her job. When she’s not working, she’s travelling with the boys, eating out with Bhajji and Yuvi, and partying with Zaheer Khan, besides, of course, taking time off to watch the action live on the field.
Why she thinks it’s cool: “I get to travel to new places, sample new cuisines and most important of all, I get to be myself. I get to meet some of the best cricketers in the world and bring their inspiring stories to people. I bring in the cricket fan’s perspective to a series.” Her most memorable moment was when she got the opportunity to meet and chat with her hero, Sachin Tendulkar. “This was the only time I ever got nervous before an interview.”
The flip side: The travel is hectic and shooting timings are erratic.
If she wasn’t doing this, then: Vijaya would be hosting another travel show.
The comic-book maker
ACK Media Ltd
Backstory: After graduating in engineering from Pune, Patil, 37, along with a group of friends, set up an information technology company. Patil soon moved to the US to pursue a master’s in engineering followed by an MBA at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A successful stint with McKinsey and Co. in New York followed; he spent eight years helping clients in sectors such as entertainment and media. A chance encounter with Amar Chitra Katha’s new acquirer, Shripal Morakhia, and some social objectives of his own drew him to join Amar Chitra Katha. Patil has given the classic Indian imprint a new lease of life, and is currently recruiting a bunch of young managers to take Amar Chitra Katha to the next level—and to a new generation of readers.
Why we think it’s cool: Comic books! Graphic novels! Artists! What’s not to love about the job? Patil is exploring ways of using the Internet, animation and classic ACK titles together to create new ways of telling stories. Oh, and there is that office, which is just packed to the rafters with comic books.
Why he thinks it’s cool: “For me, this is a chance to actually change the way young people think. Doing it through our cultural language and heritage of ideas is the fun creative part. I am also excited by the prospect of using the tremendous variety of platforms available to us—comics, theatre, games, virtual worlds, films and many others to bring the Indian storytelling experience to life.”
The flip side: Working with comic books may seem awesome, but this is still a new and uncharted business to run. Patil keeps long hours at work and is constantly travelling, which leaves him with little time to actually read any of his books.
If he wasn’t doing this, then: Two quite different ideas excite Patil. One is writing and the other is investing in/nurturing small innovative companies in India.
The coffee taster
Chief executive officer
Coffee Labs Pvt Ltd
Backstory: When she was a child, Menon would watch her uncle pour hot water on tea leaves, sip some of it, swirl it around his mouth, spit it out, and then proceed to yell at the person managing his tea estate. She loved it, and wanted a similar job. Menon did her MSc in food technology from Women’s Christian College, Chennai, and then took a test to qualify as a taster with the Coffee Board of India. She topped the test. The first woman coffee taster in India, she started as an “assistant cup taster” in the 1970s. After two decades at the board, Menon, now 60, started Coffee Labs Pvt. Ltd, a unique organization that evaluates the quality overtones of Indian coffee and certifies quality for producers, traders, exporters and consumers.
Why we think it’s cool: Slurrrp, swish, spit! That’s what Menon does, professionally. Etiquette? No, none of that balderdash here. Who wouldn’t love to taste endless cups of coffee all day and then travel around the world to taste some more? The tasting process goes something like this: Menon sips small amounts of black coffee, swirls it around in her mouth, spits it out and then looks wise. And she flies away to Italy to do it all over again.
Why she thinks it’s cool: “You need a born acuity to be a taster. Tasting is part of me. I am one of the few women in the field, and I get to travel across the world to learn more and spread what I have.”
The flip side: “When I explain to people what exactly my job involves—the tasting, the analysing, categorization of markets—it almost always takes the fun away from what they imagine I must be doing. Everybody wants to sit around, sip several cups of coffee and read a book. I do too!”
If she wasn’t doing this, then: Menon would have been a dietician.
