best indian podcasts 2020

Best Indian Podcasts

Sanjay Manaktala helped start the current comedy boom in India and created the Global Comedian podcast, which was voted by GQ Magazine as a top podcast in the country.

Kubbra was nice enough to come on my podcast sharing her story.

He currently runs the Birdy Num Num podcast, a fresh long-form content show all about inspiring the creative Indian.

Having received hundreds of thousands of listeners on his shows as well as this blog, he charts out the future of podcasting in India along with some advice on who’s currently doing it well in this country in the English space.

Want to know the top podcasts in India you should be listening to?

Podcasts in India are just getting started.

Indian Podcasts Top

America has demonstrated the power of podcasting platforms like Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.

India is now playing as well with Saavn, Audioboom, and others. Soon the Indian players are catching on and it’s going to be a free for all.

As of February 2020, they’re now various Indian long-form podcast shows online about:

  • Bollywood talk shows and celebrity interviews
  • stand up comedy (hey that’s me!)
  • Funny Indian short stories
  • Fitness and mental health
  • Music and indie music
  • Technology and engineering
  • Entrepreneurship and Startup
  • Dating in India (me again)
  • Education
  • Lifestyle podcasts
  • Financial podcasts (there will be many more in India coming up, just watch, Sensex, nifty, CNBC, yada yada)
  • and pretty much any niche you can think of, soon to be multiplied by Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Punjabi, etc..

As the market heats up, I’m going to list some of my favorite Indian podcasts I enjoy as a millennial in this space.

Well, barely a millennial.

Note: These are podcasts I picked because they actually put out new episodes week to week.

These also aren’t Hindi podcasts because well, I hardly know of many and also, I only know English.

Well, ok, I’ll put one Hinglish podcast on the list.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is an interview or solo audio program (although the video is often released) usually listened to on the phone. It might be a chat show, it might be news or business, but it’s usually of people discussing a topic as broad as Bollywood or as niche as fitness or Indian food.

Since podcasting is still growing in India and Pakistan and Bangladesh/Sri Lanka, it’s important to define what a podcast is for new listeners.

indian web series
My favorite free trial for a podcast service for Indian users.

the Future of Podcasts in India

In India, where internet is dirt cheap, podcasts will grow as languages like Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, Kannada and more start podcasting for all sorts of areas. For example:

  • Uber drivers in Odisha might listen to a podcast on fishing
  • A factory owner in Rajasthan might listen to a podcast in Marwadi about making money blogging.
  • All of India in any language will listen to podcast commentary on cricket.
  • There might even be a podcast to teach you English as we saw in that Mithila Palkar movie Chopsticks
  • A housewife or househusband may listen to a podcast on cooking Italian food.
  • A YouTube makeup artist teenager in Hindi may listen to a podcast on makeup, or start one.
  • Or various English podcasts, like short stories in entertainment, Bollywood Gossip, the news, advertising like IVM podcasts have done, mental health like Dr. Shyam Bhat has started (below) etc…

Why are Podcasts in India Growing?

Spotify just came to the Indian market, Saavn and Audioboom are expanding the market in regional languages and all the other platforms are like to “bro we need to do podcasting.”

YourStory: Podcasts globally are becoming a 20 billion dollar Industry.

But nobody really “gets it” yet.

Do you feel me?

Media portals are probably just going to recycle their YouTube as audio clips or try to bank on celebrities opening up about “their struggle moving from Bandra to Colaba” or just rely on guests to keep the momentum going.


I’m still figuring it out myself. (And it ain’t pretty).

But they’re people who are genuinely trying.

And you should give them a listen to see what it’s all about. Listen in your Ola, at the gym, whatever.

It will be more productive than that 800th IPL highlight or film song.

India is hungry for intellectual and passive/long-form content other than comedy nights with Kapil, so give yourself a chance to get on board with infotainment rather than settlings for that great Hollywood movie but dubbed on Bindass.

What are the major podcast platforms in India?

As of 2019, the major podcasting platforms used today in India are:

  • Spotify
  • Apple iOS
  • Android or Google Podcast App
  • iTunes
  • Apple Watch
  • Alexa
  • Stitcher
  • Saavn
  • Audible (Free Trial)

In fact for some of my podcasts currently, if I simply look at the last 1000 plays on certain episodes, I can see about 50% are from iOS devices.

Which probably means podcasts are still not a “for the masses” product…yet.

I can also see a massive 40% of plays coming from a certain streaming platform in the last year. Can you guess which platform that is? (Comment below).

How to Start a Podcast in India

The crazy thing about podcasting that took me years to figure out is most people will quit after only getting 3 listeners, and after wasting money on gear they don’t need.

But if you’re serious to invest a year into podcasting, and want to start, you need to:

  1. Figure out a topic to talk about, whether lifestyle/motivation, finance, dating, cooking, fitness, etc… You can’t just “talk about what’s on your mind” and also nobody will listen if they can’t understand what it’s about.
  2. Plan ten episodes out. For example, if you were doing a Bollywood podcast you could write:
    • Episode 1: Why Bollywood Doesn’t have an Oscar
    • Episode 2: Latest movie Review
    • Episode 3: Thoughts on SRK Latest interview
    • etc..
  3. Record the podcast into your phone’s audio recorder. Most phones have great microphones these days in a quiet room/dining table, and if you can’t start with that, you have no business buying a professional recorder. Once you’ve got comfortable with a phone recorder, buy a Zoom H4N (Amazon) or similar device.
  4. Use free software Audacity to edit your podcast.
  5. Export final mp3 file and use freemium services like Buzzsprout or others.

Best Indian Web Series on Every Major Platform (October 2019)

ALSO SEE: How to Record Stand Up Comedy

How Long Should a Podcast Be?

Ideally, if you’re listening to a podcast of someone solo, between 10 and 30 minutes. Most interview shows are between 30 and 60 minutes, and some such as the Joe Rogan podcast go for 3 hours or more.

Podcast Hosting in India

Once you have your podcast file done, use a service like AudioBoom, or Buzzsprout to upload your podcast and share it with your friends. There will be more coming in the near future, like Saavn, Spotify and more.


So What are the Best Indian podcasts? They are:

  1. Dr. Shyam Bhat – The State of Mind
  2. Sundeep Rao – the Baby Bed Podcast
  3. Rupen Paul – the Right Room Podcast
  4. Comedian Kritarth – Walks of Life
  5. Kunal Kamra – Shut Up Ya Kunal
  6. Maed In India – Music
  7. Morcast – Interview Chat Show
  8. Cyrus Broacha – Panel on Current Events
  9. Corner Flag – Football with Indian Point Of View
  10. The Ranveer Show – Interviews
  11. Advertising Is Dead – Marketing
  12. 3 Things – Indian Express
  13. The Sandip Roy Show
  14. The Musafir Stories – Travel
  15. The Indian Startup Show – Entrepreneurship
  16. BBC’s My Indian Life – Kalki Koechlin

16 Top Indian Podcasts of 2020.

As of February 2020, these are the best Indian podcasts and why they’re on this list.

1. Dr. Shyam Bhat – the State of Mind Podcast (Mental Health)

Shyam Bhat runs the Live Love Laugh foundation with Deepika Padukone and also is one of the most well known mental health professionals in India.

His advice is so sound and his voice so smooth you won’t even realize you’re improving your life.

Why so dreamy bro? Even if you’re into an Indian spiritual type of podcast, what I love is Shyam is a doctor and doesn’t go all religion/spirits off the bat.

It’s for people who just want to get a hold of their mind, plain and simple. Especially in chaotic India.

It’s never been crazier to be a middle-class Indian, not because we’re patting ourselves on the back for being so stressed but because social media, Swiggy, Bollywood, and pitfalls of modern society have a unique impact on Indian’s that other middle classes may not. (e.g. I used to clean the house when I got stressed in America, now I just stare at my maid and also have a harder time helping myself).

Shyam also answers questions on the video comments and is highly engaging with these topics. He simplifies things like depression into something the common person can understand without fear of judgment.

2. the Baby Bed Podcast with Sundeep Rao (Explicit)

Bangalore based comedian (and my friend, disclaimer) Sundeep Rao is India’s only partially blind stand up comedian but also what a Radio voice this EX-RJ from Radio Indigo has.

I love his take on evergreen topics and he keeps guests to a minimum.

I think too many podcasts in India (mine included) rely only on guests instead of building the artists voice which takes years.

You know Bill Burr did like 500 episodes by himself before we even knew their name right?

