It’s all about Pas­sion

A manʼs per­spec­tive.

Woman's Era - - Short Story - By Pa­van R Chawla

She’s a me­dia en­tre­pre­neur and in­ter­na­tion­ally cel­e­brated tele­vi­sion con­tent head. Across 26 coun­tries world­wide, her sparkling main­stream travel shows with mul­ti­cul­tural global hosts ap­peal to swathes of main­stream au­di­ences in more than 92 mil­lion TV homes, re­gal­ing them in 11 lan­guages in­clud­ing three In­dian lan­guages.

How­ever, when 11 years ago, she, along with her hus­band, set out on their joint mis­sion to cre­ate a great travel TV chan­nel, she didn’t have much Tv-con­tent-cre­ation ex­pe­ri­ence. But driven by their mis­sion and be­lief, they ended up cre­at­ing the world’s lead­ing travel chan­nel, and to­day, this amaz­ing lady is recog­nised as per­haps the world’s best cre­ator and pro­gram­ming head of orig­i­nal con­tent for the most dif­fi­cult genre of non-fic­tion tele­vi­sion – travel.

She is Nisha Chothani, co­founder and direc­tor of Trav­elxp, the world’s lead­ing travel chan­nel, which gave In­dia its first HD chan­nel, and the world its first 4K HDR TV chan­nel which she, along with her hus­band, Trav­elxp co­founder and CEO and glob­ally renowned broad­cast and tech vi­sion­ary Prashant Chothani, launched in the USA in 2016.

How did an A-grade mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy stu­dent who only ever wanted to do re­search at TIFR, en­ter the world of me­dia in­stead, and go on to cocre­at­ing a phe­nom­e­nal TV chan­nel that is bring­ing in re­spect to In­dia through main­stream travel con­tent? What is her pro­fes­sional life like, work­ing with her vi­sion­ary hus­band in the same com­pany, in an of­fice with a com­mon wall?

I caught up with Nisha Chothani to find out, and dis­cov­ered a knowl­edge­able, com­mit­ted and de­ter­mined woman leader, pro­fes­sional and hu­man be­ing who is driven pri­mar­ily by one word: pas­sion.

My first ques­tion to her was about work­ing with her hus­band in the same com­pany. Prashant Chothani is an in­no­va­tion and tech gi­ant; he is some­body who ac­tu­ally helped the In­dian ca­ble and satel­lite in­dus­try find its feet many years ago. And she has proven her­self as a

TRAVEL WAS SOME­THING I WAS CRAZY ABOUT, AND IN­DIA WAS AL­WAYS SOME­THING WE ARE BOTH PAS­SION­ATE ABOUT. WE WANTED TO SHOW­CASE IN­DIA THE WAY WE SEE IN­DIA – IN ALL ITS BEAUTY, WITH ITS CUL­TURE, ITS CHARM; WE THINK THERE’S MUCH MORE TO IN­DIA, AND THAT WE NEED TO POR­TRAY THE BET­TER SIDE OF IN­DIA.

leader in main­stream travel con­tent. What’s the work re­la­tion­ship like, through a typ­i­cal day? “Dif­fi­cult,” she says. “And easy,” she adds quickly, smil­ing. “Easy, be­cause both of us un­der­stand each other, and dif­fi­cult be­cause there can be a lot of per­son­al­ity clashes as my way of think­ing and his are very dif­fer­ent at times.

“Where con­tent for our chan­nel Trav­elxp is con­cerned, Prashant gen­er­ally doesn’t in­ter­fere at all with what­ever I have to say, but of course I am open to sug­ges­tions – not only from him but the en­tire team. So, we do have con­tent meet­ings where he too par­tic­i­pates, but he doesn’t re­ally in­ter­fere in con­tent, so I have a free hand.” COL­LEGE, CA­REER AND FU­TURE POS­SI­BIL­I­TIES

To­day, Nisha is one of the top women in me­dia – ini­tially, for con­tent cre­ation and broad­cast chan­nel mar­ket­ing and, of course, for the last 10 years now, for the cre­ation of the ex­cel­lent travel con­tent we see on Trav­elxp.

Did she al­ways plan to be a me­dia pro­fes­sional?

