Malini Gowrishankar: From IT to Voice-overs to Travel Entrepreneurship and back to IT

I chose the name ‘Uncommon Transitions’ in the plural to showcase the plurality of transitions across a group of people, not a single person. And the trend so far has been exactly that: each person has had one major transition. But my guest in this episode breaks that trend, and how! Over a career spanning sixteen years, Malini Gowrishankar has been through multiple transitions spanning very different fields. She started in IT, then became a Voice-Over artist, dabbled in between as a Radio Jockey, founded a travel company for women travellers in India, and now she’s back in IT part-time in a very different role to the one she began her career in. 

I love this conversation for the way it brings out Malini’s curiosity to see what’s on the other side, her drive to embrace heterogeneity, her desire for social impact, and her business acumen which she’s developed not through some fancy MBA program but by building businesses and their brands from scratch. I learned so much from this insightful conversation, and I hope you do too.

This podcast is hosted on Buzzsprout and is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast players.

More on Malini’s vocations and public appearances

Voice-over Website: Voice of Malini

Travel website: F5 Escapes

TEDx Talk: Pushing Margins

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

When I was looking at your profile, it struck me that when I compare your profile to the others whom I have interviewed on this podcast, the kind of transitions and the number of transitions you’ve been through is very different. To use your own words on your website, you say your “career graph is quite strange. My experience spans multiple industries – 7 years in IT industry, over a decade in voice-overs and 7 years in travel.”  We’ll spend some time on all those as we go through your career arc, but I want to start with the voice-over part — one, because you are in the voice-over industry right now and secondly, it is probably something not many people know too much about. So what does a voice-over artist do, and how does a day in the life of a voice-over artist look like?

Honestly speaking I never even thought that one day I would actually be asked to speak about this journey of uncommon transitions. So, thank you for starting this podcast, and I feel validated in a way that all these jumps have indeed been very fruitful and it looks interesting and potentially helpful to other people with their career journeys.

Coming to the voice-over industry, I did not know that there is an industry called voice-overs. I had a lot of exposure to media as a teenager but that was where it stopped. I was happily in the IT industry but sometime in 2006, someone told me that you have a good voice and you should probably try voice-overs. This was at a studio where I went to record my singing voice so they said there is an opportunity why don’t you do it? So I asked what is voiceover and what do I do? And they told me what they currently have is a project which involves lending a voice to the character of Parvati which was a series of Ganesha stories. This was an animated CD ROMs project, and I said yes and that is how the first voiceover happened.

Over the years, I realized that this industry is not just limited to animated CD ROMs, this industry that encompasses multiple applications which include audio books, radio jingles, television commercials, telephone IVRs and many more. So that is how I got into the voice-over industry and that is exactly what voice-over means. You lend your voice to all these different applications.

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Girija Hariharan: From IT practice to the practice of art

This episode is a long, meandering conversation, the sort you would have with an artist who thinks deeply about art and life. Girija Hariharan spent a decade and a half in the IT industry before taking up painting full-time in 2015. She began her art career as a muralist, painting walls at the homes of friends willing to let her experiment, but these days she uses any medium that catches her fancy, including cardboard from discarded boxes. Her art conveys an intriguing mix of mythology and anthropology, often with clear feminist echoes. 

In our conversation Girija talks about balancing the artist’s and the business-person’s sensibility — her right and left brain at work, as she puts it. What also emerges is her deep-rooted desire for social development and her inclination to stay grounded in reality. She speaks about the importance of going with the flow in both art and life, and about what separates a hobbyist from a professional artist. 

This podcast is hosted on Buzzsprout and is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast players.

More on Girija’s art and social activities

Instagram: @2flatbrush
Recent blog on Deka series: Matsya
Charity trust: Annai Charitable Trust

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

I’m going to start with simple and perhaps naive question. You have this website called and your Instagram handle also follows the same name. What’s behind that name 2flatbrush?

It is a very quirky little thing. I usually have size 2 flat brush in my handbag since my college days — I’ve always carried it around anywhere. So when I was trying to keep a name for my business, I asked a couple of my friends and they gave some ideas like mural, something to do with the word play around murals, some very weird names. And then I looked into my handbag and I saw this brush, and I said okay it’s going to be 2flatbrush. Probably there is a reason behind why we have such keepsakes; this size 2 flat brush has been with me since 1997.

You call yourself an artist and a muralist, and your work spans different themes from mythology, feminism, nature among others. It also spans different styles: you are right now into abstract impressionism, you work also consists of realist portraits with abstract backgrounds, you’ve also experimented with word art, you want to do graffiti. Can you tell me what you are working on right now?

Yes, I am working on my current series called deka. It stands for 10 and is loosely based on Dashavatara — the ten avatars that Vishnu took to sustain or nurture the world through different stages of evolution of mankind. People equate Dashavatara with Darwin’s evolution; some people equate it with Noah’s ark. There are so many parallels between this Dashavatara and the history of the world. So I wanted to look at all of it from a feminist perspective because sustenance and nurturing comes naturally to women, and I wanted to hunt for these unknown figures in human history who have contributed towards nurturing the earth through different stages of human civilization. I plan to paint each avatar as a woman loosely related to the ten avatars of Vishnu.

For example the first one is Matsya, which is fish based and I am actually going to paint Ama divers. I don’t know if I am pronouncing it correctly, it is a Japanese name. Basically these female Japanese divers were the first pearl harvesters of the world and they did deep diving without any scuba gear or oxygen tanks. They do free diving and they bring all these oysters. They put a small irritant into the oysters and once they mature into pearls they go and harvest it and come back out. Apparently there were 6000-7000 Ama divers, and as little girls they are trained to expand their lung capacity in order to learn this kind of diving. Right now there are only 60 to 70 such divers in Japan.

So I want to paint these women as the keepers of pearls, it is a very metaphorical idea — if you know about the concept of Gaia, Gaia is our bhoomadevi concept which is very similar to personifying the entire earth as a woman, and the earth always gives and gives and gives, so Gaia also gives and gives and gives. This whole idea started out with my thought process around Gaia and how she is always contributing or offering something to the world like our earth. So all of these paintings will be based on an environmentally and ecological perspective as well. Currently I am doing a lot of research on feminist anthropology for this series. So far I have three paintings in my mind; I haven’t started working on them yet.  

[In the meantime, Girija has finished Matsya (pictured above) is working on her next work in the series.]

Continue reading “Girija Hariharan: From IT practice to the practice of art”