And he would call into some phone service to record his podcast, straight up like a ghetto voicemail.

So what’s your excuse to only have guests? Podcasts are a great way to figure out your voice and communication! Sundeep’s topics aren’t always clear from the titles but listen to this episode below and you’ll likely be hooked on his candid way of speaking and his hilarious puns.

Oh the puns! One of my faves!

3. The Right Room Podcast (Interviews with Experts)

Rupen Paul has been working hard at stand up comedy in Bangalore and his Indian podcast is one of the most consistent I’ve seen.

He just started doing new episodes by himself and also reaches out to interview guests from across the world, which I love.

It’s occasionally Indian comedy lessons but also a lot of random topics like:

  • middle-class Indian problems
  • mental health,
  • hustling and working hard
  • Things people between 21 and 35 need to hear.
  • Social media addiction

4. Comedian Kritarth Srinivasan  | Walks of Life Podcast (Alternate Careers)

Kritarth is onto something with his interview series about Indian leaders doing cool careers, and as each episode is different, all I can say is you will find something is so close to home it freaks you out.

A guy who left his Green card to open up a restaurant in JP Nagar? Check.

A girl who designs cartoons after working at Infosys? Check.

Those are examples but you get the idea. Do check it out and find yourself in one of these episodes. And make sure you drop a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use that takes ratings.

5. SHUT UP YA KUNAL KAMRA (Hindi, Politics)

I’m happy to see somebody who doesn’t care about money and fame (I think) getting success in doing something so natural.

Although I personally am not into politics these days, because I think we no longer consume news, we consume anxiety, it’s nice to see someone take the mainstream on its head and do exactly what podcast is meant for…long form honest content with hardly any crazy edits.

As Kunal is having a great year and an even better diet, (see us together on this podcast while it’s up), I’m happy to see real conversations with figures the media keeps poisoning our perception of.

Also Read: Best Indian Shows on Amazon Prime

Also Read: Best Indian Shows on Netflix

6. Maed in India | Mae Mariam Thomas (Music)

Added July 12th, 2019: I’ve known Mae since the early days of comedy clubs in Mumbai. She’s a heavyweight voice in the radio scene with a long history and an amazing personality that always has a smile on her face.

You light up the room dude! I know it’s been some years but glad to see you grinding!

India’s Indie music scene also has it’s own quips and quirks, where mainstream success alludes a lot of people but at the same time, brands and those who “are in” love to be part of the cool subculture.

Mae seems to blend both in this rapidly growing podcast that I’ve been hearing so much about. Reminds me of KEXP YouTube with an Indian twist and I love it and hope it grows (along with my own LOL).

7. Morcast (Chat Show)

Anshu Mor is an older comedian who started later in life, but I’ve been observing his grind the last few years.

He works harder than most younger guys and this podcast is evident of how hard he’s trying.

He has a nice style and candid demeanor and I see a future Atul Khatri in the making. (I mean that as a compliment, not an insult LOL).

Keep it up bro. This episode with Kubra Sait opening up about working in the Bollywood Industry, Sacred Games, her journey and so on is honestly what podcasting is all about.

Long-form honest content that is both vulnerable and unfiltered and highly engaging.

8. Cyrus Broacha Says (Panel)

Hello Hello Cyrus. Please also let other people speak though.

I love this because he’s been at before it was cool and continues to just do his thing despite all his other media commitments. This Indian news and pop-culture podcast talks about everything under the sun and it’s quite engaging to hear them all go at it. (That’s another trick with podcasting, is to learn how to not step on each other’s conversations).

I personally don’t think podcasts in India need to have the full studio setup (you can hack studio sound in your dining room if you learn what you’re doing) but regardless, it’s great how they jump right into whatever topics and guests. I see you, Abbas, also.

Most entertainers who try to do podcasts don’t realize it’s gotta be raw, casual and metaphorically in your chaddis and I just love the tone they took in the studio with buddies hanging out.

RANT: What annoys me the most is people who try to start podcasts and gel their hair and treat it like some super fake/produced show. Ufff. I don’t need to see fairy lights in the background at 1.8 aperture with Ananya Pandey telling me what she ate for breakfast. Podcasts should feel honest and intimate or casual, not put on as a marketing exercise. I don’t care about Quinoa Shilpa Shetty.

That’s not podcasting! (But it still gets views…sigh).

Find a cool topic that’s at least somewhat interesting and drill into some honesty!

Ok rant over, check out this clip from Cyrus Says which is also by one of the main podcast studios in Mumbai, IVM podcasts. I hope things pick up in this medium! (LOL and I hope a good chunk stays in English for those of us who only communicate in that).

But even if more Hindi podcasts catch wind I guess that’s a good thing overall. As they do, you’ll start seeing your Uber driver listening to a chat show about India’s next space mission, or maybe your maid listen to someone talk alternative careers. The scope will be quite cool!

Speaking of Being Honest about yourself, If You Care What People Think, Think again.


9. The Corner Flag (FOOTBALL)

Indian fans of the European and Worldwide football can rejoice in this chat show about sports with comedian Amogh Ranadive.

If you like hearing commentary on the latest Premiere league (or other) antics with an Indian twist this might just be the Indian chat show for you. I personally don’t follow sports at all (not even Cricket, sorry) but if you enjoy hour long discussions on the latest sports gossip give it a go!

10. The Ranveer Show

Popular YouTuber BeerBiceps who I discovered through my buddy BeYouNick (another funny sketch channel) initially started as a fitness channel but is not moving into longer form content about unique stories and life advice.

He has naturally collaborated with others in the YouTube space but now also interviews people who have unique Indian stories about money, entertainment, finding your passions and more.

11. Advertising Is Dead

Varun Duggirala discusses all things marketing in this podcast about advertising, digital India, marketing, agency life and a bunch of other topics that those in the ad worlds of Ogilvy and the like would enjoy.

It was also Ogilvy who said that your headline is 80 cents on your dollar and these guys know that with engaging episode titles that will surely make you want to listen!

12. 3 Things – The Indian Express Podcast

Wow, over 600 episodes! But thanks to being in the news genre there is always content and these folks deliver on a daily episode that either recaps the news or goes deep on a few key Indian stories.

In a time of dwindling journalism and unethical media it’s nice to see some folks still grounded in educating the country on what matters! While still recognizing most of us only have the patience for three things!

13. The Sandip Roy Show

Another gem from the Indian express from a veteran journalist trying to make sense of the good parts of the world in another wise crowded and noisy world.

Intelligent conversations with engaging momentum. Perfect for the weights after the treadmill or on those one hour Delhi to Mumbai flights!

14. The Musafir Stories

India has so much to see it’s a shame most poeple just go to the Taj Mahal and bounce.

This is one of the best Indian travel podcasts whether you’re a mountain baby or just a city dweller looking for some audio relief and travel ideas.

15. The Indian Startup Show

UK based NRI Neil Patel talks to key Indian people from across the world doing interesting things in entertainment, finance, startups and pretty much anything non-conventional.

If you’re looking for a podcast on Indian entrepreneurs this is it and it’s updated pretty frequently.

16. BBC and Kalki Koechlin – My Indian Life

YouTube comments are a little polarizing depending on the topic but a well produced show makes for an interesting intersection of society and East meets West with a well known name in Bollywood.

Kalki Koechlin is well known in the cinema circles and also on newer progressive topics, and it’s easy to see why here.


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Best Indian Web Series on All Major Platforms

Any other podcasts you want on this list I don’t know about?

What do you personally think are the best podcast to listen to in India? Or even in South Asia?

Do comment below or DM me on Instagram and I’ll have a look.

But ideally, comment so I know you read this. I simply ask that these podcasts are updated regularly.

If you really want to chat, also tell me WHY these podcasts are interesting (e.g. more than just they talk to Bollywood celebs).

Happy listening!

Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.

microbreweries in india

How to Start a Brewery in India

These days everybody who gets bored with the rat race thinks at 30 they should start a bar.

Many try.

Few succeed.

I’m fascinated by the current craft beer and microbrewery craze in India.

Bira, Big Brewsky, and all of those others folks brewing stuff that we pretend to understand the meaning of.

“Oh wow, this one has more hops, and this one is a more smoky and nutty flavor? Ok awesome!”


Regardless of the brewpub culture and beer snobs, there is one place since I moved to Bangalore that very quickly became synonymous with the city of Bengaluru.


Or as the co-owner, Sibi Venkataraju corrects me in my podcast…Toit “Brewpub.”

A great talk about drinking and alcohol with a pub owner. Loved it.

