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BW Businessworld

Lure Of The Creative Arts

It can be surprising to see hard-nosed, money obsessed, promotion focused IIM graduates trying to delve in the innovative world of creative arts

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It can be surprising to see hard-nosed, money obsessed, promotion focused IIM graduates trying to delve in the innovative world of creative arts. The charm of writing, dancing, television commentary, photography, travel jockeying and other niche careers are catching up really fast. Given the opportunity cost of time and capital, these professions are extremely risky with a ridiculously high degree of failure. Yet, the thrill of doing something close to your heart is driving many in this direction. To manage this risk, many IIM graduates are tapping their network, building a critical mass and discovering newer channels as part of their own business model to crack this innovative genre.

Numerous IIM graduates have begun to dive in the field of creative arts!
Many outgoing IIM batches have at least one published author. Multiply that with the number of IIMs and you can guess the number of potential authors in the system ready to dive into the world of writing. If you look at the Indian fiction section in any modern bookstore, it is dominated with books by fresh IIM graduates. Over the last few years, a small but steadily increasing set of people are entering fields like photography, radio and travel jockeying, television commentary, movie direction, etc. In fact, there are many who have given up their steady careers to build a training school for these creative talents. However, for one Harsha Bhogle, there are thousands that fail to even make a mark!

The monetary payout in these professions is paltry, to be polite!
Newspapers are ripe with stories of Amish Tripathi's $1 million advance or Chetan Bhagat's royalty from movies that are adapted from his books. Especially in the case of the publishing industry, royalties and margins for young authors are paltry, if not embarrassing. Royalty from sold books are in the range of 7% - 10% of MRP. A book selling 5,000 copies, termed a domestic bestseller, priced at Rs 149 will earn the author a royalty of Rs 75,000 only. In all likelihood, it will be lesser than the monthly paycheck of most fresh IIM graduates. Payout in other associated professions are marginally better. An entry level Radio Jockey makes around Rs 25,000 - 40,000 per month while a wildlife photographer makes an amount not very different. In summary, relying solely on a career in creative arts is monetarily unrewarding in the first few years. It is always advisable to run both careers in parallel before diving in full time. In Ravi Subramanian's own words, "Writing is my hobby. If I give up my job to become a writer I will write because I have to write and not because I want to create. One is my bread but the other is my butter."

As expected, many IIM graduates are developing their own business model to monetize their ability!

Although monetarily unrewarding in the first few years, most graduates enter into the world of creative arts as it proves to be more satisfying rather than adding millions to a billion dollar income statement. Many aspiring "creatively oriented" graduates are finding out innovative ways to rake in the moolah. The trend of self-publishing or publishing via Amazon Kindle is on the rise as royalties are significantly higher in these channels (over 70% of MRP). Wedding photographers and travel jockeys actively tap their alumni network to get a foothold into these alien industries. In addition, an active usage of the digital medium is seeing many trying to generate substantial impressions. Getting 10,000 likes on Facebook and numerous retweets on Twitter are passé. Creatively oriented graduates are pitching live to millions on channels like YouTube. Some are even taking up part time careers at coaching institutes to sustain themselves in the first few years of their struggle.

In conclusion, making a full-fledged career in creative arts is risky at best. Reaching the levels of success which Harsha Bhogle, Mallika Sarabhai or Rashmi Bansal have attained can be extremely rewarding. Similar to the movies, for every superstar, there are thousands who haven't made it. Giving up a full time monetarily rewarding career for an aspirational career in the creative arts is fraught with risk. A balancing act in the initial years is highly recommended before the career in the creative arts takes off at escape velocity!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Sandeep Das

The author, Sandeep Das, is an MBA from IIM Bangalore, a management consultant, the author of “Yours Sarcastically” and a columnist.

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