Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Naga Subramanya! Naga is a podcaster and host of the Passion People podcast, a show dedicated to sharing the stories of relatable people so that listeners can get encouraged to chase their dreams. He also co-founded O2 Pod Collective, an advocacy group of podcasters in Bangalore, India to push forward the medium of podcasting.

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Naga Subramanya: [00:00:00] because India is such a big country and such a diverse country, there’s also the rise of vernacular content, which is Hindi or Telugu or Tamil or Kannada. And these are regional Indian languages. It’s about as big as one country in Europe or two countries in Europe put together.

So these regional language markets are also huge opportunities.

Hello hello fellow Podlover. This is Norm and welcome to Podlovers Asia. The show where we cover the Asian podcasting scene, interviewing hosts, producers, movers in podcasting markets, and this time we’re going to take a quick trip to India, one of the largest potential podcast markets in the world to have a chat  with Naga Subramanya of the Passion People podcast.

Naga is a podcaster and host of the Passion People podcast, a show dedicated to sharing the stories of relatable people so that listeners can get encouraged, get more enthusiastic in chasing their dreams in a realistic fashion. On top of this podcast, Naga is one of the founders of the O2 Pod Collective, a advocacy group of podcasters in Bangalore, south of India, to push forward the medium of podcasting through the means of offline events and much more.

They have been on the rise in terms of events happening there in India  and with vast amounts of experience in the Indian podcasting market, I reached out to Naga for his take on what is happening there. In this episode, we talk about the mission behind the Passion People podcast, Naga’s observations on the Indian podcasting scene, his predictions, the definition of passion as a pursuit of expression and much more.

This was a long and meaningful talk full of insight on one of the hottest podcast markets coming up in Asia. I learned a lot as well. I played the fool. I really didn’t know that much about the Indian podcasting market.

I didn’t want to assume too much, and I’m happy that Naga shares a lot of his lessons and insights with me and with you, of course, my dear listener. So without further ado, let’s dive into my chat with Naga of the Passion People podcast.

Norman Chella: [00:02:29] And I know that you’ve been doing so much, not only as host of the Passion People podcast, but also as part of Podcast Conclave, the Bangalore podcast meet up and the O2 Pod Collective, which you do a whole bunch of names. Um, but. Even before all of those existed.

I want to ask, what is your origin story? How did you get into the world of podcasting from your side?

Naga Subramanya: [00:02:55] So my origin story goes back to 2016, I think August, April to August, 2016 when I was on a gap year. So professionally I’m a CPA in India, certified public accountant. And, uh, I took a year off and I traveled, I met people, I was doing a bunch of stuff. And one of the things I did during that time was I interviewed for a show called Founders Yan. And Yan means knowledge in Hindi. And so it was a podcast about entrepreneurship and someone else who interviewed me for that podcast, w I, I interviewed for them and I was like, this is easy. I can, I can do this myself. And later I realized how, how wrong I am, but I, I’m still realizing how wrong I am.

But I’ve always wanted to be an RJ. I love talking to people. I love meeting new people. I love doing new things, and podcasting gave me something that combined all of this together. And I also saw the potential that it had because you have network effects, right? You talked to me, I talked to my friends. You go and you talk to your friends and they’re all talking to each other and you know, that’s how the words,  spreads.

But with the emergence of social media and, my love for audio, and I’ve always had like really high end speakers, always music playing all the time and always people, how do you get all of this together? And podcasting seem like a great way to get all of that together. So that’s my origin story.

Norman Chella: [00:04:16] And why specifically passion? Because I’m hearing that you have this amazing interest or enthusiasm for an RJ or radio DJ, right? That’s it. That’s already a radio jockey per se.

Naga Subramanya: [00:04:29] radio jockey.

Norman Chella: [00:04:29] Yeah, to be a personality on air, uh, in the world of audio. But when you were starting out your podcast, why specifically passion? I’m curious about that.

Naga Subramanya: [00:04:39] So again, we go back to the year 2016 right? So during my gap year, I met people who are so inspiring. I met this 18 year old girl who was traveling all over the country by herself.

Norman Chella: [00:04:52] Yeah.

Naga Subramanya: [00:04:53] I met, uh, this individual who, if you see her, you would consider her to be maybe a little bit on the fatter side or the chubbier side.

But she had like incredible strength and she used to do all kinds of yoga poses and headstands and handstands and, and all of that. So just kind of breaking conventional notions of what beauty stands for. And they were all these people who were so courageous. They were doing amazing work. And I realized that, merely interacting with them changed the way I looked at the world, and it filled me up with possibilities because especially in a country like India, we’re always safeguarded.

We’re always told to take it easy. You’re always told to do the conservative things to get a job. So take care of your family to do what is the right thing. Right?  In a setting like this, I wanted to bring about stories of people who have not followed the conventional path, but they still found their way or are on the way to finding out how their life will pan out. So I wanted to get real life examples and take it out to the world.

So when people heard them, they can say, Hey, if this guy can do this, maybe I can do it too. To kind of find that relatability to some extent, right? Because I had like a biker who had crowdsourced money and was biking around the country. There was an artist who left her job as a scientist. There was a writer who left a job as a lawyer, and there was a Mountaineer who trekked the five highest peaks of the five continents.

There was a microbiologist between, we spoke about COVID-19 and why she loves yeast so much.  These are individuals and stories that you would never be able to get anywhere else. And I wanted to find these stories and bring them to people so that they can get inspired and they can get one step closer to not just thinking about, Oh, I’m going to do this someday.

Right? I wanted them to say, no, let’s start doing this because I’m so inspired.

Norman Chella: [00:06:50] Is that your source of passion to be able to share? Yeah.

Naga Subramanya: [00:06:54] Absolutely. It’s my source of passion and it’s also a lot of fun and you get a lot of energy from interacting with these people. I do. That energy rubs off on you, that vibe rubs off on you and you know, I’m here talking to you and I know that you’re so passionate, you’re so enthusiastic and you know, it’s filling me up with the same kind of energy.

And that’s what this is all about. And I think because the world is full of things,  videos and images that are making you feel like shit. Let’s try and make a difference. And instead of spreading hatred, let’s, let’s spread love instead of spreading messages of division, let’s spread, you know, something that gets people together.