How Do You Start a Microbrewery In India?

You get used to meeting government officials and navigating through permits and laws.

I moved to Bangalore in 2010 and I remember the hearing buzz about a new restaurant that opened up.

Flash forward a couple of visits, I was introduced to Sibi since I was also doing a lot of stand up comedy in the city.

I distinctly remember him telling me he left a corporate job in Singapore at some boutique IT firm to open up this behemoth venue.

My first thought was…why?

Why Quit your Job To Start a Restaurant?

Why would you leave a cushy place like Singapore, to come to India, fight with regulators and corrupt folks to open up a liquor venue…in a specialty that isn’t even defined at the time the way a normal pub or restaurant or bar might be?

I mean, opening up a bar or restaurant scares me in my core.

Million-dollar bars and restaurant wipe out people’s life savings when the government decides almost overnight to change this rule or that. Are you nuts bro?

I didn’t say that to him of course.

Thankfully my podcast has been growing (or brewing?) and and after a few months of hounding him (To be fair, he was busy opening up Toit in Pune), Sibi finally stopped by my studio aka my house to talk about how one can open a microbrewery in Bangalore and also doing life lessons on doing business in India.

These days everyone is trying to open up a craft beer place.

Investors are eager to dump money in…and just like stand up comedy we’re seeing in India, it’s going to quickly all start feeling the same while also letting a few stars who are unique shine through.

That being said, I loved what Sibi had to say.

No need to watch for listen, I’ve included them here but paraphrased some big takeaways if you don’t have the time. (I know you do though).

Lessons from India’s Microbrewery Industry

On being the best at what you’re known for

  • If you do most things better than most people, you’ll do fine. Toit got a headstart in the market but kept their USP as great beer, no judgments, and a unique branding/style.

On Social Media

  • Sibi is not really into social media gimmicks, which I sort of disagree with. But we had an engaging discussion on when you need it (e.g. Come in now and get 50% off by using our hashtag!) and when you just focus on good food and beer. Places like Social in Koramangala and Khar do it well, but Toit hasn’t really needed to. But should you even if the business is fine? (e.g. or have a cute sign that people want to post on their Instagram or make your food look hip enough get filtered)

You’re only NEW once. Will you make the most of it?

  • People like new, but by its own definition, the word has an expiry date. How will you stand out with a bang? How will you REALLY make use of your first-mover advantage and not just be complacent? (Toit shy’s away from crazy live event nights or Karaoke)

ALSO SEE: Who In Your Life Enables you To Be Average?

On that creative itch nagging you while you’re in your cubicle

  • If you have a creative itch, it’s not going to go away. Unlike what your mom says…scratch it often and scratch it early.

On having one clearly defined goal

  • Their goal was always to not just be one of the best breweries in Bangalore or to be a successful restaurant, but to be known for “sending it since 2010” and be one of those classic institutions you relate the city’s name with. Ask any Bandra kid visiting Bangalore and you’ll hear them go “BROOOO TOIT BROOOO.”
How I envision most Bandra or Indiranagar 21 year olds.

On having Humility

  • Humility to recognize your good fortune was the possibly right place and the right time. (e.g. Would Toit or Windmills or Bira be as successful had they started today, with a more crowded market and a more educated consumer? Who knows).

Bangalore’s Bar Scene

Sibi and I also talked about a few other very important topics that are near and dear to my heart. Specifically:

  • Do we need to learn to control our alcohol? And the real reasons why we drink?
  • Guys who roll 10 guys into a place and expect a miracle to happen for them.
  • Why some bars and pubs survive in Bangalore and why others don’t.
  • Joking around about the Bangalore nightlife culture.

TOIT Tales from the Birdy Num Num Podcast

The whole chat is on this channel in increments, the one hour video should be out by August 2019.


Read Next: How To Quit Alcohol for Six Months

India’s beer industry is changing, yet just like the comedy market, youTube market and pretty much any market…if you don’t stay true to your guns you’ll disappear in a crowded space.

You can learn a lot about yourself by consuming alcohol, but you can also learn a lot about the human condition by selling it.

Specifically, in business, in life, in relationships and anything else…The only thing harder than getting to the top is staying there.


Aswathi Balakrishnan How to be a fashion blogger

How to Be A Fashion Blogger in India

In this post, I’m going to explain some real advice on how you can actually build followers on Instagram and social media by working in fashion blogs. Special thanks to Aswathi Balakrishnan for the inputs on the Birdy Num Num podcast.

how to fashion blog in iNdia

Be warned, being a top fashion blogger in India or anywhere, especially on Instagram, is competitive and difficult. The hunt for more followers can be challenging…but not impossible.

If I can do it, anyone can.

Aswathi Balakrishnan, Social Media Influencer and Leading Blogger in India
Aswathi Balakrishnan How to be a fashion blogger
Fashion blogging and Instagram influencer marketing are doable by anyone. But it’s real work bro.

How Do You Become a Fashion Blogger?

I started to wonder, in an increasingly crowded space, how do you maintain your creativity and identity, where unlike in comedy or acting or singing, somebody else could wear the same outfit or modify your copy (captions) and take a similar point of view?

So I reached out into my network to see who would want to talk about it.

And luckily Aswathi is one of the top influencers in Bangalore, is awesome and recognizes the more you have nothing to hide or disclose the more you succeed.

The full clips and snippets are below, but basically what I took away from the chat was that being a model or blogger on Instagram is a lot of planning, dedication, client work, and brand building.

Introducing Aswathi Balakrishnan

Aswathi is also one of the top south Indian fashion bloggers, beauty bloggers, and most knowledgable social media marketers in the country and also kills it in the Instagram and digital marketing game.

To the newcomer who simply thought it’s about pretty pictures and easy money (I apologize wholeheartedly), it is much more than that.

In fact, dare I say…you can learn a lot from a style or makeup blogger to apply (pun, get it) to your own social media marketing strategies.

What is a Fashion Blog?

Sanjay: So what’s a fashion blog? Is it Instagram? Or writing? I’m confused.

Aswathi: A fashion blog is loosely defined as a blog, or Instagram post, or youTube channel with the goal of promoting lifestyle, fashion and more. As the personal brand of the individual expands, you’ll see more and more content around fashion, travel, makeup, beauty, wellness, technology, etc…

Sanjay: I see…

Birdy Num Num podcast

Before, some context on the social media and fashion blogging craze, hot of the press from last week:

Zara’s Indian partner just announced a cheaper fashion chain of Instagram styles it plans to bring to stores.

  • You will literally see something on your feed on Monday.
  • Buy it on Tuesday
  • As is the case with fast fashion, wash it twice and then never wear it again.

Oh Lord, help us.


We live in a world that is changing daily.

People with cell phone videos are quickly becoming more credible than outdated news reporters, kids are funnier than industry protected celebrities, and in the world of fashion…the eyeballs are moving to creativity, individual styles, and social media.

In fact, you don’t need to see it to believe it, you’re already living it.

Chances are you probably saw way more subtle advertising on your Instagram feed this morning than Hermes or H&M catalogs you read.

Influencing is now, in 2019, actually becoming…well…influencing.

Instagram’s Influencer Marketing in India

Is the Instagram “GRID” the future of shopping?

As a stand-up comedian, my first observation from the world was simply looking at girls trying to be models on Instagram.

I’ve always been fascinated by girls who get 5000 likes on a selfie.

And a little jealousy, fine.

But growing up I dismissed it as, pardon my candor…just hot girls getting likes because dudes in Indore have free time.

That’s me talking about the Wanderlust ladies in 2017.

Also, as a content creator, especially one above 30 I was probably more annoyed at how I spend 60K INR (1K USD) to make a video with camera’s and editing and food and labor and cabs and crew and TIME…and these girls put up a pouty selfie on a 4-second boomerang and get 1M views.

This fashion blogging is some bullsh*t…Or so I thought. Jio is a blessing and a curse.

Then years back I had cast Aswathi through my other friend Varun Agarwal in one of my sketch comedy maid videos with Sumukhi Suresh and I, and my eyes had opened up.

Through my non-designer sunglasses of course. So here we are.

Watch for Aswathi and me in the last maid comedy video I created.

What is Fashion Blogging?

This industry is some serious work.

There’s a right way to do it (Aswathi) and a wrong way to do it. (I leave no names).

But the same industry can be ripe for abuse.

Problems of Fashion Blogging (India or anywhere):

  • abuse by copycats,
  • ulterior motives and…
  • just like we’re seeing with stand up comedy…a game set up for easy cash and then commodity.

