Kudix Mug Holder of the MonthManaging timelines and basslines with equal ease—say hello to Gaurav.

At Toit, our customers have always been our primary focus. They’re the ones who bring life to the place, create memories and end up giving the place its familiar, friendly vibe.

And there are so many different kinds of people who come through our doors daily, that we wanted to get to know their stories.

The Kudix Mug Holder of the Month is our little way of celebrating our customers, and their unique stories.

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Musician, Band Manager, Tech Developer, IT Consultant, Advisor to non-profit organisations and youth groups, photography enthusiast, cooking enthusiast, brewing enthusiast—we could go on, but that’s just an introduction to our multi-tasker of a Mug Holder. Say hello to Gaurav.

Why do you think you were selected as the KMH?
I have absolutely no idea! In fact, this month was the month I tried to not drink. So it’s very strange that I have been selected.

Are you from Bangalore?
Yes. Been here all my life.

What do you do?

That’s a tough one. Many things. I mostly play music for a band, I do some tech, web development, startup IT consulting, events. That’s the things I do professionally.

That’s a hell of a lot of things! And what are the things you do non-professionally? 

Oh. I’m helping out a bunch of not-for-profit organisations with charities and fund raising, some youth groups as well with organising conferences, and getting back into my tattoo enthusiasm and photography.

Tattoo enthusiasm? Tattooing yourself or others?
No, getting myself tattooed. It’s been my long-standing dream…actually, it’s been my wife’s long-standing dream that I have a sleeve eventually, so!

How many tattoos do you have right now?
I have on both arms and that’s a collection of eight. Seven on one arm, and one on the other. And I just got this one yesterday.

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So, each of these tattoos are significant things that have happened in my life. My tattoos started with a mermaid’s tail and bass clef, it was an introduction to tattoos for me to see if I don’t faint while it happens.

…actually, it’s been my wife’s long-standing dream that I have a sleeve eventually

The mermaid’s tail is because it was Ariel the Mermaid, the favourite comic character of my girlfriend at that time, Shilpa, who is now my wife, thankfully!

Wow! And you got that done? Thank god you guys got married!
Yeah, I know! Would have been a weird story I’d have had to make up if not.

That then led to it becoming a fish with a mermaid’s tail, and it’s a fish jumping out of water. That was when I quit IT and started playing with a band.

Which band?
The Raghu Dixit Project. And then in 2007, we got two cats, and that was the first time in my life I had pets. I’d never grown up with pets. So, I got their names in Japanese—Yuki and Yumei at that time, but Yumei passed away and now we have Ari.

Then in 2010 I got married, so I got that date barcoded. And then in 2016 my wife finished her Masters in Canada, and got a job there, so there is an eventual move to Canada being planned.

So the Palm Tree, is representative of the first house we bought, in an apartment building called Palm Grove Towers, on Palm Grove road. And that’s the route that is traced to a Maple leaf, which is Canada.

…10 years since I joined TRDP, so this is an artist’s interpretation of Gudugudiya Sedi Nodu,

This December, it’ll be 10 years since I joined TRDP, so this is an artist’s interpretation of Gudugudiya Sedi Nodu, which is the first song I recorded bass for with Raghu.

It was meant to be Shishunala Sharif smoking hookah, and those were supposed to be puffs of smoke, but after discussion, we decided not to have an old guy smoking hookah for life on my arm. So I personalised it a little, and if you notice that guy has a tattoo on his arm, which is what my tattoo will eventually look like. Essentially, what has happened is that over the last ten years, the band has taken over everything I do.

You do a whole bunch of things. How do you manage?

I don’t think about it too much—I just go with the flow.

A lot of people ask me what my full-time profession is, and all of this is full time for me. I play in the band, I’m rehearsing, composing, recording, managing and as of three years ago I started managing the band internationally as well.
Previously, we had a different management team in UK.

I don’t think I can think about it and say—“Ok, this is my strategy!”
I always have something to do, and unfortunately someone is always waiting for me to do something.

But it can get mad hectic right? TRDP is a very famous act, and you guys tour a lot. How is there time to do anything else, especially if you’re also managing?

There is. Sleep wherever and whenever, and work everywhere. In fact, with the band in the UK and US, I drive the band as well. So, when we land in the US, I take over. Six of us, with all our equipment, and I’m driving from venue to venue.