Finally, it’s, it’s a great way to network with people. Like just imagine like if there was, if we didn’t have podcasting in common,  is there any way that I would have gotten a chance to talk to Norman? Is there any way I would have gotten a chance to talk to a Guinness world record holder?

No way. Well, they said, why are you doing, like, why the hell should they talk to you?

Norman Chella: [00:07:54] Yeah, I can see that. The positive effects of having a podcast or having this sort of audio, shall we say, an audio publication, right? It’s like this sort of journey that anyone can follow for free and anyone can tap into the conversations, the value of the intimate moments where you are talking with someone who is very interesting or can provide insight that you can apply to your everyday life.

To be able to recognize that, at least at surface level and depending on the niche and depending on the person, like even on a deeper, more interesting level, it puts you in a unique position where if you tell someone, Hey, I have a podcast, I would love to interview on it.  it’s less of an ask. It’s more like giving them the chance to shine, right.

More like a, like an amazing privilege that not for us, but. It’s a privilege that we can bestow upon people so that they can share what they want to share with the world. And we are just messengers. So I really do connect with the mission behind your show. So as I was listening to the episodes, I did listen to them, like the biologist one, and I also listened to the oh, uh, uh, at the one who was in premed and then ended up doing video production.

Naga Subramanya: [00:09:14] yeah, yeah. The, the recent one.

Norman Chella: [00:09:15] The original one. Yes. Yes. Uh, that’s also pretty fascinating. So hearing all. These stories from these people I have never heard of ever in my life. But hearing their take makes each and every episode much more fascinating.

So I really do appreciate that you are able to make such amazing episodes. So, uh, here’s to you doing that at a hundred, 200, 300 episodes

Naga Subramanya: [00:09:41] Thank you. My latest episode is like two or three days overdue, so hopefully you get back to that soon.

Norman Chella: [00:09:49] That’s okay. Your listeners are loyal. I’m sure. Like there, I think there was one, Oh, well we’ll, we’ll get into it later. But there’s one like article talking about your recent meetup and then you did talk about how listeners want to hear or meet the face behind the podcast. So I’m sure there are people who want to listen to your show and forgive you for being a little bit late.

Uh, it, I mean, we’re not really

Naga Subramanya: [00:10:12] Challenges of an indie podcaster.

Norman Chella: [00:10:15] Yeah, definitely. Let’s dive into, um, this show, specifically.  I found something quite interesting,  but I want to hear it straight from you. Let’s talk about the logos on your podcast art. So. The helm, the grain, and the ripple star. Can you tell me what do they mean and can you share that with our listener here?

Naga Subramanya: [00:10:39] Yes. So when I’m looking for guests, I look for a couple of characteristics in the guest, and that is what the three logos of the podcast represent rate. So one is the Helm. The helm is like a steering wheel for a ship. That’s all. The way I interpreted the Helm was someone who was self directed and someone who knows where they’re going.

Right? So they. They have a very clear sense of purpose or they have a very clear sense of direction. So that’s the helm. The second one is the grain, which is independence. What is stopping a lot of people from doing whatever they want is because they feel like they can’t be financially or emotionally independent by just being reliant on their passion.

So they’re trying to figure out ways of monetizing their work. Through more and more stories, you realize that there is no fixed answer.  Everyone shouldn’t just follow their passion. Everyone shouldn’t have a job and follow their passion. Everyone shouldn’t do whatever, X, Y, or Z. Right? It’s every journey is unique, but what they’re looking for or they’re trying to do with their passion is to, they’re trying to get that independence and that happiness and satisfaction with what they do.

So that’s the grain, right? The independence. And the third thing is the star, that ripple star, which is effect beyond oneself. So who are the people who are willing to talk about the work that they’re doing? And spread the effect of the work to someone else. And even over a hundred listeners, even if you’re able to have an impact on one of them, that’s, that’s all that you’re really looking for.

And you’re looking for people who are willing to spread that message and spread that positivity. Like I said, we’re trying to find all of these characteristics in people, and these are the core values that the show stands for. Does that answer your question?

Norman Chella: [00:12:30] Yeah, it does. Yeah, it’s pretty good. It’s like really defining and filtering a specific kind of guest that would fit your show. I’m curious now, now that you’ve explained it now, it just came to my mind since you have a very specific defined. Shall we say, set of values, um, for a guest, to be on the show through the helm, the grain and the ripple star.

Does this become some kind of mindset of perspective when you meet someone for the first time, do you put them through the filters of the helm, the grain and ripple star to determine whether or not they have. clarity in their direction, whether they have the level of self independence or whether they have the level of impact.

I’m asking because I may have encountered that problem myself, but I would love to hear your take. Uh, every time you meet a stranger, do you always go through those three?

Naga Subramanya: [00:13:24] I don’t, but I think it at a subconscious level, I, it’s always there on the back of my mind, the, uh, the finished of, and I’m talking to guests, pretty simple. The first, uh, the question that I asked them is, what is your passion? How are you making it manifest? Why do you think your story is unique and what for others to listen to?

And lastly, are they able to articulate their thoughts well enough because if you can’t get someone on the show, and half of the time they’re like, ah, Ooh, uh, uh, then you know, you have a lot of editing work left for you. that also doesn’t make for like a great conversation. So you also want to be able to tell whatever is in the other person’s mind with a lot of clarity.

So these are predominantly things I look for. And subconsciously those values are that. But maybe some people are higher on some values and they’re low on the others and, but at the end of the day, it kind of all evens out. And all of the guests will at least find glimpses of those values are one or two really strong characteristics of those values.

Norman Chella: [00:14:23] Does that mean you do a lot of pre-interviews? Because you do have to check if they can articulate themselves very well, even if they have all three values, but if they are really bad behind a microphone, or they get nervous, which can happen, uh, you know, you can have some amazing guests with some amazing insight, but as soon as you have the, you know, like the red light on the microphone on

It just freezes them over. Uh, do you have a lot of dead episodes or pre-interviews that end in failure?

Naga Subramanya: [00:14:53] The pre-interviews never end in failure because the pre-interview is just a conversation. So there are two ways that I interview people. One is if I’m interviewing them in person. Then the pre interview is like two hours or three hours long, and just talking to them and I’m talking to them and I’m talking to them, and finally we reach the stage where I’m like:

It seems like we can start interviewing now and we just start. Okay. Now if I’m doing the remote interviews, which I have been doing for season two, like most of season two have been remote. So what happens with remote interviews is that you shared your two slots of interviews, not just one.