Top fashion influencers in India like Santoshi Shetty and Komal Pandey share their style tips, charge money for influencing and help brands build buzz on their sales and product launches.

In a simplified definition, on top of the great definition above, Fashion Blogging is also

  • posting content about fashion to build awareness and engagement through fashion blog mediums (as mentioned above, IG, WordPress, twitter, etc..)
  • inspire and influence increasingly fashionable consumers
  • ultimately drive sales
  • attend industry events, brand activations, etc…
  • Massive digital marketing.

What isn’t Fashion Blogging?

  • Not having a strategy
  • Not having a goal in mind (e.g. thinking to yourself that you want to be the top Instagram blogger for Ray-Ban)
  • Not planning posts (not using apps like Planoly or whatever is popular to plan your next 30 posts).
  • Randomly putting out an image of you and your cat. Called “off brand” in the business.

A lot of girls (and guys) get 10K IG followers, quit their job and then realize later when the audience has moved onto the next person.

“Oh wow, you have to promote your local pizzeria, think long and hard about your style choices, create a WordPress blog also.” (e.g. What do these Fashion bloggers do if IG makes you pay for reach tomorrow?) and also find a way to monetize your audience.

How Much do Fashion Bloggers earn in India?

Top bloggers like Santoshi Shetty and Komal Pandey can charge anywhere between 10,000 INR for an IG story to more than 5 lakh for a full-on post.

The range all depends on:

  • the product,
  • how many organic followers the person has
  • the budget (duh)
  • if any barter is involved (e.g. keep a free phone worth 50,000 INR)
  • the audience (e.g. is it a million dollar Infosys product or just a biryani nearby)
  • the number of posts aka deliverables.

What are Deliverables in Fashion Blogging?

  • Number of Instagram posts
  • Number of Tweets
  • Number of Retweets (from brand’s twitter)
  • Number of Instagram Stories
  • Number of youTube Videos
  • Number of Facebook Shares (from Brand’s page)
  • Number of Native Facebook Posts (on your page to your audience)

Fashion Blogging isn’t Easy

This is a serious plan, with strategy, metrics, techniques and of course, styles.

You need to do market research, understand trends, see how best to engage with audiences and what the market is looking for.

Just like anybody in comedy can tell a couple of dirty jokes, anybody on Instagram can put up a pic.

And just like with comedy, context and purpose can be everything.

Quality is a Different Quantity

A person with 10K followers who gets 1K likes per post is way more valuable than someone with 100K followers with 100 likes per post.

(And yes Sharon, both of those pages have organic followers. But that’s how much engagement varies.)

What Does an Influencer Do Daily?

Social Media influencing has come a long way worldwide. But I’ve always wondered what does it really mean to be a fashion blogger or “influencer”?

And how is social media influencing different or unique in India, with so much more Instagram likes, comments, and also…strange social media behavior?

Like I get that they have to keep up with the latest fashion trends in India, they’re some of the most viewed profiles of Indian girls on Instagram, and the term is synonymous with “Indian Instagram models” (well any country actually) or modeling.

And yes creepy dudes like to slide into your DM’s everywhere.

Aswathi basically summed it up that she plans her week out, she goes on shoots, she answers emails from brands, she plans out her GRID on her feed (the front page of your brand), and for those brands that she’s really keen to work with…it’s ok to be proactive. She also makes it a point to not read those strange messages.

But ultimately your work speaks for itself.

In the Instagram fashion blogging world…your resume IS your work.

Brands take 10 seconds to quickly scan your feed and then decide from there.

Is Jio reducing the value of a LIKE?

I also have this theory I’m working on to explore in my podcast and stand up comedy shows that Jio and cheap internet is creating an artificial bubble in the likes/comments/advertising game.

Example: Some girl at your gym has 1M Instagram followers for honestly nothing more than looking very nice. She’s not an actor, she’s not a fitness coach, she’s not a comedian or a writer…she just…is.

If a million people follow her and 90% of those are from some small village or Bangladesh or wherever…does it really make sense for that person to get 5L to post a pic holding up a $100 shampoo saying “#NowOnAmazon? Is anyone in Bangladesh going to buy that shampoo ever?

Is a potential bubble going to burst across the world because guys in a net cafe in Dhaka are liking every single Instagram pic with cleavage they see?

Luckily Aswathi is fully aware of the situation, but like a filmmaker who can’t do anything but to ignore the massive problem of piracy, you just gotta keep moving the ball forward and not get involved in things that don’t affect your business.

Redefining the term NONE OF YOUR “BUSINESS!”

Ok sorry, had to.

But in a nutshell…You know your brand, you know your strategy and in deep in your heart of hearts, you know where you’re adding value and where you’re not.


These days everybody wants to be YouTube or Instagram celebrity, but most don’t realize that as with anything in life, nothing is as easy as it seems.

You will see that guy or girl from your college who explodes overnight or gets a movie or viral video, but for the majority of us, we need a much more thoughtful approach.

You’d rather build a strong loyal audience than aim for masses.

If you don’t believe me, look at how long any social media person has been posting and you can most likely trace their first posts and see their grind/struggle until something clicked.

Alicia Souza is not a fashion blogger, but she’s a great example of tracing someone’s journey through their work. Ditto with Varun Agarwal.

Go slow to go fast as my friend Rajiv Satyal says.

TL;DR: Quality over Quantity leads to Quantity you Want (Followers)

For anybody who wants to know how to succeed in this game and build real followers and engagement, I urge you to listen to the clips above or simply follow Aswathi on Instagram!

The FULL AUDIO ONLY 1 Hour chat with Aswathi on all audio podcast platforms is here on the Birdy Num podcast.

sanjay manaktala ub city

Why is Bangalore Traffic So Bad? (2019)

I’ve lived in Bangalore for close to 10 years now.

When I landed at 3AM I remember driving through an empty MG road and looking at the Metro pillars thinking….oh nice…just in time. I asked my cab driver “Oh wow is Bangalore traffic always this nice?”

He laughed.

“Just you wait. You will need to learn how to survive traffic in Bengaluru”

Oh boy.

Take a look at any Bangalore traffic map, or simply fire up your Google maps and notice wherever you need to go…it’s going to be at least 30 minutes.

How To Reduce Traffic in Bangalore?

Namma Metro (Bangalore’s metro system) was supposed to fix a lot of things.

Unfortunately, metro construction is probably the slowest in the world, with I’m assuming on average about 2KM per year being constructed.

Ironic considering Dubai metro is built by Indians too, and gets built at a rate of 10KM per year.

Yes yes, I know, things are different over there and in China.

But regardless… in 7 years of its operation I’ve taken the metro ONCE.

In fact, I once walked from Trinity Circle to Brigade road to meet someone only to realize looking up after 30 minutes of sweating..oh crap, I just walked between two metro stations.

Traffic jams are constantly on the mind of Bangalorean’s and whether it’s Silk Board or Marathahalli Bridge, it’s a daily disaster. You step outside in this day and age and when you reach your destination you just want to do a 5-minute meditation to clear your head. It’s no wonder you see a MindFit or yoga studio on pretty much every corner now.

Who can fix the traffic congestion problem?

So what’s the real issue here? Everybody likes to blame the government. Corruption, lack of execution, red tape, bureaucracy.

For sure. I’m with you.

But in this day and age of technological innovation, engineering marvels, and any service at your finger tips (especially in India where you can get a meal, massage and Amazon in minutes) I’m going to blame another culprit.

Convenience. Swiggy. Uber. Zomato.

I have this theory that’s quite simple. Bridges and trains and transportation evolved out of pressing needs. Things got done because there was no other solution.

Golden Gate Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, you get the idea. People are gonna have our heads…let’s build this damn bridge! *Ahem not…hey, there is already massive traffic here, lets have a parade during rush hour to celebrate my kid’s birthday or dig up this road again for who knows what*

Bangalore traffic is choking daily, but it continues to stuff its face because the majority of middle-class consumers aren’t looking ahead…they’re looking down.

Ten years ago if it took you 90 minutes to go from Whitefield to Koramangala, you would be staring out the window cursing the politician’s face you passed by on every hoarding.

Often times the delay isn’t even due to a traffic accident or any construction….it just is what is. Some auto just stopped to have some chai…and that causes a big redirect of traffic. Oh well.

As you missed your kids birthday party because of a traffic signal problem or the tea break causing a pointless 40-minute delay, you’d probably scream and shout at your local government official to do something about it.

Sundeep Rao is from Bangalore and talks about the city and overcrowding.

