A passionate traveler, budding entrepreneur, award-winning marketer, viral photographer, content creator, Riddhi Debh has done it all. This Kolkata-born travel lover is also a proud alumna of IIT Delhi, where she learned the nitty-gritty of Engineering Physics and XLRI Jamshedpur, where she explored the world of Business Management. Bitten by the offbeat travel keeda, she took the plunge and followed her heart, entering into the world of travel and photography.
In a sweet and short conversation with Riddhi, we explored her journey so far and her passion for travel & photography.
Hey Riddhi! A warm welcome to Wired Tales. You are a pretty well-known name in the travel photography community today. How did it all start?
I have been traveling since a kid. Lately, I used to share my travel photographs on Facebook, which were clicked with a mobile phone. At my wedding, I was gifted a DSLR camera by the sales team of my then organization as they were well aware of my love for traveling. That’s when my photography journey started. I had studied engineering physics, so I could understand camera, speed, aperture quickly. Also, I think I had an inherent sense of composition which I gradually bettered. For my honeymoon, I went to Kenya and took lots of photographs there. My husband suggested submitting them somewhere and I ended up submitting the pictures on the website of National Geographic and it was selected in the editor’s list. It was a picture of a leopard climbing a tree against the backdrop of the sunset. At first, I thought it was beginner’s luck, but then I decided to give photography try.
Being a new entrant into the world of photography, how did you hone your skills?
I had left my job at Cadbury and joined EY in Mumbai. There was a lot of work pressure and photography turned out to be a great way for me to have some balance in life. I started learning the art of photography, attending workshops, watching relevant videos on YouTube, and I made a habit to spend few hours every day learning about photography. Gradually the love for photography started. On weekends, I would take a train to some destination, go and shoot there, and it started getting better. I felt photography is such a great way to share stories. And it is my way of telling stories about my travel.
How did you manage your full-time job and the love for traveling and photography?
After working for EY in Mumbai, I shifted to Bangalore. I wanted to create something and typical corporate life was not interesting enough for me. I have the offbeat keeda in my life. I joined an early-stage start-up, Portea. Today it is India’s one of the biggest Home Healthcare companies. The founders were serial entrepreneurs. I joined them and was doing quite well in my job, and between 2014-2019 I was completely focused on it. The camera used to come out when I would go traveling. I used to finish all my vacation days. Traveling was my fuel and I couldn’t work without it. Everyone in my office knew this including the CEO, and thankfully she was ok with it.
How “Rids Goes Places”, your travel content channel on social media platforms was born?
By 2017-18, the start-up I was working for raised significant funds. I was a Vice President in the company then and a very young person too. When we raised the funds, the start-up became like a mid-size company and there was a sense of emptiness. I was bored and it didn’t seem very exciting anymore and I started spending more time on photography. I went to Chile, did a trek in Patagonia and the love for photography resurfaced. I took part in competitions, my photos got published. At that time, I was suggested to start sharing my travel pictures on Instagram instead of Facebook. Towards the end of 2018, I started putting my pictures on Instagram and some pictures of Chile got viral. Till then, I did not have an ambition of becoming a travel content creator. Then I started sharing pictures more often, brands reached out and gradually I started getting better at photography.
When did you take the plunge – left your job and became a full-time travel content creator?
I did not plan to quit my job at all. After working for 5 years with Portea, I thought of taking a 5-6 months break, travel the world, come back and join some company. That was the plan and it never happened. It has been 2 years now. I became busy, things started falling in place and I really love my liberty and freedom to work from anywhere now.
How challenging it was to let go of an established corporate career and pursue your love for travel and photography?
When you work for 7-8 years, you have good savings and you are financially sound. I went up the corporate ladder pretty fast. After I left the job at Portea, I was still consulting start-ups and doing other work. There was too much work and pressure as well. Your friends think you have gone mad. My parents were liberal, but my mother could not take it and suggested pursuing travel photography as a hobby. My husband was very supportive and that really helped. In the first year after leaving my job, I was very chill as I had good savings. I did not go to brands and magazines. Before COVID happened, I had already traveled to 7/8 countries in 12 months. I was happy traveling. I used to travel, come back home and again go exploring. My learning curve was really steep.
How COVID impacted your work?
I have started blogging since COVID happened . I started looking at working with travel companies and brands more seriously. Sitting at home, I was frustrated despite all the privileges we have. The business side of my brain started giving ideas on building new things and I started a company called Nanamuna, which is an interactive storytelling app. At the core, I am a storyteller.
Do you feel you have achieved your final goal?
I do not think I have cracked it completely yet. My mother yet today asks me what I earn compared to what I think I would be earning in my previous company. I can survive but, I am still not there. I am a very minimalistic person. I do not need too many clothes every day or am not looking to purchase my next big car. My requirements are quite simple. There is a lot of work and pressure. You need to have thick skin and realize that some people would not understand you and, you need to have lots of self-confidence.
Also, I want to be known as a photographer. I do not like the fact that there are not many female photographers. It is considered to be too complex for them and I want to break this thought process.
Any message you would like to give to all the travel lovers out there, who want to take the plunge and enter in the world of travel content creation.
You need to be a hustler, and nothing comes easy. Unlike salaried jobs where you have a salary at the end of every month, you have to chase your salary here. You will have to reach out to brands. Your ego quotient needs to be zero. So, three key pointers:
- If you have to become an influencer, you need to understand personal branding.
- Be ready for egoless hustling.
- Work on your art.
Where is Riddhi going to head next?
I am going back to traveling within India in 2021. I have seen India when I was much younger. I have recently finished one month trip to North Bengal and Sikkim. “Dekho Apna Desh” is the plan for 2021.