And in one, you just talk about them and you talk about them and ask them about their story and their experiences and blah, blah, blah, and you make notes. The next time you actually interview them as when you’re talk.

Norman Chella: [00:15:40] So you repeat a lot of it on the second one. Is that, is that what

Naga Subramanya: [00:15:43] Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. You repeat a bunch of it in the second one. You also have the specific points that you want to touch upon. You have like the good parts of that story. You don’t want them to miss. So when you’re talking to them the second time you pick up on those trends and you say, Hey, can, can, can you touch upon this?

Can you then you ask the guests the questions that, so that you get the answers you want. And in, in the case of more  busy guests or guests who are unable to make it, then, I actually, I do like a 1 hour slot, but only 30 to 35 minutes is recording time in that. So I give them like a perspective. I understand their story.

I understand where they’re coming from in the first 15 or 20 minutes, and then we go to the recording after that.

Norman Chella: [00:16:27] Wow. That’s really interesting. Like, cause it’s very different from how I would do it, but, okay. Cause I, I’m, I

Naga Subramanya: [00:16:35] you do it?

Norman Chella: [00:16:37] so the way that I would do it is that. a lot of my pre is an accepted outline on first outreach. So as an example, there’ll be either through a Twitter DM or an email where I would pitch a general bullet points of an outline and heavily encouraged that it’s a chat, not an interview.

there is no need for you to prepare so much, but rather, I would rather. Talk to you at your current present state, uh, what you know right now, um, and what you’re thinking about right now and your past, which are sure things to talk about. Uh, because if we start to. And define it, outline further along, and make it too detailed, then it’ll sound too prepared.

And I’ve been in a few prepared interviews myself, and those episodes don’t work that well. They also don’t really resonate with the audiences. I mean, and that was me being the guest, right? I was on somebody else’s show and that happened to me. And, uh, even the producer himself chimed in. He was the one like monitoring everything.

He said that we sounded too robotic. Right. Cause we were just, it sounded like we were just, yeah, of course. Yeah. Reading off of paper, which sucks. So I would do it completely like that, which means I don’t do a pre interview call, which is very interesting. It’s, it’s very different from yours. So, but I like that.

To me, it looks like your analogy would be, uh, you write a draft together. But then the actual recording is the editing, right? It’s like revising through the same contents, but with greater structure, which is, you know, you going like, Hey, yeah, you should touch more on this. Touch more on I like that.

Oh, okay.

Naga Subramanya: [00:18:17] But, so even though, even though there’s like a heavy element of, uh, getting to know the person and touching upon specific points, you always make sure that it’s always a conversation. So like, just the way you do it, I also tell them that, just think about it as a coffee chat with a friend, that you’re catching up with somebody and you’re not, this is your story.

Say you’re telling an older friend, this is all your, that you did right. So that does the vibe that I try to keep on the show Yeah. That’s that. That’s what I do. In the editing part, most of the editing is less around structuring the episode, but more on adding background noise, cleaning up the audio, adding the introduction, adding the outro, and adding some music elements here.

But that’s about it. But the structure is already fixed when we’re having the conversation, because I wanted it to be a conversation on the show. I don’t want it to be like a narrative.

Norman Chella: [00:19:07] Okay. So there’s minimal editing on the actual conversation itself. Okay. Okay. Okay. Interesting. Yeah, I’m seeing a lot more of that pop up and well, one, it’s a lot easier. Right? Cause it’s already set for you. And two, by leaving that there raw, it makes it seem more natural or a more budget-like as if it’s very relatable as if it’s just a conversation at the table and as the listener, you’re just sitting there with us as we talk and, um, yeah, I always try to strive for that.

On the, uh, on the show itself, you’ve touched on the fact that you have amazing criteria for choosing your guests. I’m sure that you have this amazing wishlist of people with amazing passions around the world that you would love to have on your show.

Is there anyone in particular that you would love to have, uh, as a dream guest? Maybe for like two hours of talking about passions and how they have gone through that.

Naga Subramanya: [00:20:09] I don’t think so. Uh, it’s a, it’s a surprising thing, but I don’t think I have anyone who’s like a wishlist of the guests. Right? Because I’ve seen, other other podcasts does say that these are my wishlist of people and I want to interview this person. I want to interview with that person, but see the whole thing Norman of the set of people that I’m talking to, they are people that everyday people, It doesn’t really matter who it is.  What matters is what they’re doing. Yeah, sure. I’d love to talk to Bill Gates. Yeah, sure. I’d love to talk to Barack Obama, but that’s not the point. This is not a podcast about popular people. This is a podcast about people who are not yet popular, but you will find them in the future, or these are, this is a podcast about people that you can personally relate to.

The moment I get like a really high profile guest. What will happen is I lose the connect with the listeners and the entire premise collapses, where the intent is to make that individual sit with us around the table and feel like, Hey, this guy did it. I can do it too. But the moment you get like maybe a movie personality or maybe a, someone really high up there the first thing that popped in is, Hey, this guy is in a different league, man.

I can’t, I can’t do it what this guy is doing, so the relatability aspect kind of snaps does that make sense?

Norman Chella: [00:21:24] Yeah. Okay. I could see that. Yeah. Like distancing the audience from the guests because we would know the guest to be too popular and we already have a few presumptions by knowing that that person is popular. Like for example, if you take a very famous actor or a very famous internet celebrity.

Let’s just say, let’s, let’s take an example, right? Let’s take Elon Musk, right? Let’s say season three Passion People podcasts. Your first guest is Elon Musk. First of all. Holy shit. That’ll be amazing. I would totally listen to that. So, so you’re, I, I hope you’re working hard to get that, uh, that interview in, but, but second of all, there is only one Elon Musk in the world.

Uh, and there is only one who is as obsessive about work or as forward thinking or as innovative and demoed that you do that. The more that you tap into a conversation about that, the more that you realize that just how different you are to that person. And I could see that. I can see that being a disadvantage and I can

Naga Subramanya: [00:22:23] but like I said, that that’s, that’s not what I’m aiming with the podcast as well. Like at the end of the day, the podcast is about everyday stories. It’s about everyday people doing amazing things so that one can get inspired from listening to them.