Today you watch comedy videos on your phone, listen to podcasts (ahem, check mine above) and do your grocery shopping. You chat with friends and enjoy the cheapest Internet in the world.

If you’re really, angry, you MIGHT send an email if you have the patience to look at their mySpace themed government website.

You even take a conference call when you’re not losing signal between army areas…because when you get home you need to “disconnect.”


Social media, YouTube and a million other distractions have given governments (and private citizens) a way to mitigate infrastructure’s problems.

We kind of just “deal with it” because it’s not like we’re not spending another 2 hours working once we get home.

We handle that in traffic while sitting in the back of an Uber. But it’s not really fixing anything, it’s just shifting the headache.

Rather than spending another 20 minutes buying veggies and cooking at home, you realize it’s already 7PM, dinner won’t be ready by 9 so you may as well just give the luxury of waiting in line to your Swiggy guy. By the time you get home, having watched a NetFlix episode of Narcos, your Swiggy food is at your security and you’re ready to chill.

You’ve had a long exhausting day after all, being driven in the back of that taxi while your headphones kept falling out.

Rather than building more parking lots, we leave our cars at home and let Uber’s roam the streets in a moving swarm.

Rather than participating in our local discussions we share a pic on social media of that one time we participate in the political process…then go back to our Netflix.

I’m not saying I have the solution, but just like somebody who constantly complains about their job being a dead end or never having any romantic interests….nothing good will happen if you just sit on your phone.

Or blog about it.

(Yes I knew you were going to type that.)

Read Next: How To Get an Onsite Role

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In life, you update your resume, hit the gym and learn to make metaphorical steps to change your situation.

Maybe we should all start taking real steps instead.

I doubt Elon Musk likes sitting in city council meetings with technologically ignorant politicians trying to explain how self-driving cars are going to be a real thing but he needs them to update street lights, signals, and so on.

I doubt Zucks enjoyed explaining the BASICS of Facebook to 75 year politicians who stare at their phone the way I stare at the sun.

But I mean if they’re doing it with billions of dollars in the bank, what’s our excuse? You don’t have time to walk into your local official’s office once in six months because your so busy…cursing an inanimate street light?

People in Indiranagar (a trendy area in Bangalore filled with pubs) always complain about the noise, thanks to a million pubs that open up there daily. But whether you agree with it or not, the cops shut those pubs down or keep changing rules because those people are constantly on their heads to keep it down.

And you know why that gets done?

Because as of now, there’s no app to block out the noise.

Varun Agarwal Motivation Anu Aunty

Varun Agarwal (Book, Instagram and Engineering)

Varun Agarwal is quite a celebrity in Bangalore, the young entrepreneurial startup world (e.g. guys who watch TVF Pitchers and Silicon Valley) and also in the digital and film space.

He is most known for his company the Alma Mater store, later the e-learning company app Grades Don’t Matter and of course his best selling book “How I Braved Anu Aunty and co-founded a million dollar company.”

His journey has been an exciting one with a film now in the works by Nitesh Tiwari, the director who also did Dangal.

Although he’s doing a lot, we do make time to hang out and recently he stopped by the Birdy Num Num podcast to discuss:

  • creativity,
  • mistakes young Indian entrepreneurs continue to make
  • and the whole follow your passion debate.

I also thought I’d jot down my five favorite videos of his, including many we’ve done together.

Mainly because I see a lot of motivational and entrepreneurial fluff by people who don’t understand creativity and communication. But also we can chart both his and my progress over the years by the content we produce. And just like in life, sometimes you go backwards.

But that’s ok, even though the fake motivators don’t tell you that.

Yes you can start an app, yes you can follow your dreams…but most of those people are only successful at books on the exact same topic…e.g. Listen to me tell you how to be successful because I’m only successful at telling people how to be successful…not that I’ve built a successful restaurant or clothing business.

Lessons to Learn from Entrepreneur Varun Agarwal

We met in 2014 when he approached me to help write one of India’s first truly viral videos, the Anu Aunty Engineering Anthem. We’ve had the pleasure of being buddies ever since.

Varun Agarwal on Engineering and Anu Aunty

In 2014 sometime around September Varun approached me to work on writing a song for the jaded engineers of our beloved India. Since I had done plenty of similar work on the IT Guy series, and we both lived in Koramangala, the startup center of Bangalore, I figured why not.

Most videos get stuck on the planning shelf for a while, we jumped right in and of course cast a then little known Sumukhi Suresh.

It was also my first time shooting on a fancy camera with director Sam Mohan (who know has helped make Emiway famous by shooting much of his work).

The video quickly picked up 1M views (a lot back in those days) and made us mini-celebrities in India for a while.

It also taught me very quickly that in this game, short term success means nothing (which we discuss in my podcast below).

This was shot in one and a half days. Imagine.

Having a Startup

Despite that, Varun continued to parlay his experience into speaking and see how that could help grow his brand.

Most talks on the Indian TedX circuit can be a bit fluffy, but as you can see by his casual jeans and straightforward attitude, this is anything but.

Real advice for real results. And almost 4M views as of July 2019.

WOW. Another lesson for creators, update your thumbnails.

Ted Talks and INK Talks have become a sort of motivational porn these days also, where in India we see one format in the west and then beat it to death.

So after viewing a bunch of clips, I was inspired to take the stand-up comedy sketch angle and make the following which Varun was a good sport about…

Varun Agarwal on Millennials

Hey bro, I have a startup that writes about other startups that are starting up.


Eaves drop on any conversation in a StarBucks in Koramangala in Bangalore (because Cafe Coffee Day is whack bro) and you’ll hear people with million dollar ideas but 10 rupee execution.

So we took a dig at that whole world of what motivates the motivator.

This was an idea I had after watching a documentary about hipsters, and I shot/edited/released it in a matter of a few days. And sometimes, for the future creators..that’s all it takes rather that months of planning and writing on one single thing.

Which brings me to our journey together in 2019, after 5 years of being friends and colleagues.

The funny thing about our world is even if things look super successful on the outside, they’re anything but.

I can’t speak for Varun but I know if I was still working at Accenture now, I’d probably be making more than doing this whole creative thing on my own.

Whether it be youTube sketch writing, stand up comedy, film making or blogging, things come and they go.

But as I discuss with Varun finally on my podcast over water bottles (and not beers for once)….you need to really be into something for the long haul, so when you hate it, you still secretly need it.

Check out the full audio podcast and the youTube snippet below.

4. Varun Agarwal | Podcast

In case it’s not embedded on your phone, here’s the podcast with Varun.

5. Varun Agarwal | the one Mistake an Entrepreneur Makes

Please do have a listen to the 3-minute snippet and let me know your thoughts below.

Do you think most startup people talk the talk or walk the walk?

Are they addicted to the result or the actual journey? And for the video creators, what can you learn from your work?


Varun Agarwal has become the poster boy for Indians who want to do something else other than what society programs us to do. It’s fine to do engineering and medicine if you really want to, but many people don’t follow their dreams and then wake up at 40 to unhappiness and fancy cars.

What’s your ideal mix of a successful, fulfilling and happy life for the ambitious Indian man or woman?

Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.

How To Enjoy Your Wedding

Please Enjoy Your Own Wedding

As a groom and a stand-up comedian what a whirlwind weekend having a big fat wedding can be. I’ve wanted to write about it for a while but didn’t know what to say. They’re plenty of tips and tricks style articles on the internet about Indian weddings and Western Weddings but I wanted to take a fresh approach on what makes it truly a good experience as a bride a groom in any wedding where you’ll probably have more than 100 guests all there for you.

How Do You Enjoy Your Own wedding?

So how do you enjoy your wedding? I’ll explain it all below and tactically what I mean, but in a nutshell, you need to expect that things WILL go wrong or late and you need to be present. That’s really it.

And one major tip I’ll end this post on.

How to do stand up comedy in India
You ready?

What Nobody Tells About Wedding Planning

Billion-dollar industries exist on wedding preparation, but very few talk about wedding execution. It sounds so silly that we work out, research and train but then rarely focus on playing the game. Mainly because with weddings there is usually only one game per life but I mean hey, it still counts to have fun playing.

There’s a joke I remember during our Indian wedding planning experience I kept cracking.

My wife never laughed but I still like it.

“Oh you thought this wedding was about US? no no no, it’s for everybody else.”

Intelligent Uncle.

But I love that.

And to enjoy a wedding, you need to focus on everybody else, but also internally…you need to EXPERIENCE your wedding.