“No,” she says, “Be­cause I had done a BSC. in mi­cro-bi­ol­ogy from Sophia Col­lege in Mum­bai. Af­ter that I wanted to get into the Tata In­sti­tute of Fun­da­men­tal Re­search for oncology re­search, be­cause it just fas­ci­nated me. But things didn’t pan out that way. My par­ents said: ‘No re­search. Just do an MSC’.

“I’ve been a rebel from the be­gin­ning,” she says, smil­ing. “I said ‘I’ll ei­ther do my re­search, or I won’t do MSC.!’ So I gave up stud­ies.”

And then she saw there was a job Prashant had ad­ver­tised for – that of a film jour­nal­ist. “So I went and met him, and we clicked from the be­gin­ning. So there I was, a good mi­cro-bi­ol­ogy grad­u­ate do­ing film jour­nal­ism, and en­joy­ing it.”

They got mar­ried some two years later, in 1997. The pe­riod af­ter mar­riage was a time when both got into film and me­dia pro­mo­tion with the Zee net­work, rep­re­sent­ing it to the mas­sive fra­ter­nity of Bol­ly­wood pro­duc­ers un­der their com­pany, Celebri­ties Man­age­ment. Af­ter­wards, we did the same for ETC, for which the en­tire in­ven­tory was sold by them.

“Then, one fine day, Prashant and I de­cided to set up on our own,” Nisha says.

And so the cou­ple had en­tered broad­cast. How and when did they de­cide to cre­ate the chan­nel Trav­elxp?

“Travel was some­thing I was crazy about, and In­dia was al­ways some­thing we are both pas­sion­ate about. We wanted to show­case In­dia the way we see In­dia – in all its beauty, with its cul­ture, its charm; we think there’s much more to In­dia, and that we need to por­tray the bet­ter side of In­dia, and that’s the rea­son we wanted to put up a travel chan­nel in the first place.

“When we first thought of cre­at­ing a travel chan­nel, we never thought of go­ing into pro­duc­tion,” Nisha says. “We thought we’d ac­quire ready-made travel con­tent –mostly con­tent about In­dia – so we went to all the con­tent mar­kets.” But they were in for a nasty shock. Why? “Be­cause the con­tent we saw about In­dia was ex­actly the kind of con­tent we didn’t want to show­case! I mean, con­sider – you want to show some beau­ti­ful struc­ture in In­dia, and right next to it you show garbage, beg­gars, dirt. It just takes away from the pic­ture you want to show­case. So we de­cided: ‘this isn’t what we wanted to do!’”

AT THE BE­GIN­NING

“So that’s when Prashant said we’d get into pro­duc­tion. We did have pro­duc­tion ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause prior to that, Prashant had di­rected se­ri­als, but it was all fic­tion; we’d never done a doc­u­men­tary.”

Nisha says their first shoot sched­ule was in Ra­jasthan, and Prashant had gone with them. She re­calls, “They were on the streets, the cam­era was set and they were ready to roll, when Prashant said, “Wait, get a jhaadu (broom)” They were puz­zled, but a broom was brought, and Prashant him­self started sweep­ing the street from one end to the other. Then, he said, ‘Now roll cam­era.’ And that was when the crew got the mes­sage, which they im­bibed and have in­ter­nalised over the years: that wher­ever you shoot, whether in In­dia or abroad, try to catch the beauty of the place and don’t fo­cus on the other side, be­cause ev­ery place has the black and the white. And that’s what the Trav­elxp crew has been do­ing since then.”

“PAS­SION,” SHE SAYS. “THE MOST IM­POR­TANT VALUE PEO­PLE SHOULD HAVE IS PAS­SION TO­WARDS THEIR WORK. BE­CAUSE IF YOU DON’T HAVE THE PAS­SION, YOU CAN’T DE­LIVER WHAT YOU RE­ALLY WANT TO, WHAT YOU MUST DE­LIVER.”

So what did their quest for ex­cel­lence do for Nisha and Prashant Chothani? It de­layed their chan­nel launch from 2008 – when they first thought of cre­at­ing a travel chan­nel based purely on li­censed con­tent – to the 1st of Fe­bru­ary 2011, three years later.