Norman Chella: [00:22:37] And since you are touching on the stories of people who the average listener can relate to,  I want to hear about your fans. So do they come up to you and they say how amazing your show is, and do they talk about how you have this one episode that had an impact for them? Because I know that you’ve done a few offline meetups, and I know that you’ve met with listeners, I believe in Bangalore.

Naga Subramanya: [00:23:05] Yes. I, I have, I have met listeners, but, uh, most of the time they are listeners of other’s podcasts, not mine.

Norman Chella: [00:23:12] okay.

Naga Subramanya: [00:23:13] The, the most engagement I’ve got with my listeners is maybe on the comment section on Castbox or, you know, the reviews that I get on iTunes. But yeah, there, there are a couple of people who, uh, one or two of them who email me and say that, you know, I’ve been passionate about photography for the last five years, but I’m not passionate about it anymore.

What do you think? You interview so many passionate people. Um, here I am in the midst of a life crisis because I thought, I don’t like my IT jobs so I, I moved on to photography, but now, I’m getting bored of photography. And so to them, like I’ve responded and I’ve had conversations with them, but I’ve told them that it’s okay.

You’re, you’re a person who keeps changing. You can have different passions. You don’t have to marry to one thing.  it’s okay to move on. But what is important is. That you find something that you’re curious about, that you’re interested in, and that is sufficiently complex that it keeps you want to keep working on it, right?

Like that’s the one of the beauty of podcasting because it is so complex  and you can just keep getting better and better at it.

Norman Chella: [00:24:14] I’m curious now, what is the human aspect behind that person being compelled to email you something so personal, like a midlife crisis or a crisis in their lives. Uh, I mean, I guess it could be the fact that not only is it a combination of you the host, being able to talk with a guest that has amazing stories, but also the fact that I guess you’ve have positioned yourself as like the voice of reason for passion and.

I see that. That’s, that’s pretty fascinating.

Naga Subramanya: [00:24:46] Or it could also be that, you know. This person has been listening. He’s a loyal listener, and he just assumed that I would be able to help him because I’ve spoken to like 65 other people.

Norman Chella: [00:24:56] So let’s break it down a little bit. So he had a job,  he had a 9-5 he quit to do photography, or did he not quit or he just started photography as a hobby then I guess he had a passion for it, but that passion subsided and now he is at a crossroads.

He doesn’t know what to do. Is there a possibility that he maybe. Was misunderstood about the notion of passion because I feel like this is going to be a very complicated issue to dive into, but I do want to hear your take. the topic of passion is a very personal, subjective and complicated one.

And you’re, you, you are able to articulate your, definition of it through the show. Yet. We have someone here who is lost in their own passion.

How does one find their own definition of passion?

Naga Subramanya: [00:25:47] The best thing to do is just try out a bunch of things, right? Because if you have no place to start or if you can’t think of one thing, then maybe just do like a bunch of different things. Do things that you would never, ever do, do things that you would always do. Like for me, reading comes  naturally talking to people it comes naturally. Playing on the computer comes naturally. Uh, you know, watching Netflix comes naturally, but I’m not talking about these passive things. What I’m talking about is that you are involving yourself in the process of creating something. Okay? Maybe reading a book qualifies, but, well, how are you creating something?

Like, are you writing, are you journaling? Are you talking to somebody new or you’re trying to take  an idea and take it off the ground. Are you trying to learn a new art form? Are you trying to learn origami? Are you trying to learn painting. Are you trying to learn how to taste wines? Trying to learn baking. We live in such a wonderful, complicated world, the information at our fingertips and all that one needs is intent and a little bit of time investment because everything else is around them.

And it’s up to them to figure out what it is to do. So if somebody were to embark on a quest to find their passion, the tools that they have are already within them. It’s up to them too tap into the smart phone, log onto YouTube or whatever platform it is and say, Oh, I always wanted to learn how to make chocolate.

I always learned learn how to, how to bake, how to cook, how to run, how to workout, how to make fire crackers, how to learn about integrated circuits, how to do podcasting, how to make a video. Uh, how to travel. Like traveling alone is like a wonderful way to find out what you’re passionate about because you’re thrown into different circumstances all the time.

So you’re looking at things with a fresh perspective, the people that aren’t, who influence you a lot. And so, yeah, like I, I can just keep going on and on, but the point is, look at it like a spread of food for dinner, right? You’ve got to try everything. Unless you try you don’t know what it is that you’re good at.

And after trying, what is it that you keep coming back to without anyone trying to force you? What do you keep coming back to? And that’s in some way, that’s your passion. And I also want to clarify to people that your passion can be boring. Sometimes there’ll be a passion, can be something they do, don’t feel like doing, or passion can feel like it’s a lot of work.

But the same body of work will lead you to the most highest highs of your life. Right? So it’s a spectrum. It’s not like it’s always, you’re going to always going to be feeling a, Oh, I feel so important. I feel so awesome. No, it doesn’t work like that. Right. I love the conversation part. I am loving this interaction with you, but at the same time, I have to log onto Twitter every day and promote my podcast.

I need to ask people to review it on iTunes.

I need to make sure that I am finding newer and interesting guests that no one else has heard of. All of this is work. I need to, I need to make sure that I don’t, no one else hears that cough and it’ll make sure that no one else hears that, Oh, he or whatever it is, and still seem like it’s a smooth conversation.

These are not things that I enjoy, but they are part of my passion, and it’s, it’s a package. You have to look at all the amazing things and also not the amazing things.

Norman Chella: [00:29:14] Yeah. Is it worth the struggle. Right? And if it is, if the answer to that is yes, then it is most likely a passion that will stand the test of time. I like to think of it as a passion being the pursuit of expression. So you’re on the search for different ways to express who you are, and then in the moment that you find a potential hobby or interest, you ask yourself, is this who I am right now?

Yes. For the time being, we don’t know how long it will last. We don’t know if we have good days or bad days. Right? Just like you, I, I like doing podcasting. I like doing amazing talks, reaching out to guests. Uh, I hate editing, but it’s necessary because I don’t want people to hear me smacking my lips or saying, Oh, M’s, uh, all the time.

