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‘Storytelling was a pastime but taught me to order my thoughts’

  • For Das, airports are an excellent place to jot down story ideas and bring them to life
  • Movies have acted as a big influence in honing Das’ storytelling skills

Sandeep Das believes writing helps him remain calm. Bivash Banerjee/Mint

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Sandeep Das, an alumnus from IIM Bangalore and an associate director with Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), wears dual hats of a strategy consultant and a writer. In his day job, he works with clients to assist them in undertaking sales and marketing transformation journeys to be future-ready in a highly disruptive and competitive environment. But after work, he writes, anchors business and literary festivals, and conducts storytelling workshops.

Besides authoring two books—Yours Sarcastically and Satan’s Angels, Das has hosted the Bangalore Business Literary Festival, moderated panel discussions at a few business schools, and conducted story telling workshops at IIM Bangalore.

Das spends two to four hours every weekend on writing. “I have been doing this for the last ten years, so it has become an essential ingredient of my existential DNA,” he says. Inspiration can strike one at any place. For Das, airports are an excellent place to jot down story ideas and bring them to life. So the next time you see a corporate executive viciously typing out on his laptop at an airport, you can be rest assured another crime thriller by Das is on its way.

How it began

Das’ manager at his first job called him one day and asked him to interview 60 size-zero south Mumbai women. Over the next few days, he got to know them closely as he spent time with them. When this project ended, he decided it was too good a story to not be published, and that was the genesis of his maiden book Yours Sarcastically.

Movies have acted as a big influence in honing Das’ storytelling skills. For instance, he has watched movies of certain directors such as Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese and sitcoms like How To Get Away With Murder, House M.D., multiple times. “I have convinced myself to not feel guilty about binge watching but rather looking at it as an investment in my own career,” he says.

Needless to say, a writer becomes better as he writes more and becomes comfortable exploring alternate styles and themes. His first book was written in a diary format, while the second was written in a more provocative non-linear style with conversations and thoughts simultaneously running in parallel, he explains.

Anchoring and storytelling also happened organically. “It was an incredible experience to host the Bangalore Business Literary Festival, last year. I have always enjoyed moderating a panel discussion at a business school. The energy of a packed audience of students along with their brutality in asking pointed questions keeps me on my toes,” he says.

However, nothing gives him more pleasure than conducting a storytelling workshop where every participant ends up narrating a story of his choice based on the tools, frameworks and examples Das provides. “At the end of the day, everyone has a story within them waiting to be narrated,” he says.

The gains

According to Das, one of the big emerging career themes that will be prominent in the next decade is that most ambitious professionals will strive for multiple careers running parallelly. “An alternate career based on passion and interest is likely to reduce overall work related stress and increase general well-being. This way an individual’s identity is not limited by the size of the business he runs at work,” he says.

Das also believes that a career in writing helps one in become calmer. “You carefully notice intricacies of people’s behaviour, their non-verbal cues and often, try to empathize with them as you put yourself in their shoes. Everyone you meet at work is after all a potential character for a future story. It is one of the reasons your bosses tend to be extra careful at times with you. After all, nobody wants to become a caricature in the next published story,” he adds.

From a skill set point of view, storytelling and anchoring teaches one brevity in language, flow in thought process and ability to narrate your points of view without losing the audience’s attention; all of which are incredibly important in running any modern day business, Das feels.

Challenges

Time is always a constraint. Das thinks a lot more would be possible if he could dedicate more time to writing and speaking. There have been multiple lucrative opportunities, which he had to turn down because of exceptionally demanding work hours at his day job. “However, I try to maintain a balance in terms of the output at the end of each year and sometimes, accept reality as it is,” he says.

Future plans

He is often asked if he plans to give up his day job to pursue writing and anchoring full time. But he believes it is rarely an either/or choice if one decides to do both. “My day job serves my daily bread and butter, while my evening job nourishes my soul. One without the other is incomplete,” he says.

Continuing his passion for stories and writing, Das intends to teach storytelling and creative writing to business school students. “The literary skills nurtured while writing have immense relevance and implications in running any modern day business,” he says.

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