On a recent home trip to Kharagpur during Diwali, my hometown flowed in with friends from all corners of the world, hence, we decided to gather at our regular age-old place of rendezvous.
Chhedis, the 50+-year-old small chai-tapri(tea shop) right outside the mammoth campus of IIT, KGP witnesses the gathering of hundreds of people, day in and day out, a place which we link to emotion, and so there was I, meeting the huge gang from school, sipping tea served in earthen cups, discussing life, current updates, and affairs, social media, politics, work, and bosses!
With rounds of spilling out beans and long-lost whereabouts, suddenly, Mehulee, my friend asked,
“Varsha, why is your LinkedIn silent for so long? I don’t get to see many blogs. Have you stopped writing?”
All the eyes turned towards me, and somebody from the group remarked, “Yes, what happened Vari?” (yes, that’s my school name, only cool ones get school nicknames...)
“... And how did you choose writing as a profession? You had a big No-No for this earlier!”, questioned Kritz.
“But her work seems happening dude! Not all of us are as happy as she is with work and the office or bosses. She seems to enjoy it all. Her LinkedIn profile speaks so much of what she actually does!”, Aman joined in.
I realized that the stage was then all mine. I shrugged a bit, then cleared my throat, sat cross-legged on the broken wooden bench, straightened up my back, and on I went,
“Aahhh, this story is long. It will take time.” “Shahrukh Da (the tea-shop owner), one more round of tea and 1..2...8...10...12 cheese Maggi too”, hawked Babul.
“Well, I didn’t actually join as a content writer when I had joined SmartQ. It was in Feb 2020, after undergoing 3 long interviews with the co-founders and departmental heads that I had joined the company as a Relationship Manager for Operations. The honeymoon period of joining a company was just about to get over, that the massive lockdown broke in, and I didn’t know SmartQ would bring in so much change and take out the best in me in so many different forms and ways.
People were getting laid off all around the world, and every team meeting scared me, Am I the next? How long will it take to get another job? What if...???
They obviously had no reason to retain a newly joined employee.
The operational revenue ceased to flow in. The management broke their head behind what should be done to hold the entire SmartQ family together. Meetings, panel discussions, revamping of the entire business model, designing, and redesigning of sales pitches and so many more took place in a span of a few days. A dedicated team kept themselves busy with international calls, another team engaged themselves in coding and simplifying the user-friendly application.
It was then in the month of April that we started getting NGO orders for people stuck in the city with no access to food and other necessities.
And one same evening, I got a call from Subhayan, who heads Operations at SmartQ, if I could volunteer for kitchen visits for the NGO orders since it was near to my location and traveling without reason was restricted.
If that could save my job, I definitely would.
The 2.4kms walk from my house to the catering unit made me realize that this pandemic would stay long. Trust me, Bangalore with such silence and empty roads haunted me and scared me, if that is the end of the world.
It went well for good 2 months, where we had successfully procured and delivered 3000+ food packs per day, but pay cuts continued and eventually kept increasing since the company targeted retaining as many employees as possible.”
“Yes, the pandemic was treacherous. Not only did it take lives but also jobs, peace, and sanity. My organization too had to let go of so many talents and hard-working people”, added Priyanka, my friend from the nursery, with a face clearly reflecting remorse and grief.
“It was again in November that Subhayan had called.” “Ops head, right?”, rechecked Laltu. “Yes, but by now he had become my go-to mentor and confidant”
With a baritone, he connotated, “Wazzzzuppp???”
I knew the already-known and said, “What is it? LOP?” (I will never forget that phone call!)
He laughed and let me know that I would have to be on a LOP and that I can start looking for jobs if situations do not improve. After a good understanding of how things could be worked out, I thought of taking some time off and then slowly start looking out for jobs.”
I paused and looked up to check whether people around were still interested in the detailed information I kept on blabbering for the past 20minutes. To my surprise, the causal eyes were now glued to my beaming eyes, and I had managed to pull 5 new pairs of ears too, carefully listening to my story.
“Didn’t you panic?”, inquired curious Divya. I smiled and nodded positively.
“Then? What happened?”, I noticed a desperate Anindya wanting further details. “Ohhh... silence, let her speak please! Vari continues...”, pitched in Majumder.
“It was International Mens’ Day on 19th November that I had written a small gratitude message and forwarded to most male contacts of my Whatsapp. People loved it and thanked me back for remembering and writing a beautiful message.
What I didn’t anticipate was that the small gesture would open another door of opportunity for me at SmartQ.
It was in December first week that I received a message from Keshav, co-founder and CMO of SmartQ asking if I would be interested in contributing to the Digital Marketing team as a Content Writer. A line followed post that sentence that Bhaskar would be contacting me soon.
