Akshobh Giridharadas is a Two-time TEDx Speaker, OpEd Writer, and a Panel Moderator. He’s well-known as the Director of BowerGroupAsia Strategic which is a leading government affairs and public policy consulting firm that specializes in the Asia-Pacific. Akshobh also specializes in Communications and Thought Leadership.
He is in the business of creative storytelling. As a natural raconteur, Akshobh is passionate about telling stories through print, broadcast, social media, or through brands through creative campaigns. He frequently writes about business & finance, geopolitics & international affairs, tech and sports editorials.
Underdog Akshobh G. was previously a communications consultant with the South Asia Water Practice at the World Bank. As a journalist, he has been part of various panels both as a moderator and as a panelist. He has spoken twice at TEDx (in Singapore and the United States) Toastmasters and other conferences pertaining to the journalism industry.
Akshobh Giridharadas graduated from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts in Boston, Massachusetts working on my interests in geopolitics (security studies, foreign policy, diplomacy & international business.
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Underdog Akshob G. Shares His Remarkably Unique Journey
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Underdog. Today, I have my awesome friend here with me, Akshobh. Akshobh, how are you, my friend?
I’m good, Pamela, bracing the cold. Hope you’re doing well.
Absolutely. And geopolitical you mentioned that’s like your special ninja weapon there. So I’m sure we’ll get into that, for sure. But you know, what inspired your journey to sort of where you are today. And you can take it you know wherever you like.
So I grew up in Bombay, India. And it was really funny, because of the notion when you grew up in India. A lot of people were sort of intellectual arranged marriage in the sense that you only supposed to love. You can love the humanities, but it’s about getting married in the sciences. I always joke that I’m going to be going to Indian poetry for not being a doctor, scientist, engineer. But I came from a family that the Indian dream was the American dream, where they kind of did the hard engineering. And then my dad’s brothers all moved to the United States. But my dad, and so being an engineer and being an IT, and you would think that would be the norm imposed on most families on me.
But my parents were supportive of me undertaking whatever I wanted. And by the ages of 11, and 12, my dad always says that he kind of knew that I was more, “you didn’t have to do the sciences and the hard STEM degrees. Also, I was sort of at a crossroads after I finished my undergrad. I was debating law school, and my dad stopped me in my tracks. He says, Hey, do you know, I’ll leave McBeal Boston Legal? And all these legal dramas? I’m like, yeah, if you’d like, yeah, law school is not like that, right? Corporate law can be boring, and you don’t like boring. So you want to think twice about it. That was a saving grace for me and I did a generic three-year commerce degree.
And while I was considering if I want to go to law school again, I was very active in the quiz circuits, and the debating team circuits in college. And my good friend of mine, my partner in my quiz and debating team, told me that, listen, you should come and try out for ESPN. APAC was having this CDs called Dream Job. It was sort of the search for the next Anderson Cooper of sports, there was a leading figure in broadcast journalism, and he had made his career without being a sports star.
It’s very hard to do that at that time. And it was called a search for the next person. I was like, just 20 then. And I joke that these are a bunch of people who think they’re gonna become the next person by virtue of just walking in. And he said, Look, do anything important in college today, why don’t just come down for this. So I was on my way to college, and I dressed like a college getting branded t-shirt with some worn-torn jeans and flip flops. I stumbled into the auditions, which is like, sort of American Idol-ish. I’ve traveled from out of town, people are there from the morning. People are really hoping on this with hope and a prayer.
And like, they want this to make it, to break it kind of moment and I just walked into it a lot. You’re auditioning to be a sports anchor and one thing led to another and I got selected. I feel bad for my friend who didn’t get selected. Then they went down to the final 18 and the final 18 people were on this television show called Dream Job. And I tell people don’t think of it as a reality show, think of it as an apprentice without a Donald Trump.
You know, we were competing for a job interview. And we went through several rounds. And I was 20 but I looked 14 so there was no way I was going to get the top sports anchor job. I wasn’t even out of college, my voice had barely cracked but it was amazing. Because it was the first time where you look at these sports anchors, and there’s no career path to get there. Unlike law school, you go to law school, clear the bar, but I’m like, how do you become that? Like, in order to become this thing, I was on the show, and I got knocked out in the final eight.
And the Final Four, we’re going to Australia for this big tournament, this cricket match. I felt like, I was at a height of something and then all of a sudden, there’s no more. I was like, Okay, I’m 20, I don’t know what to do now. How do you go from lights camera action on YouTube, back to school? I was like, sorry about your plans for law school and I’m going to go to journalism school, learn the tricks of the trade. And come back to this and in between my undergrad and my first Master’s Cricket in India, became a little NFL franchise CBA in a lot of money came in.