But in the process, they cre­ated the kind of main­stream, fully orig­i­nal and here’s the great big cherry on the cake – fully owned -travel con­tent that is an­tic­i­pated and en­joyed by over 92 mil­lion TV homes in 26 coun­tries world­wide. And over the past seven years of Trav­elxp’s broad­casts, Nisha has been spear­head­ing the cre­ation and pro­duc­tion of all Trav­elxp con­tent that has been shot in more than 55 coun­tries world­wide.

To­day, the ef­forts of Nisha and her en­tire pro­gram­ming team has cre­ated an in­valu­able con­tent li­brary of more than 1000 hours of the best travel con­tent, shot not just in HD, but also in the best res­o­lu­tion of 4K HDR. And now, they’re con­sid­er­ing shoot­ing in 8K.

Their joint pas­sion for ex­cel­lence helped Nisha and Prashant cre­ate the kind of qual­ity that has not only been one of the strong­est USPS of Trav­elxp, but has re­mained as unique and un­matched to­day as it was when they launched in 2011.

THE EX­PAN­SION BE­GAN

And re­mem­ber, the busi­ness world of me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment re­volves around just one thing, con­tent. Nisha has cre­ated great, sticky con­tent that has not only kept au­di­ences com­ing back for more, but also TV dis­tri­bu­tion plat­forms in other ge­ogra­phies reach­ing out to ask for the same kind of ex­cel­lence in travel tele­vi­sion for their TV homes.

Which is why they’ve launched in three coun­tries over the past three months – the UK, Sin­ga­pore, and their sec­ond chan­nel in Canada, which is now the coun­try’s first 24hour chan­nel broad­cast in 4K HDR res­o­lu­tion. What’s next? “Latin Amer­ica, and a few more lan­guage­feed launches in In­dia,” Nisha tells me.

Nisha’s con­tent phi­los­o­phy is pow­ered by one par­tic­u­larly strong be­lief – that when­ever you travel, you do it to make good mem­o­ries, happy mem­o­ries – mem­o­ries that keep you go­ing for the next few months, years or a life­time, even.

“We want to show peo­ple that what you see in our shows is how beau­ti­ful ev­ery place in In­dia ac­tu­ally is, and could al­ways be, if only peo­ple didn’t lit­ter in it, didn’t dirty it.”

I now move to an area that would af­ford me a peep into what drives Nisha Chothani, what makes her tick as a pro­fes­sional and a hu­man be­ing. What are the val­ues she seeks in any­one who wants to join her team at Trav­elxp, I ask her.

“Pas­sion,” she says. “The most im­por­tant value peo­ple should have is pas­sion to­wards their work. Be­cause if you don’t have the pas­sion, you can’t de­liver what you re­ally want to, what you must de­liver.”

“Along with pas­sion are in­tegrity and loy­alty. And, of course, in­de­pen­dent thought. A lot us do just what is told. No, you need to have in­de­pen­dence in your think­ing, you need to be able to put your point across. Con­vic­tion is im­por­tant. As a team, we’ve had a lot of ar­gu­ments, but fi­nally we go with the best ar­gu­ment. And that’s how it should be. But again, I think pas­sion is most im­por­tant. With­out pas­sion it just be­comes drudgery and bor­ing, and then you don’t want to go to work ev­ery morn­ing. And then I don’t think you’d last re­ally long.”

What about their son Tanay? How has she brought him up?

Re­mark­ably, Nisha re­sumed work­ing when Tanay was only seven days old! “I re­sumed work­ing just seven days af­ter Tanay was born, and I prac­ti­cally car­ried him to all my meet­ings, never left him with a nanny.”

To un­wind, Nisha trav­els with her fam­ily and, of late, more with Prashant only be­cause Tanay has been in univer­sity. What else does she do to un­wind? “I like to read, “she says.” Any­thing from mushy ro­mances to bi­ogra­phies; what­ever I can lay my hand on.” Mushy ro­mances? She reads them even now? “Yes,” she smiles. I have a Danielle Steel by my bed-side at all times. I think I must have all the Danielle Steels that have been writ­ten.”

