Sunday, August 31, 2014

A dinner date with social media

A little something I wrote recently, for a little something. 

When Instagram was founded in 2010 and eventually made its way to Indian shores, little did its founders realise that it would be sparking the beginning of a food blogging revolution, or an extension of what already existed. It is similar to the photography wave that came before this where everyone who owned a DSLR was also a photographer, and even had their own Facebook fan page, Twitter handle and what not. 
The Indian food bloggers did exist before this wave; however we were about to see the emergence of many more as the influencers who got used to joys of instant sharing of their gorgeous food images their followers, and later joined the blogger force. Some are worth their salt, (no pun intended) and some are just regular folk armed with technology.

So how do you distinguish between whom to take seriously on social media? Who is a heavy weight, and who is a random neighbour with an opinion? Instagram has made it easy for everyone to find a visual way to express their thoughts, and because of their growing popularity they also seem to have taken on themselves the onus to review everything that they experience. Taking a picture before allowing anyone at the table to take a bite, the #FoodPorn revolution has completely changed the dining experience as well. And hell hath no fury worse than an influencer deprived of WiFi!

So as a business, or even someone who is looking for an unbiased opinion on what is out there in the food realm, who can you actually turn to? The first ones you can look for – and if we are looking at social media as a democracy, then these people could be termed as the Gandhi family*– are the journalists, people with years of experience under their belt. While their pictures may or may not make you salivate, those are some honest opinions coming your way. These people also never usually name and shame; if they don’t like something they more often than not just do not write about it or post it at all.

The next bunch of people to look for are chefs, they cook a storm on a daily basis so they know to appreciate what is truly good out there. It is not their job to talk about other restaurants or cafes, so if it does make it to their updates it is probably to die for.

Then we have the social media babies – the influencers, born of their popularity on Twitter and now Instagram. These people might or might not be able to claim the right to call themselves food writers. There are those who know their food, there is absolutely no doubt about that. There are also those who have time and access to decent food shots, and since they are popular online every brand wants to be a part of their posts.

A simple, but not foolproof, way to distinguish between these two is to see who walks the talk. Most good food bloggers also cook and though this rule still cannot be applied to everyone, it is fairly a good yardstick to measure by.

So if you’re looking to find someone to associate with, or want to learn to ride the social media wave, it would be best learned from someone who knows what they are talking about.

*This doesn’t have any bearing on the writer’s political opinion. It was just thrown in for good measure to talk about aristocracy, if we were in England I would have spoken about the royal family.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013: A year in retrospect

Seeing as I have not updated this blog in a while, I thought it would be good to shed light into what has happened over the year. You are thinking, if anyone is reading this at all, why on earth would you want to sit through an entire year of my life. Well, I make two promises, I shall keep it short even though brevity isn't my strong point, and it was an interesting year. I will more elaborate bits on the more interesting parts of my year later on. Sound good? Okay then, let's get rid of my writers block, or at least my excuse for not having written a stitch in the last year.

So let's start with where I left of last, the IIJNM/ Bangalore days. Yes, that's where all the angst-y posts originated, journalism school. It redefined my perception of education, taught me to balance freedom and responsibility. Probably the most important lesson that IIJNM taught me would be to question everything. Blind acceptance always leads to folly, grave or otherwise. A lesson that I am still in the process of fully implementing though. Though joining the college was a last minute decision for me, it turned out to be one of the best in my life. I met people there I will always treasure, you folk know who you are, and stepped out more world wise and better for it. Sharpening of the writing skills didn't hurt either.

