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  • jrrajan06

The tale of a storyteller

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

There is always a thrill in photographing a photographer or painting an painter, or in this case, tell the story of a storyteller :). Great storytellers have the knack and have honed the craft of connecting a lot of seemingly disconnected streams, events, and circumstances. In my mind, storytellers are lifelong explorers/voyagers who take the time to travel the depth and breadth of multiple spaces, take time to learn from the experience of doing it, apply their learnings all the time, and also take time to let the rest of us know about this journey :).

Meet Ranjani (R), who is one such person. She started out as a STEM researcher and after wearing multiple headgears and skills, she currently is a co-founder of Storyco, a business storytelling organization helping brands tell their stories. She is also an influencer of sorts through her Insta page, Rararastaa that she co-owns with her husband, Raghavan.

I know R from college but had never interacted much with her then. Social media has helped me follow her journey, leading me to reach out to her and ask if I could write about her. In my mind, I associate her with science, deep thinking, music, travel, and hence stories :). So, it’s rather fun that she is an actual storyteller in the business world :).

How could I not but ask her to talk about her life’s journey! Here is a gist of our conversations.

R began by saying, I grew up in 5 cities until I graduated. This lifestyle made me resilient and open to trying new things. I guess that is what reflects on my life's story as well :) I started out as a passionate cancer researcher. After doing quite well in academics I managed to land my first job at a prestigious Govt research lab (CDFD) immediately after college.

R pursued research in pure science for 5 years, in Hyderabad and Chennai, before life made her move to Coimbatore where opportunities for a pure science researcher were limited.

The move helped me experiment with my options and I learnt to socialise more. I was involved in organising large medical conferences, creating educational videos, and doing some other forms of theoretical research.

I think her storytelling career began right there: when she started creating educational videos, and mentioned it to her.

R responded: Perhaps, it is interesting that you pointed this out.

Continuing, R says, Marriage then brought me to Mumbai, a city full of opportunities but also a city where distances can be harsh on newbies like me. I, again, had to look for new opportunities and I tried my hand at my other passion, travel. I worked as a travel expert with Makemytrip for over two years. By now I knew I loved trying new things- the core of which remained research and constant upskilling. Little did I know that all of this was a primer for me to get into something that has clearly been my calling- Being a communications coach.

I must add here that R is a self-confessed introvert. She is also a very reflective person who can easily slip into reflections, especially when she talks about herself.

A reflection on my life tells me that good conversations have often landed me opportunities and even jobs. In fact, it was just a conversation that led me to my current colleague and founding partner at The Storyco.

At this point, I am wondering where music fits. Like a good storyteller who throws up plot twists just before the reader’s attention wanes, she brings up music.

I seem to have skipped my singing assignments in the story but that is what brought confidence and balance through my early years I guess. I started singing professionally, immediately after school. This not only made my everyday life more colorful but also helped me become financially independent from a very young age. Music has been a constant source of contacts and networking as well. These have helped me both professionally and personally. Meeting celebrities, learning how fame is transitory, and other deeper insights about life have also come to me from a lot of my musical assignments.

I must add here that she is an accomplished singer, dabbling and rocking in both, Tamil and Hindi music. She has participated in several singing competitions on television including Paadava Duet Paadalai and Ragamalika. She has shared the stage with the likes of Hariharan, SPB, and P.Susheela. Here you can listen to her rendition of Unna Vida (one of my favourites from her singing).

Side note: R mentioned how doing music shows also had a stress element which made me think of the dichotomy- her music while helping so many others relax and de-stress, had done the opposite for her. Guess it’s true for many artists :). It made me appreciate her and other artists even more.

Nice! I am curious here. A lot of us unwind with music. How do you unwind?

I love cooking and whether it is starting my day or ending it, I love doing this to unwind. Of course, there's nothing like travel that can make me most happy. But on a daily basis, it is cooking and taking care of my plants that make me most peaceful.

Wonderful! Okay, let me ask you more about your work.

Now that you are an entrepreneur, what does a typical workday and weekend look like for you? How was/is it when you have singing/travel engagements in the mix?

For the last couple of years, while I was freelancing as a travel blogger, my weekdays and weekends would look the same. I can confidently say that having a separate work day and weekend is essential for maximum productivity. I now work three days a week and keep Fridays for any pending work or important team calls. Mondays are now dedicated to music. For an artist like me, music cannot be just a part of the day, I need to be immersed in it for hours. I realised I could do it only if I dedicated an entire day. I plan my week on Sunday evenings. This routine also helps me estimate how my week would flow, and then plan on how I can allocate time for other things that I equally love to do.

