This week’s interview is with Toonika Guha. In this interview, she recounts her career journey and challenges, as well as her experience as a writer.
Toonika Guha is a Content Support Manager at Audible. She graduated from King’s College London with an MA Culture and Creative Industries degree in 2016. She graduated with a Distinction in her dissertation. She is also a writer and enjoys exploring subjects around food, culture and gender.
Can you tell me about your career journey? How did you get to this position?
Right after uni, I returned to my home base in Calcutta, India. I was inspired by the world of possibilities in the Creative Industries that my course at Kings had opened up for me. At the time, the scope of career paths in the Creative Industries was limited in Calcutta, so I decided to make my own path and established Calcutta Culture Walks, an organisation that curated events and walking tours to immerse guests in the culture of my city. We received interest from national as well as international guests and it was a very rewarding experience for me as a budding entrepreneur.
Soon after, I received the opportunity to join Penguin Random House India as an assistant editor in Delhi-NCR. Publishing had always been an industry that interested me so I took the opportunity and moved cities. I had gained some insights into the industry during a few publishing internships I undertook during my time at Kings, and I was excited to embark upon this new journey. It was a steep learning curve as it was my first corporate job, but I enjoyed every moment of it and was given the opportunity to edit and commission several books as part of Penguin’s India publishing list.
A couple of years into my job, I noticed that the content space in India was booming and was primed for growth in the digital space, with the entry of video and audio streaming services like Amazon Prime Video and Audible respectively. So when I found the opportunity to move into Penguin’s audiobook division in 2019, I did! During my time there, I led the audio programme and enabled the creation of several audiobooks of bestselling books. I worked with some of India’s top authors like Ruskin Bond and Gaur Gopal Das to create an audio publishing list that engaged and excited audiences.
During the pandemic, I was presented with an opportunity work for Audible in the content team, which I accepted with much excitement. I joined Audible’s team in the middle of the pandemic and have had an amazing time since then. Working in the audio entertainment space, an emerging and fast-growing vertical in India has given me the opportunity to work on several exciting projects in the content space that I cherish.
What drew you to this industry?
When I moved into the audio space at Penguin, the vertical had just started to emerge in India. Being passionate about creating exciting content, as well as keeping up with the world of new media, the opportunity was very exciting for me. When the opportunity to work at Audible came around, I was more than thrilled to continue to work in this industry which exists at the crossroads of entertainment and technology.
In this space at Audible, I have had the opportunity to work on some exciting projects like Being Queer, an audiobook anthology of first person LBT narratives from India’s foremost LGBTQIA+ platform, Gaysi. I have also had the opportunity to localize an Audible Original, Tell Me Lies for the Indian marketplace, which was recently released as Naqaab in Hindi. As an emerging and fast growing service in India, the opportunities to create engaging content in audio entertainment are endless.
I would be interested to know a little bit more about your experience as a writer. Can you tell me about your experience and some of the publications you produced?
While I work in the content space by profession, I am a writer by passion. Being a lifelong reader, I have always admired good writing and have great respect for writers and the work they do. However, having studied Literature for my undergrad, Culture Studies for my post grad, and working in the creative field also means that I often find my head filled with interesting thoughts and ideas. I have been penning these ideas down for the longest time– in diaries and personal blogs. It was only a few years ago that I started publishing some of my works on public platforms. I write mostly about food and culture. I am drawn to the history of food and culture, believing life to have a more enriching experience when one immerses oneself in a deeper understanding of the culture around us. A piece that I am particularly proud of is one where I explored the culture and history behind the Indian-Chinese cuisine, that I wrote for Whetstone journal a couple of years ago. The article enabled me to explore a cuisine that has been a favourite growing up, and see it through the lens of history, thereby bringing a deeper understanding of culture and the cross cultural fabric that makes modern day India.
More broadly speaking, what are the challenges, if any, that you have faced during your career and how have you dealt with them?
One of the biggest challenges that I faced is one that most of us have faced recently– the pandemic. I joined Audible in June of 2020, when the first wave of the pandemic was in full-swing in India. It was very daunting to be joining a new work environment under such circumstances– that too working from home. However, my team and colleagues instantly made me feel at ease and were very welcoming– despite not having the opportunity to meet me in person. At Audible, we strongly believe in the spirit of Activate Caring and through the pandemic years I saw that in action and was encouraged to embody that spirit too.