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The End of ‘Chai with Lakshmi’ and a New Beginning

PicMonkey Collage (900x900)It’s 9pm on a chilly Thursday night. I’m listening to Vieux Farka Toure, and sipping hot water – from a ‘Chai with Lakshmi’ mug – to soothe my very sore throat. I’m all wrapped up in a sweater and sitting with a laptop on the sofa, ready to share this: the journey that was and will be, because this is The End of ‘Chai with Lakshmi’ and the beginning of something bright and new.

Unless you go out on a limb and try something new, you’ll never know what you are capable of. And you’ll never know what is possible.

This is precisely what I have learnt from creating ‘Chai with Lakshmi’. But this is the end of ‘Chai with Lakshmi’. Now, onward to bigger, bolder and smarter things.

In the last three and a half years, the team at Red Bangle and I have made around 130 episodes of Chai with Lakshmi. When I started thinking about videos on YouTube, it was just going to be a video blog with me self-filming the whole thing and self-editing it too. Delivering good production quality takes a lot of effort, and unless this is something one can do fulltime, one can forget about the quality and therefore the viewership. So, soon I had Karthik join me to support with the filming and the editing, leaving me free to concentrate on the content. And slowly the production, research and social media staff joined us. And, we got support from Shoppers Stop, Infinitea and Vivanta by Taj too!

The last two years have probably been the best years of the show. There was a clear focus and format: conversations with change makers, a focus on sustainable ideas with fairly large-scale impact, relatable heroes, chai overflowed, our shoot locations were beautiful, and we spent a lot of money and time telling great stories and sharing about inspiring journeys the best way we could. This also meant that we slowed down the pace a lot, but that’s totally fine given how much better the stories and the production quality were getting.

Here’s the last episode.

Personally, I’d like to share with you about the biggest things I’ve received from Chai with Lakshmi, before I share what next. So, here goes…

What I’ve received from ‘Chai with Lakshmi’

1) The Growth of Red Bangle

I am not a qualified filmmaker. I’m a researcher and marketer. Yes, I am an anchor too. What’s been amazing is getting all the work that we’ve gotten from businesses across sectors, because of the kind of effort we put in: firstly, into ‘Chai with Lakshmi’, and secondly, into every single commercial production project. (Some of our work is available to view on Redbangle.in). Because of the focus and credibility of the show, barring our first client, every client afterwards has come on their own. About a year ago, I realized this and put a stop to all active sales efforts. We didn’t need it, we probably never will. And there is a lot of trust in us, the Red Bangle team, today because of this show. The amount of trust we’ve discovered: that is something I could have never imagined. I’ve always worked hard to earn people’s trust (must be a middle-class thing!), but now it’s just there for the most part and I am grateful for it. And I am very aware of the kind of responsibility this means.

2) The Team behind the Scenes

Barring Karthik, who I poached from a service provider and supporter of Chai with Lakshmi, all my team members have found us on their own. Again, thanks to ‘Chai with Lakshmi’. The latest joinee is someone who said hello to us at an Airport almost two years ago, recognizing me from the show.

And if Karthik has stayed with Red Bangle and continues to, it’s probably because of the good people we meet while making the show, the recognition he has received, and the team he is working with.

People write in to us everyday wanting to work with us, and I believe this is because of the meaningful work we do. And because we do meaningful work, the amount of commitment they come with and the passion with which they go about doing what they do: is amazing! They are super self-motivated and they really push me to think bigger everyday.

3) Some Awesome Friendships

People I met while making the show and people I have featured on the show have become good friends and a great source of encouragement today. They are truly inspiring and so super down to earth. From friends who call me to tell me what they really thought about an episode, to people who are constantly connecting me with good people and work opportunities: they are there and their goodwill is something I did not ever dream I would have. This is both extremely humbling and the biggest blessing ever. You cannot earn these things by planning to or working on it intentionally. Never. These are things people give you in their own way, when they chose to… not because you asked.

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With Sunita Maheshwari from the episode on Teleradiology Solutions and a very good friend.

4) Letting Me Truly Bloom

It is by creating Chai with Lakshmi and going out on a whim to start a production house in order to fund the show that I really learnt how much of a creative person I was. Somehow in my early career, I was very involved in social work and research and didn’t really have the time, inclination or opportunity to be creative: at least not as much as I am today. So, to meet clients and understand what they are trying to communicate, to suggest ideas to them on how to, and go create films from scratch: that is truly exhilarating and you learn something new every single time! Of course, it helps to have an inspired team that is going to beautifully bring alive new ideas with you.

5) Inner Peace

Yes, Inner Peace. The most clichéd thing ever – you might think. But it’s true. Given the ups and downs I had growing up, and in my early career; this talk show and the business, the books I’ve come to read in the last couple of years because of my desire to be better at what I do, my amazing team, my new and genuine friends, and the growing support I have from family, have all helped me find real contentment. I have now learnt to listen to my gut much better, learnt to let go quickly, learnt to take one day at a time, learnt to think boldly and become much more comfortable with myself.

I have also learnt the power of making organic choices, of being persistent and happily so, of the power of doing what you love, and the power of going with the ideas that bite you hard inside. It is not about the ideas that sound great to others, it is really about the ideas that bite you inside… nobody can see them and it’s your job to turn them into reality. And there is great delight in that!

When you let a good idea bite you and carry you onward in making it a reality, you’ll come to know what you are truly made of. This is precisely what ‘Chai with Lakshmi’ has done for me.

And, WHAT NEXT?

On a very practical level, there are two things I’ve learnt about content from creating Chai with Lakshmi. 1) you need compelling content for strong viewership, and 2) you need the right length and format to match the content. Therefore, this year we are launching two new shows with very different formats and focus.

The Lakshmi Rebecca Show

A long-format talk show focusing on social issues not talked about enough, featuring a celebrity that supports or represents the cause in some way, alongside a member of public affected by the social issue. I am going to push boundaries with this: in my own head and in yours. My team and I are going to make you think, make you sit up and realize a few things you probably didn’t all this while. And in doing so, we are going to inspire you to be a tad more of a good human being.

Take, for example the show’s first episode. It features Kalki Koechlin talking about her role in Margarita with a Straw – that of a girl with Cerebral Palsy – and it features Deepa Narasimhan, a lady suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Together with me, they open your eyes about the gender identity and sexuality of women with disability. This is never-before stuff in India on the internet!

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The Second Youtube Channel

Now, I cannot tell you much about this because we, the makers, want to be truly behind the scenes with this one. But what I will tell you is that this is a short film series celebrating great ideas in India. 😉

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