As Daniel Kahneman in the NYT Bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow says…you have two selves.

The experiencing self and the remembering self.

A movie that’s 99.9% amazing with a crap ending lets the remembering self ruin the experiencing self because all you’ll remember is that the ending sucked. The memory is all you got and you don’t care that you were on the edge of your seat and laughing/focused for two hours. You just care that you’ll remember the entire experience based on the ending…it sucked.

Using that to recall my own wedding…although we had our own minor hiccups with girls running late and a few food items off from what we ordered (every wedding does)…I remember that luckily I planned to slot in some free time for myself, my wife and my friends and that made ALL the difference.

Being Present Doesn’t Mean Namaste Although It Does Mean More Than Hello

All the planning, all the expenses (where’s that cry emoji when you need it), all the family fun, love, drama (Indian no wedding is complete without it) came and by in a flash.

But in those moments, I made it a point to:

  • chat with friends I hadn’t seen,
  • family I was getting to know,
  • dance to music we were paying a bomb for,
  • sneak a bite at someone’s table,
  • take a drag, umm swig of that drink…
  • and just find time to just sit in the corner and take it all in.

I had a few heart to hearts, cried a good chunk and just realized how lucky I was to be able to experience this experience.

People might see you sitting alone or eating your feed for 40 seconds by yourself…but you SHOULD do that. You’re paying thousands of dollars for flowers so yes…hell yes…stop and smell the roses.

Does that make sense?

We totally forgot to eat all that amazing food we ordered, and you probably will to by the way.

It’s 2019, both my wife and my family are “woke” and modern, but now that a few months have passed I realize more and more, that more than the fireworks, the alcohol and the food….I was just having a good time in the MOMENT.

So my advice to you is:


How to Be Present at Your Wedding

For the love of God…do whatever you have to do to prepare how to be PRESENT.

  • Meditate. (meaning, learn to sit without your phone and just look at the wall for 10 minutes a day).
  • Work out.
  • Learn to let things go. Decorator adding 5% or a last minute RSVP/cancellation came in? Cool, you’ll figure it out.
  • Practice dancing and getting on stage at some local open mic or toastmasters for your speeches.
  • Ignore that the hotel just charged you $600 for towels you ruined in the Mehendi.

It all doesn’t matter in the long run.

During the Hindu or Christian wedding ceremony (or whichever you do)…actually, close your eyes and enjoy the priest’s chants and fire from the ceremony in front of you.

Breathe it in bro-bro.

You will constantly be pulled in various directions. Photographers and makeup people will take up all your newlywed’s time when you’re not at the events you’re paying for.

You will be so overwhelmed you will actually look like this by the 80th “pose for” photo.

But you’re not there for your make-up artists Instagram page OR missing an hour of your reception because you need to take glamour shots outside by the moonlight (do that later).

What good is showing up and looking gorgeous in photos if all you remember when you see those photos are how the band stopped an hour after you entered, and you barely said more than “Hi/Hello” to anybody?


Most couples at weddings, especially those above 100 people seem so busy with EVERYONE that in reality, they’ve spent quality time with no one.

Your friends (even your best friends) think you want to be with family, your family thinks you want to be with friends or your partner, and then aside from selfies and dancing superficially, real connections and bonds aren’t really exercised aside from the shot at that bar.

So what I tell all my friends to do now, and I’m glad we did at our wedding to actually make ourselves enjoy it.

Talk to each guest for 180 seconds.

3 Minutes.

After a minute and the selfie, it has to get real. They’ll say something like “Ok I’m sure everybody is asking for your attention I’ll let you get back to it” but in reality where do you have to go? THIS is the reason we’re all here right?

But 3 minutes is a long time at the moment, and your college roommate who once upon a time you were best friends with will cherish that moment for a while.

Now do those 3 minutes with 50 other groups of people and you’re good.


Everybody talks about the food, the customs, the pictures, the decoration. Once you have that all figured out, please come back here and read this again.

For wedding planning….why not PLAN…to ENJOY IT.


do nice guys really finish last

Nice Guys Finish Last. But What’s the Hurry?

Updated March 1st, 2019

Many years ago I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend at the time, hearing her yell at me about something I don’t even remember.  I was just looking at the wall pretending to pay attention when she immediately got wind of my daydreaming and said “yada yada your mother…yada yada yada….Sanjay WHAT DID I JUST SAY?!?”

“Ummm, you were talking about my mom and err…..Look, I’m a nice guy.  A good person.  I can’t fight over this.’

“Excuse me? Fight over what?”

“Well, to be honest…nothing.”

Funny, but dangerous.

Are You a Nice Guy?

As self-serving as that statement may sound (and trust me, I know it sounds horrible), I’m proud to admit that I’m a nice guy.  

I don’t mean nice in a I’m better than you sort of way.  

I mean I’m nice like…I’m relaxed.  Low maintenance.  Easy going.   And more often than not, even in those moments when you’re supposed to be selfish, like asking for a raise or getting the upper hand in business, success or romance with women (or men), I honestly don’t give a fu*k.

Does the World Care About Nice People?

We live in a world that appreciates people who are selfish.  Trust me, I know.  So do you. You’ve seen it and you’ve lived it.  

Even the origin of the phrase “Nice Guys Finish Last” was meant to promote a victory in sports rivalries, which surprise surprise was based in New York. *cough wolf of Wallstreet cough*

When you answer that girl’s SMS/Whatsapp/Snapchat the second you see it, she thinks you’re desperate.  When you hold off or actually get busy and don’t give a shit, you’re rewarded by becoming the predator from the prey.  

The reward system of life encourages us to be selfish in many places, contrary to popular opinion.  Every business uses terms like being cutthroat, being cocky, being aggressive and PLAY TO WIN.

All of us know this.  

All of us take part in it.  

Each of us is competitive with the other in these little social ecosystems we’ve all built for ourselves.  

I’m guilty of it, and I’m only now recognizing it.  

I used to think if this person did well in comedy or got a better show or a better video, it meant I wouldn’t.  If my buddy pulled the most amazing girl at work, I was pretty much out of luck.  We get so caught up in our little worlds and think that life is a zero-sum game (e.g. If I got the BMW, that means you won’t).  It’s easy to think that way, but I’m here to tell you that when you step out of your bubble and look from the outside in, it’s far from reality.  When you write “Happy Birthday” on someone’s Facebook and they don’t reciprocate back, you know who cares about that little battle you just think you lost?


So rather than trying to climb over everyone to hit the top of your mountain (and stress yourself out along the way)…maybe, just maybe…it’s time to embrace life as a nice guy.  

Not necessarily because being nice is what your teacher told you.  But because being selfish is honestly too much work.

Nice Guys Finish Last Whats the Hurry
Some guys just can’t look mean.

If you’re the guy (or girl) who is always putting your friends or loved ones before yourself and didn’t expect them to return the favor, your life might actually become easier when you help others without expectation.  

You won’t sit around waiting for karma (who is never on time by the way), you won’t keep a mental record of every good deed you did and to be honest, you’ll probably be a lot happier with your place in life given the new equation.  

Being nice with expectations isn’t really being nice at all.

It’s a false notion of patting yourself on the back because you’re secretly waiting to be rewarded down the line, and you’re going to stress yourself out when it doesn’t happen.  

Nice guys finish last.  

Assholes finish first.  

But it’s easier to be yourself than trying to pretend to be the badass you think you need to be.

I’ll happily answer your text because 90% of the time, my phone is next to me.  Setting an alarm to reply back to you in two hours or two days, is honestly just not worth it.

How’s that for some relationships psychology?


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Read Next: Who Enables You To Be Mediocre?

If you read this whole thing and need to hear it again with an American accent.

Nice guys do finish last, but maybe that’s the point. I’d rather reach the top of the mountain with my friends (even if they go there first) rather than go at it alone, wondering where the hell everybody is.  

Secondly, nice guys do finish last…but they do eventually finish.   

And I guess in some areas in life (dirty joke intended), finishing last might not be a bad thing.

Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.


sanjay manaktala comedy advice

Failure as a Comedian

Sanjay Manaktala is a stand-up comedian who was instrumental in starting the comedy scene in India when the UK Comedy store also entered the country in 2010. Since then he’s helped hundreds of comedians figure it out, and is also the host of the iTunes and Spotify charted Birdy Num Num podcast, because life begins after Engineering. In this post, he talks about the weekly struggle of comics who have to deal with doing badly on stage.

Updated: Jan 2019

As I write this post it’s 11PM on a Wednesday night.  