And it was called the Indian Premier League. So I have a rookie report, I got my first chance to cover those tournaments and so as a kid who grew up watching these guys. You interviewing the equivalent of Tom Brady players for people who may not know cricketers. And since then I realized this is what I want to do. I went for my Master’s in journalism, and ESPN, which had seen me on the show, it kept in touch with me and they said. “What are you up to now?” I said I’m doing this grad school and they said, “Do you want to do an internship with us? I said, Sure. This is why you come down to Singapore. That’s when I had my first internship and after that, they offered me a full-time job.
That’s where I started working at ESPN in Singapore. So that’s how the long journey started. And I tell people, you’re in a little bit of serendipity, we all need a little bit of luck going our way in life. You’ll hear about the right place and the right time. And I still tell this friend of mine that “how do you not call me”? I could have just been in law school or my career may not have happened. Or I may not have moved to Singapore. So it’s tiny little moments that make big things. A little bit of butterfly effect.
Right. I mean, it transformed your whole trajectory in a way, right. And I’m surprised that your dad said, law school is not for you.
I think he probably just caveated that more than what was good enough for me. I think he kind of said that. You don’t like mundane monotony, which is true. My dad jokes that I have a very good memory, which is how I got through school. Good, I remember things from kindergarten or when I was five, or just these random things. And that’s why I was good at knowing sports stats. Because I just saw things once and I would mostly remember it very arcane, random things. It annoys my sister, my mom a dime that’s why didn’t do all these random things. But it’s not a computer that I can organize well. But he just kind of said that I don’t like Mundane monotony and I would get bored with it.
And the good thing about what he said was that in his time back then, education was only upward social mobility. So it was engineering medicine or your gunner. He told me that he picked engineering because he couldn’t stand the sight of blood. And so he said, you have more career options today. Don’t have to do what’s interesting.
And it’s a very anomaly because there’s a great movie in India called three idiots. One of the protagonists has a father who just constantly tells him that if you don’t become an engineer, you’re dead lost. Either reverse like my dad was begging me not to do it. Because he says, even if you do it, I can make you do it. But you will despise me for it, and you will hate it. So I was very fortunate that sensitive, very understanding. So parents in that regard.
That’s amazing. So your biggest influence you would have to say, was your father growing up? Yeah.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that would be very accurate. I think my dad, even though he’s an engineer from the lead Institute of India, it’s like the MIT in India. But he would also be the reason I know Shakespeare or the love of sport, and not just for getting screened from the stands. Knowing sports literature, breeding sports literature, like understand the poetry and prose behind it, or my Sinatra movies, or James Bond movies, and the PG. What else fandom that he shares? So I would say that would, and I think that’s a generational gap.
The diversity of choices that the eclectic interests we may have more at our means today in terms of ability to consume. But his generation even though he’s an engineer, he was always engineering by graduation, but he could regale you with, a Sinatra anecdote, or Simon Garfunkel songs, or something in geopolitics. Or even talking about Wimbledon in the 70s. So he was very diverse in his eclectic interests in knowledge.
That’s fantastic. Wow. And so you went from ESPN and Singapore. And now how did you pivot into the geopolitical space? Because that’s like a super niched type and they seem like polar opposite worlds almost.
You know this is something that the road was a very tough moment in some ways. So I was 23 and I started in ESPN Singapore. Ironically, I tell people I came through a show called Dream Job. But my job was anything but a dream job. It was a nightmare job. And let’s start with a sausage cereal. You like something, don’t see how it’s made, never meet your heroes kind of thing. But I was in the newsroom and it was a different time. It was ESPN that was unlike traditional news. It was a production programming channel. I was in Singapore, which I trying to sport in Singapore, is trying to cover congressional Hill politics and Montana. Just you know you’re not in the right place for it.
And over a period of time, I realized that I was not getting what I wanted. So, I wanted to go out there and meet people. Speak to people like yourselves and try and write more. But it was a lot of monkeys in the television world. And what really upset me is, as a trick sports fan who knew the game, who knew various sports, who wanted to add an intellectual caution to what people are seeing. I didn’t need to know sports. Like if you change ESPN to MTV back then it wouldn’t matter. Because the editor would soak up clips, the ad salesperson would still sell sales.
90% of people’s jobs won’t change and all of a sudden I had this sort of crisis of confidence You’re like, Okay, you know, I’ve got my job in Singapore, which is a big deal without starting there. But there’s a big brand and it was like the base pyramid. But all of a sudden, you come to the land of milk and honey and find that there’s no nectar. What happened then, after a period of time. I realized that I was already in a bubble in Singapore. And ESPN, an even bigger bubble in a bubble, right? Like I realized I wasn’t going out and meeting people.
