Starting your career in the middle of a global recession can be unnerving. But Aashika Jain, current India Editor of leading international finance publication Forbes Advisor, was determined to land her dream job in journalism. In 2008, as media houses froze hiring and slashed budgets, she persisted. With no personal connections in the industry, she moved to Mumbai and went from one editor’s office to the next, asking for a chance. Several meetings with editors and an internship at a Hindi media house finally led her to CNBC Awaaz—a job that would kick-start her distinguished career in journalism. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the course of her career as India’s leading business journalist, Aashika has sworn by one mantra—a determined mind always wins. And it has taken her from the ticker desk at CNBC to leading the India edition of Forbes Advisor. What’s the secret to her success? Investing in herself, always rising to new challenges and being 100% committed to her work. “I never enter a situation and think this is not for me. I just adapt with level-headedness and get going,” she says.
Through it all, she manages to meditate, read, go for walks and cook. Her knowledge, determination and empathy have made her a powerhouse in today’s media landscape, and that’s why we couldn't wait to feature her in POPxo’s Women Who Win series. In a conversation with us, Aashika opened up about her big break, favourite books and advice to journalism newbies. Excerpts from the interview:
My day begins with a 10-minute meditation session as soon as I am up. It helps me commit myself to dealing with everything calmly through the day and prepare myself mentally for all kinds of emotions that await me. Then I catch up with all that’s happening in the world.
My days start early and end late so before beginning work, I ensure I spend some time with my family over breakfast. Throughout the day, I toggle between reading, writing, work meetings and phone calls. A half an hour brisk walk with soothing music usually in the evenings helps me keep my spirits up.
My first job at CNBC-TV18 was one I got after putting in months of hard work. The recession of 2008 was a heavy jolt to youngsters like myself who were looking for their big break. The possibility of being able to clock a journalism job in mainstream media then was bleak and the world of digital media wasn’t as evolved. With passing months, my repeated email follow-ups with media organisations to grant me an opportunity to work with them went unanswered and I knew I had to do something more to get in.
I moved to Mumbai and started meeting Editors personally by paying them visits at their offices. With no godfathers or godmothers in the industry, I fought my fate from one office to another only to hear each Editor say I wasn’t good enough or I didn’t meet their requirements.
After nearly six months, my arduous attempts to break in the industry led me to win an internship at CNBC Awaaz, Network18 Group’s Hindi business media house. Hindi journalism wasn’t my forte but I had to learn to survive. The Head of Desk at Awaaz then, popularly called Dharmendra Sir, saw my intense struggle and advised me to meet the News Editor at CNBC-TV18 every day to check on new jobs available. I began finding an opportunity to speak with CNBC-TV18’s then News Editor every evening while I continued my internship at Awaaz.
On the 30th consecutive day of badgering him, there was suddenly an opening at the ticker desk. Someone had quit and the position needed to be filled almost immediately given how significant tickers are for a business media channel. The Editor spotted me in the room and said I can give this job to you but you’ll have to work very hard to learn business basics. My breakthrough moment was here with riders, of course. But landing into CNBC-TV18 was totally worth its while.
Soon after my stint at Reuters in its largest international bureau in Bangalore, I was looking for an opportunity that would pay me well. Having joined the media industry in the midst of a global recession, I felt utterly under-paid and for years reeled under the pressure of increasing my base salary. I once again began my search for an organization that would fulfill my need and the quest led to much more. The Editor of Economic Times digital saw the potential in onboarding me at a fairly increased salary. What the opportunity did was not only help me earn a little more than before, it transitioned me straight into the lap of digital media—something which was picking up at that time and digital journalists were being looked up at seriously.
Professionally, I always remember “we can do just anything if we really want to.” I believe irrespective of how difficult a task is or how impossible its success looks, there’s always a way to do it and it gets done when our resolve is mightier than our circumstances. A determined mind always wins. Personally, I am a big believer in empathy and its impact on people. I find it a privilege to lend an ear to a strained voice and think empathy can really change one’s outlook and decisions. Your empathetic demeanour can heal, help you as well as others to survive and thrive.
For me, success isn’t a one-time opportunity. I invest heavily in building myself both personally and professionally every time I take on a new challenge. So I think the skill to build oneself from scratch time and again is essential to wade through the storms of life and also grow in an aggressively changing environment. Another important quality that has helped me succeed is commitment. I am, at all points in time, 100% committed to my work. When your work becomes a part of you, you are bound to benefit yourself by learning the most and also benefit the workplace you’re engaged with by helping peers as well as growing the prospects for your employers. It’s a win-win for all and it, without doubt, slowly evolves into a habit.
My biggest professional accomplishment so far is the current role I am in. Being able to steer the India operations of a big brand like Forbes Advisor is not something I thought I would be doing at a fairly young age. The fact that the organisation found value in onboarding me to build their India division and entrust me with such a crucial responsibility is so empowering.
If anyone tells you you can’t succeed till you get that international degree, prove them wrong by working your ass off only to climb to the top of the ladder. There’s no reason to believe you won’t make it big. “Learning on the job” is the most underestimated requisite in the Indian journalism industry today. And to everyone’s surprise, it is the most rewarding. Get yourself a job, invest your time in observing, learning, reading and putting in the hard work. The world will be your oyster.
I love watching historical accounts of human life and ways practiced in India as well as across the world to relax. So YouTube is my go-to place to unwind online. Offline, cooking acts as therapy and I can bake a cake at any hour of the day.
‘You Can Win’ by Shiv Khera is a book I repeatedly read through my childhood at an age when kids enjoyed their Enid Blytons. It left a deep impression on me about goal-setting and laser focus on achieving what one’s heart desires.
‘The Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell is a book that instilled my belief that one’s victory is not theirs alone, but is a result of their opportunities and people around them.
‘The Yog Darshan’ by Patanjali has been instrumental in changing my perspective on living altogether. I have found a deeper purpose and associate with a higher meaning to life each time I refer to the text when in self-doubt.