But it’s necessary. It’s worth the struggle because in the end, if you want to create something that you want to be part of, and that really It represents you as a podcaster and as you as an individual, then you have to do it.  No, is not an option.

Right. You have to do it. You just have to want to do it and do you just need to, you know, shut up and do it. Really, that’s pretty much the core of passion. It’s not, it’s not pretty. Passion is not pretty, at least to me. I mean, that’s just my own definition of it. But you know, to each their own experiences.

Naga Subramanya: [00:30:38] Yeah. I love that. I love, I love your definition of passion being the way you express yourself. I love that. It’s amazing. I’m going to use it in one of the future episodes.

Norman Chella: [00:30:47] Ah, thank you. Thank you. I’ll make sure to share it. Episode. What do you, when you have it up there

Naga Subramanya: [00:30:52] That.

Norman Chella: [00:30:55] and now in the pursuit of your expression through the Passion People, podcasts. I want to take a look at the macro level of what is happening in the Indian podcasting scene. We’ve touched on it a little bit. You were doing live events or while you’re meant to do a live event soon, . But due to the outbreak, it unfortunately got canceled.

I mean, I honestly would love to see some coverage on it, but you know, we’ll see later on. Maybe you might be able to do, you might be able to salvage a little bit of what you are trying to create. So, but assume I know nothing. Assume that I am just some random guy. I want to look into India. I want to look into what people are doing in terms of podcasting.

Could you paint a picture for me from your side?

Naga Subramanya: [00:31:44] I would say that we are in the most exciting time for the Indian podcasting industry. I say that because we’ve had like a bunch of established networks which have developed and grown and lost their own bit of talent, but. They’ve really laid the groundwork in terms of getting more people aware about podcasts, getting sports personalities in podcasts.

The first macro trend is the rise of the Indian podcast network, right? So that is something that’s happening. A couple of prominent networks are in, Indus Vox Media. Suno India, Maed in India. These are people who’ve been there for a while and they’re growing, they’re adding shows to their roster, they’re getting newer and newer talent, and that’s amazing.

The second thing that’s happening is Amazon came to India and said, I want a bunch of shows. Who do we pick? they’ve picked a variety of shows and they’ve created their own Android app, specifically for India called  Amazon SUNO, S, U N, O. People have exclusive content from these podcasts, is that Amazon has purchased.

So money has now come back to the pockets of independent creators, which is amazing. Right? So that, that is a second, second trend. So the rise or the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of monetization, we have Spotify that has started operations in India. We have Spotify that is now making original content, exclusively for Spotify listeners, which is India based, Pacific exclusive content.

The thing that’s happening is that

and there are companies in India, like one of them is called Aawaz means voice. And what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to create content in these regional languages so that the next 500 million of Indians who come on to the internet.

They don’t have to experience the internet in English. They can expedience the internet in their own language, whatever it is. So that is the rise of vernacular content that is being created specifically to cater to the next wave of the Indian internet users. The other thing that is happening is the rise of the podcasting communities, and this is something that we’ve hired an active role to play in  podcasting.

Communities have known, started rising. We have a group on WhatsApp, like most of the podcasters in the country that had like 150 podcasters

and like a couple of platforms and  pretty cool. So you can, you can share ideas. You can bash upon people that you can tell them, uh, that, you know, this company is doing some shit and I don’t agree with what they’re doing, but it’s a great place to interact.

Right? So there’s that rise of the podcasting community or that, Mmm. The hidden brain or whatever it is. Like, you know, that network of people as much as you’d like to call it, and Bangalore has been at the forefront of this revolution because we’ve been having meetups almost every quarter over the last year and a half.

Uh, we, when I say we, I’m talking about O2Pod Collective, which is a, a podcast awareness and advocacy group, which consists of me, Naga from the Passion People podcast. Seth from the Musafa Stories podcast  and Vishnu and Chanka from the Writer and Geek show. So we’ve been organizing this in Bangalore.

I probably wouldn’t be wrong to say that this, these events have been the largest podcast focused events in the country with like attendance of around 75 people or more where it is only a podcasting event. You’re not on board anything else. So, so it’s pretty cool, right? It’s, it’s nice to see that happen.

And finally you have the larger players starting to take note of us. So what do I mean by that? What I mean by that is there are now these India level events where you have specific podcast panels. For example, in November, that was part of a podcast panel for an event called influencer con, and had got influencers and YouTube influences who had millions of subscribers. The amount of subscribers and the videos that they’ve been going through in like a few minutes. My entire podcast lifetime had that. Right. So these are like YouTube celebrities that I was amongst. The point was everyone was talking about podcasts. They were talking about, Oh, what? Tell me about podcasts. Why should I do a podcast?

I already have YouTube. Why do I need to do a podcast? So the larger ecosystem. . The other forms of media have now started to give podcasting. Their due importance. The other event that happened was an event called the radio festival, which was sponsored by India’s national broadcaster, which is the all India radio.

It’s the government, a broadcasting company. They had like a whole day event where again, we had like two sessions on podcasting, which is great because traditional radio people have finally accepted that we are a rising medium and a force to be reckoned with. So I find a lot of solace and happiness to see all of these things happen.

But what is still missing is that there is still. A huge gap  the amount of effort that indie podcasters are putting create their content vis-a-vis the amount of money that they’re making out of it. I’m sure you can attest to this, the kind of traffic that we’re getting or the kind of models that we are trying to create.

Around advertisements or something that really don’t work for us because we don’t have the scale. So another thing that’s now coming up is that there are now creative focused companies who are now trying to create. Creator based engagement with their own listeners. So it’s kind of like a Patreon where the listener does not need to go to Patrion, give you as donation. It’s a Patreon within your own website. It’s a community within your own website. It is a way for the listener to pay you some money or pay you for a masterclass on podcasting or figure it out deeper engagement models.  that is something that I’m excited about because.

We’re finally making these breakthroughs in terms of monetization and user engagement, and these are features and updates that you’ll see rolled out on the Passion People podcast over the next couple of weeks.

Norman Chella: [00:38:05] That’s interesting because I’m seeing that a lot more as well across Asia. Uh, the rise in different business models that can cater to not only just podcasting, but different ways of delivering information. they are going against one of the most traditional forms of getting money for making something, which is ads.

