'Yellow collar’ careers – the new age of entrepreneurship opportunity for creative youth in India

26th Sep 2016
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Career choices for youth have picked up considerably in India over the past decade or two, with music, animation, gaming, sports, writing, design, media and other kinds of entrepreneurship emerging as attractive options.


‘I Love Mondays: Embrace the Next Generation of Careers’ offers snapshots of these emerging sectors with industry infographics and profiles of sample entrepreneurs. The 292-page book is well-designed with sidebars, caricatures, checklists and worsksheets and makes for an easy read.

Mala Mary Martina, aka Mcube, is a serial entrepreneur and an education architect. She is CEO of I Love Mondays, working with young adults to help them make career choices; she is also a TEDx speaker and toastmaster.

“There are three things that will help you love your Mondays: 1. Doing what you love. 2. Being really good at it. 3. Connecting with the right people,” begins Mala. An estimated half of India’s population is below the age of 21, and ‘yellow collar’ careers are becoming popular since they are more creative and offer greater freedom. Such jobs include art director, photographer, fitness coach, chef, counsellor, social worker, and so on.

Unfortunately, many Indian youth make their career choices based on wrong or shallow advice from people with narrow work experiences. “Ask what do you want to DO when you grow up,” says Mala, not what you want to BE when you grow up. It’s up to aspiring entrepreneurs to invest in their own learning and networking today – and the brief vignettes below offer some illustrative examples.


There are over 70 kinds of careers available in music, such as performer, sound engineer, instrumentalist, DJ and teacher. Online forums like SoundCloud, Drooble.com, IFPI.org, Pitch Folk and Mojo help explore these options.

A.R. Rahman’s KM Music Conservatory is a good breeding ground for music-related careers. Music can be much more than a hobby, but as more people enter the field the level of competition and quality rises. “Find your style. Be the next ‘you,’” advises Rahman.

The parents of Grammy-award winner Ricky Kej wanted him to pursue medicine and not music, but he arrived at a compromise – he would indeed finish his dentistry degree, and only then pursue music! After ad jingles, he decided to move beyond ‘scripted film music’ and went abroad. From music conferences and connections, he crafted his own music style and collaborations. “With the arts, you cannot afford to be mediocre,” cautions Ricky.

“Talent is recognised when three things fall into place – effort, quality of work and networking,” says singer Benny Dayal. He started off in a regular management job, but that made him realise the value of struggle for success.

“Teaching young children is fantastic because through this you get to stay young,” says music teacher Evelyn Kelton. Other music professionals offer a range of tips: understand the difference between live and studio performance, invest in continuous learning, shadow/intern with experts, and explore a range of genres.

Media and entertainment

India’s advertising market is estimated at Rs 45,000 crore, led by the FMCG, auto, e-commerce, retail and telecom sector. India is also the largest nation of film-makers in the world.

“Passion is where the mind and heart both come together,” says cinematographer Santosh Sivan, advising youth to make an honest attempt to find their own paths and get the right exposure and certification. “Build your curiosity,” he advises.

Film-making is not just about glamour, but about gruelling hard work, endless coordination, limitless patience, flexible attitude and an undying quest for perfection, adds cinematographer Mukesh G. “Good storytelling skills can be a great foundation for aspiring filmmakers,” according to Sneha Varma, co-founder of production house Nirvana Films.

Students who excel in extra-curricular activities may like artist and event/experience management as a career. Show director Nazeer Mohammed says his engineering education gave him a useful scientific temperament, and he sharpened his EQ and people management skills.

Bestselling author Amish Tripathi (The Immortals of Meluha) started off by studying mathematics, and later ventured into writing; his first book was rejected by 20 publishers before he found success. “Parents want their children to be protected in the career choices they make, because their generation lived in poorer economic conditions,” observes Amish; fortunately India has changed now and there are more opportunities.

Screenwriter Niranjan Iyengar studied science for two years and then became a magazine writer and book author. He also studied music to do well as a film lyricist. “Without tenacity, excellence is only a dream,” he says.


Sports-related careers and roles include merchandising, coach, planner, doctor, lawyer, physiotherapist, statistician and journalist. For example, sports law covers trademarks on behalf of media and clubs, according to sports lawyer Nandan Kamath.

Saumil Majumdar started off in IT and then moved on to start EduSports – helping parents, schools and children work out a path in a range of sports. His physical education startup was rejected by almost 90 of the first 100 schools to whom he pitched.

Sports mentor Anil Kumble made sure that in his student days he did well in engineering as well as in cricket, thanks to his powerful ‘mental switch.’ “We still have 30 years of productive life after retirement. You must ask yourself, what after sports?” advises Anil.

Sports doctor Rajat Chauhan is an advocate of the GOYA (Get Off Your Arse!) principle, and blended his interest in sports with his medical degree to found Back2Fitness. “Continuous learning and keeping yourself updated with the latest techniques will give you an extra edge,” advises Rajat.

Porush Jain was active in the E-Cell at SIBM in Bengaluru, and stated SportsKeeda as a blog in 2009. Today, it has 200 sports journalists covering 30 sports. “Always get a sense of the bigger picture,” he advises.

Former BSF sub-inspector Hakimuddin Habibullah took part in the 2000 Olympics, and then launched the GoSports Foundation in 2008 to support Olympic athletes. “There is no point blaming how the system is,” he says; he has even drafted the Right to Play bill for citizens.

Manish Pole co-founded Total Yoga to tap the global yoga movement, estimated at $80 billion. “Never before has a career in this field seen an outburst of opportunities like this,” he observes. In the early stages, it helped when he brought his parents to see his studio to see how serious he was about his path, which was clearly not a passing phase. Yoga is seen as India’s gift to the world, and is also one of the few forms of work which do not entail stress, jokes Manish.

