My Worst Critic and Best Mentor Rests in Peace

Industrial Economist
S Viswanathan, Editor of Industrial Economist rested in peace recently. While people call him a visionary, I call him my worst critic and best mentor.

The early months of 2015 was when I took a sabbatical to relook at my career. In my first company, I was working as an equity correspondent, and based on that I wanted to work for a magazine. With that will and experience, I landed in Industrial Economist. If I had to give the first impression I would say it is a time travel to the 1960s, but with desktops, laptops, and other modern tools. Yes, to an extent I felt the conventional vibes.

However, I did believe I will have a rewarding career. A senior in my first company told me, “every other senior Journalist in leading newspapers today worked with him once upon a time.”

I felt blessed and excited. Attending press meets back to back and asking questions like a regular journalist was all my KPIs initially. And I loved all of those. My WhatsApp status read, “I’m in my dreamland.” Yet, when you’re high and flying somebody should ground you, and S Viswanathan as the Editor did it every time.

Some days, even before I reach the office I get a call from him, “What the hell have you done?” Followed by a series of instructions before I get to start my work. He dragged me into every other activity such as sales, pre-sales, secretarial, clerical, and once even sweeping.

Of course, I felt humiliated. Did I become a Journalist to sweep? Yet, he didn’t mind and while I did it, he gave me instructions. “Hold the broom firmly and bend a little so that you put all your energy into getting rid of the dust.” Putting my humiliation aside, I did feel it was an eye-opener. I started using the same strategies at home and I became a better sweeper.

Even though I loved to write, he would hardly publish my writings. Sometimes I felt I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do. He would dictate letters and features in the absence of his secretary. And he would ask me to research something for some features. Then he will ask me to create a database of all visiting cards he collected at a press meet.

Some days, I went to press meets to gather industry-specific information and if I come without any solid data on hand, he would say, “Why the hell did you even go?” Perhaps all of those experiences to an extent drove me out of the magazine.

But many days, after moving out, I did feel, “maybe I must have stayed with him.”

He was my worst critic no doubt, but certain aspects of my writing transformed after I worked with him. Surprisingly, he did look at my strengths and weaknesses and knew me better.

He would always refer to me as Google Master and tell people, “Where is that Google Master call him? I want him to find out some details on Google.”

Some days, after attending back-to-back press meets he would call me back to the office and say, “You’re staying late tonight. We will have to complete work for this issue.” I would curse him as anyone would do, but I never regretted those experiences.

He sent me for random sales gigs. One day I went to almost 15 hotels throughout the city. I didn’t know a dime about sales. Abruptly, I asked them for a full-page advertisement and got thrown out. I thought he would yell at me, but surprisingly he said, “Good job. Now you know the market. Keep trying until you find one. Don’t forget to send a follow-up mail tomorrow.”

The best of what I learned from him was about email marketing. For a man of his age, I thought he may not understand it better. But he did. He knew sporadic use of images would land your mail in spam. Every time, he optimizes the email campaigns to get better results.

Looking back at the nine months I spent with Industrial Economist I did learn a lot. These months I was on a journey of self-realization. I went on to mold my skills to do better. As I moved out of Industrial Economist, I had the knowledge of writing, editing, layout, printing, distribution, and every single aspect of the print media business.

While I regret the bitter conversations, it is painful to know that he is not around. A person like him is hard to find and even though he is a difficult person to work with, you won’t regret bearing his comments. No wonder he is my worst critic, but he is my best mentor.

May his soul rest in peace!

Here is a story that I wrote when I worked at Industrial Economist –

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