I look forward to weekends because now I do everything else that I love on weekends. This includes: managing my travel content on Rararaasta, cleaning my home, or preparing for the sustainable lifestyle that I follow. This has made me even more productive than before because now I seem to get everything I love done.

The Story Co also gives me the flexibility to travel and do things I like whenever I want, because our priority is to get real personal stories out of our lives, and in order to do that we need to live an exciting story too!

Do you follow any workday routines? Do you block out time to think and do deep work?

I try to :). My perfect day would look like this: waking up by 6 a.m., finishing my workout and chores by 9 a.m., and starting work at 9:30 a.m. Until 1 p.m. I like reading, writing, or doing stuff that will help me grow at work as well as in life. Post lunch i.e. 3 p.m. onwards is for all admin-related tasks, client work, calls, or discussions.

So yes, I definitely believe in deep work and try to keep 1.5 hours of it before 12 p.m. and 1 hour after lunch. The key is to make a list of to-dos the night before and to not open emails until lunchtime. We even tell clients that we can only have calls in the second half (with no exceptions).

(Are you hiring?!)

Sadly, no, says R.

How do you find/have you found clients/collaborators?

Conversations :) If only it was so easy! Most of our clients for The Storyco come from Sachin's regular writing on Linkedin.

(For all those folks wondering how to find a clientele from LinkedIn, these folks literally have a story for that! They also have a program called Ace LinkedIn with stories for the same.)

R continues: Sometimes through my written content or conversations with friends and on social media. For Rararaasta I collaborated with a couple of big brands last year and also got featured on two popular podcasts.

Check them out here:

Hey, we both are marketers. Let’s talk a little about branding. What are your thoughts on personal branding?

Personal branding is a gift of the new social media age. Imagine life two decades ago. Our voices were limited to our homes and around friends. Today you can let your thoughts and opinions be heard, via any medium you want, to millions of people. If you're good at writing, there are blogs, Linkedin, Instagram etc. If you're good at showing up on videos there's Youtube with language being no bar. There are endless options. But what is a personal brand really? I think it is to find what your 3-4 core beliefs or top passions/ priorities in life are and speak about them only. People resonate when you are real.

Being authentic is important and I love how you have mentioned it.

How have you approached your personal branding? Do you think your current personal branding has helped you grow?

By being authentic :). I believe in a clean sustainable lifestyle. When I speak and share my day-to-day stories of my challenges and the little things I do to play my part in creating a greener world, it resonates. Similarly, as a traveler, I like traveling across India. We take road trips with a medium budget. So, if I start speaking about say a luxury holiday in Maldives it is not who I am and won't reflect my personal brand.

I definitely think my personal brand has helped me grow whether it is on my travel page Rararaasta or Storyco.

I might not have a huge following but the who's who of travel bloggers and influencers whose work I follow, constantly connect with me and what I talk about. Similarly at Storyco, while I mostly work behind the scenes my job mainly is to make the student's journey easy. By constantly speaking or narrating stories where I can empathise with the audience makes me seem amicable to a lot of people in our community.

Okay, here is a fun question! Any song(s), poetry, music, books, person/people, thing(s) that have inspired you?

I guess many throughout my life. But they've changed as and when the need in my life has changed. I was a voracious reader until my early 20s, (Netflix has killed that habit for many hasn't it). I am quite spiritual and I have been inspired a lot by books by Paulo Coelho, Swami Vivekanand's, and several abridged versions of the Upanishads and scriptures. Recently I have been inspired by Yuval Harari's books. I love Ghazals and old Hindi music and I tend to go into a zone where I need to be immersed for hours into music. I don't get that kind of time anymore so music inspiration is limited to my road-trip playlists while traveling. Rahul Dravid is the only person who I can say has largely inspired my life. His hard work, discipline, and righteousness towards everything have shaped me and my thinking.

Nice! One last question: If there is one thing that eases your day, what would it be?

My plants and cooking for sure :). My husband of course. I think talking to him even for a minute eases everything for me. He is a very chirpy fun loving person with a constant smile. (Aww<3).

From research to music to travel to sustainability to entrepreneurship to stories: Ranjani took me across a multitude of spaces giving me a lot of food for thought. Some of the key takeaways for me were how one can be a freelancing hobbyist, and how so many skills we acquire while pursuing work in one domain are easily transferable to other domains, adding more depth and value in the process. What stood out for me is how you can take a researcher out of academic research but you can never take the research out of the researcher :).

Thank you, Ranjani! I really appreciate your taking the time to talk and mail me, and letting me take my time in writing :).


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