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Pickle Jar a Community from across India “pickled with people from diverse backgrounds and interests.”

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Out of a small studio-cum-office in a business center in Bengaluru, the work is on producing a set of radio programs for children with disabilities called ‘Story Akka’ (‘Story Sister’ in Kannada). Soon to be released in All India Radio (AIR) Akashvani – Karnataka’s state broadcaster, the programs aren’t ordinary stories but thoughtfully planned lessons to make science and maths accessible for visually impaired children. The radio initiative is part of a larger collaborative effort of CAGS – IIIT Bangalore (Centre for Accessibility in the Global South), an NGO called Vision Empower, and Microsoft Research India. Their project called SEEDS (Scalable Early Education with Digital Scaffolding) spans many Indian schools, especially those enrolled in
schools for the blind.

The programmes aired on Tuesdays and Saturdays, feature stories of inspiration and innovation, such as braille playing cards and a navigation app for the blind. This tryst with radio comes a full two decades after I started out in the radio space being the breakfast show host for Radio City Bangalore 91.1 FM. While I left the radio world a long time ago, it really seems like life has come back full circle. This time, I return not as a Radio Jockey but as a founder of a media company tasked with creating programs for radio. Pickle Jar Media, which I started back in 2016, now creates podcasts and audio-visual productions for brands and non-profits looking to leverage the power of the medium to connect with their audiences.

In an effort to do things differently and try to find a niche in the content creation space, our team began to explore the world of Podcasts. Podcasts are long-form audio-first shows popular in the West and are rapidly growing in India. In a world dominated by short-form content like reels and shorts, podcasts present an opportunity for companies with hard-to-explain ideas, products or services. Take for example, The POSH pod, a podcast we produced for Parity Consulting and the law firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, looking to help employers navigate the anti-sexual harassment law in India. Or the Emotional First Aid Show, a podcast in the mental health category created in collaboration with the startup Habify Healthcare Technologies. This transition from a media person to a business owner hasn’t been a straightforward one. Nor has been the process of finding a suitable, sustainable business model for Pickle Jar Media.

A genesis of change

Pickle Jar got its start in 2016, with the launch of the Smita Patil Film Festival in 2016. The idea for this came as a passing remark by a close friend. Initially, I brushed the idea aside, but as days passed, the excitement rose, and I thought: why not? With film enthusiasts as volunteers and critics as film curators and panelists, the film festival was an unlikely success. This gave us the confidence we needed to bring even more of these events, and along with each one the Pickle Jar community slowly grew in numbers.

It was this community that encouraged us towards election reporting, and hence we started the Pickle Jar Poll Express series. Producing sharp written pieces and videos for publications such as Wire, the News Minute and Dailyhunt, our team focused on grassroots reporting and bridging gaps in between headlines. It was for one of these stories that, I received the UNFPA-backed Laadli Award for Gender Sensitivity in Journalism. The Poll Express has been on-ground for four elections, a total of 84 days, visiting 39 districts and producing 183 stories for media houses such as NDTV India, Indian Express, CNN News 18 Deccan Herald and more.

Things were in full steam when the world came to a halt during the COVID-19 outbreak. As a young enterprise, we were presented with the challenge of continuing operations online. We took this as an opportunity to venture into virtual events, with the inaugural of the Oxfam symposium on ‘Empowering Youth for Work’, a 5-year multi-country project funded by the IKEA Foundation and others. Podcasts were never on my radar until I was asked to be the host of the Dosa King, a Spotify original podcast on the dramatic rise and fall of Saravana Bhavan’s founder, P Rajagopal. Since then, we’ve been in the Podcasting business and haven’t looked back since.

As you can probably see, the journey with my little startup called Pickle Jar has been anything but a straight line. But it’s been a thrilling ride, and with each new venture each new pivot, our community of well-wishers has grown in strength. All those who have been with us since the start and those who joined along the way, are now part of a busy WhatsApp group called Pickle Jar – India Flavour. The group represents a pickled mix of people from diverse backgrounds and interests.

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