Uh, by having less dependence on them. One is the membership model, which I think you are touching on right now, because by doing something such as a subscription to a specific creator, you can gain access to, you know, more premium content or a direct way to support, uh, your favorite influencer or podcaster or hosts or whichever have you.

But we’re seeing a lot more of that. Um, I’m not sure about Asia wide. Uh, we’re seeing more studies, on the membership model for different, say, not only newsrooms and media startups, but,  potentially podcasters as well, although there are more likely to happen and more likely to occur outside of Asia.

So, uh, I’m worried about things like subscription fatigue and membership fatigue because you can only subscribe to so much. Right. The largest solution would be if you could aggregate the group of shows together that are Indies, and you have a membership package where you can subscribe to multiple, uh, at the same time, so that you can support all of them at the same time and they get a cut.

And that means that that is less burden on the listener because overall you are creating free content. Only a percentage of your listeners will convert. So we’re only seeing like what’s single percentage rates all across the world for that. So it is a huge hill to climb. A mountain, to be honest.

Uh, it’s a hill all around the world, but in Asia, it’s the fricking Himalayas. It’s huge. Uh, so I, I like that you paint such an amazing picture of the podcast market there. Because I, I see a few names, like I’ve heard a few names pop up like you have Aawaz, IVM, so Aawaz is, uh, Mr, what’s his name? Mr Sreenanam?

Yes. Uh, was one of the speakers for the Asia Podcast Summit. Extremely knowledgeable person. Uh, uh, IVM podcasts. Mr Amit Doshi , there’s also one of the speakers as well, a extremely great advocate for  podcasting.

Naga Subramanya: [00:40:29] Yup. I think coming for this year or the last year,

Norman Chella: [00:40:33] for the Asia Podcast Summit. No. While they were, they spoke for last year’s summit.

Uh, I can’t give any more details for this year’s summit yet. Uh, but maybe, uh.

Naga Subramanya: [00:40:42] Okay. Hmm

Norman Chella: [00:40:42] yet out. Yeah. Yeah. No, let, nothing is publicly announced yet for the summit.

But you did touch on something I am actually quite interested in. So you said there are more rise in Indian podcasting networks, so independent podcast networks. So they are no, uh, entities outside either public  or broadcast, that have any influence on these podcast companies.

But what about, what about the broadcast companies? So what about the radio companies in India? Are they tapping into the podcasting space as well?

Naga Subramanya: [00:41:12] Oh, of course they are. So what’s happening is that, um, it initially started off with SoundCloud. It started off with a few famous shows, started reposting bits of their content on SoundCloud  as podcasting has taken off, I can specifically name one radio station. It’s called Red FM. . They have like completely taken this to an entirely new level because all of the episodes are available as a podcast.

Anyone misses a show, they can listen to it as a podcast. Amazingly done.  I think this is the future of radio because one of the reasons that nobody likes to listen to the radio is that because they’re so inundated with ads, but here is an on demand model that offers them a parallel revenue stream.

Additional subscribers, and it can also provide access to people who are not in that geography, right? Because RJs, are typically very regional or territorial in the sense that a Bangalore RJ, will have a Bangalore or a South Indian audience, but now if they’re moving on, to a podcast, they now have like a global audience, are an all India audience and other people who have not heard of them can now learn about them as well. So that’s definitely happening. That’s a trend that we’re seeing as well, but it’s unfortunate that not all the radio stations have picked that up, but I’m sure that it’s just a matter of times until that happens.

Norman Chella: [00:42:32] I’d like to challenge that a little bit because I’m seeing a different response. Um, in terms of broadcast companies influence on the podcasting space, at least in Malaysia, at least from what I see. Uh, and maybe you can relate, uh, I want to hear your experience on this. So a lot of broadcast companies like to repurpose their radio content into podcast format to make it more downloadable.

And this brings up a new format of podcasts. I mean, I wouldn’t call it new, but a different format of podcasts, which is what I call catch up radio and catch up radio is when you pretty much catch up on what has been broadcasted on FM throughout the country. Uh, one of the biggest disadvantages in radio is that it’s time sensitive.

It is time sensitive. You’re on a schedule. You’re in, you say it and you’re out. And that means that for listeners who cannot tune in to then they’re going to miss it and catch up radio is a way for you to basically catch up to what was being broadcasted beforehand. Now that’s great, but my biggest issue with that is that broadcast companies have a larger influence in educating potential listeners in a space.

So I’m curious about your take on teaching people about the medium of podcasting. Is there any friction between independent podcasters and podcasting networks telling people, Oh, what’s a podcast? A podcast is this, this, this, this, and radio companies telling people like, Hey, you can download our show.

It’s a podcast. Therefore, people assume that a podcast is just radio downloaded.  What’s your take? Maybe India has a complete different, I might be completely wrong.

Naga Subramanya: [00:44:07] I hear you on on the catch up radio bit, right? Because a lot of people use podcasts as a way to catch up on the content that’s been made, but that also there are two segregations. One is the type of content, which is time sensitive, like you said, which loses value after the passage of time. Which is, uh, sure.

On a particular event, or a particular, whatever, right? But there’s also the timeless content, which could be, you know, two people discussing the love problems, or it could be, you know, uh, someone telling their opinion on something, but it could be someone reciting poetry or whatever it is. to the extent that content is timeless, I believe that there’s potential for that to be repurposed as a podcast and be consumed over and over again.

But the time sensitive, but with this catch up, so after the enthusiasm or that buzz has died down, the people who would be interested in catching up with today news? And to answer your question in terms of do we see any friction? We don’t see friction because I’m telling you, there’s so much competition amongst the radio stations and everyone realizes that podcasting is the next way of, they need to find an expand their base of  audience.

So what they’re doing is on the radio itself, they’re saying that you can listen to our podcast on this website, or you can listen to a podcast on these teaming platforms. So they’re actually doing a great service to us by bringing more people on to the podcasting ecosystem, so to speak, because that a lot of people are doing it to the radio because everyone just, they’re in the car subconsciously they’re tuned into the radio.

Right. But. When the dude who is ending the show tells them that, Hey, I am also running a podcast. So they have that little bit of curiosity that kicks in. So to that extent, maybe 60 to 70% I would agree that the radio stations are now trying to get more people to podcasting because of their own selfish interest.

