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Atul Kasbekar is an award winning photographer (first Indian to win the prestigious International Food and Beverage Creative Excellence awards 2005, held in London for his work on Kingfisher Calendar), Film producer (His film Neerja won the National Award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi in 2017) and works with the who’s who of the Corporate World and Bollywood through Bling! Entertainment Solutions (a Celebrity Management Company) and Corporate Image (a Specialist Imaging Service for top management and spokespersons within an organization). 

Atul studied at Campion School, Mumbai and Jai Hind College (University of Mumbai) and then joined UDCT (now Institute of Chemical Technology – one of the leading Chemical Engg colleges in the country). But against all odds and advice, he dropped out of UDCT and backed himself to pursue a course in photography in Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. He has subsequently come back to India and has built a distinguished career in Photography, Celebrity Management, Film Production and more.

In our conversation we spoke about the key transition from engineering to photography, the role of resilience in changing trajectories and his reflections on the journey post that. We also spoke about how he has managed to stay relevant and has been able to re-invent himself in new areas as the area of photography has transformed given the onslaught of the digital revolution.

This conversation was published in June 2017. 

Transitioning from Engineering to Photography

A lot of us "go with the flow" either because we want to conform to expectations, minimize risk or don’t listen to our inner voice. Atul talks about how he was an exceptional student in school and ended up in UDCT - one of the most prestigious places to study Chemical Engineering. He talks about the disconnect he experienced at that point and how he moved forward from there.

Being tenacious through the transition

Transitioning from one path to another is not easy. We often celebrate individuals after they have demonstrated success. But we often miss the iceberg that is below the sea surface. Atul talks about how he persisted through multiple hurdles when he transitioned from studying Chemical Engineering to pursue photography.

Marrying passion with pragmatism

Follow your passion is bad advice says Cal Newport in his book 'So good they cannot ignore you'. How does one think about options and decisions when passion and pragmatism point in different directions. Atul talks about how one could look at adjacencies and be pragmatic about a career decision by looking at supply-demand trends in an industry that one is trying to enter.

Staying relevant over the long-term

We live in a world where professions are being threatened and jobs that existed yesterday may not exist tomorrow. Atul talks about how the world of photography has been democratized with the penetration of mobile phones with good cameras. He shares his insights on how one could think about being relevant in these changing times.

Entrepreneurial pursuits beyond photography

We often have to reinvent ourselves along the way as we go through our career. There are variuos trigger points where our priorities change and market opportunities change. Atul shares his perspectives around how he has managed to go beyond Photography to venture into new domains. He shares a piece of feedback that one of his friends provides which paved the way to a new possibility.

Balancing commerce with creativity

Film production is a tricky area where one has to walk the tight rope between creativity (as appreciated by the audience) and commerce. Atul talks about how he thinks about it and also alludes to the evolving consumer mindset where some early opinions could significantly swing the fortunes of the movie one way or the other.

Enlisting and empowering people in your team

In any profession, it is very easy to be treated as suppliers in the value chain. How does one elevate oneself to move beyond being perceived as a mere supplier? How does one engage and empower the team members so that they don’t feel like suppliers and have greater ownership of the end product? Atul talks about his views in this context. He also talks about his experiences while making the film Neerja and alludes to the role of authenticity in being able to enlist people in his journey.

In Summary - Playing to Potential

How do individuals stay relevant amidst all the change and opportunity around them? Atul shares his perspective around how individuals should think about their future when the current education system is preparing children for jobs that possibly don’t even exist today.

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