These Folks Quit A Regular Job For A Career Fueled By Passion: #PassionToPaycheck Part III
By: Avinash Kumai on Jul 25th, 2016

If you have no passion, you are just living. We are on the last leg (or is it?) of the #passiontopaycheck series, and we are (still) surprised by the people we discovered. (Read Part I and Part II, if you have not yet). These people, and their stories will touch your lives for sure. Further, looking at their current work status we think they must have really loved their passion to give up a high flying job. As they say some risks are worth taking! Here are some (more) creative people (not in any particular order) who feed through their passion – literally!

Ambica Selvam – Food Stylist, Blogger And Photographer
Image credit: Lingering Aftertaste

Selvam, now a successful food stylist and blogger, started her career pulling all-nighters, working as an instructional designer with an e-learning firm – designing technology-based learning solutions for corporate houses. But, her love of food was so strong and intense that giving up on a career (of 12 years) in learning and development, felt just right, she tells us laughing!

“Although I loved conceptualising learning solutions, I just happened to love food more! Food would always be playing on my mind. I would constantly be thinking about what to cook. Would be reading about food, or be watching food shows on the television and reading inspiring food blogs… almost always,” she remembers.

In 2014, (while she was still working), she started her food blog to record and share her passion for cooking. This blog changed her life… literally! “My blog was the beginning of the journey of self-discovery. A blog also meant that aside of cooking and writing about the food I construct, take nice photos of the food, was key. Further on, I realised that just photographing food wasn’t enough, I felt the need to share a visual story though my spreads. It made me happy to convey moods, season, state of mind, or any specific story that I’d like to convey through my images – hence the interest in food styling came by,” she replies with a smile. It was through food she discovered her love for food styling and the ever growing penchant for food photography. “I’ve always had a creative urge for doing things differently and that has always been the driving factor,” she quips.

Hard work really pays off, and Salvam is a living example of this statement. Through her blog, Facebook and Instagram posts, inquiries started pouring in, asking her if she could do it professionally. It paved a way of opportunity for her. Today, she is a professional food stylist and photographer. She also works with food establishments on menu consulting and recipe development. 

“Honestly, it was not an easy decision or something that I decided overnight – the decision of quitting my good comfortable job for food was something that I had been mulling over for over a year. It takes courage to step out of the comfort zone and follow your heart. The apprehensions of how things will pan out, financial uncertainties are enough to make you take a U-turn on the decision, but strength of the genuine passion is all you need to overcome those fears. My belief in my passion fueled my decision and helped me take that plunge,” states Selvam.

Anything that you learnt in that process? “If you are passionate about something, you must keep at it! Keep it alive. Don’t do anything that will kill that passion. Stay away from it. For instance, I love cooking, but I didn’t want to get into cooking commercially. I didn’t take that road, although I got many opportunities. I was clear about what I wanted and what I didn’t. I wanted to be in this industry, the periphery of food, and do what I really loved doing. Styling, photography and ideating on recipes makes me incredibly happy! Also, keep an open mind to learn constantly. That is one of the only ways one can get better. Saying ‘yes’ is easy, but learn to say ‘no’, when you have to. Focus on building credibility for the long run than looking to get on a quick road to success. Don’t compare yourself with others and be hard on yourself because the stories of everyone’s lives are different, the struggles are different. And most importantly, build relationships and be humble,” says Selvam. 

Aparna Raman – Publisher And Mentor

Who would have thought that someone working in the advertising, design and digital content as a copywriter and creative director, would be content mentoring children, shaping their future, and making them better writers and giving them a skill to hold on to, eh? Well, this is Aparna Raman’s story. Further, she had never thought that she would be able to do anything else given the number of years dedicated to this line. But as she says, “Life opens up avenues that attract us; life sends us a sign that hey, this sounds interesting and I think I’m going to be great at it,” she illuminates.

During her time working, she recalls setting up creative writing workshops on weekends and at summer camps. The response – gratifying. “An environmentally-themed play I wrote, called The Night The Sea Came Home (about an Octopus that's pushed into a boy’s home by rising waters) was read and performed by a group of children. The workshop received terrific reviews. I then decided I wanted to work with children in the creative space,” reminisces Raman.

She further adds, “A lot of the work (created by the children) during the workshops was shared on social media and highly appreciated by friends and family of their parents. I noticed the pride and encouragement this resulted in. And the incentive to keep reading and writing.” The following year, Timbuktoo Young Authors Publishing was born – to publish child authors and give them a platform for self-expression. The firm has 26 authors published across India, till date. Colombo, London and Singapore, and several other verticals joining up.