Gradually, I started meeting friends and friends of mine who were in universities. They were involved with TEDx is and I really didn’t know Singapore is just a bubbling economy. It’s this gun lock thing going on. If you are going to stick and do when we talk about sports, you’re going to do a few things. You’re going to isolate dynamic people outside the realm of sport. And as your commentator at heart, like you like engineering knowledge, like writing about things. You don’t have to just do that, but sport, and nothing. I realized what makes Singapore’s economy thrive, it wasn’t a sport. And I realized that I was further away from the nucleus. And I was at the Pluto of the solar system where I needed to be more in your earth near the sun, where things were.
So I gradually decided after ESPN after a year or two there. I moved into channel NewsAsia, which is Singapore’s version of the Singapore broadcaster. I joked at CNN of the region, but sometimes our news coverage is a little more Fox News. Like we kind of tell you what mandated. Channel News Asia is just more like CNN of the region, with good coverage. But our Singapore coverage is a little more restrictive. It opened up doors as I could understand and I was speaking to technology companies, to policymakers, and speaking to visiting dignitaries, I got a front-row seat to understanding Singapore’s political and economic landscape that I would not understand otherwise. And I think that was very important for me to understand.
And I really expect it was the opportunity skill, doing sports in a place like Singapore and ESPN. As compared to doing business, you are in the Asian Tiger economy, in the biggest news networks. So all of a sudden, my opportunity skill went from year to year. And then I realized that after a while, I want to take my skills in media and geopolitics, and economic news. And pivot to something, which is very DC, New York-based. So that’s sort of what happened really.
Interesting. Well, I think it’s fascinating when you said that you pivoted. And that ESPN which is sports. You would never think that it gives you perspective the way it did for you to basically lay it all out there for you. The geopolitical landscape is like all these different things. Because I would never think that you get that from sports. So I think that that’s so cool that you had that because a lot of times in life like you said, is serendipity. These little moments can change your trajectory. Because I tell people all the time, opportunities around you everywhere.
Just one step. Like if you had not done that internship, maybe you wouldn’t have been exposed to all that. But who would have ever thought that you would get such a macro perspective? By interning for ESPN, I’m just like, wow, you’re studying plays, maybe you might learn some editing and video skills and stuff like that. But I just find it fascinating that that’s the perspective that you were able to take out of that.
I think it’s a sense of both right? It’s the sense of trying to understand what makes the business survive. When I realized that the business was just aligning on acquiring sports rights and reselling those sports rights. And the space was someone like me was more of a sports Kardashian or wants to rhapsodize about it. I realized that, okay, I can’t monetize this necessarily. Or it’s very hard to monetize it and what would really satiate me is consuming knowledge about things. Trying to understand it and parlay that into writings, or in trying to do something about that. And I realized that in a production programming channel, the space to do that was just limited or almost non-existent.
So, I think today, moving into the geopolitical realm, what’s really helped is. Even though I don’t write on sports as much anymore, but I occasionally write, I’ll just moderate one or two, but it’s allowed me to add context. When I went to Australia in 2015, for the Cricket World Cup, it made me understand Australia more, from the geopolitical context to the sport. The whole culture and why Australians are good at sport. And how their sense of its geographic isolation from the rest of the world and the outdoors in lifestyle, both. When you look at something from the outside, it kind of gives you more perspective than just inside insight.
And even selling something like cricket friends is. When they’re talking about the sport, I’m like, let me tell you something about cricket. You may think it’s growing, but if the US and China’s geopolitical entities are not involved, it’s not growing, right? The two biggest economies, if they’re not involved in something, it’s not growing. And this has been maybe a very simple aphorism. But it allows you to understand things more. I think you write down the core data, what it’s showing you is the fact that sports have been totally isolated. Partly because obviously the crowds can be there and everything is shut down.
But a lot of my sports journalist friends almost had little to do. They were writing regurgitating old things and finding on things to do. But I’ll just show you how much further you are from the nucleus of the economy. And the more, you’re close to Pluto of the economic solar system, it gets colder. So you gotta get closer and I think this doesn’t mean that you got to quit whatever you’re doing and rush to Wall Street to be a banker. That’s not the case anymore. You have to understand various things in play, right?
And I realized that sports analysts are not going to be paid the way financial analysts are paid. Because there are economic repercussions with certain sectors. Sport has money coming in from outside in terms of commercial rights and revenues and all. And of course, sports stars make a lot of money. That’s there’s no doubt about it. But I meant to say that I was a nonsports star, as a journalist, I realized that if I did not make a conscious choice to get out. I’ve been typecast as a sportsperson and it was almost very hard and it’s always hard doing that because it’s very easy for people to box you.
