“Chart Your Own Path, Create Your Own Luck” Ft. Chuck (Deepak Gopalakrishnan) PG Alumnus, Podcast Host, Content Freelancer

You’re on your way to class, the gym, or simply unwinding in your room. You begin by listening to one podcast episode, perhaps recommended by a friend, and gradually become addicted to the content. It’s fascinating to be captivated by someone speaking for a few minutes and absorbing that knowledge; because of this interaction, you’re probably in a better intellectual, psychological, or even physical position or state of mind.

That is the result of a well-thought-out podcast. So when you listen to well-structured & entertaining podcasts, If all you can think about is how fantastic it would be to have your own series or podcast, this is the correct article for you. Deepak Gopalakrishnan, a MICA graduate, turned his hobby and passion for podcasting into a genuine brand after an exciting working career in the field of Digital Marketing and Content Creation.

Here is a sneak peek into our interview and a wonderful conversation with Deepak/ @Chuckofalltrades about his journey and his advice for those seeking a career in Podcasting.

Q. You’ve had an exciting journey, going from MICA to Marketing to Chuck the podcaster. Can you share your experience that would be helpful to other students who face similar challenges or opportunities?

Sure. 

After graduating from MICA in 2009, I worked at a number of advertising agencies, especially in the digital field of digital strategy. Following that, I joined OML (Only Much Louder), a firm that arranges large-scale events and manages artists, mostly for digital content and marketing. Then I moved to an internal team that is now PaytmInsider. This was my professional path. Since 2019 I’ve been a freelancer – in content and marketing. It’s been a pretty exciting last few years, being solo.

My advice to people reading this – try to have more experiences and put yourself out there, because the more experiences you have, the better you’ll be able to make and connect dots. Be inspired, but don’t blindly follow; forge your own path and make your own luck. The sooner you figure what your individual goals and motivations are, the better.

“One of my first freelancing jobs was with PaGaLGuY, where I worked on a series of cartoons on MBA life.”

I’ve also been freelancing since 2010 in various capacities while working full time – including cartooning and writing, and even began teaching digital marketing. I’ve also freelanced in marketing and strategy.

Podcasting is not something I do for monetary benefit, but it is a pastime that I enjoy. I run three shows currently, which have been a medium for me to meet many interesting people and learn a lot from them.

Q. What inspired you to get into podcasting & how has your experience been? 

My interest in podcasts started way back before podcasts were mainstream – around 2014 or so. My favourite show was ‘The Bugle,’ a British satire show hosted by Andy Zaltzmann, an English comic whose initial co-host was John Oliver. After listening to it and a number of other podcasts, I was motivated and began brainstorming ideas with a buddy to start my own. That’s how we started Simblified’, which aims to break everything around us down into simpler language with some research and a lot of bad humour! The show has evolved; there are now four hosts, but the spirit remains the same: four friends get together, talk to each other, discuss, and make jokes, but all to make each other and, perhaps, our listeners wiser about some topics.

Along the way, I launched another show called ‘The Origin of Things’, which is a short format podcast where I examine the origins of various brands. The brand’s name is revealed only at the end, so audiences treat it like a guessing game. Two seasons have been completed, and I am presently working on the third season, which will be released in a few weeks. ‘Getting Meta’ is the third podcast I started. I’ve always wanted to do an interview-style podcast, and in 2021, I did just that with ten people I greatly admire.

Along the way, I’ve done a few things in the space of podcasting; I’ve been invited to be a guest on a few shows (including The Seen & The Unseen by Amit Varma) and as a mentor for a cohort of students who are just getting started with their first podcasts, which Sportify India did in collaboration with IFP, formerly known as Indian Film Project.

“I am currently hosting cult.fit’s ‘One Rep at a Time’, an opportunity that came to me because of my experience in podcasting and my newfound interest in fitness.”

Q. You currently have three podcasts on Spotify (Simblified, The Origin of Things, and Getting Meta). Can you outline your method, beginning with topic selection and ending with episode/series production? Given that many of our users have amazing ideas but cannot put them into acceptable audio material, how does the process work?

