“My son’s latest work.” read the WhatsApp message from Lizzy and a YouTube video of an advertisement followed. Her son works in Mumbai as a television commercial director and of late he has been getting work from well-known brands. She is thrilled with her son Jay’s success. But his line of work is viewed with a lot of scepticism by the extended family. Does he make enough money? In a city like Mumbai, can he afford to buy a flat? Does he ever plan to get a proper job?
A television advertisement director – not a popular job title among the middle class in India. A hobby maybe, but as a job? Get serious! In fact the whole world knows – middle class Indians have only two aspirations for their children – engineers or doctors. But of late with the boom in social media, publishing and opportunities provided by OTT service providers like Netflix and Amazon, there is a slow acceptance of parents with their children aspiring to be creatives.
Jay wanted to move into the world of films soon after his senior school. He believed that hands-on experience and word of mouth was the only way to learn and grow in the business. What about a degree? If the directing gig does not take off; what does he have to fall back on? What is his safety net? His parents were firm and said no. Where is he getting such ideas from? There is no such history in the family, on both sides. It must be the school !?☺️
The good thing was that the channels of communication remained open and hence there was no ugly stand-off between the parents and the kid. They came to an agreement. He completes 4 years of engineering, gets his degree and then he is free to pursue the career of his choice with full support of his parents. The kid agreed. Jay passed his engineering with distinction; parents were happy; now only if he would sit for the campus recruitment programme, he will get into one of the good companies. Or if he wanted to study further, he could pursue MBA.
Jay did neither; he told his folks that he had kept his end of the deal and now he wanted to go to Mumbai to learn film direction. His parents were aghast. But they kept their end of the deal too and supported their son in Mumbai.
He will probably quit after a year or two and come to his senses, they thought. Mumbai film world is not easy to survive, esp. for an outsider. Jay persisted and now 6 years down he is making is own ads, has his own technical team and support staff. Materially he says he makes good money when he gets work, but work is variable; he has just moved into a new flat on rent in Mumbai and his parents are waiting to go for the housewarming. This is a happy ending to years of uncertainty and pain. Parents out of love push their kids to professions with predictable income, but the world is changing.
Creatives work on gigs and the money inflow is variable, inconsistent and uncertain. Variability is always associated with risk and it’s default human nature to aspire to eliminate risk, prefer consistency primarily because the expenses in life are recurring and certain.
But things are changing even in the corporate sector – the salaries now carry more variable component depended on performance than the fixed amount. Also with technology and automation the only key role for people are ideas, innovation and overseeing execution. People are now learning to take this variability in income in their stride and design their life and finances to accommodate this.
Meanwhile in the Indian middle class, lot more parents and kids are willing to take the risk in pursuing careers in art, music, fashion, writing and so on with some security clauses like in Jay’s case – get a degree first and then pursue your creative score.
Till next post, take care !!