Right? Absolutely. Oh, man. So tell me a little bit more about the pivot into the geopolitical space? Because it all makes sense, now that you’re explaining it. Now. I’m sure you’ve got some sort of opportunity, something awesome because then you shifted into speaking and doing all sorts of awesome things.
Yeah, you know, I think when I moved into doing business reporting, and the good thing about business and reporting is economics and geopolitics are connected. I mean, the whole concept of politics and business are no longer two different Venn diagrams. There’s sort of, there’s a big overlap as well. And you’ve seen it more in us right now. The outgoing president right now was known for a long time. The private sector and other things that we are away from politics a little bit, but there’s a whole Nexus that’s there.
But in politics, investments is no longer private sector, public sector, there’s no overlap. When I was coming out of business journalism, I was also very interested in international relations. I mean, even when I was into sports, as a kid, growing up in India goes away obsessed with India, Pakistan politics. And when geopolitics between to countries on work, it affects sports, right? When you would always realise when tension between India and Pakistan got high cricket tournaments got pulled off, they weren’t playing each other. They went to each other’s countries. The trigger each sport didn’t have a trickle down effect in other things. I mean, in some cases, it does Honduras, El Salvador literally have gone to war or a football soccer game. But it’s a good fun trivia pub fact if you ever want to know that.
But more often than not, it’s geopolitics. And you’ve seen that where the United States and go for the Moscow Olympics and Russia, USSR didn’t come for the Olympics in LA when the height of the Cold War. So the geopolitical element trickles down to sports. So geopolitics is always there. But when I was covering business journalism, there was a lot of understanding, there was all our understanding between countries and trade deals, invest in anything, and the trickle-down effect. There was this amazing sense of symbiotic relationship. And it really just allowed me to broaden my view.
I’ve done sport all of a sudden, somebody is covering central banks. And I can know what fed quantitative easing was, and all of a sudden, I was like, how did I come from there to here. In my mind, when the journals currently were like, just don’t make sense. You were the sports guy, you were gonna be the sports guy. How are you doing this? And I think one of them said something to someone else that made sense to me is that something would have happened so much in Akshobh that you would have not wanted to do it, right. Like you have that cathartic moment, or there’s one epiphanic moment that changes you. I think we can all in some ways, I always describe my early sports journalism analogy to a couple of cricketers who started playing at 17, 18.
And now this Limelight and then fizzled away. I mean, I got a lot of challenges in sport and stemmed in 18 before I looked old enough to shave or drive or anything. And you know, at 22, 23 when I realised that I could still push it and try other places. But I realized that I was no longer the same person, I think my worldview broadened and I think when your worldview broadens, and it’s not being disparaging to anyone who’s still in it. I still think of some of my best writers, I admire great sportswriters.
But I also wouldn’t see that where my economic opportunities were limited. And I didn’t want to be behind the eight ball all the time, not saying that. But if you’re always gonna be behind the eight ball, and you always have to play catch up, It’s always on the treadmill and I decided to kind of get out of that and be in the geopolitical economic space. You know, case in point, many people like yourself doing interesting opportunities. And, you know, I’m also a people person.
So understanding your immigrant story, then understanding other people’s stories, and understanding how the geopolitical situation in their country drove their immigration story. And now that economic story in the US, I would be shutting myself out of that opportunity of meeting such people if I’d only be a sports guy, and I’d only be meeting people around that. So I realized that it was a personal call and what was important to me was, you don’t have to lose your passion for it which I sadly did for a while. I described it as a failed marriage, which I’m pretending to hold on to adjust, but I think what you can let go of the fact that you’ve got a better view, now you’ve got a broader view, I can kind of come to peace with it.
And the biggest cliche that people say is make your passion your profession because I think that’s a very generous thing to say, I mean, you can find love in what you’re doing, of course, but if that’s only the case, that never works out for a lot of people really can’t. It’s not easy for them to make the passion, their profession, it’s just not possible. And also, the economy is not just one person. It’s a series of other things. So tell someone to be a sports journalist now during COVID it’s who’s hiring what’s fortunately covered? Yeah,
Right. Oh, man. That’s fascinating. So basically, you had gotten into the geopolitical space. And so what inspired your journey into becoming a speaker?
You know, I always love storytelling. And I believe that storytelling is a very profound experience. Because if you think about it, right from the time we were kids, Pamela, you remember stories and people were parents, grandparents, uncles on someone read stories to write that’s almost universal across the world. I mean, of course, some families are more fortunate than others. But joys give you in whatever language you read them, they give you allegories, analogies, anecdotes to later and we as electrophile today, we still use phrases like boy Cried Wolf and selling the golden goose and cutting the golden goose or we mean, because these all are ex ups, fables and you know, these things are so profound. So I was enjoying storytelling.