Hobbies can eventually lead to full-blown careers as well, as seen in the case of Murali Kannadasan, co-founder of the Indian Radio Control Racers’ Association and Joy-Rising Hobby. A passion for knowledge and enjoying work help stay the course, he advocates.

Mala Mary Martina
Mala Mary Martina

Social entrepreneurship

Ashutosh Kumar graduated from IIT Kanpur and worked at an MNC in Chennai before founding Jagriti Yatra, a train journey-based mentoring and networking activity for social entrepreneurs. Exploration, volunteering and travel are recommended as good learning experiences. “No one can be as good a mentor as the road,” says Ashutosh.

Being an honest and progressive civil servant can also be an avenue to scale good initiatives, as shown by P. Manivannan, a Karnataka IAS officer who promotes free meals for school children as well as transparency via e-government. Another example is Manoj Rajan, who founded Rashtriya e-Market Services as a unified agricultural platform; it is a joint venture with the Karnataka government.

Digital media

Worldwide app revenue is projected to cross $77 billion in 2017. App developer salaries in India range from Rs 4-6 lakh a year. There are an estimated 100 million active mobile gamers in India, with 132 percent year-on-year growth. India has an estimated 300 animation companies and 400 VFX companies.

Rohit Bhat founded award-winning Robosoft Technologies in Udupi, but ironically their first Indian client was so apprehensive about working with the startup that they had to settle on a revenue-sharing model.

Game designer Shailesh Prabhu of Yellow Monkey Studios was hooked onto gaming at the age of 12. Understanding psychology, mastery of design, networking at conferences, and commitment to quality and learning have helped the company succeed – despite early challenges like having a game publisher go bankrupt.

Vivek Ram converted his college hobby of animation into a successful VFX specialist career, working on films such as Fast and Furious, Night at the Museum and Happy Feet. Love of drawing, understanding of skin texturing, managing large teams, and an eye for perfection and detail are some of Vivek’s tips for specialists. Storytelling skills are also important, advises Vaibhav Kumaresh, known for the Channel V character Simpoo Singh Sodhi.


“Self-discipline is of primary importance, especially for an artiste,” says Bhaavesh Gandhi, Bollywood choreographer and founder of dance academy Strut. He also choreographs sporting events. Family members are not the best judges of your dance talent, he jokes; international certification helps more. Creativity and openness to change are core qualities.

Science and art blend in the work of Sudhir Shivaraman, wildlife photographer published by National Geographic. He started a photography club in college, and later founded wildlife tours firm Toehold. Respect for the environment and for local knowledge are his core values.

Other career tips are offered by photographer Cleo Fernandes: know when to charge and when to work for free; wear a cloak of invisibility during events; master the technical skills. Good drawing skills also help in the fashion industry, according to stylist Ken Fernandes.

“Try your hand at everything, even if you fail,” advises art director Sabu Cyril (Baahubali). It helps to be an all-rounder, master the strength of each type of medium, connect with film directors, and work within tight deadlines.

Tech and medicine

Interesting blends arise when two fields converge. For example, transportation engineer Vinoba Isaac sees the field having tremendous application for India’s urban infrastructure and traffic management – despite corruption and lethargy.

Digital technologies are transforming the stockbroking industry. Though it was seen as a ‘shady’ activity in its early days, Nithin Kamath taught himself the ropes of the industry before founding Zerodha in 2010. Physical fitness and risk management are success factors, says Nithin, recalling the shock of the DotCom Bust of 2000-01.

Syed Haseeb Arfath founded Kerberon Automations to offer public bicycle sharing networks in Bengaluru. “Solving problems of people provides a joy that is well worth the effort,” he advises. Thing big and take calculated risks; action-oriented dreams and motivation can help succeed in the long run.

Rajiv Srivatsa graduated from IIT-Chennai and IIM-Bangalore, and relocated to India after a Switzerland stint for Cognizant. The difficulty in setting up an apartment led him to found e-commerce site Urban Ladder for furniture. “Success fuels passion,” he says, recalling how his passion in furniture solutions was low in the beginning but grew as he understood it better.

“How to handle rejection even though something was fantastic – that’s something I learnt,” he adds, defining an entrepreneur as someone who “wants to create massive impact and value in the long run, without running behind money or short-term fame.”

Doctors profiled in the book include Vijay Joseph (plastic surgeon) and Sarojini Joseph (orthodontist), both in fields that are experiencing convergence in different ways. A sense of compassion, pride in working with one’s hands, and a blend of materials and aesthetics are key for success.

Ashilesh Rao started off as an engineer and badminton player and then moved on to becoming an NLP coach. Such careers are good for those who are reflective, curious, empathetic and supportive in nature. Being an active listener and wanting to solve people’s problems along with having medical qualifications are necessary to become a successful psychiatrist.

Other entrepreneurs profiled in the book are from sectors like food. “Adiga’s wasn’t established as a brand overnight,” says restaurateur Radhakrishna Adiga, who started off with the Brahmin’s Coffee Bar in Basvangudi in Bengaluru. “Food styling is an art that’s becoming essential for the Indian restaurant business,” add Esha Singh and Raghuveer Rajkumar, founders of Café Mondo.

The book ends with useful checklists and charts for mapping one’s skills, hobbies, areas of improvement, role models, social impact areas, travel wishlists, and even contrasting with parents’ requirements.

Understand yourself, research and experiment with other careers, speak to experts, learn new skills, have healthy debates and invest in learning – these are some of Mala’s parting words of advice.

In sum, the book is a must read for those in the early stages of career planning or even career switching, and will be useful for parents as well to understand the changing face of India. The breadth of topics and profiles in the book makes it useful for a wide range of audiences, and it would be helpful to have an online curation of relevant tools and charts.


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