Here’s a fascinating Q&A with Karthik Vijayakumar, Host/Producer of The Design Your Thinking Podcast. We talk about the life of a podcaster, podcasting in India, and a whole lot more. I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Karthik had to say and I am sure you will too.
Tell us a little about you and your podcast?
Karthik: I’m Karthik and I quit my full-time career of 15 years to take a year’s break in 2016. I started the Design Your Thinking podcast in October 2016 purely out of my growing interest in podcasting. I’ve been interested in education and specifically lifelong learning.
I named my brand as Design Your Thinking that simply says that we can change the way we think, through meaningful experiences and content. While in Season 1 of the show, I focused on a small niche of design and products, with Season 2 I’m focusing on “following your heart” as the overarching theme.
How long have you been podcasting and why podcasts?
Karthik: I started blogging in 2006-07 and did that till 2009 in my personal domain. But for various reasons at work, I stopped doing it. I then restarted blogging in late 2015 and wrote an ebook that got very popular amongst my then niche.
My break from blogging had seemingly slowed down my ability to write regularly, and since I was listening to a lot of podcasts I started to find the medium very interesting. Given my background in theatre and performing arts, starting a podcast seemed to me like a natural choice. So I started podcasting in October 2016.
How has the journey been so far?
Karthik: It’s been good. Actually, it’s been great. I started with no big expectations as I was focused on honing the art of podcasting. All I wanted to do is have great conversations with people I could never get hold of, had I not been a podcaster. But eventually, I started to love the medium and the art.
Your biggest challenges and frustrations?
Karthik: I’m not one bit frustrated about podcasting. But challenges have always been there (and they will continue to be). At first, I had challenges getting used to my voice. I also had challenges with spontaneity – I used to read off the scripts for the first few episodes. I’ve completely re-recorded my questioning for one of the first episodes as I felt I sounded timid.
I’ve also had challenges reaching guests and cold-calling them. But I think that was something I got over pretty soon too. Then I had challenges with balancing time between recording vs editing – learnt the art of batching then.
I also had challenges doing too many episodes (I did 3 per week) and I finally brought it down to 2 per week. In Season 2, I’m doing 1 per week.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to wannabe podcasters?
Karthik: Be patient. Do it only if you are truly interested. Try it out for sure, but if you don’t find it interesting, move on. Take time to find a topic that you are naturally inclined to – remember you are in for the long haul. Focus on quality – remember you have a unique opportunity to be inside people’s ears (literally) – it’s a big responsibility and so try and keep the audio quality good (don’t kill yourself to produce studio quality either!).
What do you think is needed for podcasting to take off in India?
Karthik: Familiarity and accessibility are key. Unlike the US or UK, India has 122 major languages. There is a literacy barrier because of illiteracy rates – illiteracy rate is about 74% in India vs around 14% in the US.
In my view, the growth of podcasting is not directly proportional to podcast listeners in India. Whereas the growth of India-focused podcasts will directly be impacted by the number of listeners in the country.
All that said, for podcasting to take off in India, the key is the general awareness of the medium coupled with ecosystems of growth (like podcasting communities). I wrote a whole article on this topic sometime back, and I think that will be a good read to get some deeper insights.