Briefly into my time in Singapore, I really realized that I wanted to do something more than my time. So I started dabbling in Toastmasters and enjoyed that experience a little bit. And my first earliest experience was when I was getting on my sports passion, two of my good friends, then they can Shanker, you know, involved in TEDx and one of the Singapore’s major universities. So I got involved in metallics and I think the dime I realized I lost my passion for sports. I went, for a TEDx talk, and I heard these inspiring speakers and I came back feeling like, what am I doing, I’m just gonna go in tomorrow and cut some clips from some game and stick on some graphics.
it was the moment going to mountain story something is this I need to do something more. It was my moment going to the mountains toward Iran or something. I got into something more and, you know. Started getting involved with them and TEDx and stuff of that. Then one fine day my friend said, Hey, I’m gonna be bidding on this Toastmasters. We would like you to Computex this year. I said, Yeah, I’ll be there. So no, no, as a speaker, and I was like, wait, why do you want me to speak? And he was like, yeah, obviously, that gives you a little bit of pause. Because TEDx, people like Bill Gates, and Bill Clinton, and all the who’s who of the world have spoken.
And what will I even speak about, but then I kind of realized that the beauty about Ted and speaking and those platform, it’s not about who you are, it’s about what you have to say, the motto of Ted is ideas worth spreading. You know, and there’s everyone has a story to tell everyone has an idea, and realize that your story is uniquely yours, no two people have the same story. You could be twins in the same household and you could still have different stories. because your visions are different, your experiences are different, how you perceive things are different.
And I realised that you know, and that really was a very empowering experience. So I took my Toastmasters skills and did my first TEDx in 2016. it was a very humbling experience, it was positively overwhelming. I recommend everyone if you have the chance to do it should do it. Even if you’re not a public speaker. It’s less about its about branding, and it’s about the internal emotion and trying to parlay that story. And I think that its TED talks are some of the best audiovisual books and songs, you know like you’re in these 18 minutes of profound stories across every genre.
There’s something for everyone over there. So I think that sort of sparked my first major TEDx thing. And of course, being in broadcast journalism, there was always a chance to go out and meet and talk to people. I think falling down on the big stage was a good experience.
Underdog Akshobh G. And His First TED Talk
That’s amazing. So what was your first TED talk about?
It was about journalism. In fact, I spoke a little bit I lost my passion for ESPN sports, sports. But my time at ESPN was about what I would say is, again, journalism. It’s about why the journalism industry is struggling, and if you think about it, really, in the 1940s and 1950s, right, we needed Walter Cronkite to tell us something and we consume news one way 9 pm news was how we got our news, the paper next morning, how we got our news. But today, the news is on the go, you find the news of your time, not just through your own cell phones and push alerts, but you curate your news, you get your news.
And of course, I mean, this also, at that time, fake news was just coming around but it was about how journalism at one point was sort of Batman forgotten. But it was also an identity crisis for a lot of things that we now have a system where we’re going for trps and eyeball reading. So there’s yellow journalism that sensationalism how the journalism at every corner level is very noble, profound profession. Like what I realized In my time in sports journalism is that Saudi on pays you domain knowledge like, you know, journalists are not people who write anything.
Everyone’s a writer is the same way to think that everyone’s a runner. But there’s different OC emboldens in a different way. You and I do it right. There’s a level of depth and art and skill and experience and execution, but more than writing journalists are domain knowledge experts, I mean, speak to someone who’s covered the Middle East politics for 20 years, you will have so much value. But it’s also a time where journalism itself has become very anachronistic if you think about the oldest newspaper trades at a diner that existed around Caesars’ time.
44 BC, I mean, Christmas wasn’t around then. But the fact that existed then is journalism and journalism that always continue to exist. And we see today how newspaper. Pamela, you go to the Midwest, and you’ll see papers, something called Sentinel from these towns is struggling right now. Because journalism news organizations, God monetization two primary two things like ad revenue and circulation if you were paper or DRP, and readings, but today, you have companies like Facebook and Google that are the biggest content aggregators. And, of course, a lot of promise of the news that’s been pushed out. But when your prime source was just being the people, that’s going to give you the content, and that’s no longer there anymore.
I address my TED talk in these kind of fashion that journalism is a very noble profession, but it’s also an identity crisis, partly because of the way we consume news and partly because of news organisations obstinance to not change in some ways, right. And I don’t have the remedy or the recipe for success, because it’s a complicated question. It’s horses for courses for different news outlets. But it’s also a sense of what do we do to see if this profession or how can we ensure it doesn’t drown? Or they’ll always be some sort of content, but again, it’s assuming anyone’s invincible is. Yeah, I’m thinking that Nokia company, they optimize cell phones no longer around, like cell phones or Nokia, Nokia or cell phones, and where’s Nokia?
