In Conversation With Rohit Varma — Entrepreneur and Photographer Par Excellence
Written by Shreya Soman and edited by Dhruv G Menon for TEDxBangalore
“Unpredictable, volatile, instinctive, excitable, passionate, impulsive, restless, moody, ferocious, sociable, versatile, engaging and amiable, like Nature itself”, is how Rohit Varma describes himself.
Pictures speak louder than words, they say. Rohit Varma captures Mother Nature’s infinite beauty through his lens and works towards raising awareness about wildlife conservation through these pictures. In a bid to bring people and Nature closer, he started India’s first Wildlife and Nature Photography Festival, “Nature InFocus”. The first two editions were a roaring success and the next edition is touted to be even better.
When he is not surrounded by the serene bliss that wildlife provides him with, he works in the hustling corporate world. Having spent more than 14 years in the marketing industry, he started his own venture, “R SQUARE”, in order to effectively connect brands with their customer base. Today, his company works with a range of brands and also hosts events such as Nature InFocus and Social Media Week. Being passionate and determined, is what makes him the successful person that he is today.
It was a privilege to interview Rohit Varma - a man who has never been afraid to go down the road his passions took him.
On Wildlife Photography, Wildlife Conservation and “Nature InFocus”
1) Every photographer develops their own shooting strategy in their own unique style. How did you develop your style?
When I started, I took images of everything. Later I realized that I loved to see my subject in its habitat. That’s what I felt is required to be showcased to the world — so that they get to see natural beauty and appreciate the same.
2) Wildlife photographer, Sudhir Shivaram said, “Wildlife photography is all about being at the right place at the right time with the right equipment.” Would you agree? How do you handle unpredictable factors such as weather conditions that are crucial in getting the perfect shot?
I agree with him to a certain extent. Nothing is predictable in nature and wildlife photography.
Patience is something which one needs to have. Another important point is to understand wildlife behavior. Weather conditions are subjective. Even if it is an overcast day, you can capture a good image.
What is the perfect shot? Either the one which people like or the one which I like. It is relative.
3) Nature InFocus, India’s first Nature and Wildlife Photography Festival was conceived with an intention to create awareness about nature and the need to conserve it. With both editions of the event being extremely successful, how do you plan on making the next edition bigger and better?
I would say that what we have done is just a start. The reason behind me saying this is that the idea has taken some shape now. We did two editions. Interesting content/ subjects were discussed and presented. Work on conservation was showcased. We have a long way to go. We have some more initiatives like the “ School Connect Program” wherein we will go present to children, plant trees with them, and make them understand why we need forests and how we can conserve them.
We are working on a lot of initiatives for different age groups to drive bigger change.
4) The story of your trip to Tanzania, featured in Africa Geographic’s blog was a treat to read. As a wildlife photographer, you must have done your fair share of travelling to lesser known regions. Tell us about your favourite destination and what made it so special.
My favorite destination is the wilderness.
5) In your interview with The Hindu, you said that, “As Wildlife photographers, we need to create more awareness through our pictures because nature is beautiful and we need to protect it.” Do you believe that wildlife photographers and the Indian Government can work hand in hand to conserve wildlife? If so, how?
I don’t know about the government and would not like to comment about them. I believe that wildlife photographers can do a lot for conservation. They are the ones who spend a lot of time in the wilderness. They understand the importance of nature and ecology. They need to show both sides of the story and talk and showcase the place or species or ecology to anybody and everybody who loves nature. This is how we build more awareness about nature and the need for conservation.
On R SQUARE and the Corporate World
1) Some would say that working in established companies is a safe bet as one is guaranteed a steady flow of income and job security. Having spent 14 years working for such established companies, you made a bold move by giving it all up and starting your own company. What inspired you to do this, and what were the difficulties you faced?
It was difficult to leave a well paying job and start something on my own. I just could not leave my passion for nature and wildlife photography. I wanted to spend more time in the wilderness and it was not possible when I was working in the corporate world. I decided to follow my passion and here I am.
Every journey will have its ups and down. We have also gone through the same journey. Today I am happy, and I am able to do what I want to do.
2) The highlight of your marketing stint was the brand campaign of AMD where you worked with Chess Grand Master, Vishwanathan Anand. Tell us about your experience working with him.
I would say I have very fond memories. He is a down to earth person. For him it was not just an endorsement — he took the effort to understand AMD’s philosophy and offering. He spent lots of time in understanding their technology and believe me, he had enough information to have a technical workshop on AMD technology.
3) R SQUARE works with various brands and helps them reach out to their customers. Having worked with a variety of brands, which campaign proved to be the most challenging for you, and why?
Every campaign has got its own challenges. Very frankly - when you are running a campaign and if something goes wrong, what works is presence of mind. Beyond a point there is no sense of discussion, and you just need to act.
4) R SQUARE was the host team for “Social Media Week” in Bangalore. One very interesting question raised was whether brand reputation be stained by one tweet from an upset customer. As the founder of a company working extensively with brands, how much does social media affect brand reputation, and in turn, your company?
Brand reputation is very important in today’s hyper connected world. I don’t think one tweet can stain brand reputation. What can trouble the brand is if that tweet is not responded to.
In today’s social world , the task for brands and their agencies is really difficult. Consumers have mediums to express their opinions today. Brands need to become more responsive — which means they have to be on top of things to ensure that no issue goes out of proportion.
On Balancing Jobs and Pursuing One’s Passions
1) As an entrepreneur and wildlife photographer, do you find it tough to give each job its due attention? How do you balance both worlds?
It (the balance) is the choice which we make. I don’t like to call it a balancing act. We sign up for projects knowing our bandwidth. Money is not the only factor. I know how much time I would like to spend in wilderness and I plan my work accordingly.
2) You once said, “Doing what you like is freedom and liking what you do is happiness”. You have attained immense success by following your heart’s call. What advice would you give young students who wish to pursue passions that are not perceived as conventional career options?
Follow your passion with a full heart and you will get what you are looking for. There is nothing which comes easy and without putting a lot of effort. Belief will take you places.
3) What expectations should youngsters and their families have when they set out to pursue such passions?
I think most problems start with the word ‘expectation’. Doing what you like is important. It gives you a sense of fulfillment. Family support can make huge difference when somebody decides to follow his or her heart.
On TEDxBangalore — An Ocean of Possibilities
If Rohit Varma had one piece of advice to give attendees of TEDxBangalore, it would be to “get inspired and act”. Particularly excited about the opportunity to meet and interact with like minded people, Rohit simply can’t wait to give his talk at this year’s conference.
Half of anything is not worth it, so it is either ALL or NOTHING. — Rohit Varma, Founder of R SQUARE, speaker at TEDxBangalore 2015 and master wildlife photographer.
All images used in this article were captured by Rohit Varma and used with his consent. To see more of his amazing work in wildlife photography, visit rohitvarma.com .