Chetna Vasishth is the founder of ChetChat, an online chat show in the career and education space. An alumnus of XLRI Jamshedpur, Chetna has a decade-long experience of working for various multinational banks. She set up ChetChat two years ago as a pro bono initiative with the goal of helping the youths in taking informed career choices. In an exhaustive interview with edInbox’s Shabina Akhtar, Chetna shares how her maternity break helped her second career bloom slowly but steadily.
edInbox: Tell us something about yourself.
Chetna: I direct and host a YouTube talk show, ChetChat. This is the largest Indian online talk show in the career space. In a short span of two-and-a-half years, we have created 150 video interviews and have over 30,000 subscribers and about 1.9 million views.
I did my post-graduation from XLRI, Jamshedpur and became a corporate banker. I worked with some of India’s largest multinational banks for the first ten years of my professional career. I then set up and ran a training company, where I trained bankers from more than 10 banks, both within India as well as overseas.
edInbox: What made you quit a cushy job as a banker and start ChetChat?
Chetna: The birth of my son saw me take a break from the corporate world. In my teaching and training avatar, I interacted with hundreds of young students, who were very unsure of their career choices. Along the way, I became convinced that I should reach out and connect the youth, who are filled with questions and doubts, with experts who have the answers.
Setting up ChetChat, therefore, seemed to be a natural extension of my work, since the idea was to use my network to provide videos for students across the world to help them make informed career choices. Soon, this spread and we were fortunate to meet with and interview some inspiring people who were leaders in their fields – celebrities, students, start-up founders and CEOs.
edInbox: How supportive or reluctant was your family with your decision to start ChetChat?
Chetna: My family has been completely supportive and without that support, I would have found it difficult to sustain this momentum. But almost every other person I talk to asks me “what is your revenue model?” and honestly, I have no answer to that question. Right now, I just know that what I do contributes and adds value, it is meaningful both for me and for the viewer and that it will become a very significant resource in the future.
But how and when all this will fall into place is something I don’t necessarily have answers for at this moment.
edInbox: What’s the idea behind having a YouTube Channel?
Chetna: Well, the idea was to ‘hear it straight from the horse’s mouth’. Students these days want to hear about people’s experiences and make up their own minds and that was the idea behind ChetChat. We started out by interviewing students at top universities across the globe like Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia, NYU etc. We asked them about their experiences at colleges, what their colleges were like and some common questions that students would have liked to ask. This became very popular. There is indeed a lot of material available on rankings and costs but no one tells you if the college is safe at night or is a party school or what it means to be in a large class with 500 other students or how to pick activities that compliment your major etc.
edInbox: Why did you choose it to be an educational channel?
Chetna: My heart was set on guiding students who were making uninformed choices, most often because their immediate network of friends and family also lacked access to expertise. Also, I thought I could make a lasting impact in this field since a good decision in this area could significantly improve their lives.
edInbox: How difficult or easy was it for you in the initial months?
Chetna: Setting up something new with no precedent and no clear revenue stream is always difficult. We started off not knowing how to shoot or edit videos, we had one camera, no microphones and no lights and no idea about how to popularise the created content. We recorded in the outdoors and were stuck with bird sounds and traffic noises with absolutely no clue on how to deal with that. My husband has always helped me with the shoots and initially something would always go wrong on every shoot – either the sound was not syncing with the video or the exposure levels were wrong or bad lighting or just too much ambient noise. There was this standing joke between us about “what is it going to be this time?”
We have come a long way in these 2.5 years. We invested in equipment, attended workshops and learnt every day on the job. I edited the first 100 videos on my own, to ensure I knew my craft well. We started with Windows movie maker and people laughed at us. Now when people tell us that our videos look professional, it is very satisfying. We have also begun to learn about what the audience wants, which videos typically succeed etc.
edInbox: What makes ChetChat different?
Chetna: We are a career-oriented channel, which gives a platform to both students and experts to share their career graph. Be it doctors, designers, chartered accountants, we feature them all. In these interactions, they share about how they cracked major entrance examinations to be where they are today. You will also find videos from students pursuing pure passions like dancing, art, singing and scuba diving etc.
edInbox: Who is your target audience and why should they visit ChetChat?
Chetna: The World Economic Forum recently published a report titled ‘Future of Jobs’ in which they stated that about “65 percent of children entering primary schools today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist”. Given this dynamic landscape, I think every student and their families should watch ‘ChetChat’ and hear what experts have to say about various careers. We not only profile careers, we also give guidelines on how to succeed at competitive exams like UPSC, CLAT, IBPS etc. We talk about scholarships and costs and admission procedures etc and provide an umbrella of authentic information that every student and their family could find useful.
The key factor to consider is that the channel is completely unbiased.
edInbox: How do you/ channel function?
Chetna: We have a scheduled upload of a new video every Friday. We plan our shoots, conduct research and design the interview. We edit the videos in-house too which takes a few days since we have a dual camera shoot and there is a significant amount of editing work to make the video short enough for YouTube. Another major activity is to design promotional posts and other social media content to engage our viewers every day.
The most satisfying part of the day is replying to individual messages and comments from the viewers. I make it a point to reply to every message on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, email and Twitter. Now I even know some subscribers with their names, faces and regular comments. I value this relationship that has been built up over time.
edInbox: What’s your strategy to keep your channel running?
Chetna: My goal is to make ChetChat the No.1 talk show in India and impact the lives of millions of young people in a positive way. I want to be on television as well and take ChetChat beyond careers.
I am always thinking of something new for the channel. Our new series, MasterClass with ChetChat features research-based analytical information. We have done two videos till now under this banner which the viewers have appreciated. The first one on the ‘Cost of Studying Abroad’ and the second one on Women’s Day called ‘The Top 10 International Scholarships for Women’.
I am working on a plan to build a discussion board for students, where experts could answer the students’ questions directly.
edInbox: Entrepreneurship or job? Why?
Chetna: One man’s medicine is another man’s poison. For me, satisfaction emanates from being able to create a wide-reaching impact in a creative and stress-free manner. Often at times, jobs limit our ability to create personal impact or sometimes create stressful environments, which is why entrepreneurship scores for me. But there could be jobs that help someone achieve their goals as well since entrepreneurship comes with its own set of challenges. There is no straight answer to this question truthfully.
edInbox: What does it take to make it big in the business of YouTubing?
Chetna: Consistency, patience and keeping the viewer’s interest in mind at all times, listening to the viewer, connecting with them, giving them what they want will give you a loyal fan base.
edInbox: What tips would you give to youngsters who want to be YouTubers?
Chetna: People write to me and ask me “Ma’am I want to become famous and I want to earn money out of YouTube, tell me how to do it.” I always advise them that making money out of YouTube is no longer an easy business. Do something because you think you are genuinely good at it and you can create a positive impact on people’s lives with your work. Don’t go on YouTube because you want to become famous. You will become famous for people love what you do for them but hone your craft. Keep learning and improving. People get used to a certain standard and then they will expect more from you. So, remain committed to providing the best and your viewers will always come back to you.
Reporting by Shabina Akhtar Special Correspondent, Kolkata