Tanvir Gill is a 25-year-old who looks like she is 12. Or so say people on a blog that shows up when you run a Google search on her.
The content of the blog, dedicated to "profiling and discussing the hottest and sexiest TV anchor babes around the world", may be highly uncensored, but points to the celebrity-like status of Gill, anchor and researcher for CNBC-TV18.
For her part, Gill is amused by the comment on the blog, hosted from Vancouver in Canada. "I do look younger than my age, but I found this comment really funny," she said, still confused why she should be a point of discussion at all "My friends who live abroad also say that viewers there can't believe I'm 25."
But Gill is also careful not to let the younger-than-her-years image detract from the hard work she's putting into her job. She recalled some words of encouragement. "A colleague at office said to me, 'Even if people think you look like a teenager, the fact is that the world is listening to you.'"
And the world - at least the business world - is listening to Gill. Easily one of the youngest TV anchors in India -Gill hosts morning shows like "Your Stocks" and "Mid Cap Radar". She is a National Stock Exchange-certified 'Mutual Funds Stocks Advisor.'
"I'm no celebrity," said Gill. "I have been recognised near Nariman Point, but that's because our target audience is concentrated in that area." One might say Gill typifies what's required of a journalist - focus, drive and a passion for news. "One of the perks of my job is that I get to meet many high-profile people who come on our shows; I learn a lot from them."
The journey so far
When you watch Gill discussing market trends with CEOs, or shooting a volley of questions to stockbrokers on television, it's hard to believe that she has little formal training in journalism or news anchoring. Or that the MBA graduate who grew up in Mumbai and Delhi barely made the cut for the general knowledge test when she interviewed for her first job three years ago at Headlines Today in Delhi. The editor from the TV Today Network, which runs the news channel, did call Gill after the audition, but only to tell her that her general knowledge was abysmal. But one thing about Gill had struck him - her confidence and the willingness to learn. Gill landed the job. "Luck had a role to play," said Gill.
But the rise in her career graph has little to do with luck. While her MBA background helped her grasp the world of business, she doggedly honed her skills as a journalist, keeping herself abreast of current affairs and learning on the job.
Seven months into the job, Gill had already been spotted. CNBC-TV18 offered her a job as anchor-researcher in Mumbai. She accepted, and said it was the best thing to have happened to her. "I have my boss, Udayan Mukherjee, (executive editor, CNBC-TV18) and his team to thank for giving me the right opportunities at the right time," said Gill. "But it's not as easy as it sounds. There's a lot of hard work and dedication involved. I still have a lot to learn."
While Gill puts in the hard work and arduous hours required to do her job, she also values her time off work. "Being part of business news has its advantages," she conceded. "I get most weekends off because the markets are closed, something that anchors of general news bulletins don't always get."
Being part of a fast-paced and fiercely competitive industry hasn't changed Gill's innate disposition; she's a happy-go-lucky person who spends time working out and dancing whenever she gets a chance. "I like to have a work-life balance," she said. "I absolutely love dancing, and if I hadn't been a news anchor, I would have taken up dancing on a professional level."
While she doesn't know where television will eventually take her, she does know that she's enjoying herself thoroughly right now.
From the looks of it
Her fans call her "Tanu", according one of them, who has uploaded a video clip of her on YouTube. The same "fan" also calls her a Katie Holmes look-alike, though Gill disagrees.
Gill isn't all about being pretty (though the good looks do help.) "I don't want to deny that looks are important in the television business," she said. "But if only people could see what goes on behind the camera. An entire research team works to script a show and make it useful for the viewer."
Certainly not just another pretty face, Gill is in her office at 7 every morning, waiting to take the day's load. "My job is not about reading news off a teleprompter," she said. "I participate in the research. You have to know the subject and think on your feet, especially in breaking news situations."
The sense of accountability is evident in her voice, on air and off it. "I treat it as a serious responsibility. A lot of hard-earned money is at stake, and investors count on us to guide them."
Once on air, Gill forgets that she's facing the camera. "If I think about the fact that behind this camera are a million people watching me, I will not be able to utter a word," she said. "So the key thing is to focus on asking the right questions to the guests and conveying the right answers to the viewers."
If the rising number of viewers tuning in to her shows is any indication, Gill is definitely asking the right questions.