“When you create an idea, you are giving life to something that doesn’t currently exist and is unique to you. Further, the joy of making a difference to young minds is unbeatable. You realise, that till that moment, everything you did for a livelihood, was and will be owned by someone else and goes towards building someone else’s idea,” states Raman. Adding, “So, start imagining a successful initiative from day one. Visualise it taking shape. Believing is everything. I also realised that you can be small and yet successful. You become more responsible as you are the brand, the product and service all in one  and you better be darn good,” vocalises Raman, with a smile. 

Roby Abraham – Music Producer And Musician
Image credit: Everafter

“I don’t really know if there is a ‘true calling’, but there could be more than one, right? – one after the other or simultaneously. But yeah, before becoming a full time musician, I was a soft skills trainer,” states Abraham. Fact is, Abraham now has a band named Everafter and has scored music for Malayalam films like Theevram and more. How inspiring is that?   

He also tells us that getting out of a 9-to-5 corporate job was the easiest and the most relieving decision of his life. “I didn’t really need too much of a push. I quit the job when I signed my second film, Theevram,” he recalls.

And what has this transition taught you? “I have learnt that when you have a strong gut feeling about something, even if it doesn’t make sense to the rest of the world, just follow the conscience. The more you sit on it, the more you are living someone else’s life,” reclaims Abraham, smiling.

Priya Goswami – Child And Maternity Photographer
Image credit: Bharat Aggarwal

Goswami is an MBA and marketing professional by qualification, and was working with Oxford University Press, India, as a senior marketing lead, before taking up photography full-time. Apart from marketing campaigns and product launches she was also taking care of the design creatives and official campaign shoots/videos. She feels that creativity was what got her going and reflected in her job profile too!

“Photography intrigued me ever since childhood and while I was in my job I did a couple of shoots for family and friends. The desire of taking it up professionally was always there, changing my signature from Priya Goswami to Priya Goswami Photography always tickled me,” she recalls. “It was one and a half years back when I finally made up my mind whether to follow my dreams or not. I tried thinking against it, but then what had to happen, had to happen. I resigned my job and started photography as a full-time professional. Not an easy journey though, but looking back, I think it was the best decision I ever made.”

Anything that you learnt in that process? “Oh yes, first and foremost I learnt that there was no fixed salary now and thus managing expenses is a task when there is no regular income. Freelancing comes with a lot of other learning such as time management, self-discipline and self-marketing. One has to work even more when it’s your own gig, and sometimes you feel that even 24 hours aren’t enough,” she states, laughing.

Nishith Shah – NLP Trainer
Image credit: Thought Labs

What were you doing before you found your true calling? “Before I found my true calling, I was doing Mechanical Engineering. I was always fascinated by engineering at the time. I was a decent student (laughs), until I found what I was really passionate about  people and exploring human potential,” Shah starts off.  

What pushed you to leave your 9-to-5 job, and go on the road where your passion lay? “While in my second year of college, I took up an internship in a learning and development organisation. I worked there as a trainer and coach. The organisation conducted transformational and leadership workshops for colleges and corporate firms. This is when I realised how much I enjoyed working with people and making a difference through my training and coaching. It was/is such a joy when I got feedback saying how I had made a difference or created breakthrough for people/organisation(s). I wanted to experience that more and more. The more I immersed myself into the field of learning and development, behavioural science, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and psychology, the less excited I got about engineering. By the time, I was in my third year of college; I started my company Thought Labs (previously Imaginarium) because I wanted to start something of my own that empowers people to explore their potential using advanced methodology of NLP.  As I reached fourth year, I realised how insignificant engineering was in front of what I really wanted to do in life and what I was really passionate about. So, I decided to quit college and continued developing my organisation.

Anything that you learnt in that process? “A lot, actually! Education is important as long as it is in line with who you want to be and what you want to do in life. Often people do things just because it is a tradition or they see majority of people doing it rather than taking charge of what they really want to do and designing their own path. When I decided to quit college, the world was against me. Some even thought I was foolish. I learned that it’s okay and understandable because they are concerned about my well-being and my security. I learnt to respectfully ignore them. I was certain that I wanted to live a meaningful life, a life that had a cause, which I was passionate about. That came to me only in entrepreneurship and in making a difference to people. Helping them achieve their dreams.”

Priya Jain – Soaper And Chocolatier
Image credit: Mishikrafts

Jain had a career in television journalism (with News 9), until she quit that to start Mishikrafts – a firm known for its bath products and different variety of chocolates – you might think it’s strange, but she loves it.

