This is Saurabh (one of the people at The Podium) and allow me to tell you a story.
The origin of Podium
Akshay (AD) is a senior from college and while in college, his and my paths never crossed – he is that old! But like any business school of repute, we have this really active alumni group and that’s where AD and I became “friends”. We would often chat on inane things, bounce off ideas against each other, and help each other wherever we could.
He and I are as different as chalk and cheese – he runs an HR business, I run a marketing agency; he is a data-first person, I am a lot more gut-lead; he believes in structures and processes, I am lot more fluid.
But we do have a common passion for experimenting, creating new things and people. These three shared-interests were enough for us to continue our aimless, goalless chats.
Life was cool till one day we got talking and one of us (can’t recall who) proposed that we ought to start a podcast if we have to accelerate our learning! Both of us agreed and decided that next time I was in Delhi, we’d catch up and record a few conversations. Thankfully, we had access to some entrepreneurs like Ankit, Dr. Annurag Batra, Nakul, and Tamanna, who readily agreed to be the “guinea pigs” and help us record some conversations with them.
One thing led to another and here we are. With The Podium. Our attempt at creating a content destination for lifelong learners!
When we started on this, we wanted to do a podcast to learn from the success and failures of other entrepreneurs. We realized that we may not get access to celebrated entrepreneurs if we don’t have a reason to speak with them. A podcast felt like a convincing enough reason to knock on the doors and get them to talk to us.
Before we started, AD being AD, he wanted to do a research to understand how things work. As luck would have it, he was in Mumbai around the new year and we met people like Amit Varma (probably the biggest podcaster in India) and picked his brains about the business.
This is when we came up with the idea of doing a deep dive in the business of podcasting and writing it like a news piece. I was reluctant but I agreed. AD wrote a pitch for The Ken and they accepted and then we started meeting and talking to listeners, podcasters, podcasting companies, radio jockeys, and whoever had any opinion on audio as a medium. Again, every person we approached, they were kind and approachable. Every “company” we went to, however, we were shown the door. Of course, these were exceptions like IVM and Storytel that were very very very open and candid.
To cut long story short, we wrote this piece on podcasting. And in the process, we learned so much about the business, people, dynamics, and more. And we realized that more than a hobby where we interview entrepreneurs, we could create a sustainable business that allows us to scratch our itch, deliver great content, and make money along the way. Picture Perfect. No?
Hello, The Founder Thesis
Once we had this piece out and the fire in the belly and the ambition to meet more founders and keenness to learn, we set out to meet founders for the podcast. Almost everyone we approached agreed to speak with us and they gave us all the time that we needed to chat with them. In some cases, we recorded with them multiple times before we got the format and questions right!
Again, we were amazed by the openness, acceptance, and kindness of people, most of these were strangers!
Kahaniyon Ka Guccha and India Booked
Along the way, I realized that apart from just the startup founders, I want to talk to marketers as well – after all, marketing is my first love!
And while we were jamming on the marketing podcast, it dawned on us that between the two of us, we have wide interest areas and we can create podcasts for more than one niches. It would of course require FAR more effort than we had originally envisaged. And that was ok. AD doesn’t shy away from hard work.
We also realized that apart from just the two of us, we can enable others to hold conversations with the kind of people they want to meet! If we could create a platform, we could reach far more people that benefit kar sakte hain from the audio medium!
We got lucky and got Mudit (and Anamika) to agree to do Kahaniyon Ka Guccha (a podcast on stories from some of the literary legends from India). They started by reciting stories by Manto. We similarly met Ayushi and the team at Purple Pencil Project* and co-created India Booked. We also seeded Beyond Campus, Podium Spotlight, and a few more.
And before we knew it, bit by bit, we were on our way!
So, what’s next?
Each day we get to talk to a host of people – guests, listeners, our team, and more. And each day we realize that we have this big opportunity that we need to capitalize on!
Of course, podcasting is still nascent in India. We suspect it would always be like that – after all video offers a far more immersive experience and with things like AR / VR that have been coming soon for almost a decade, you never know. Plus lockdown has spruced up innovations and investments in other immersive mediums. Audio only may get left behind for all we know!
Radio, on the other hand, has been around for decades and will not go anywhere. In fact, for all those 800-900 million people that do not speak English as their first language, radio still is the first port of access for content (thanks to Jio, that is changing fast!).
And thus we continue to remain bullish on audio as a medium. Distribution can take shape of podcasts or radio – that’s step 2. But we intend to remain an audio-first business.
So here we are! And over the next few days, I will share more updates on our thesis, our approach, and what we are trying to build. I hope you join us on the journey and continue to support us! Welcome aboard!
That’s about it for the time being. More as we go along.
Thanks for reading and your continued patronage
Saurabh (on behalf of AD and Team Podium)
* – SG is an investor in Purple Pencil Project in his personal capacity.