Travel journalism, apart from the usual lifestyle and entertainment reporting, has been a constant throughout my career in media. So when I joined Harper’s Bazaar Bride ten months ago, where bridal fashion rules over travel, I have kept my passion alive by regularly updating my travel blog NishirajBaruah.com
The responses to the stories from readers via the blog or via facebook, etc., has made me realise the power and reach of the digital medium. In my 16 plus yeas in media, I had never received as many feedback and fan mails as I receive now.
Google Analytics throw up encouraging data on unique visitors, page views, etc. for my site.
Maintaining the blog, I have been picking up skills and ideas required for online publishing.
My last big assignment, immediately before joining Harper’s Bazaar Bride, was re-launching Air India’s inflight magazine Swagat as Shubh Yatra, which allowed me to implement fresh new design and editorial ideas, as its Managing Editor. The entire content was churned out of a two-letter phrase I coined: Desi Funk.
Here, I used my creative abilities for innovative covers, the face of the magazine as also of the national airline. When Air India started flights to Rome, I drew inspiration for the cover from the vintage poster of Hollywood classic Roman Holiday.
I also managed the magazine’s website Shubh-Yatra.in, and boosted its social media presence.
And when public figures write in with a few good words, it was flattering for sure.
Roped in big names like Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler, cricketer Shane Warne, Shobha De, Bhaichung Bhutia, Gulzar to write—of course, for free. Roped in big names from the world of cricket and Bollywood to draw readers to the Magazine—of course, for free. Here, former cricketer Jonty Rhodes’ guide to his favourite locations in South Africa.
My monthly Editor’s Letter had a lot of people talking, the buzz revolving around 1. The unique writing style where I drop sentences to use just a word or two to convey a whole lot of information and emotions, and 2. The creative signature at the end, signing off the letter with my thumb impressions, instead of a usual lettered signature.
Made appropriate use of artworks by Jatin Das, Husain, Anjolie Ela Menon, and others, to make high-impact covers, thus saving on costs for special shoots. This geometric artwork taken as the cover here is by S.H. Raza.
Identified/discovered and nurtured talent. I sought out newbie illustrators with varied sketching styles and promising photographers to contribute to the magazine, in a win-win situation for all. We get our content, they get the exposure. The illustrative cover (above, right) was done by a young man for peanuts.
With a nose for what makes a good story, journalistic curiosity, I unearthed several priceless tales from Air India’s dusty archives, like the one on an astray custom-made by the legendary surrealist Salvatore Dali for Air India in the 60s, and another on the forgotten illustrations on cities sketched by the late cartoonist Mario Miranda for Air India.
During my tenure, Shubh Yatra managed to get several awards, including one for the best corporate magazine in the country.
Launched India’s first airport magazine Touchdown for Mumbai airport, and developed a strategy to compete with newspapers and current affairs magazines: Gave a ‘breaking news’ feel to the stories with information that calls for action, information that they can instantly use, such as those around spa and sleep facilities, jetlag solutions, entertainment options, lifestyle and gifting products, wine and liquor rules available at the airport.
Deputed a photographer permanently at the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport to take pictures of celebrities flying in andout of the airport, and published them in a column called “Spotted”.
Conceived several destination related photoshoots, created moodboards and organized clothes, props, photographers, models, venues to add glamour to a travel story. This one is on mall-shopping in New Delhi.
In November 2007, I launched Mail Today Traveller as the Editor, Supplements, with short, interesting and interactive content. The supplement built up a good reputation in the market not just for content, but also for the fact that I and my colleague from the ad sales team personally made it a point to meet every stakeholder of the travel industry, right from the travel agent, taxi service provider to hotel GMs, doormen, to authors of travel books to adventurers. It continues in the same format/layout and concepts that I had devised in 2007.
My attempts to explore the underbelly of a city/destination get me into risky situations. Getting robbed in St Petersburg (the story below) is a good example.
Intrepid and seasoned travelller who deviates from PR driven routes and itinerary and roughs it out: Here a 15-day motorcycle expedition from New Delhi to Leh, Kargil and Siachin basecamp. The tour was well covered by media.
Know how to tell a big story in small space, using unique layouts, edit formats and ideas for the short-on-time, on-the-go reader. The one below is on a modified bike in easy to understand design layout.
In 2005, Relaunched Discover India in a new avatar, replacing done-to-death stories and cliché images of India with those of an emerging India: Ancient temples were replaced by new age templetainment; religious festival by electronic music festival; Puri’s Rath Yatra by superbike cruises on Indian highways; and Bharatnatyam with Bollywood touches. I did away with the existing lot of photographers and writers who charged sinful amounts of money for substandard work, and roped in a new breed of young talent at the fraction of the cost. Covers were specially shot showcasing a neon-lit India in nightclubs and malls.
Introduced the concept of art poster in Discover India, wherein we would reproduce a travel inspired painting done exclusively for the magazine by a well known artist. The poster could be taken off the magazine and framed by the readers.
Between 2000 and 2005, I was with Hindustan Times, where I started the weekly travel page called Footloose. Was in charge of HT City’s travel section, Footloose. And travelled to several countries around the world for stories.
In Indian Express, did many travel stories, which were investigative by nature. This story on Kaziranga National Park was done after following on a poaching trail.
My first full-page travel story on The Pioneer where I was interning, back in 1998.
Love using smart and catchy headlines and intros, headlining a story on the Rann of Kutch, for instance, with “Kutch me if you can” or one on Sweden as “Swede Surrender”.
Associated with Tripoto, the largest crowd-sourcing travel site, from the beginning of the start-up.
Believe in the power of celebrity to drive home the point of a story, for effective communication. So love to network with public figures and potential sources for story ideas. Can work on low editorial budget thanks to the goodwill developed over years with the right people.
Solid network of contacts from the travel industry that includes those from tourism ministries, hotels and hospitality, airlines, to investors, transport operators, mountaineers, travel writers, photographers, embassy personnel, and those from the online travel industry.
HOBBIES AND INTERESTS
Have been playing the drums since my school days in Don Bosco Dibrugarh (Assam). Started the Maxposure Band while working in the Maxposure Group. Part of a drum and percussion group called Delhi Drummers. My forte is drum solo and jazz drumming.
Have a unique hobby of collecting knives, the collection now boasting as many as 129 knives from various parts of the world. Plan to put these up for an exhibition when the collection numbers 300.
Have a well developed taste and design sense for home interiors. Self-designed, my house, below, has been featured in several magazines on home and interiors (Better Homes and Garden, Elle Décor, etc.) for its eye-pleasing play of colours and optimum utilisation of space.
Thank you for your interest in me.