“I was always fascinated by soaps and the process that goes into making them. As a child, I was plagued with skin problems, which most doctors would write off as a ‘soap allergy’. As I grew older, I wanted to demystify soaps and see for myself what the possible triggers could be,” she recalls. Adding, “I attended a small two-day workshop, but did almost nothing about soap making for almost a year after that. When my niece was born, she had a few skin issues too… something the doctors couldn’t give solutions to. That is when I tried to make soap for the first with as many fresh, natural ingredients I could find. The milk soap I crafted for her worked like magic and that is when I started to consider giving this to other people. While I initially did not think of converting the hobby into a business, several fruitful results and increasing demands for the bath products were a boost.”

A year later, she quit her job and put her soul into Mishikrafts, full-time. She adores handmade products and this is why she started collaborating with several other people to expand her product range. Today, Mishikrafts has over 50 products, at the core of which lay solution-oriented bath products and customised chocolates.

Anything that you learnt in that process? “You learn a lot when you run a business, every single person you come across, and every single mistake costs you personally. You learn about discipline, hustling, timeline, deadline, quality control and much more, while you are working a business. A job gives you financial security, but in business, you have to create it yourself,” states Jain. 

Manasa Ramakrishnan – Educator
Image credit: Curricooler

Ramakrishnan, now an educator, completed here post-grad diploma in broadcast journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai and got placed at CNN-IBN, Noida, as a desk editor. But soon she realised that being a ‘deskie’ wasn’t exactly what she wanted. “I enjoyed teaching and working with children. So I applied to the Teach For India Fellowship and taught in a low-income community in Chennai for a span of two years,” she tells us. The children were first time learners and this stint gave her a glimpse into their lives. “I decided to stay in the education sector and started up in this space,” she recalls. At her new edu-venture, Curricooler, she strongly believes that students have the right to determine their career choice and wish to ensure that they are provided with an affordable and accessible support system to achieve their dreams. “This is my calling, and I am glad I followed my heart,” expresses Ramakrishnan.

“I was really not cut out for the desk job. I believe that if you do not want to wake up at random hours and put in your 100 per cent into your work then you are not doing what you love. And I did not feel this way in my old job, but now I am up and attending Skype meetings at 6 am or editing and finding new content for my site at 2 am. This is what passion can make a person do,” she clarifies.  

Further, there are three things she has learnt since she started Curricooler. First, Everything. She has learned everything. Also, she believes that if you do not have a good support system (like a family that is proud of you and loves you) then it is impossible to focus and work, let alone succeed. Second, it’s easy to get carried away, so you constantly need some criticism and someone who drags you back to the ground. And three, “People will always tell you to quit the rat race, follow your heart, travel, and all that jazz, but they never tell you how. This is because it is a struggle. Things that get affected – money and work-life balance… yes, but you have to hold your head high, like your nose is bleeding,” she ends.    

Aabha Hanjura – Singer/Songwriter

Now you might see Hanjura having a ball on stage with her outfit Sufistication, but we are not so sure about the time she spent time in advertising. “I left my comfy job because I had the urge to find myself, I was successful in my corporate career (don’t get me wrong) yet I used to feel that something was amiss. I always knew I wanted to sing, but I used to do it sporadically, also I never gave myself the right direction. Until, I formed Sufistication, and started gigging, I realised that the stage is where I truly belong, and decided to direct all my energy on making new music and putting it out there. God was kind and some of it is successful and now there’s no looking back,” enthuses Hanjura.

She also learnt a lot in this process, too. Hanjura found out that your true battle is with yourself and no one else – do it because it makes you happy and never to prove a point, she says. “There are good days, when everything seems to be working out and you see the fruits of your hard work and you feel happy about your decisions, and then there are really horrible days, it is then ,when you are at your lowest that you need to remember why you decided to set aside money, comfort and more, and get up and work harder at your craft. Kicking a bad job out of your life is not the solution, doing a great job with whatever you are doing is,” she points out.

“Life outside the corporate world is also not a bed of roses, it’s a tough journey, but the best part is, that the journey is your own and that’s what makes it worthwhile,” she states. 

Madhuvanthi Mohan – Illustrator
Image credit: Something Sketchy

“I was a copywriter (in advertising) for three years before I realised I loved illustrations and art,” states Mohan. Now, she runs her company called Something Sketchy. A firm where she artistically adds illustrations on products like notebooks and coaster-magnets for retail. You will be surprised to know that she supplies to venues like Landmark and her products are in fifteen stores across nine cities in India and four stores in NYC. She is also a hit at flea markets and festivals like Comic Con and Lil Flea. Further, she cares about bringing the Indian illustrator community together and in this pursuit, she also runs a not-for-profit illustrators’ group called The Sketchup. Over the past two years she has hosted intimate, informal, underground gatherings with established speakers, across the country. “The aim is to create a network and platform for illustrators in the country to connect, collaborate and support one another on our journeys in art,” Mohan clarifies. You might also find her painting murals and travelling around the country, painting and freelancing out of different places.