So, if someone asks you what you do, how do you even answer?

Depends on who asks!

But something like this has got to have a burnout point, right?

I hope not! *laughs*

I think we’ve come to a point now where we’re thinking a lot more before we accept shows. We’d like to think a lot more before we accept shows. We aren’t yet. We’re trying to have a strategy behind doing shows, instead of doing anything and everything.

What’s the best and worst thing about a life like this?

Well, the best thing about being in the band that we’re in is to see how the music we make affects people. That, for sure, has been the biggest plus for me. And seeing people smile and breakdown into tears, just because of some music that we’re playing on stage, even when we’re not fully into it at times. Being able to reach out and touch people’s lives around the world,  is incredible.

I guess the worst thing really is that you’re working when everyone else you know is chilling.

…the best thing about being in the band that we’re in is to see how the music we make affects people.

The best thing about my life in general is that when I wake up in the morning I have no idea where the evening will take me.

Pretty much what I carry with me in my bag, other than my clothes, I can live with forever. My laptop and multiple chargers, my phone and multiple chargers, and I’m not kidding about this—my two passports! But no, these two just happened to be in my bag and fit this anecdote perfectly.

You said your wife is in Canada now, right? What does your wife think about all of this?

She can’t wait for it to end!

How long have you guys been married?

In January, it’ll be seven years that we’ve been married. And we’ve been together almost fourteen years.

Luckily for me, she “fell in love” (quotes on request) with the person outside of all this. I wasn’t doing any of this when I met her. I think she is the reason!

What does she do?

She is a software developer, just finished her Masters in software systems and works for pretty much the coolest company in Canada, which is Shopify.

Is she as passionate about music too? Or is it not something she cares much for?

Her favourite artist is Enrique. *laughs*
But with her enthusiasm, I’ve now started listening to a lot more of the music she likes.

So, would you call yourself an Enrique fan?

Not yet. But I am critical appreciator of his, and all music.

Did you go for the concert when he came down?

Absolutely! And in fact, since we knew the people organising the concert, OML, and they knew that she was such a big fan, they gave Shilpa the task of buying the gift that was eventually given to Enrique.
So, I drove her from shop to shop finding gifts that suited his clothing trends at the time.

Think we bought him a black stole, because from all the stoles she had seen him wear recently, she hadn’t seen a black one.

How did Toit become a part of this very busy schedule of yours?

I run a company called The Random Lines, along with a good friend of mine, Ashim D’Silva.
He started it, and has been running it as long as he’s been alive pretty much. I joined him in 2010. Initially it was meant to be this collective of freelancers that would form the best team possible for a given project. But more and more we realised that things don’t function that way and that we’d like to have a team.

Which is when you, Mana, entered the scene. My dear wife, Manek, and you, for about two years, were The Random Lines.

Content was never something we were going to push on, we were always going to push on UI/UX, but one of the first people we reached out to for this first was Toit, because it was our collective favourite pub in the city.

I run a company called The Random Lines, along with a good friend of mine, Ashim D’Silva.

We did the website, and they were the perfect client really—they didn’t want ROI, click-throughs, they didn’t want anything but interesting and cool content. Which is perfect, because then you’re not doing SEO-driven activities and stuff that draws traffic or anything.

It was just about how we could make this brand interesting for loyalists, which they have plenty of. So yeah, that’s how it started.

Does that mean you’ve always been a beer drinker?

So I started drinking really early. Early as in my parents were of the opinion that it’s better that I drink with them than go out and drink anywhere else with friends.

Early on in life, if you were part of a Mangy community, then you only knew that there were two types of alcoholic drinks—cold and hot!
By cold, you meant beer and by hot you meant whiskey. I didn’t even know Vodka and Rum were two different things, they both looked like white spirits in bottles.

In a typical Mangy function, there’s always two crates of whiskey and twenty crates of beer, and one bottle of Vodka. That’s pretty much the norm. So, since I couldn’t drink the hot, I started drinking the cold.

And by cold, you meant beer and by hot you meant whiskey.

Then really it was my travel that helped me discover interesting craft beers. The minute I discovered that, I wanted a way to track it.
So I started tracking every beer I drank, and I think my last count is 124 odd varieties. Then I got into doing this site for Toit, and started talking to Matt to understand what it takes to make beer. Then I went and took a crash course in Bangalore in how to make beer and started making beer at home.

