Once upon a time in the bylanes of Chennai stayed a man who would one day become the master of Puns in the Indian Blogosphere. Any hashtag to trend needs a tweet from him. He is responsible for the first Progressive Union of bloggers. His favorite line is ‘Lets put da‘. Let us roll the red carpet and welcome him to our adda for this interview. Welcome Ramesh Srivats! 🙂
Q: When and why did you start blogging?
A: I decided to try out blogging in early 2008. I had just quit my job in Rediffusion and planned to waste a few months mumbling about planning a start-up and therefore getting away with a lot of laziness by exuding a sense of purpose. The previous few years, I had noticed that the people I hung out with in the evenings seemed to find my jokes really funny and my thoughts incredibly profound. Not all people, but coincidentally those who reported in to me. Especially around appraisal time. This encouraging reaction from a fundamentally fair and impartial audience led me to believe that the rest of the world too deserved the benefit of my wisdom. So I registered for a Blogger account and got set to begin my journey to fame. If things went according to plan, I planned to start a religion in about 5 years.
Unfortunately, I just couldn’t think of any earth-shattering stuff to write about. Most topics seemed too mundane or too boring. And too unworthy of being the first public statement of a future messiah. So I postponed blogging and played poker instead.
It was much later that I decided to lower my expectations a bit (from “earth-shattering wisdom” to “some nonsense” ) and write a blog just for the kicks of writing a blog. So I wrote my first post in Oct 2008 and have been looking back ever since.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: The original intent was to create an eclectic body of work that exhibited the author’s incredible diversity of interests.
Over time this has evolved into the far less demanding area of PJs, usually political. Though sometimes, a Libertarian rant may slip in.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
A: I usually get stuck figuring what to write about. Once I have got the title in place, the rest happens pretty smoothly. This may be due to the fact that once I start writing on something, I just go ahead and write whatever I feel like and quickly post it, without getting hampered by inconvenient things like judgment and craft.
Q: Do you promote your blog? What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: WordPress & the all-in-one SEO plugin takes care of the search engines. Twitter helps a lot, and Facebook to some extent. I used to practise some… ahem focused commenting earlier. That does help to some extent, but it doesn’t feel too good. So these days, I comment on stuff I like, and stuff I want to have a discussion about. Social bookmarking sites never really worked for me. I guess they are a bit too winner-takes-all, so one either makes it to the front page or one might as well not be there at all.
But the one thing that has an amazing effect is a mention by the biggies like Amit Varma. A link on India Uncut means my site traffic instantly rises to Banglorean levels.
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
A: It depends on the type of post and the type of comment. If I have put out a collection of PJs, and someone groans, I don’t diligently groan back. We are all too groan up for that. I just thank everybody. But if there is some discussion involved, great, then there is major interaction.
Q: You are an IIT-M and IIM-A alumnus, What are your takeaways from both these esteemed institutions? Those graduating out of these institutions are perceived to be the serious types. What do you have to say about this and how did you manage to be different? 🙂
A: I clearly remember taking away a degree and a diploma. As for education, I believe there was something of that sort going on in the classrooms. The thing is, with these institutes, it’s much more difficult to get in than to get out. So if one is not too bothered about grades, it is possible to have a great time. And of course, in those years, the fees were minimal. So when I combine a taxpayer-funded education, with the fact that for most of my advertising life, I was earning the pits and hence not paying much tax, I have a feeling I’m still slightly tax-positive.
Q: You have over 18-years experience in brand building and idea management. How has this industry evolved over the years? What kind of trends are you seeing these days and what does your crystal ball predict for the future?
A: Okay, I better be serious about this one, because I’m in the process of formally starting Ten Ten Ten. Frankly, the industry has not evolved at all. If you compare people say 20 years back, to people today, so much has changed. The number of friends we have, the way we relate to them, the way we imagine brands, the way information is passed; it has all altered completely. But the industry is still attempting to build brands exactly the same way as they were built in the 60’s. Even the debates are about relatively peripheral issues like whether there should be specialists or an integrated offering. Internet (and technology at large) is just seen as new media. And so, it’s just treated as a fancy new way to reach the customer. Whereas what technology has done is profoundly change the relationships between the customer, content and brands. How will this pan out in the future? How can a business leverage it? Well, that’s what Ten Ten Ten can tell you.
Q: Talking about future, you are the founder of Ten Ten Ten and the CEO of Hungry And Foolish. Can you tell us more about these two companies and what kind of services they offer? How different is it while working for a company like Rediffusion Y&R and managing on your own?
A: Hungry & Foolish has been shut down (at least in the way it was conceived). My partner in that venture is taking the name forward but in a different direction. What H&F set out to do was create IPs. In any field. From TV content to software apps. It was a sort of think tank. We looked around and saw that most product ventures specialized in a certain domain or technology. We felt that, instead, great ideas can come from looking at people and understanding their needs and opportunities. The technology comes later. We did create some great products but hit some funding problems. It was great fun though.