Being able to travel, meet new people, work from anywhere and not be tied to the same place is probably the biggest take back for her ever since she has quit her job, she tells us. “As much as I miss the regular salary, and having a group of people around me while I work, I’ve learnt that the feeling of having a purpose, doing something I love and working on something I feel strongly about, really trumps absolutely everything else,” she adds. 

Nishanth Appari – Motivational Blogger, Trainer And Coach
Image credit: Beeryani Fitness

“Right before I started my journey in fitness, I was working as an assistant to a serial entrepreneur, who is now a partner and managing director of the business that I recently started – Beeryani Fitness. He also tells us that he hasn’t left any one particular job and figured out what he was passionate about. “It was a five year long journey during which, I left engineering, I quit multiple jobs in different industries and did a couple of internships, before I found my path,” Appari clarifies.

Ever since he completed school, he wanted to do something more with his life, he wanted it to mean something more. “I wanted to impact more people’s lives and make more money and at every step of the way. I followed my gut whenever I wasn’t ‘feeling it’ for a few weeks and kept changing my path till I ended up here,” he reflects.

He also recalls two questions that helped him take the toughest decisions in life – one, if you’re going to die in the next six months, for real, what is it that you really want to be remembered for? Because at the end of the day, the sum of our lives is a story narrated by our dear ones. And two, Is what I’m about to do, a story my grand kids would take pride in sharing with their friends? 

Dyna D’Souza and Neil Quadras – Filmmakers

“Neil (her husband) was an HR manager with Dell and I was a Team Lead with Accenture. It was a mundane 9-5 job, as far as I can remember,” states D’Souza. Further, she adds, “Neil was always fond of cameras and the beauty of filmmaking and I left my job only to support Neil so he could fulfill his dream.” The husband-wife duo now run a production house called Capture Crew Productions Pvt. Ltd.

"I remember giving myself two years to pursue my passion and if it didn’t work I thought I would come back to my regular job. Life was tough without a stable income. Also, this was a totally new direction which also involved a 16-month-study/course," says Quadras. D’Souza quit only once Neil had finished the course and he was looking at someone who could help him with the business end of things. “Rarely do people realise that while pursuing their passion, that the stuff that feeds you is the ‘business’,” she butts in. Adding, “By that I mean things like the client relation, accounts management, statutory government regulations, managing overheads/business planning and more.”

The duo feels that life is all about living every single day and not just two days in a week. Since then they have extensively travelled – a drive from Bangalore to Khardungla/Leh and back, you name it. “This wouldn’t have been possible without quitting our regular jobs,” the duo states. 

Shikha Nambiar – Illustrator
Image credit: Sunny Skies Starry Eyes

Before Nambiar decided to take the plunge and study design, she was working at a legal outsourcing firm in Pune as a legal trainer for three years. “I had completed my five-year course in BBA, LLB and joined the firm after graduation. I trained new employees on different legal modules and projects during my time there,” she fills us in.  

But, she never really liked her job and it was only because she had a brilliant boss, (Deirdre Byrne), that she stuck to her 9-to-5 role. It was soon after she quit and went back to the States, she decided that she couldn’t see herself doing this for the rest of her years. Here is where she took a leap of faith. “After I had made up my find, things just fell into place serendipitously… touch wood,” she prays.

In her time, when she was making the switch as an illustrator, she learnt that though the transformation is never easy, there are always things to be grateful for. “I was blessed to have a supportive family. I also learnt that it’s better to struggle doing something you love deeply and are passionate about than having a nagging regret at the back of your mind. Also, it’s a lot about having faith in yourself and never losing focus from your dreams,” she speaks out. 


Watch Virendra Kaith’s passion to paycheck story unravel here and be inspired to follow your heart. We also interviewed Kaith a few weeks back, where we discussed about things like his experience while he was working in a BPO, balancing his life as a musician, and how he quit his day job, all for his passion for music. Read about his journey here. #SignatureStartUp.

Did these people inspire you to listen to your heart and follow your passion? Do you know of more people like them? Let us know in the comments below. We might just be motivated to do another one!

For more such inspirational stories, about people following their passion and making it a source of their paycheck, log onto

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Avinash Kumai
Avinash is a dreamer, a music connoisseur and is constantly seeking new things that catch his fancy. Enjoys the silence of his one-bedroom-apartment and loves cooking alone. He prefers genres like rock and blues, and is obsessed with what an instrument can do if it's in the right hands. His all time favourite jams are Comfortably Numb and...   Read more
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