And I did get a call from Bhaskar, he heads the Marketing team at SmartQ. And believe me, very few managers are like him. He has pulled out the best in me, teaching me things, making work fun, and most importantly, giving me free hand to work with all his team members.
Going back to the call with Bhaskar, my journey in SmartQ took a turn, where I started writing blogs and articles after he made me realize how impactful social media marketing is important in today’s world. Thus, I became the Content Writer of SmartQ!”
I looked at my empty cup, finding it empty, signaled Sakha for a refill. Chotu came with a tray full of tea and carried back the empty Maggi plates. Mine still remained half-eaten.
The beauty of Chhedis is that it is located just beside an open railway track, where all types of trains rumble up and down all the time throughout the day, giving the entire place a countryside feel.
Shahrukh Da knew that we would take some more time, and so he laid out 3 more wooden benches and 4 faded red plastic Neelkamal chairs for everybody to sit.
“People started liking my blogs and I started writing more".
I participated in brainstorming sessions and team meetings to decide on the entire month's content calendar and the type of articles to be written and published.
Bhaskar taught the importance of SEO and how articles get maximum views. He aligned me to write more professionally, suggested articles and catchphrases. He explained how the tone of an article mattered to the readers and so many more things that I can now take a class on!
My first published blog from SmartQ had a small line written below the topic- by Varsha Karmakar. And I cried seeing it. I remember calling my parents and friends, most of you present here and talking about my article.
They had also added a picture beside my name so that people get to know the author. That feeling was poignant and can never be recreated. I still get goosebumps talking about it.”
“We all imagined you as a writer someday. I was ecstatic that day and had read your article thrice and even shared with Ram”, added Arita.
“Yes, I read all your articles.” validated Ram.
“Were you not doing voice-overs too sometime?”, probed Sammy.
“Hahaha! Oh yes... Voiceovers! We had done that for a while because some readers demanded it. In fact, we had done all sorts of permutations and combinations, cross-examinations and trials, just to understand the taste and preference of the readers.”
Well, my blogs increased the traction of our website. And viewers expanded their time of stay on the SmartQ page. I remember Bhaskar congratulating me one day since one of my blogs had touched maximum views in the shortest time till date.”
I heard a few joyful claps and a few of them cooed in unison, “Whhhoooaaaaa...”
“And what about operations?”, inquired Pritha.
“Operations is something I enjoy doing and writing is something that I love. Parallelly with writing blogs, I continued with operations too as when the requirement had come.
After this vacation ends, and once I return back to Bangalore, I would have to be at a client’s location for a good 8-week long event.”
Arpita got a call from her mother, and we all looked at the time, it was 1:30 pm. We had to head home for lunch and promising to meet again in the evening, we exited Chhedis.
It was just 2 weeks back while on a conversation with Bhaskar, he asked me if I could work on an article about LIFE@SMARTQ and that he wanted my story as an article. Not only was I overwhelmed but also excited to share my life and journey in SmartQ and the fun that I had working here.
And what could be a better day than the 17th of February, marking my 2 years in SmartQ, getting to work with amazing people, supportive team leaders, rational decision-makers, and guides, who besides aiming at the growth of the company, also takes care of the employees.
After I had returned to Bangalore, post the Diwali-vacation, I was working closely with the Operations team.
I had not handled a client as big as Goldman Sachs earlier, and Tripathy eased my work by enlisting brand vendors and connecting me to them, so that execution runs smooth.
Having worked with brand vendors like Cream stone, Socials, Byg Brewski, Aubree and so many, I now work as a Vendor Manager at SmartQ, mobilizing brands on SmartQ’s platform.
Being a newbie into this department with overflowing curious questions, Nivedan, who heads the Vendor Management team, patiently not only listens to my whats and hows but also relaxes my inquisitive mind with answers ever ready. He has a solution for everything!
It’s 2:30 am, with the trending Instagram music of ‘Aattam Kalasamithi’ playing in the loop for the past 2 hours, 3 consecutive cups of warm coffee, and my pup sleeping on my lap, I decided to have the article completed.
SmartQ has acted as a blessing in disguise for me, a guardian angel, who helped me know myself and learn things about myself that even I wasn’t aware of. There is so much to explore, figure out, and improve oneself, with diversified roles.
Before shutting the laptop off, I get reminded of a dialogue I had heard two years back by my then manager Tripathy, “I am the NICK FURY of my team, you are my IRON MAN, I already have CAPTAIN AMERICA with me and BLACK WIDOW is joining on 17th... Together, our team would be the strongest of all...”
BLACK WIDOW has successfully completed her 2 years! Cheers...