The pro blogger
VC Circle (www.vccircle.com)
Backstory: More than 10 years after he became a journalist, Sahad was bewitched by the possibilities of online media. While at ‘Business Today’ in 2005, he heard about the success of blogs in the US, and saw this medium as the path to fulfilling his dream of working for himself. He began dabbling in it. In 2006, he went full-time and started VC Circle—a blog that is synonymous with his name today. He tracks venture capital, mergers, acquisitions and private equity. Many venture capital investors in India check his website every day, often over breakfast. Thirty-three-year-old Sahad now also organizes keenly attended events using VC Circle’s brand pull. The next step, he says, is his own media empire.
Why we think it’s cool: Even 10 years ago, there was just one path to the top at a media company: up the ladder, rung by rung. Today, an entrepreneurial journalist such as Sahad can take a short cut. With only a computer, he can start his own gig. Not to mention the cool dress code.
Why he thinks it’s cool: “As soon as I get up, I switch my laptop on. I work in my night clothes until I have a meeting.” That will soon change though, with his home-based venture growing into serious business—he has moved into dedicated office space with a small full-time team, “My cool job is now transforming into a cool firm!”
The flip side: Risk, risk, risk. The business model for online media has not been proven yet (thus, Sahad’s experimentation with event management). Hiring for any start-up is difficult anywhere, more so in India. Also, ever tried convincing your family that you are going to blog for a living?
If he wasn’t doing this, then: Sahad would probably be still working for a large media company or setting up yet another start-up in social media or new media.
VINOD KUMAR BISHT
The real daredevil
Backstory: Bisht, 45, who served with the Indian Army for 23 years, holds a master’s degree in microelectronics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur; has been a paratrooper; and commanded an army unit in Kupwara, Jammu and Kashmir. Whew! He resigned from the army last year and went on to do a year-long executive MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. During campus recruitment, he interviewed with companies in the infrastructure and technology sector. “I thought I would get that job with the GMR group, but in February they were looking to put together the management team for their Indian Premier League (IPL) team. My background in the army and interest in sports made me more suitable for their sports unit.” He was offered the job of managing the operations (stadium management, ticket sales channels) for the Delhi Daredevils team. He took it on even though he was cautioned against it by many. “IPL was new and not many people were convinced that it would succeed. I was already moving out of the army and getting into civilian mode, so to take on a job with a new business model was a huge risk. But after I studied the IPL document, I knew it would work.”
Why we think it’s cool: Come on, this one is easy. For two months, he rubbed shoulders on a daily basis with Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and many other cricket stars. He got to travel with the team to check out all the other stadia (and, of course, got to see the matches) and he is going to do that for the next few years. He is the guy who managed to bring some semblance of order at the chaotic Ferozeshah Kotla ground—in the later matches at least, Delhiites were able to get in and out of the stadium with minimal fuss. Soon, he will be working on ticket sales as well. If you loved IPL, and live in Delhi, Bisht is one man who should make it to your must-know-in-Delhi list.
Why he thinks it’s cool: It gave him a chance to reinvent himself. “It was like being in bootcamp for four months. From the time I took the flight out of Ahmedabad on 15 February to the time IPL ended, life was on a roll, and I loved every minute.”
The flip side: Everybody in Delhi is a somebody and that can make it tough for a guy calling the shots at a cricket ground in the middle of an IPL season. “With some help from the Delhi and District Cricket Association, we were able to solve that.” Bisht admits that to begin with, some of the ideas for hospitality management on the ground were on the wild side. “That’s because many of us had no idea what kind of crowds to expect, but thankfully we had people who had been with the sport for a while and they kept us in check.”
If he wasn’t doing this, then: He would be building dams, roads or airports.
The gaming expert
Backstory: Alwani, 23, first got his hands on a computer game when he picked up one of his dad’s Casio game watches. He was six then and just about old enough to join a family of gaming freaks. His uncles owned every gaming console in the market and Alwani was quick to get hooked. He has been gaming non-stop for over 15 years now. Once, five years ago, Alwani and friends hooked up four TVs, several consoles and played ‘Halo’ for 14 hours. After finishing school and graduation, in Dubai and India, Alwani worked for a couple of magazines including ‘Top Gear’. And then he spotted the opening at Milestone on an online gaming forum. He now takes care of all games from the Electronic Arts stable for Milestone. Alwani averages around 12 hours of gaming a week and has six consoles at home to help him with this.