Towards the end of the blissful ten months that were IIJNM, I had some tough choices to make. Did I want to be a journalist that took part in the shaping of history, fought hard to get her stories and bylines, or was I one that documented the process? Did I want to write about lifestyle and culture or development and politics. After frantically writing to many publications, without really thinking about what I wanted to do, not considering that stopping and examining at that would be good, I jumped head first into to a lifestyle weekly of one of Bangalore's well known dailies. I don't know how exactly to describe that period in my life, but here a sort of analogy that may help. So if you were a pot, you're all shaped, pretty and ready to meet the world, there is one tiny step that it is left, right. You need to get baked first. So let's just say, said publication was the kiln and I got baked. Infer from that what you may, if you know more than I say here, then you know it, that is all I am going to say. I learned many life lessons though, in the words of some hipster kid, 'nuff said!

After having lived in Bangalore for two years I can't leave out mention of my love for the place. So many lovely, quaint eateries, great places to shop and lovely people. I have had so many random days and nights in the "Uru" that are unforgettable. One day I'll go back, go to all the places I used to know, fun bars, shady theatres and quirky cafes, and be nostalgic. But then I will remember being stranded in a place alone with men watching rather than helping, auto drivers that showed the whole city, even when I didn't want to see it, and some other crazy moments. Yes, it was a love-hate relationship, but lots more love than there was hate. So I'll see you when I see you Bangalore, let's cross our fingers and hope that it's soon. Oh, if any of you are heading to Bangalore, walk down Mosque Road in Frazer Town for the most hearty food you've ever eaten.

Back to the timeline. Post the stint at aforementioned publication, I decided to leave and move back home, I thought I'd be there for a month tops, before I move on to something new and better. The question was though, what would that something new be? I wasn't sure of what I wanted, I wasn't sure of anything. When in doubt, experiment was the wise older sisters advice. For once I shall say, she was spot on. After a month or so of faffing, I decided to try a few things that I thought I might like to do in effort to find my true passion, my "calling". Jaded as I was at the time I didn't believe that people had something that they were good at and loved to do as well. That was till I stepped in the bakery at the Marriott.

Some background, so there is a program in the state that allows people to help starred hotels out in during the festive months, you get a little certificate for it later. I thought, since I wasn't doing much else anyway, I thought why not? What have I got to lose? The day I stepped into those chef whites, till five months later when I wore them for the last day, I was in love. Those months were the most strenuous, yet blissful months of my life. I learned to work with efficiency, to go without sleep, that no matter what your body tells you, it is capable of doing so much more. Sadly since I was only a trainee at the time I was living on love and the smell of cookie batter, which was great but could not go on for too long. So I had to walk away, though I did walk away with a few trade secrets and a dream. I needed to do something that would earn me some money to help one day, hopefully in the near future help realise my dream.

So I dusted off the resume and put the supposed writing skills to some use and began the hunt for a job. I'm more than a little apprehensive as I spent five months randomly working in a bakery. I didn't think my prospective employers would view this in favourable light. For the most part, I was right, until I met the dynamic duo that started up a web development firm that would enlighten me in the months to follow. Did I think I would fit the online marketing bill? In all honesty, no! But I soon discovered, there was no bill to fit. The random misfit that I was made me a pretty decent match for the job at hand. I had an interesting mix of clients, a lifestyle publication (this genre seems to haunt me), being the voice of a financial adviser and a school, to name a few. Working with a start-up is brilliant, the flexibility that you get in companies like these are unbelievable. The amount I learned from the founders of the company was immeasurable. I even learned to decipher finance, something I was averse to up until that point. Old skills honed, new skills attained and many friends made, working at the Start Up (that's what we will call it in this post) was great, but new things beckoned and I walked toward the unknown.

Now I have crossed over to what all journalists call, the dark side. Yes, that's right, Public relations. Technically speaking, it's more of a marketing communication profile, I almost heard your eyes roll,  but really it is. It's only been a bit so I shall save that for a later date since according to my timeline, all of you are now up to speed.

So here's to a year that has been one for the books, or in this case blog, indeed. Hopefully more, shorter posts soon. If you're thinking where is the brevity I talked about earlier, well when you're trying to cram a years worth of life into a post, this is brief. :) Definitions are always subjective, kid.

Ciao for now.