From that idyl­lic space, we move to in­ter-per­sonal re­la­tion­ships. How does she, a re­mark­ably strong woman, man­age her re­la­tion­ships in the per­sonal and pub­lic space, I ask her. “It is very dif­fi­cult,” Nisha says, “be­cause for any­body to ac­cept a very strong woman, it takes time, to be very hon­est. She is con­vinced it takes a strong per­son to ac­cept and re­spect a strong woman; a weak per­son would tend to look for neg­a­tives in a strong woman.”

What ad­vice would Nisha

ONE AD­VICE I AL­WAYS GIVE TO EV­ERY YOUNG PRO­FES­SIONAL IN OUR OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION IS TO FIND THE BAL­ANCE BE­TWEEN WORK AND HOME. I AL­WAYS TELL THEM THAT WHEN YOU ARE AT HOME, FIN­ISH ALL THAT WHICH YOU ARE SUP­POSED TO DO, OR WHAT­EVER IS EX­PECTED OF YOU.

Chothani give the am­bi­tious, as­pi­ra­tional young women of to­day, that would help them chase their dreams?

“One ad­vice I al­ways give to ev­ery young pro­fes­sional in our or­gan­i­sa­tion is to find the bal­ance be­tween work and home. I al­ways tell them that when you are at home, fin­ish all that you are sup­posed to do, or what­ever is ex­pected of you.

OF­FICE EN­VI­RON­MENT

“Also, when you do what is ex­pected of you, then the op­po­site per­son im­me­di­ately starts do­ing a lit­tle more to help you out. Yes, I do be­lieve that both the man and the woman are equally re­spon­si­ble for run­ning the house while work­ing, but at the same time, if there is more ex­pec­ta­tion from the woman, do it. How does it mat­ter? If you can han­dle it, how does it mat­ter?

“So I gen­er­ally tell all my young col­leagues here to do what is ex­pected of them, even if they have to make that lit­tle ex­tra ef­fort of get­ting up half an hour early in the morn­ing, mak­ing a nice break­fast for every­body be­fore leav­ing the house... Be­lieve me, it goes a long way be­cause every­body goes out with a full stom­ach, happy, and you too go out happy be­cause the house is happy; and that could be your child or it could be any­one else.”

With such em­pa­thy and wis­dom, what kind of at­mos­phere does Nisha pro­vide her col­leagues at work?

“Ours is a very open-door pol­icy,” she replies. It is not the num­ber of hours that you work; it’s the pro­duc­tiv­ity that mat­ters.

“So we give that flex­i­bil­ity,” Nisha con­tin­ues. “We have peo­ple get­ting their kids here when the kids have a hol­i­day and they don’t have a place to leave them. So the kids even come down to my cabin and put on the TV and we give them all the good­ies here so they are en­ter­tained. It is like a fam­ily feel­ing, be­cause if they don’t have that com­fort of get­ting their kids then again you will be stressed and you can’t work when you are stressed; es­pe­cially when you are a mother, be­cause I have been a work­ing mother all my life and I know how stress­ful it is, leav­ing a kid be­hind and won­der­ing all the time if he is okay. Is he alone? Has he done his home­work? Has he eaten…? So I don’t want that stress in some­body else’s life.”

That’s when her phone rings, and I can sud­denly tell she needs to get into some­thing else. So the long, in­sight­ful, in­spir­ing chat with Nisha Chothani comes to an end. As we shake hands and I de­part her of­fice, I leave with much re­spect for the smil­ing lady who sits with her easy, supreme con­fi­dence, her pos­i­tive en­ergy, sharp in­ci­sive mind, and a rare, in­fec­tious com­bi­na­tion of pas­sion, ded­i­ca­tion and sen­si­tiv­ity. The highly suc­cess­ful and re­spected TV con­tent pro­fes­sional and leader that is Nisha Chothani. We A hero is some­one who has given his or her life to some­thing big­ger than one­self.

Pre­sent­ing a new se­ries on in­spir­ing women of tremen­dous sub­stance and achieve­ment from the world of me­dia, en­ter­tain­ment, mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing. This is the first part of ‘A MAN’S PER­SPEC­TIVE’, au­thored by award-win­ning com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­tent ex­pert Pa­van R Chawla.

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