From pink slip to entrepreneurship: A Bold story of survival
One March evening last year, 29-year-old Anuja Mishra finally made the call she hoped she wouldn't have to. A television producer at a local production house, Mishra was asked to go on 'leave without pay'. On the other end of the phone was Kartik Bajoria, her husband who had just quit his job, assuming that she would have hers. The two had been married for a little over two months and this was an acid test neither was prepared for.
Mishra, a chirpy young woman otherwise, was numb. Like many, she naively thought pink slips only went to other people's homes. Her husband on the other hand was more hopeful.
Today a year later, Anuja Mishra and Kartik Bajoria run Bold, a writing solutions boutique that offers its services to television channels, production houses and social media agencies. They share their story of surviving the downturn with Abhishek Mande:
Mishra recollects, "I used to work for Multimedia Communications, a television production house and was working on two shows -- one for AXN and the other for (an Indian television channel) Zoom TV.
In December 2008, we lost the AXN show after they decided to produce it in-house from Singapore. The following month we lost the show on Zoom too. February went by without much work and us trying to pitch for new shows. Nothing happened. By March we knew the end was near. But when the HR called me in, I was taken by surprise.
The company and I went back a long way. After all, it was one of my first workplaces. I also felt a little betrayed because I wasn't entirely sure why I was being asked to leave.
Back home Kartik had quit his job just over a month ago. And it'd been a little over two months since we'd been married."
Kartik Bajoria continues, "After being somewhat disillusioned with being an assistant director (for Ghajini), I had joined NDTV Imagine Showbiz. The channel was supposed to be an "intelligent counterpart to Zoom". In the first five months of my being there, I had managed to produce just one pilot.
Image: Kartik Bajoria and Anuja Mishra started Bold after they were both jobless last March
'For over two months we had nothing to do'
Somewhat frustrated, I put in my papers. Coincidentally, a few months later, there was a mass sacking when everyone except four or five people were asked to leave. Subconsciously I knew I could depend on Anuja till I found something I liked."
But that was not to happen. So, when the two found themselves unemployed and with no jobs in sight, they decided to go solo. While the commerce graduate Mishra had some writing experience, Bajoria, an English honours student hadn't really written anything professionally since he left college.
He says, "Although I was in advertising for three years, I was never on the creative side. I studied filmmaking and writing got left behind somewhere. But the peculiar situation we found ourselves in demanded some creative thinking. Meanwhile we had already started approaching people individually in the hope for freelance assignments. No one called back. For over two months we had nothing to do. On the flipside we weren't in debt. For instance we got the house as a gift from the family and we didn't have EMIs to pay. But the truth was we also didn't know where the next meal would come from."
There was always the option of turning to the parents. But neither Bajoria nor Mishra wanted to do it. In fact for the longest time no one in their families knew what they were going through.
"My father has a steel rolling mill business in Rajasthan. We were always at odds over what career path I should choose. He had a predefined (and a really small) list of acceptable professions. And I was nowhere close to the list. Despite it he has supported me through whatever decisions I had taken. He'd even financed my filmmaking course in LA. I didn't want to turn to him, though I could have," Bajoria says.
Two months went by without any work coming their way. And that's when they thought of branding themselves. They called the company 'Bold', for the move they were making was nothing short of it and got a website running and started furiously looking for work from their apartment itself. Surprisingly, the very people who had turned us down earlier were now approaching them for work! But the nightmare wasn't entirely over.
Image: When business didnt come by, they branded themselves. Since then things have never been the same
'I like to be my own boss'
Although we were getting work, the payments were yet to come. It would be another three months before some money started flowing in. Those few months we really had to tighten our belts," Bajoria recollects.
Mishra explains why they chose to start a writing solutions company despite having a strong background in the audio-visual medium. "Starting a production company meant a lot of investment. Also you never knew when you would start getting the returns. Bold required no investment per se. All we needed were two laptops, which we had all along, an internet connection and we were off."
It has been about 10 months since Bold has been in business and going by what the couple says things are surely looking up. They take up assignments they like and a few they aren't really kicked about. But they both know that for the money to keep flowing there will always be those jobs they don't like doing and they are fine with it.
Bajoria says that he gets really kicked by the idea of working on creative projects that go directly to the client 'without getting butchered by anyone else'. "I like to be my own boss and this works pretty well for me. It also gives me the flexibility to work whenever I want to, take an off on a weekday and play with my dog. So it's all very good."
Bold, the couple tells me, offers complete writing solutions -- be it print communication, television scripting, online content development or social media writing and management, they do it all. What they don't do is work with people who don't treat them with respect.
Mishra remembers an incident when someone treated them rather shabbily and another one where the client misled them about the kind of content they wanted. "After a long conversation about what he was looking for from us, we travelled for some four hours to meet him. When we reached there, he demanded something completely different and offered us some really petty remuneration," she says of the second incident.
"We turned him down just as we had refused to work with the director of a company who spoke rudely to us. The ideas is to choose one's clients wisely because at the end one has to business with them."
Today Bold is on its feet. There is enough work to keep them busy. This January they celebrated their first anniversary. The year that went by taught them much. In the future they are hoping to take Bold to another level -- start hiring people, take the company out of their house into a proper space and look at expanding it further.
Bajoria concludes, "We are a unique company. Not many people offer complete writing solutions like we do. I agree in India we focus a lot on packaging and not so much on the content. We're hoping to change that in some way. There will always be projects we don't like. Those days we think of the vacation we've been planning or something we'd like to buy for ourselves. That way we keep going. Who knows maybe we could start a production house someday!"
Image: A laptop and internet connection was all they needed to get their business running
Photographs: Reuters Photographer / Reuters