What was the name of the first batch?

Aaaaah! Shilpa, my wife, is a bit of a specialist at dirty names.
So, our ‘brewery’ was called Two Stupid Cats, and the beer, well, was called Wet ‘Cat’. *insert another word for cat* Very limited batches though.

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What’s the best memory you have here?

I think for me, it was the first ever time we came to Toit. Possibly the month it opened.
I remember thinking, “Oh wow! Someone is trying to do something cool.”
The beers tasted fantastic, and since then any place I’ve gone to in Bangalore, or India, whenever I drink beer, I’ve always compared it to something at Toit. So for me, by far, the clearest winner in terms of beer, is Toit.

In all the touring you’ve done with the band, what’s one of the craziest experiences you’ve had? What has gone wrong?

We’ve had crazy things happen on stage, but that’s largely been technical stuff.

So, that way we’re a really good band, we don’t drink before a show. We’re pretty much in control and in our senses when we’re doing our shows.
There was a show we were doing in Diu (Daman & Diu), where we’d done our soundcheck and everything was ready to go.
We work with in-ear monitoring, so each of us has our own monitors.

Except, when we got our stage, after being announced by the MC with everyone cheering and us making this grand entrance, our in-ear monitors were off. They just didn’t switch on. Because of some power thing.
So I told one of the sound guys to help us, to switch something on, and it would all work. But I didn’t know that he was drunk.

…that way we’re a really good band, we don’t drink before a show.

So he went to switch on the transmitter, which is usually kept at the edge of the stage, and this was a four and a half feet high stage.
He went there, he was drunk, and he tripped. So, as he switched it on, he realised he was falling off stage. He needed something to hold onto, and the only thing he could’ve held onto were the power cables of our in-ears. He held them and fell five feet down.

Three power cables snapped in the middle, and two of them came off the transmitter.

So, here were are, the band announced and ready on stage, the crowd waiting, and all five of our monitors were off, with three of the cables cut with no hope of restoring. From them on, in the next three minutes, before the crowd got agitated, we had to figure out power cables from various places.

Luckily with musical equipment, a lot of the voltages are similar, so you can use things interchangeably. And knowing that helped!

Does it get hard to be with people on the road? What is the hardest part?

Yeah. It is. It’s just that not everyone’s mood is the same everyday and not everyone is as upbeat or as down as you at the same time. If you see us on the road, we look like a completely dysfunctional group of friends because of that.

Literally, in the last two years, I’ve seen more of my band than my wife and family, in actual time.

How do you deal with something like that and stay in a band for 10 years like you have?

I think over time, I made this band my ambition as well. For a large part, people who have come and gone through the band since I have been a part of it, have been that they came in, fulfilled a certain role and moved on. But for me, this band was my ambition as well. I really love the management of the band more than the performance. And there was no one else doing it, so I had total free reign. I could go in, suggest crazy things, and do them and it would all be upto me.

In that sense, this is my band in terms of the management, and not just someone’s band that I am a part of.

…in the last two years, I’ve seen more of my band than my wife and family

Do you have time management tips for other people doing similar things, or trying to anyway?

*laughs* Don’t do what I do! But the thing I learnt early on was about expectation setting. And when to say no. Which I learnt very late in my life. I would never say no, and say yes to everything, which is how I ended up doing all these things firstly. Which is great. But it is about early-on introspecting and saying that these things are along the plan that I want to pursue, and they align with my life plan, and there are these 200 other things that will come my way, which I am not going to do.

And also expectation setting of not being everything for everyone and then not live up to it. Which also I learnt really late in my life and very badly. In the sense, I would just say yes, don’t worry, everything will be taken care of, and then I’d struggle with it, and most times, I wouldn’t be able to deliver.

Overtime, I’ve found that balance I think. Plus, the biggest thing that I’ve had is the luxury of working with great people, and being able to trust them entirely and not worry about it. If you have that luxury, and that kind of team, then it can work.

There’s no formula though. You’ll have to just make it up yourself.

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So, what is the best thing about being a musician in our country today?

I really worry for the independent music scene in the country. It’s nowhere close to where it should be. I think that mainstream and commercial music has too much muscle for the independent music scene to even make a dent.

For a young musician coming up today, there is no real incentive for being independent.