Why we think it’s cool: As part of his job, Alwani gets to try out all the latest games before lesser mortals like us even hear about them. His office is packed to the gills with games and gaming magazines. And yes, he can game all day without his folks telling him to stop—it’s part of the job, you see.
Why he thinks it’s cool: “This is what I am good at. It’s what I do. What’s cooler than making money doing the one thing I love to?”
The flip side: It’s not all fun and games. Alwani needs to market his marquee of games and do boring stuff such as organize game launch events. Besides, he just hates having to keep top secret game information from his gamer buddies.
If he wasn’t doing this, then: Alwani would be writing for a magazine.
The film curator
Backstory: After completing an MBA from Mumbai’s Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Doshi, now 39, joined Tata Telecom in 1992. He worked there for a few years before he decided to follow his passion—cinema. By that time, he had started and popularized a film club called Film Society, through which he met directors, actors and musicians. He started working on a book about actor Smita Patil, but since he wasn’t a writer, and, given his vernacular schooling, he wasn’t confident about writing it in English. Around 1995, writer and director Gulzar, who had taken a liking to him because of his club, introduced him to Jaya Bachchan, who then got him a job at the Children’s Film Society. His love affair with movies got the long-awaited fillip, and since the mid-1990s, Doshi has been visiting film festivals across the world. He has also curated the collection of Indian films for festivals such as the Locarno International Film Festival. Last year, he made a proposal to NDTV Imagine CEO Samir Nair about a channel dedicated to world cinema. It was approved and NDTV Lumiere came about. It is scheduled to go on air in August.
Why we think it’s cool: Hop from one film festival to another across the world, watch 10 movies a day, return to office, watch some more films, and then decide which films should be aired. But, what makes the cool quotient high here is that his passion has turned into a well-paying, stress-free job, with an office that has movie posters plastered on the walls and a library of 450 films.
Why he thinks it’s cool: “Because my job is about wine, cheese and cinema! And also because I have the chance to shape and mould film tastes in India. We are introducing young, emerging directors from all over the world to the Indian audience—from Fatih Akin from Turkey and Marco Bellocchio from Italy to the Dardenne Brothers from Belgium.”
The flip side: Keeping the censor board and moral police in mind every time he chooses a film for the channel.
If he wasn’t doing this, then: Doshi would be a film critic.
The special effects maven
Rhythm & Hues Studios India
Backstory: A Jaipur boy watches ‘The Mummy’ and is thrilled to see the visual effects (VFX). Amit Sharma, now 27, says that even though he graduated in commerce from Rajasthan University, he was so fascinated by VFX in movies that he did a diploma in multimedia and broadcast design on the side. “But that was not much help, so I took a VFX and 3D animation online course from a Chennai-based institute and even ordered very expensive books on VFX via Amazon and eBay to get better trained.” He moved to Delhi and worked as a broadcast artist with a production house, but his job profile limited him to show-packing and graphics. In 2003, he headed for Mumbai and a year later, he joined his current company, where he was finally able to do what he always wanted: Be part of a team that creates stunning visual effects for movies.
Why we think it is cool: His name features on the credit roll of several Hollywood films such as ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’, ‘Incredible Hulk’, ‘The Golden Compass’ and ‘Superman Returns’. He gets to see the rough cuts of Hollywood movies two years before you and I will even hear about them. He works 40 hours a week and when this writer called him at 6.30pm for an interview, he was already home. And his office has a theatre—free time at work means watching movies.
Why he thinks it is cool: “I lead a balanced life. I work on stuff I always dreamt about, and have the time to go for treks on the weekends.” He gets to tell his friends that most of the awesome sequences in movies such as ’The Golden Compass’ were actually created here in India. “When we watched that movie together, they thought it was tough to shoot sequences with animals. They were amazed to know these were digitally created right here.”
The flip side: Production deadlines can be strict and so the 40-hours-a-week schedule goes out of the window. There is a lot of back and forth on some scenes to achieve the director’s vision, but Sharma says, “In the end it is all worth it.”
If he was not doing this, then: He would have been in Jaipur working in his father’s construction and paints business.