Not because they’re this, you know, agendas, corporations who love to, you know, promote indie podcasters or whatever it is. But. Because we all know, everyone’s here to make money, right? And not  all of them are as passionate as us who are, who are just live off the passion and not worry about the dollars.

But that would, that’s the thing. So like for their own interests, they’ve been, you know, helping us to get on the podcast bandwagon. And in terms of the podcast networks, again, they are also doing amazing work because they’re promoting their own networks. They’re, they’re telling everyone that this is us, this is my show.

Until now, there was no standard place where they could go and find and say, you know, look for my show here and you’ll find it. But with Google now indexing podcast pages and transcribing the episodes, and with Google podcasts coming up, you can just tell someone to say, okay, Google, play the Passion People podcast, or you know, Hey, Alexa, play the Passion People’s podcast.

And then that’s a huge amount of awareness that is now again, coming to people and with the rise of smart speakers. I think that’s, that’s another thing that, uh, that’s another set of audience that we will get.

Norman Chella: [00:47:17] Are smart speakers popular in India? I’m curious about that.

Naga Subramanya: [00:47:20] Yes they are. But you’d be surprised what they’re used for the most. They use for devotional songs like Indian, uh, devotional songs and everyone liked to listen to the devotional songs in the morning. So people are coming up with devotional podcasts where they’re listening, they’re doing like a prayer in the morning and they’re doing like a devotional songs to God and then that’s something that they’re doing.

One of the most popular podcasts in India is, one called, uh, the Stories of Mahabharata or something like that. And Mahabharata is an Indian Epic that has been told from generations and people are still tuning into that. And that’s crazy.

Norman Chella: [00:47:59] It’s like a repeatable audio book, right, for free, and then you could just listen to it over again. uh, yeah, I think we’re seeing that as all a, I think one of the most popular podcasts in Malaysia is something in Malay and it’s like recitals from the Quran. So for, yeah.

So for those who have a routine, according to their religious background, they see the convenience of podcasts in that way because that’s so ingrained into whatever they’re doing, you know, from the morning until night, if they have a smart speaker. Right. Or if they have a phone that’s connected to Spotify, then you can easily access that. Um, are they any apps that are specifically in India that are helping out with podcasts because I’m seeing a few names, but..

Naga Subramanya: [00:48:48] There’s, there’s one called HubHopper, which was in the news for all the wrong reasons, or the last couple of weeks, but I’m not going to talk about that. But yeah, HubHopper was doing some interesting work in terms of, you know, promoting Indian content and they had an Indian aggregator of podcasts.

There’s another one called Headphone.

Norman Chella: [00:49:06] Okay.

Naga Subramanya: [00:49:07] Yeah, there’s HubHopper, there’s Headphone, uh, these, these are two names that, uh, that immediately come to mind. Obviously the networks are building their own app because they don’t want to give a share of revenue to the others. So I think IVM has their own app as well.

Norman Chella: [00:49:21] yeah.

Naga Subramanya: [00:49:21] So proprietary. Yeah. Like, which is only for shows of that network. And so these are, these are some India specific apps that come to mind. Amazon has at least Amazon SUNO again, which is India listening, Indian content only, and Spotify has obviously made some wonderful Indian content. Original content just for India.

Norman Chella: [00:49:42] I’m really curious about the future for the podcasting scene there. Since you have so many apps and Amazon has a huge foothold and you have all these amazing podcasting networks, it’s what makes India a very interesting market to look at. Wwhich I think will be a good model for, Asia. Since you have someone huge like Amazon coming in, you have to rise up podcasting networks, and then you have broadcast companies that are really pushing for greater awareness, greater education, and not just, you know, not just time-sensitive things, but there’s also a mix of evergreen content there.

And you’re being helped by public entities, which is fantastic. It’s like a group of like multiple players are really collaborating and helping each other out. On the future of Indian podcasting, as an independent podcaster who has given me such an amazing picture of all this. What are your predictions for this year and maybe the next two to three years?

Naga Subramanya: [00:50:39] My predictions are that, as more and more people get popular on networks, they will leave from the networks and start their own shows. And we’ve already seen this happen with a couple of really high profile cases. The second prediction is that vernacular content is going to be really, really huge because people love to relate to things that, or close to home, like the religion, which is the top one of the top podcasts in both Malaysia and India, the same way language is also something that has a really high level of stickiness. I predict the rise of vernacular content moving forward. The third thing that I predict is as more and more people who come and start a new podcast, they’re also going to be a lot of dead podcasts. So the ones who are really gonna win are the ones who are consistent.

And this is something that’s never going to change because. A lot of people are going to come with a lot of noise, but the ones that really stand to survive are the ones that are consistent and they’re keeping up with the change that giving the audience what they want, the consistency never goes out of fashion. And fourth and final thing, I like to believe that the audience will have a change of heart towards independent creators and be more generous towards us. Look at their donation slash subscription slash engagement model more seriously because they will now start understanding the value of content.

Because if you briefly pause and rewind, the relationship that India has had with content has broadly been about watching stuff on the TV, watching stuff at the theater,  pirating something and watching it on, you know, Utorrent or whatever it is. Right? But. Slowly that has changed because Netflix has made watching amazing show, so accessible and reasonably priced.

Apple music, Spotify, Ghana like so many amazing platforms are now coming up with a, making it so convenient for people to listen to music that they don’t need to pirate it anymore. So I would like to believe for my own personal financial benefit that the Indian audience, is finally seeing the value of convenience for paying a little bit of money that they have access to a huge roster of shows like a Netflix.

Paying some money, a huge, like the entire music collection of the entire world is in your fingertips. Isn’t that so amazing? So that’s what I believe that will lead to a mindset shift for the existing podcast consumers to say, Hey, if I’m paying for radio, if I’m paying for music, why the hell am I not paying for podcasts?

And maybe they’ll then start engaging for, uh, you know, I’ll start making donations to, uh, to the podcast creators. And obviously the last prediction is that we’re going to have like a huge India focused podcasting event, and that’s going to be hosted by us. You’re going to be doing this, so this is like that.

This is more like something there we’ve planned do in the future, but yeah,

Norman Chella: [00:53:46] Oh, that, that bold claim. All right. Okay. We have that on air in this episode, that trust Naga to have an amazing Indian podcasting event, and let me see if I can cover it. That’d be pretty awesome if I could even, uh, attend and talk about it. Oh, that’d be so cool. All right. Just let me know. Let me know when it’s coming up then.