Today, I mean, acquired by Microsoft, but doing something else, where is Kodak and where is, you know, other companies? Well, I mean, in journalism not accompany but the various news organization. Now being absorbed or taken in and there were great articles and who will write what we read that speaks about yesterday’s news. Yesterday’s fish and chips, and that’s what the paper has become. I mean, how many people do we know that? So do this with a hardcopy paper in the morning, which is sacrosanct? For so many people, like my dad, today will just hear 3d stuff of electronics.
We were in Austria, and I was struggling to find an English version of the paper because everything was in German. And I’m like, Dad, iPad, iPhone, I’ll open the new york times on this, like, no, I need a paper. That’s like the boomer generation. But our generation is screentime. It’s all this. And you don’t need to watch a bulletin at 9 pm to get the news. So the various things that are happening right now, and I was trying to touch on all of this at a time when the fake news was coming out. So it was trying to understand how journalism is evolving and where it is right now.
That’s incredible. And do you feel that journalism has sort of shifted with like, co-creating content through like social media and stuff like that? Or? I’m sure there’s a whole slew of things.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think if you think about it, the first form of breaking news today is a tweak, not the EP putting out a wire or not an anchor screaming breaking news. It’s a tweet, right arm and you see every it’s become a digital-first thing, and you see that right? Like, I mean, how many people, Yeah, of course, we tune in to all the major news outlets on the day of the elections, but we also were concurrent with a digital thing. And right now, everyone’s creating new, the new Apple news as well. I mean, and everyone is creating their own news.
And I think what digital has done in a lot of ways has democratized information, right? Like, think about what your podcast is a great example. Right? One of the things that I again that I will emphasize is when I was in the newsroom, we had producers who guarded the voice panel and the television panel like most guarding a car so they would decide is four or five people to decide if you’re good enough. So if they like Pamela, they will allow Pamela to host a show they do not like Pamela, Pamela will never be on here and it was a very subjective arcane thing. And there I’ve seen presenters have been on here for a long time.
The new editor in chief comes in, don’t like them. They’re off or new people. People have never been on-air and they’re like, you have a nice face. Why don’t you come and do your thing and read off a teleprompter? I was thinking about this the other day, as the song goes, a video killed the radio star, right? no one listened to the radio cuz everyone was on television. Why are podcasts back in vogue? Right? Because it’s what content is on demand. That’s what news, that’s entertainment. That’s why Netflix is there over? What is Tuesday night at 9pm mean? Like, what channel doesn’t mean anything because you want to binge on something, it’s your time you can decide.
And the second thing is it’s democratizing our information. Why should someone at Pamela who was a great person about has these great stories tell wants to meet other people with these stories? Why should the family be dependent on a big news network to give her airtime to be able to conduct This, right? That’s what it was they were these people and that’s what journalism is also struggling with because there’s a sense of hubris among editors and major news outlets that would guard these voice panels. This decided it was good to be on air and was not good to be air that you wouldn’t be able to have a platform. And I think you mentioned I did television news interviews, but my bigger speaking engagements all came through democratized information like Ted.
Ted is about free information for everyone. You don’t have to pay for a dentist from a subscription, you don’t get paid to do a TED talk and I think that’s the beauty of our podcasts. And all of this was allowing other people because all these news outlets and big media companies just talk they’re the ones who got it all the information. Information is precious, but it is no longer rare it is like you don’t like to imagine people in 1944 4520 in Britain to know if World War Two was ended or not. Or people depend on newspapers to give them information. You don’t need that anymore.
I mean, God forbid something happened in the street outside, you can be the first responder by posting on Twitter and telling people you don’t need newest cameras to come in. More people can understand what’s going on on your street in Massachusetts, through you then through the local reporter, maybe 20 miles out to come there. So that’s how it’s changed. Now, this is the evolution of economies, this evolution of scales is the evolution of time with everything. And I think that’s what all the media companies and journalism in a sense need to figure out. Right?
I mean, there was a beauty in Woodward Bernstein during the watergate reporting, there was a macular reporting and dealing with all the President’s men kind of, but today, you don’t need deep throat, I mean. if the Whitehouse puts out a tweet, everyone has that information. I mean, of course, there are sources that you have to come to me. Woodward Bernstein had a deep throat because they were Washington Post reporters. You don’t necessarily have to be big to get people on your podcast today.