Each of these three shows has its own procedure. Simblified’ is much simpler since there are four people, so the burden is distributed; it’s all about going deep enough into a specific topic to have a discussion about it. We make it evident that our goal is to provide both entertainment and education; consequently, we don’t delve too deeply into a topic but rather just enough so that the listener has more information after listening to the episode about the particular topic. Make the listener marginally smarter than when they started off, while entertaining them – that’s our goal.

‘The Origin of Things’ is a season-based show, and I am working on season 3. The choice of topic is essential here as I need to keep the audience engaged until the end. So I always select a story that is so captivating that the audience is left thinking about the brand until the very end. If they guess it in the first 10 seconds or based on the category, I consider it a failure. So there is a fair bit of reading & research work done here. Each show probably takes 4-5 hours to get right.

For ‘Getting Meta’, an interview-based podcast, it was critical to have the right interviewees. I have a list of individuals in mind for Season 2 and knew exactly who I wanted to interview for Season 1. Understanding the process and organising your flow can help you get your desired result. This wasn’t a business interview about their successes and failures but rather about their cognitive processes, routines, and behaviours. I listened to a lot of their previous interviews and made sure questions were specific to the individual and questions they hadn’t answered before.

For people who may want to start their own podcast’, I’ll say –

“Go do it. Get your hands dirty; just start and learn along the way. Don’t overthink. There’s no right or wrong way. This is true not just for podcasts but any content creation exercise.”  

Don’t expect a lot of listeners or readers right from the start. In the initial few months, just find and discover if you love the process and learn about the trade tricks. Understand the craft better. Content creation sounds great on its own, but when you start doing it, you realise there’s a lot more to it. So just see if you still are inclined after a couple of months and like the process, post the initial ideas and enthusiasm you had.

Q. If you had to advise an aspiring podcaster, what would you say is the first rule they should follow?

Just start and be consistent – No one goes from 0-100 from day 1. It takes a long slog to go from 0 – 10 and then to 100. It takes time. So the only way here is slow and gradual towards your way by being consistent. Figure out what works for you, your audiences, find your unique voice, and it’s completely okay if that takes time. Pink Floyd’s most successful albums came after their 7th – so even the best aren’t great right off the bat!

Q. You hold a PGDM degree from MICA; what did you learn throughout your MBA that helped you grow?

My MBA helped me gain perspective on a number of things. I’ve realised that having an end goal for anything you want to achieve is critical; that really sets the tone for everything that you do before. The capacity to connect dots from many locations and apply knowledge from various domains. This isn’t something they teach you explicitly, but it’s a gradual realisation, with the actual impacts being apparent 5-6 years after you graduate. Again, like I said before – the more dots from various places you collect and connect, the better.

Q. How has an MBA helped your career?

An MBA helps you meet individuals you wouldn’t otherwise meet and learn about situations you wouldn’t have thought of.

Professional contacts are valuable; know who’s good at what. Networking is about establishing fewer but more impactful relationships, which goes a long way. There’s a lot to do when you’re at a B-school. It’s chaotic and a cultural shock at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. Try new things – that will help. And not all learning happens in the classroom.

Q. You have been a legendary user at PG. Can you share some anecdotes about your experience using PG and the friends you’ve made using the site?

Legendary might be the wrong term to use, notorious might be more like it.

I discovered PG back in 2005 as I was desperate to find people as keen on getting into MICA as I was. Studying in a small town, this nationwide network of friends and contacts was revelatory for me and in many ways, shaped me as a person. I’ve made many friends through the site.

Further, Pagalguy became one of my first freelance clients – and the comics I drew for them, I still consider among my favourite work. I was asked by the then-editor Apurv to try converting some of these comics into a standup set during a PG meet, which I did and it worked so well I took the act to some Bschools over the next few years! So I quite owe PG a lot!

BTW, I’ve archived all the comics here – if anyone wants to see. The spirit should be the same, though references might be dated.

Get access to podcasts hosted by Chuck (Deepak Gopalakrishnan) on Spotify or IVM Network, or connect with @chuckofalltrades  on Instagram or @chuck_gopal on Twitter.

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