What’s common between a software consultant who became a CEO and a former HR manager, who’s now an authority on new media? They started a blog that changed their lives. Riddhi Shah talks to them...
Kiruba Shankar | 34
Was: Software engineer
Now: CEO of Business Blogging, founder-director of F5ive technologies
‘Starting a blog is the best resume’
Written in January 2002, Kiruba Shankar’s very first blog post is exactly four lines long. Ironically enough, it describes his inability to write something befitting the occasion.
What started off as just his “perspective on whatever (he) found interesting”, has now become a website that gets up to 10,000 hits a day. He’s also moved ‘up’ — from being a software engineer to being the CEO of two companies. He has his own podcast, The Kiruba Show. He writes for Nasscom and is a much sought-after speaker at technology conferences around the world. Having a blog has opened up a huge world of networking possibilities he says. “People read it and approach you; you rarely have to approach anyone yourself,” he says. By way of example he tells me that his last three jobs were thanks to his blog; his employers were so sure, they didn’t even want to interview him.
Take the recent assignment he received from the New Zealand government. “A delegation was visiting Chennai and they needed someone to design a website for their community colleges. A simple Google search later they found me and got in touch. And they knew about my past work so they trusted me,” he says. And for that, he has only his blog to thank: “If I hadn’t started my blog, I’d still be a corporate slave somewhere, waiting for my next performance appraisal.”
Suman Kumar | 34
Was: Technical writer
Now: New media activist
‘My inbox was full — the world was talking back’
Suman Kumar has a lot to thank his blog for — the last two job offers he’s received, and the fact that it has propelled him at least three years ahead on the career ladder. But there’s something else the 34-year-old from Bangalore is grateful to his blog for. It gave him the opportunity to help thousands around the world during the 2004 tsunami. A reader had sent him pictures of the disaster’s aftermath from Kanyakumari and Kumar put them up. The next day, he woke up to find his inbox flooded with mails from people looking for more information and pictures about the tragedy. “I realised that I didn’t need to be a social worker to help people. So I started a site called the Tsunami Help blog and used it to collect relief materials and supplies,” says Kumar. “It’s amazing — you put up some pictures and suddenly the whole world is talking to you,” he says. “That experience will stay with me forever.”
Akshay Mahajan | 22
Was: Engineering student
‘My online diary helped me find my calling’
When Akshay Mahajan started his blog in 2004, it was a way for him to escape the monotony of studying engineering. At around the same time, he bought a camera and spent hours walking around Pune. The pictures he took usually found their way onto his blog, where he would write long posts about his experiences in the new city. Over time, the engineering classes became more boring, and the comments left by strangers on his blog, more interesting.
A particularly evocative photo-essay on the lesser-known industrial side of Dharavi in Mumbai catapulted him into blogosphere’s big league and he became an Internet celebrity of sorts. “By then I had quit engineering and decided to focus on my photography and blogging full-time,” says Mahajan, now 22. As luck would have it, the Daily Telegraph found his Dharavi pictures and contacted him for the rights. Soon, he began doing regular assignments for them, and was also freelancing for the Hindustan Times, Tehelka and other European news agencies. He had somehow stumbled upon his life’s calling. Some hundreds of photo-essays later, Mahajan has now taken up full-time employment with a newspaper in Bangalore as a photojournalist and also freelances for European publications. “Without the blog I’d probably be an engineering drop-out right now,” he says. “It has allowed the mainstream media to find me.”
Gautam Ghosh | 37
Was: HR manager
Now: Senior consultant, Tvarita Consulting. Also started his own company
‘I never dreamt I would be so well-known’
Some people are happy with praise from a manager. I wasn’t,” declares Gautam Ghosh. Six years after he started his blog on HR and recruiting, it is counted as one of the top four recruitment blogs in the world. It all began with a simple e-mail group that he had created with other HR professionals at a time when blogging was only just taking off in India. He began posting e-mails from the group onto his blog and before long was being hailed as one of India’s best-known business bloggers. The blogging accolades are still coming in. Two of the world’s best-known recruitment experts have recently asked him to review their book. “It means that they think my opinion is worth taking into consideration,” he says excitedly. His next project is to popularise his webcasts on HR and technology. Ghosh is definitely not done yet.