Then once this a virus cools down, then I’ll, I’ll fly over to Bangalore and see how you guys are doing.

And on an even more macro level, what would you like to see more of in the Asian podcasting scene?

Naga Subramanya: [00:54:24] I would like to see more conversations like you and me, more, more interactions with, podcasters of different countries. A channel where all of us can interact and talk. Right? I think there’s one, I’m part of one WhatsApp group with like podcasters from Canada, from Africa, from China, and a bunch of other places.

I also hope that there’s Asian podcasting community that comes up. Like for example, Stitcher has created their own Stitcher creator program. Like there’s a Slack channel for Stitcher creators. I hope and wish that somebody, or maybe you can do this, if you can create like a telegram channel for all of us  in Asia so that if nothing else, so we can at least talk to each other, figure out what our problems are and see how we can help out each other.

Because at the end of the day, while there are  950,000 podcasts 950,000 podcasts? The ones that really will make a difference are the ones that stand together in sort of competing with each other, because that’s, that’s what we’ve steely seen in Bangalore. I was just this one guy doing a podcast, and Seth from the Musafir stories.

He talked to me on Facebook and said, Hey, you know, I see that when we’re doing podcasts and we’re both in Bangalore. And I was like, wow. And that really changed everything. So I believe that. Collaboration is the future and not competition.

Norman Chella: [00:55:43] On that note, I’m actually, I was actually, I was actually about to talk to you about this, like even after recording, but, uh, I’m actually building the, uh, Asian podcast community groups, sort of like a, it does a telegram and then sort of like a Quora forum QnA thing. And hopefully we can group everyone together and they can just reach out and message.

So, uh, I’m trying to launch that actually by this month.

Uh, but I’m not sure, can help be a beta tester. That’ll be pretty good.

And, uh, I do want to ask actually, if eyes are windows to the soul, then your podcast playlists is the windows to your thoughts. So, Naga, what are you listening to nowadays?


Naga Subramanya: [00:56:31] I’m binging on a show called Darknet Diaries.

Norman Chella: [00:56:35] Yes.

Naga Subramanya: [00:56:36] So Darknet Diaries is a true stories from the dark side of the internet that, uh, the host, uh, Jack Rhysider talks to security researchers, ethical hackers, uh, government spies, and all kinds of crazy people who are doing amazing things on the internet.

And, uh, yeah, that’s what, that’s what I’m currently bingeing on. And, uh, apart from this, my favorite podcast include obviously, uh, I, uh, the Musafir Stories, Writer and Geek show. Indian Noir is an amazing podcast that I have been completely in love with over the last couple of years. I even had the host Nikesh  on the Passion People podcast as well, which is pretty awesome.

So, Indian Noir, is really, really high up there. There’s obviously a In the Field  which is a show about development and yeah, there’s a whole bunch of shows, man. You’ve just opened Pandora’s box there, but currently bingeing, like mostly it is just, you know, Oh, Darknet Diaries. I just completed that Spotify original, I was telling you, right the one that was made specifically for India?

So it’s a Spotify original called Bhaskar Bose, which is a name of a character who is like a investigator, and it’s like a true crime, a podcast, and I love it. I loved it. Was this like, and then 15 episodes, but I just, I just finished finish that. And right now it’s Darknet Diaries with all the others that I mentioned, right know.

Norman Chella: [00:58:03] how do you spell Bhaskar? Bose? Can you spell that for me for a sec?

Naga Subramanya: [00:58:06] Yes, it is

Norman Chella: [00:58:10] B. H. a. S. K. R. B. O.

Naga Subramanya: [00:58:13] is gay Passcode.

Norman Chella: [00:58:15] a. R.

Naga Subramanya: [00:58:17] Let me type this out for you,

Norman Chella: [00:58:19] awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Bose. Okay. Awesome. Awesome. All right. Cause that’s a, that’s probably going to be a . Okay. I was worried I was gonna find it difficult to find, uh, that show on Podchaser or something. And, uh, wrapping things up Naga, where can we find you? If we want to have more questions on  O2Pod, on the Bangalore podcasting scene, or on India’s podcasting scene or on Passion People, where can we find you?

Naga Subramanya: [00:58:50] You can, you can find me on Twitter. My handle is @N1N3stuff. I’ll, I’ll give it, I’ll give you the links so that you can look for it in the show notes for this episode, and you can answer tweet, tweet to me. Uh,  or you can to the Passionate People podcast. You can write me an email. I am accessible on Twitter and email mostly. I’m not on Instagram. I’m sorry, so, Oh, you could please go ahead and judge me. But, uh, I’m not, I’m not getting, I’m not getting on Instagram anytime soon, but you can reach out to me on email or Twitter. Norman will attest to the fact that I’m responsive on Twitter and that I’m not yet

Norman Chella: [00:59:26] Yes. It definitely, yes. Uh, definitely active on Twitter, both on your podcast Twitter, and on your personal Twitter. So, uh, I can definitely vouch for that. Links in the show notes for your Twitter and your email,  right below. So if anything, you can always contact him that way. And Naga. Thank you. And I’ll talk to you soon.

Naga Subramanya: [00:59:47] you so much, Norman. This has been a pleasure.

Norman Chella: [00:59:49] And that is it. My chat with Naga of the Passion People podcast, you can tell from his voice that Naga is just so passionate. Don’t worry about the pun, about his mission, about instilling the enthusiasm the fire in under people in order to pursue their dreams realistically, right? According to the helm, the grain and the ripple star.

To pursue hobbies or interests or movements that really allow someone to really fully express themselves. So I think that is a very beautiful thing to work towards. Thank you for that Naga. And also thank you for the amazing picture of the Indian podcasting market and the scene. I like his predictions.

I’m seeing a lot of that happening quite similarly in other podcasts markets across Asia. So it’s nice to see that Naga is quite thoughtful and hopeful about how the podcasting scene will grow in India, especially with all the recent things happening. Which is fantastic,

As always, links in the show notes to contact Naga for more information on the Indian podcasting market and the Passion People podcasts.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode, my dear listener. I will see you soon. Well, not see, but I’ll talk to you soon. In the next episode.