It’s not a lack of motivation or talent either—it’s just that commercial music has so much of a marketing edge that independent music will always struggle to compete.
Secondly, we’re not a culture in India of new music discovery. The amount of people who are going out and trying to discover new music is so tiny that they’re insignificant in the larger scheme of things.

You hear a commercial song twenty times on radio, tv, social media and it’s very easy to think that’s the only music being created.

Is that why someone like you, being part of such a successful band, also needs to do so many other things? Or is that just incidental?

That’s incidental. Just the music for me is doing far better than what I would be doing if I was in IT today. It’s not the money or the convenience. It’s just that I love all the other things I do.

I think this is possible for 10% of the musicians in the country. Its heartening to see a lot of youngsters being ok with being in the 90% that’s struggling for now, hoping that they’ll be able to jump into the 10% soon. That’s really great!

I quit my job with enough of a cushion in 2008, but today people are jumping in with faith.

Is that a good thing?

I think it’s a problem that people don’t see this as seriously as some of the other things they view.

For example, and this is a classic example I use in all my workshops that I do around Music Business, if I describe to you that a friend of mine did five years of MBBS, put about 40 lakhs into that course, then did about two years of specialisation, and then did four years of field work in some village, and then now are in a place where they can get a 20,000 salary to be a doctor, after about 11 years, that’s totally reasonable for you, right?

I quit my job with enough of a cushion in 2008, but today people are jumping in with faith.

But we start doing music and we say, I’ve learnt four chords, I can write/play ten songs, where is the opportunity? People in the music scene have unreasonable expectations.

The other example I give is that India, and Bangalore especially, is going through this start-up culture, where 90% of startups fail. After securing funding. Those are the stats. And that’s completely reasonable.

If I told you a friend of mine quit his job, had a great idea for a startup, put his entire life savings into it, roped in three of his friends and convinced them to do the same, paid them out of his own pocket and everyone is working for equity hoping that some day they will make it big, and that they’re working for two years to build this product which will go into the market. Everyone will say that’s a great story and is amazing.

People in the music scene have unreasonable expectations.

But, have you ever heard a band say that? Almost nobody thinks like that, treating it like a startup, putting life savings into it and working on equity hoping someday we’ll reap rewards.
We do music on the side, when we’re already doing something else, give it 2-4 hours in a week, while for the same startup with the same chance of survival, with the exact same vague promise of success, everything is on the line.

You could be the next Ola in the music scene, which got a billion dollar valuation and all of that. But you need to do what the Ola founders did to make it Ola. It’s not going to happen because you wrote some songs.

I mean the music business has two parts to it—music and business. And someone needs to think of it as a business.

We crib about promoters not paying on time and stuff, but every other field I’m part of, I’m chasing them for payment. So it’s not like money not being paid on time is a problem specific to the music scene. That’s a problem that is specific to India.

But you need to do what the Ola founders did to make it Ola.

Is there a solution?

I don’t know. I mean, there is a solution but I don’t know where it starts.

For example, like the NH7 Weekender, it’s great that festivals are happening and giving you a taster. But how many people are going back and actually checking out more about the artist. Maybe 1% or 2% of the people who attend.

Even for Raghu, it took two Kannada movies to really take his independent music to the masses. I mean, now his songs like Gudugudiya or Lokada Kalaji are loved and requested for, but people only knew of them after those Kannada movies took off, even though these songs existed before that.

There’s no straightforward answer. I think it requires a system change.

There’s no straightforward answer. I think it requires a system change.

When people ask me, what is our competition, as independent musicians, I say our competition is Shahrukh Khan. Our competition isn’t another band. Because for the 500 rupees you’ll pay to enter a venue to watch a band, you can get a Gold Class PVR seat and watch a movie. Ignore the content, think about the experience—for that amount you’re getting to sit in a Lazy Boy like reclining seat with someone coming and serving you food and drink, and you’re watching something and being entertained for two hours.

Versus, standing in cue, hustle-bustle, jostling around, you don’t know if the sound is going to be great or not, or if the band is off-colour that day, and you’re watching this band whose music you don’t really know, maybe one or two songs.

That is really your competition. I mean, you have your 1000 people in Bangalore who will go for every gig, but that’s not a market—that’s a cult. You need to grow out of that and become a market. It’s a big task.