Stories, especially fiction, elaborated by rules and regulations were what helped masses of Homo Sapiens cooperate together (we and you believe in the same God, let’s build this massive pyramid because it’ll be good for our future) to establish cities, kingdoms, nation states, the financial system (let’s ‘allow’ banks to loan up to ten times the money they have as deposits and encourage masses of people to become productive and spur the economy), corporations (let’s make an entity called ‘company’ which makes its presence felt among consumers as another human being like a friend), the legal and justice system and the social system.
Stories are powerful. They give us a meaning to live. We ourselves, no matter how old we currently are, are a product of all the stories we have listened to, read about and heard in our lives, irrespective of those stories being true or false or half-true or right or wrong. Faith, belief and science often coalesce together depending on the person whom you’re talking to. And indeed, in this day and age of information overload, who can realistically say what is right or what is wrong anymore, especially since so many narratives and perspectives are peddled by individuals of every colour and hue. However, it would be prudent to note that, there is nothing more noble than probing for the truth. Not what you feel or believe in, but what is the truth.
Today, at Bangalore Insider, we spoke to Devaiah Bopanna, the co-founder of All Things Small (ATS), a media company based out of Mumbai. Apart from giving us a perspective about taking a multi-disciplinary approach to content to enthrall and educate their viewers, he also told us about what it’s like to run a new age media company focused on original writing at its core.
Give a brief info about your startup?
All Things Small (ATS) is a new media company dedicated to telling true stories. We’ll find, research and produce the best, most compelling non-fiction from the Indian subcontinent, in a variety of formats and across every platform imaginable. We are creating documentaries, docu-dramas, movies, series, podcasts and non-fiction branded content.
What made you start your startup and what problem does it solve?
It’s quite simple actually. Our love for telling stories that will inform, entertain and galvanise audiences brought us together to start up. I hate to sound like a marketing presentation and spew out that repeated monologue about “India is a country of over a billion people that is rich in diversity and culture. The land of stories and story-tellers…” But that is the truth. Not many people are consistently documenting, creating, preserving and producing well researched consumable content based on these remarkable true stories in our country.
Tell us about yourself, your previous jobs/ventures? What were you doing before this startup?
I am a typical Bangalore boy. I studied hard, got into a good engineering college and then questioned my life choices. Immediately after engineering I joined Ogilvy & Mather as a copywriter back in 2008. I found a great mentor in Vipul Thakkar (ex-NCD of Denstu & co-founder of Very) at Ogilvy. He refined my writing and thinking. I just followed him around. He moved to Mudra. I moved to Mudra. It was a great time to be in advertising. Until I moved to Bombay in 2013. It was also around this time that social media and digital content was on the cusp of exploding. The rules of advertising began to change, but Indian advertising agencies refused to embrace these changes. I felt I was getting outdated as a creative person in a big agency set-up. People were still applying rules of television advertising to creating digital films. In fact, most of them still do. So in 2015, I decided to quit advertising and move to All India Bakchod as one of their first writing hires. Looking back, it was the best decision of my life. I unlearned most of what I had picked up from advertising and learned from the masters of digital content and comedy to create for the internet. As the team grew, I was made the head writer, where I wrote, directed, supervised content and branded content for the collective, and was incharge of the overall creative output of the AIB YouTube channel. In early 2019, I decided to take a break for a few months, and then ATS happened.
Where is your startup based out of? Why do you think that is the best place for you?
We are mostly based out of Mumbai. Mumbai is the place to be if you want to pursue anything in the media and communications sector. The talent is here, and work just gets done faster in this city.
As a startup founder, what are you paranoid about? What keeps you awake at night?
Work doesn’t keep me awake at night. Netflix ruins my sleep actually.
Who are your competitors and how are you better than them?
Anyone with a good camera and a talent for storytelling is direct competition. It is impossible to compete and be better than everyone. Just head down. Work hard. Collaborate. And hopefully you’ll create magic.
How hard is it to have a work-life balance as a startup founder and how do you manage it?
Achieving work-life balance is as hard as any other demanding job. You need to be super disciplined to achieve that balance. I am not, but I’m working towards it. Thankfully, I have great co-founders, and that really helps in sorting things out. We take the load off each other regularly, so it becomes easier to operate.
Have you raised funding? If yes, then we would like to know the details. If no then please tell us if you are looking to raise.
Yes, we have. We are backed by Rainshine Entertainment. And at this stage, we don’t intend to discuss the exact details of the investment.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
Probably that I can only produce and create comedic content. It’s mainly because most of my visible work has been for AIB. Reality is that I need to do visible non-comedic work to change that perception. It’s number one in the list of things that I need to do this year.
What gets you excited about this company?
The people I get to work with and meet on a daily basis. Working with some of the best researchers, historians, writers and journalists has really been a fasicnating experience for me. I need to read so much to keep up and make conversation with these stellar professionals. This approach to storytelling and creating, makes me very bullish and excited about our future.
Tell us how a day in your life looks like? Your schedule for a day right from the time you get up till you hit the bed at night.
No two days are alike. And I really don’t have a plan. That is what makes it interesting for me. But I try to get 6 hours of sleep. One hour to walk. One hour to consume content (usually when I’m travelling). And three hours with my folks at home. Rest of the time I’m day dreaming or working.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
We are five co-founders with diverse backgrounds. Sidin Vadukut is a historian, author, editor and journalist. There is Supriya Nair, she is a journalist, editor and columnist. We have Gaurav Vaz, who is our COO. He is a musician, artist manager and an operations specialist who has worked with numerous start-ups. Finally we have Sunil Doshi. Sunil is a movie producer who has produced some of the most interesting movies to have come out of India in the last two decades. Movies like Bheja Fry, Mixed Doubles, Bioscopewala and the list goes on. All of us met each other through friends and friends of friends at different points in time. And then the universe conspired to put all of us together and create All Things Small.