Right, right. No, I love that. You’re saying it’s democratizing content and freedom of speech in a way because now there are no gatekeepers, we can record what we want, do what we want, say what we want and it’s a beautiful thing. So that’s incredible,
Right? And let the audience decide. Then, the same thing with YouTube. Same thing with all these podcast platforms or anything else. I mean, we are in a generation where we have the loggers like we have kids who are not ordered enough to drink or vote who make more money through Instagram, and Snapchat, and Tiktok. I mean, I don’t even know some of these platform that shows you how much of the older millennial I am. You’re making money off this, right? I mean, we speak what my dad telling me that I have more choices today. Imagine what I’ll be telling my future posterity of what choices they have, you know, being an Instagram influencer, that wasn’t a thing five years ago.
Right. Absolutely. Oh, I mean, the world can be your marketplace. Now. It’s limitless, which is a really exciting time. And it’s the best time that I tell everybody to start a business or to do business because you can connect worldwide.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s what COVID has done. If you think about it. Well, let’s create a sense of location agnosticism, right. And I thought about this having lived in Singapore, and I was taking the metro in DC, broadly, I mean, of course, I don’t want to apologize it. But if you want to take, I’m just going to name a few cities just like a global business city like St. Sydney, Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, DC, New York, San Francisco. Maybe you will still be able to take the metro to work, you’ll be able to get your share of Italian Chinese time Mexican Indian cuisine, the pizza places everywhere.
You’ll be able to get Netflix, Amazon, Uber, and you’ll be able to find an eclectic mix of friends. Find a decent apartment to rent and a decent pub quiz to go to after work. And what will really change in some places is whether taxes and maybe the language impediment. In places like Seoul and Tokyo where which is not as maybe English friendly, but broadly. A lot of my family migrated to the US. It was the only place to come for economic opportunities because everything else is not there elsewhere, right?
I remember when my relatives came to us mean India, even for Russia chocolates meant the relatives that come from overseas, if you watch that, or Russian chocolates in your house. Like in some ways, globalization is sort of created at parity. I mean, zoom is the new Google of sorts that we are getting and talking about right now. Right? And like the fact that you could open a folder and get an Uber anywhere, I mean, maybe it’s something else somewhere else, but or Amazon comes everywhere. And you can watch Netflix, wherever you can do these zoom calls, that’s going to create a new sense of complete location agnosticism, it’s going to create businesses are going to rethink themselves. commercial property developers will have to find another alternative because this is the new headquarters if the cloud is your headquarters now.
Well, yeah, I mean, even this just happened in Boston, but like one of our movie theatres, is going out of business. And so automatically, it’s turning into an Amazon distribution warehouse. So you know what I mean, like a lot of real estate gonna have to reinvent itself to meet 21st-century criteria. Post-COVID, as well, like one of the properties I’m developing to one thing I’m thinking about is a home office is going to get installed. You know what I mean it right near the foyer so you know, you can get stuff done. So it’s like all these things, I think the post effects of COVID will definitely ring a long time.
You read about that I was reading something that RJ Bongo the CEO of MasterCard said something he said it’s not so much about work from home. It’s now living at work. It is right now. Right? And of course, there are other constraints that work from home right in some ways you do miss human interaction, the water cooler as we know, it works is so sacrosanct that it’s both, you know, portrayed negatively and positively. But there are other things that come with it, right.
I mean, I don’t have a family of my own, but I can see what other people have young kids and stuff, and then it does benefit them as well and again, to each their own, but you’re right like this is really changing the nature like even your example of movie theatres in Massachusetts. We’ve had the site, even before the silent era, synthesizing data, we’ve had this thing of donkeys and balconies and stalls and multiplexes and you want to talk Oh, no, we’re just going to go crazy and wide and wide. But will people be like home theatres now and the fact that people are congregating anymore, like all these major companies today, what are they doing? They’re investing in streaming services now, because they’re like, independent top revenue anymore.
I mean, you always have this, I’m not an economist, but you always have this profound moment that changed the way like in 1945, we had the Bretton Woods system that created the dollar as a reserve currency that created the United States and Washington as sort of the center of the geopolitical gravity with the IMF and World Bank being here. And that sort of, I mean, COVID, in lots of ways and has created this new phenomenon will be at the pinnacle. I mean, you know, we talked about this new normal, and we’re still, you know, we have the BC era before the COVID era.
But as this changes, it’ll be hard to think given that something has been so cataclysmic healthcare, to economies, to our interactions with people, what there will be profound changes, and we’re just talking about home office and you know, your business and the way you’ve done business before and in BC and now in DC, and business will be AC, you know, so.