I’ve just returned home still wearing the suit I put on a few hours earlier when I was filled with hope and optimism.  Only now I’m about to toss it in the laundry bin and dub it my “bad luck suit.”  

This was probably my 200th corporate show, for a group of software managers, and man oh man….did I eat shit.

Bombing as a comedian is one of the worst parts of the job.

Corporate Shows can make or break you.

Stand Up Comedy Is Hard

Comedians are an interesting bunch in that we don’t really have any discernible talent.  

A musician can strum the guitar with immense precision, a singer or athlete have even more obvious gifts but with comedy (and part of the reason I got into it myself) the talent is less tangible.  After all, you’re just a guy on stage talking into a microphone.  

What could be so difficult?

So you give it a shot.  

You visit a local open mic, listen to the schmucks ahead of you and slowly start to feel those nerves tingle as your name gets closer to going up.  

Flash forward a few hours and eventually….

You bomb.

And you bomb some more.

And then you realize, as someone who has done this for close to six years now….you’re going to bomb a lot.

Comedy is by all accounts (based on the lexicon it uses) a very passionate profession.  Although it’s been said many times before, the proof is in the terms themselves.  When you do well you either “kill” or “destroy.”  Or as my friend Comedian Praveen Kumar once said when I asked him how his show was, “Machaaa, I killed but didn’t destroy.”

Inversely when you do badly you “died” or “bombed.”  

For the purposes of this post let’s just stick to “bombing” so this site gets flagged for all the wrong reasons.  And since I’m in a depressing place re-evaluating my career after my almost routine once-every-three-months shit-eating show tonight, let’s talk about it.

I’ve probably bombed on stage more than I’ve not bombed. 

I remember hearing a friends story about how he did so well his first few times on stage.  He hadn’t realized the reason was that a big chunk of his friends was supporting him from the audience, and the first night he performed without them he died hard.  

The promoter walked up to him, placed a hand on his shoulder and said “Congrats bro.  Now you’re a comedian.”


Bombing is as much a part of being a comedian as going to the gym is for an athlete.  

It’s completely normal, expected and happens to everyone, from the first time performer to Chris Rock testing out new bits.  The problem with comedy is that you need an audience to practice.  In fact, the game itself is the practice.  

A musician can practice a song a 1000 times before making it flawless, and the same is true for various other art forms.  

But with comedy, your mistakes happen live and in real-time.  

What might be funny amongst a group of friends or as a really popular tweet, will not be verified or shut down until you do it live for a group of strangers.  

No matter what shortcuts you try the sooner you accept bombing as a routine hazard of the job the sooner you take steps to minimize the pain and maximize the benefits of not doing well.

STORY: In Bangalore, we’ve had a room Praveen and I started four years ago at Urban Solace (a small friendly coffee shop) in which we’d perform for two people.  


Now the room is run weekly with a steady audience and you know what?

A majority of comics who have graduated through that room went on to do wonderful things and continue to do so.  

Early in our planning we could have thought, “Nobody comes here, this is a waste of time.”  But instead, night after night, week over week, we figured out it wasn’t the audience not wanting to support us, but it was the comedians not knowing how to hold the audience’s attention.  

And eventually, week after week, year after year, things turned around.  Come by any Wednesday, and see a comedy scene in full bloom, with years of history now behind it.

Perry Menzies runs a great room.

Good shows make you good.  Bad shows make you better.  Shitty shows make you great. 

A pilot doesn’t spend most of his training flying the plane on autopilot, and a well-seasoned comedian has likely spent way more of his or her time dealing with crap than reveling in fan appreciation about how funny their blowjob story was.  

Whether it’s building the thick skin needed to deal with hecklers, bartenders using blenders, crowd noise or trying to convince 50 drunks who prefer to watch sports that their first tinder date story is much more interesting, a comedian must be ready to deal with anything.  

Back to the pilot analogy, I’m going to assume that 80% of a pilot’s training isn’t on autopilot but on what to do when things go wrong and comedy is exactly the same.  

When you watch a comedian like a Bill Burr or Louis CK talk about women or traveling, they didn’t just magically get selected as the random white dude to talk about these things for a collective conscious.  

They’ve dealt with all of the above and then some, night after night and have masterfully figured out a way to deliver a message through a swarm of drunk and apprehensive message blockers that have earned them the stage and audience they command.

Bombing for a comic is like Training Day. Man that pun was the bomb. Ok sorry.
Bombing for a comic is like Training Day. Man that pun was the bomb. Ok sorry.

When you bomb as a comedian, you overcome quite a few things.  

  • Stage fright.  
  • Ego.
  • Course correction.  
  • You leave the stage feeling like a pile of dirt, but after a few hours or days, you quickly realize it’s not the end of the world and regroup.

 It builds the mental fortitude necessary to survive in this business of constant rejection and swings and misses.  All of the above is realized much much faster of course if you can learn from it properly and….

Disarm the Bomb and Get on With It

It’s comforting to know that bombing is commonplace, and everyone bombs.  

It makes going through this comedy journey a lot easier, no matter what stage you’re currently in.  But understanding why you bombed, uff….that’s easier said than done.  

Was I too nervous? Too fast? Too slow? Was it the audience? Were the jokes too dirty or not dirty enough?  

These are all questions you’ll ask yourself with fellow comedians at 1AM in some dingy restaurant eating unhealthy food as you wallow in self-pity.  

But they’re extremely helpful in making you a better comedian.  As you answer these questions one by one, you learn to spot the causes of these issues at all future shows and eventually, you bomb less.  Let’s take a look at each:

1) Were you too nervous? Or too fast/slow?

I still get nervous, even after over 1000+ times on stage.  

Maybe I’m performing in a new country and not sure if they’ll get my references, or the show is being filmed, or the jokes are just too new and I’m not confident enough in their delivery.  

Or that girl I like is in the audience and it’s going to chip away at my timing and pacing since I’ll be checking her reactions to see if I’m winning her over, which I’m so clearly not.  Either way, it’s another part of the job.  

One of the easiest ways to spot this during your act is to notice if you’re stuttering or mumbling your words.  

The more you do this, the audience subconsciously loses faith in your setups and your timing suffers.  Another way to spot this (and learn from it) after the fact is by recording your set.  A comic once told me that they film each performance and watch/listen to it immediately in traffic on the drive home.  

When you do this, especially after an open mic, you’re actually performing twice that night (the logic being since you were most likely going to perform the exact same routine the next open mic night, you’ve done this by listening to yourself and now you’re going to adjust on the next show).   Plus we have so much time before and after a show as comedians, not watching your set is almost inexcusable since you’re sitting there waiting to go up anyways. (Same is true for not memorizing your set and going up with a piece of paper, but more on that another time).

2) Was it the Audience’s Fault?


I live in India, a place that sometimes can feel like 30 countries mashed together each with different languages, foods, customs and a whole slew of unique comic references depending on which state you’re in.  

Punjabi’s may like a certain type of jokes, South Indians might prefer another type, and then the foreigners in the crowd are just happy they’ve found a place that is crowded and not on lonely planet.  

And despite all of that, I’m here to remind you again, IT’S NEVER THE AUDIENCE.

2M views on this video and I still get 10% of hate from people who just didn’t like it. That’s just more for me to learn, not to complain about.

I’ve done shows with my super American accent, in Hyderabad, for 400 Canon salesmen who didn’t speak a word of English.  

If you don’t believe me, the video is here.  

And man oh man, was that a bad show.  

But despite everything,  it’s never really their fault.

 They’re just a group of people who happened to be together at a given intersection of time and space (Star Trek reference woo woo) and you happen to be the comic.  

It might not be the perfect audience, but early in your career, you will see very hostile or quiet rooms get turned around in almost magical fashion by a comic who is up for the challenge and knows what he or she is doing.

Maybe all your jokes are about sex and dating and the audience is filled with Aunties & Uncles.

Or maybe you do a whole set on corporate life and marriage and you’re catering to a bunch of 16-year-old college-bound kids who know nothing aside from Game of Thrones and video games.  

Either way, your job is to make a group of strangers laugh and until you command a huge theater of fans who are identical to you, you first need to learn how to make them all laugh.  

Take any show you can get and be ready for any crowd.  Try to perform for people who aren’t like you and watch the other comedians who are performing and take stock of what works.  

Not blaming the audience is the first step towards correctly reading the audience.  

And being able to read the audience (e.g. Do they want dirty jokes? Are they tired of dirty jokes?  Maybe they don’t care about jokes but love the crowd work, etc..) is one of the most important skills in your comedy arsenal.