As for Ten Ten Ten, I have talked a bit about it in the earlier answer. By the way, it’s called Ten Ten Ten because 101010 is the binary representation of 42, which, as we all know, is the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything.
Working in an ad agency is fun. I spent over 10 years in JWT and 4 years in Rediffusion. And had a great time. Managing your own company is a different kind of fun. I don’t think one is superior to the other. They’re just different.
Q: ‘Let’s Put da’ started off with the first blog entry ‘Just Who is the Public?’. What Kind of ‘Public’ would you think will make a difference? What kind of ‘Public’ are you seeing in the Indian Blogosphere? 🙂
A: Make a difference where? I see no reason to judge people on some imagined difference they make to society or the country or something. They are free to do so if they want to. But that’s their business (and the candle-maker’s). Personally, I’d like some funny, interesting and of course generous people around me. That would make a difference to my life.
As far as the Indian Blogosphere is concerned, it’s all mixed. But I do see a lot more irreverence on the net when compared to the er.. biological world. It could be a selection bias. It could be the warm, fuzzy security of anonymity. But it is there. A lot more polarity of opinion. A lot less regard for holy cows.
Q: ‘So what do we do about our government?’ was one of the few posts that was of serious nature on your blog. Today it seems we have no other option for a better government but if you were given a chance to choose the key ministers of the Parliament, who would it be and why?
A: Ha. Nobody actually. As in, there wouldn’t be a parliament in the first place. Maybe someone attractive to represent us in the U.N. And a few appointed people to handle security & justice… But wait. On second thoughts, let’s have a parliament. Otherwise I’d miss the entertainment of the Lalus & the Mamatas. But a parliament that won’t be allowed to make any laws. It would just be an awesome building where people argue, fight, walk-out and generally rant. Like Bigg Boss.
Q: Shortputs, your twitter blog. :P! There isn’t a day when we don’t see your #perkytweets on our timeline. You even have a Progressive Union of Bloggers :D, The keyword in all these is HUMOUR. Can you share with us some incidents where you were caught off guard and a few where you think your humour made a difference?
A: Actually a big factor in humour is timing. It has to be said in the right place, in the right context. And if I start explaining an incident now, I seriously doubt if anyone will find it funny. But a bottle of whisky may loosen my tongue.
Q: ‘Ramesh is a gentle giant’ is what some perceive you as and armchair thinker as your profile says. We are reminded of Sarkar now. 😀 If you were to float a political party someday, what would your symbol be and what would be your election manifesto like?
A: Gentle Giant? Haha. I’m working on the giant bit, btw. Can’t PUB be a political party? It already has a symbol, and a manifesto too.
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: Actually, I took a long long break from blogging. Simply because I used to exhaust my PJs in Twitter. When you instantly comment on all the happenings around you, it’s quite difficult to find something new to say on a topic. But to rewind a bit, the most gratifying aspect was simply the fact that it is there. The fact that you can write what you want and it’s out there for people to see. Something that just wasn’t possible before.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: There are many many blogs that I regularly visit. Some of them are in my blogroll. The ones I visit a little more often than the others are :
- India Uncut : Amit Varma’s outstanding take on India and the world.
(Latest Post: Give Me 10,000 Hours)
- Smoke Signals : Prem Panicker, esp for his cricket posts. It beats the MSM coverage hollow.
(Latest Post: Steve Coll on blogging)
- Bhat Naturally – Lucky Bhat’s insights on marketing & advertising.
(Latest Post: Handcrafted cars and ugly fonts)
- Antidote : Sauvik Chakraverti’s extreme, yet thought-provoking pieces from a Libertarian POV
(Latest Post: Mises On Underdeveloped Nations)
- RTDM : Greatbong’s opinion on an incredible range of topics.
Read his interview 🙂
And please let me cheat and add a few more. The funny stuff. The really funny stuff –
- Krish Ashok’s Doing Jalsa & Showing Jilpa
Read his interview 🙂
- Anand Ramachandran’s Son of Bosey
- Sidin Vadakut’s Whatay
Read his interview 🙂
- Saad Akhtar’s Fly You Fools and
Read his interview 🙂
- the over-the-top stuff of the fake Jhunjhunwala.
Read his interview 🙂
- Sahil Rizwan’s The Vigil Idiot
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
A: Write on what you feel like, when you feel like, how you feel like. The moment you start looking at a post as something that “needs” be done, it becomes work. And why would you want to work?
Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.
Color: Er… what color is whisky?
Movie: Kamalhassan’s comedies. Can see them again and again and again.
TV Show: Either cricket. Or the unintentional comedy called news.
Book: Too many to list. But PG Wodehouse is God.
Time of Day: Early morning. Like 4.30am or something. That’s when I get most of my work done.
Your Zodiac Sign: Libra.
That was a Fun-Tastic interview. The future is 101010 for sure. Readers, here is a chance to ask questions to master of Puns and get answered. Thank you Ramesh for this wonderful interview.