Right. But it’s here to stay, though, I think these marks are here to stay. And it’s interesting, you know, from your perspective, the journey journalism around the geopolitical route, how this has really shifted a lot of things and so I would love to hear from you like, what’s your best piece of advice for? For anyone out there regarding your life experiences, or your experiences in the geopolitical space journalist, Facebook, what would be your best piece of advice?
The one thing I always tell people is the biggest cliche you could ever ask someone or even the moment you joined, you know, it just cliche it is. Where do you see yourself five years from now? Because, like 10 months before, it’s we could not imagine a pandemic of this size and scale, right? And five years before that, things like FinTech and blockchain and AI and podcasts are barely a thing. Five years before that, Instagram will not I think, five years before that social media is barely a thing and Ubers.
And so where do you see yourself five years from now, is the fact that someone like me can interview does that. It just shows that they’re just throwing firecrackers in your feed and seeing how you while you tap dance. Because if you can recycle the same question to anyone anywhere in the world, in any sector, it’s not unique. So I would kind of say that you don’t have to find your plan. Because if your plan is a five-month plan is hard to do right now like we don’t know what’s going to happen in me, the vaccine could eradicate COVID one.
So there is a sense that economic sectors today are malleable. I would try to say that careers are no longer corporate ladders. The jungle gyms, you move up, you move down, you move sideways, the move down can be a quick, stable job to start your own business, right. So it’s technically down income-wise, but it could be as you know, sideways, more than a hockey ship. You know, we talk about recovery as an economy. And I would just say that, for what’s really helped me is and I’m nowhere. I don’t think that they call a finished product.
I’m still learning every day, I think what’s really worked well for me is having a sense of intellectual curiosity, constantly doing that. And you know, when I took my second plunge and quit stable income and relocated from Singapore to the US, for a second grad school degree, it was financially most people don’t know is a stupid thing to do. But I also knew that based on my first experience, the fact that I got my random breakthrough one phone call walking into a random audition and change the gender country I lived in change the jobs I would ever have is, your biggest opportunities necessarily come from the people you meet, right.
I mean, we’ve heard about networking, but networking can have a shallow connotation to it. It can have like a vicious greed angle to that’s not the case. It’s about meeting amazing people and I would say that intellectual curiosity, that sense of wanting to connect your LinkedIn and your best frankly. Your eye, you have so many people out there doing amazing things. Keep that intellectual curiosity, keep that sense of media amazing people. Try telling your own story because that’s you uniquely and I tell this to people even writing their sop for schools. They’re like, Oh, what did you write? I’m like, My story is different from yours. So all your own story, right? Like no one has your own story.
Even if you had someone your colleagues, same undergrad, same jobs apply for the same grad school, you have different stories. Tell your own story because authenticity is important. And I’ll say, lastly, the important thing is understand your DNA not in any geopolitical molecular sense because I’m not there. I’m not a science person. But what really makes you tick, and I realized what made me tick was this intellectual curiosity, understanding and meeting new people trying new things.
I think as long as we’re constantly learning, right, it’s important, and it’s not what you don’t know that kills you. It’s what you think, you know, and that isn’t, so that kills you. Right? You convinced yourself? Yeah, COVID gonna go away five months down the road to book this world around the cruise strip, and everything’s gonna be fine. Well, you’re convincing yourself, but something you don’t know. And, you know, that’s going to come back.
So I think there’s a sense of intellectual humility as well, that you’re constantly learning. And so I’d say those are sort of the things that have helped me. And I hope they can help me because, well, in my early 30s, it’s still a long way to go, and like I said. I couldn’t tell you what’s gonna happen five months from now, I’m hoping that the next journey is amazing. Kids in the 20s, always reach out to me and I’ll be like, your 20s are your most powerplay phase.
You know, you can go in cricket, of baseball go crazy at this time. But by attorneys, you sort of have to consolidate. So no matter how your 20s went, if you went crazy hitting, or you lost, a couple of guys went out your 30s, this sort of 30 billion phases, so use your 20s wisely doesn’t mean that start worrying about everything.
Absolutely. I love that option. Thank you so much for all your insight. And wow, you have quite a journey. And I’m just inspired by you, my friends. So thank you so much for sharing everything now everyone’s got to know where to find you and your awesome self.
You know, honestly, with my name, it’s literally one 2 billion. So children’s Twitter, a troll but you can find me on LinkedIn on Twitter if you want to connect. So I’m sure when Twitter is a good place to connect, reach out, I’m happy to get in touch. I literally say my name is literally one 2 billion because I own my email@example.com as well. That’s where the spam and hate mail are as well. Try not to do too much. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity and I know you know you meet a lot of people. Interesting people, so thank you for giving me the time to be on your podcast.
Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with Underdog Akshobh G.