3) Maybe you just sucked bro.

It’s important to make friends as you push through the ranks.  

Also: New to Comedy: Make Friends To Survive

They help you enjoy the highs and march through the lows.  

And as comedians, we have a lot of fun doing it.  Before tonight it had been a few months since my last good bombing when I performed in Surat with comedy friend Vipul Goyal.  

The crowd wasn’t ideal for me and I didn’t scan them enough to realize that.  I don’t speak Hindi but I could have done stuff that was a bit more in line with their lives rather than stretch the references to see if they got it.

After a less than stellar performance, I walked backstage and Vipul asked me (with an evil smirk hiding behind his curiosity) “How was the show?”  I told him it was alright, and that at least I had fun.  

To which he replied “Nice, but the audience should have fun too no?”

Stupid bastard.

Either way, it’s helpful to remember that in comedy you’re always learning as you go.  

You will have different types of bombs as you progress through your journey: 

  • The new material bomb,
  • the nervous on a new stage bomb,
  • the on-purpose open mic bomb, whatever it might be.  

But more often than not, it will be because the joke isn’t funny.  

Remember this, and keep reworking your act.  

When a joke works 9/10 times you can be sure the joke is fine and it’s just a matter of finding the right crowd.  But if you’ve done it twice and it bombs on a real show…it could just as easily still be the joke and you simply lucked out those first two times.

Some Final Thoughts

The best comedians have really good bomb stories, and that’s part of the reason they’re revered as the best comedians.  When it happens to you, just remember it as another part of the job.  

Embrace it with a smile on your face and thank your lucky stars it’s happening now than when Seinfeld is in the audience, and you’ll be ok.  

Some other pointers I didn’t get a chance to talk about:

  1. Don’t focus on the one guy not laughing to the extent it takes away from those who are laughing with you.  Disappointing 10 percent is better than disappointing 90 percent.
  2. Cut it short and deal with it.  Watching a comic unravel on stage is not pleasant for anyone.  If you’re bombing, finish your set early.  Give the emcee adequate signs (e.g. Put the mic stand near the center of the stage) and wrap it up, ending hopefully on whatever laugh you can muster.
  3. Get back up on stage as soon as possible.  Whenever I bomb, I quickly try to find an open mic later in the night I can go “wash off the bomb.”  It helps my mind get back to a positive place and resets the comedy heart to deal with the career again.

Enjoy your comedy journey and happy bombing.

why are you so average?

Who Enables your Mediocrity?

I was chatting with my brother the other day and telling him how one of the toughest parts of freelancing is that it’s so easy to do nothing.

I don’t mean the “sit at the wall in clinical depression” type of nothing, but the “watch eight episodes of your favorite new show while ordering food on your favorite app” nothing.

With a trivial gym break in the middle of course.

How to stop being Average?

So how do you stop being so mediocre and live up to your full potential?

  • You recognize that you can learn any skill in the world that used to take thousands of dollars…for the price of a burger.
  • Then you learn to siphon your time. Netflix and torrents might be free but they’re costing you a lot more than you think.

Most adults learn this only once they have kids and life forces them to value their time. If you learn this in your twenties you’ve pretty much won.

I’ll explain what I mean now for the rest of this post.

We’re all Average at Something

The real issue is that most of us assume a six-figure salary and a house are the end goal. But in reality, most guys and girls who attain this by 30-35 realize it wasn’t so difficult at all with stock options, corporate benefits, working from home, frequent flier points and who knows what else.

That’s when your internal appraisal machine really freaks out…because society gave you above average results for your very average performance.

How much did all that work you did at Deloitte really impact you OR that company David?

I’m an Artist and I’m Also Mediocre

Depending on where you live (I’m currently living in India although writing this in LA) a lot of professions allow you to make enough money to be good but complacent enough to skip the great.

And that’s a big problem.

I mean maybe not that big.
I mean maybe not that big.

Whether you’re in the corporate hustle, the creative space or a small business owner in some hybrid of the two, you are always going to be fighting self-inflicted mediocrity.  

  • When you’re making six figures but web surf 4 hours a day, you’re doing it.
  • When you’re earning your rent in a single night by being a musician/artist/comedian/video maker and then getting stoned for the next three days, you’re doing it.  
  • And when you’re simply wondering at 35 how did I get all these things and still find myself a bit uneasy or unhappy…you’ve done it.

The obvious reason is income (e.g. If you’re not starving you won’t stretch yourself) and the obvious answer that you’ve read a 1000 times is to find your passion and do what you love.  

But I’m letting you know that I do what I love and sometimes…I’m still a lazy piece of shit.

So my real question is what (or who) enables your mediocrity?

You probably dabble with thoughts of:

  • hating your life,
  • or your boss,
  • or not knowing what to do with yourself.

But in reality, you may just be on a long drive with the gas pedal only pressed halfway down.

Or in simpler words:

Why do you continue to do just enough when you know deep in your heart of hearts that you are capable of doing so much more?

Again...who or what enables your mediocrity?

Ok, I’ll go first.  

And I don’t mean this in a mean way at all because I cherish her with all my heart…but for me it’s my mom.  

My mother saw me working in high school/college and then the 80 hour weeks to pay off my student loans, and then sort of just observed as I matured through my professional milestones and always acted busier than I was. (Side Note: Make it a point to entertain your parents for 5 minutes a day on the phone, Facebook isn’t gonna go anywhere and you can always check it while they’re on speaker).  

In her eyes, I need to relax a bit more, not get so stressed out and if I miss my 8 AM alarm…I deserved the sleep and my body needs time to recover (From you know, all that drinking and slogging I was doing at the open-mic).  

She’s the same type of lady who would call me “healthy” instead of fat when I really need my friends to kick my ass into high-gear.  

motivational images sanjay manaktala

I’m the quintessential Indian mama’s boy, and I can smile about it now because I’m fully aware of it and take steps to mitigate it.   Am I going to stop talking to my mom? Of course not. But recognizing her well-intentioned attitude towards me and the fact that I’m growing up in a different time albeit with many similarities, allows me to stay focused and stay hungry without compromising our relationship and without letting me get fully dependent on her to do things I can easily do for myself.

 She doesn’t want me to be mediocre, but doesn’t fully understand this is the age to hustle and “I gotta do me, baby”.

So who or what enables you to be mediocre?

Is it the job that allows you to coast while keeping your lifestyle as comfy as you want it?

Because the charm fading away from this will one day hit you like a ton of bricks.  All the miles, hotel points, and cash/perks/houses aren’t going to motivate you any better when you’re still staring at your screen with no purpose or motivation.

Up in the Hair

Or is it your friends who are obsessed with girls and travel and could care less about what you do as long as the tinder matches still come in? I’m talking to you twenty-year-old dudes who grew up with Ted and Barney (or 30-year-old dudes with Chandler and Joey).


Or is it something as simple as alcohol and drugs?

Meme-ception FTW

Maybe it’s a partner you spend more time arguing with instead of having as an actual “partner” who helps you complement each other to be better people.

If your first reaction when your girl calls you is "Fu*K", it's not love.

And most importantly, it’s obviously a huge chunk of you.

That would be so trippy.

Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with the house on the hill, the two kids, the cars and the whole deal.  

But have you noticed how most of the typical case studies on success….Zuckerberg, Musk, Gates, Bezos… all did amazing things well beyond the years they had no financial incentive to?

Or in simpler words, they were rich as hell before really impacting upon their life’s work (and more importantly, some had families before the real grind began).  

They could have bought the private island or huge apartment in New York, partied with celebrities and danced/laughed/screwed their way into obscurity.

But they didn’t do that.  

In fact, Elon Musk once said the idea of sitting on some beach “sounds horrible.”  And eventually, after 1000 Instagram selfies and packaged holiday after packaged holiday, you’ll start to agree.  

There is nothing wrong with being average, but there is something wrong in treating yourself averagely.

Sanjay-San from Kyoto

I don’t have the answers on how to stop being mediocre or on how to accomplish greatness.  But I do know that 99% of us, (a stat I just pulled out of my ass) know that we can so easily do much, much more.  

When you finish college the real challenge begins, but everybody acts like the hard part is over.

In school, you had that friend who you always wanted to do better than but rarely did.  

You had the coach who pushed you to run another mile when you thought “OMG I’ve never run more than 3 miles ever.”  

Somewhere along the way…you stopped doing all of that.


Additional productivity tips from the Birdy Num Num podcast.

Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.