After a short stint in the finance sector, he flew to Boston as a Fulbright scholar in pursuit of a degree in media communications at Emerson College. Two decades later, Varin Sachdev is the only Indian anchor on Thai television, hosting World News on channel TNN 24. In addition to several successful radio shows, like Radio Thailand Morning, Insight Thai Insight World, and 101 Degree News, he also hosts the annual Oscar and Emmy events in Bangkok and had a small part in the 2003 Thai film Angulimala.
Fame aside, this media personality enjoys spending time with family, entertaining friends with Bollywood-themed parties, and trying out new restaurants in Bangkok. Unpretentious and good-humoured, he is quick to shed his deep radio voice for a gleeful laugh, something he confesses he has done on live television a few times by accident.
When not on camera, he also finds time to teach media classes at Thammasat University. With a fair share of accomplishments, this multifaceted media personality feels he still has a long way to go.
In an interview on the set of his news show, he talks of his multiple roles and how he made it as an Indian in a Thai-dominated industry.
How did you make your way from a career in finance to media?
I have always known that I have a passion for showbiz, but then my education took a detour. I did my bachelor’s in economics and then a master’s in finance. My first job was as a finance analyst with Procter and Gamble. I took the job because I liked my boss, and I could see myself in him. But I was clueless about corporate life. But soon after, he got headhunted. When the new boss came in, everything turned upside down. I no longer enjoyed working there and started looking for part-time jobs in classifieds. I was particularly interested in doing radio even though I did not have any experience. But I was confident because I had some background as an emcee and spokesperson for different clubs and organisations while I was at school. Then at some point, I planned to do my second master’s in media communications because I knew that to make it in this industry, you need to have a degree in mass communications. It was in 1995 that I decided to change careers; I was 25 then. Then coincidentally, I got a job as a writer for the Sunday magazine. Even though it was in print, I took the job because I knew it would open doors for me.
What did you find most challenging when you started out as a journalist?
I was reporting for stock and business. I had gotten this job because of my finance background. But the challenge was to be accepted by the guests on the show. Even though I spoke the same language as them, I was intimidated because they were all CEOs and big shots, and I was just out of school with only a year of experience behind me.
You are the only Thai-Indian reporter in the local news. Was it a struggle to get here?
I got my first job because of my qualifications. They didn’t judge me because I was Indian, and I have to give credit to the Nation Group. They were my first employers and gave me assignments for television. It was easy to get the first gig, but it has been a struggle to advance. My biggest obstacle was to be accepted as an Indian-looking anchor on Thai television, even though Thai is my first language. Initially, I thought it was my looks that stopped me from going ahead in this industry. Even though I am sure that there is a certain degree of racial discrimination in this country, there is no way of knowing because they won’t say it to your face. [But] the attitude is changing and so is the perception of people living in big cities.
Why do you think we don’t see many Indian anchors on local news channels?
Many Indian people I know who want to be in this industry did not go to schools here; they went to India to study. They can speak Thai, but it is not as fluent as mine. To be a broadcaster on television or radio, you are required to pass the announcer’s test. It is a legitimate certification, and I have that.
Sawasdee India radio show was your tribute to your origins, but was later discontinued. Would you consider restarting it?
It was a community radio, and we received a good response from the community. But I put it on hold because the reception was bad. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission are rearranging the frequency, so the problems we had in 2006 won’t exist anymore. So I may consider putting it back on. But I will call it Rich India and change the focus to educating Thais on Indian culture and heritage.
Do you see yourself as a bridge between Thais and Indians?
Yes, I would gladly accept it if the Indian community in Thailand gives me the honour. That title should be given to me. I won’t just claim it.
Who has been your favourite interviewee and why?
My favourite interviewee would be former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva because he used to be my teacher at Thammasat. I had studied three courses under him. At that time, even though I was graduating in economics, he predicted that I would one day be in show biz. When I interviewed him for the first time, he was an MP, and he was very proud of me. Now when I interview him, I have to put aside my personal relations with him and wear the cap of a media person. That I think is a challenge for me.
You also teach media classes at Thammasat University. Why did you decide to teach?
You cannot change the mindsets of people in the media industry, but you can invest in the future. It is possible to change the students’ mind to help them open up towards newer thinking. I see myself as their mentor and I try to share my experiences with them.
You wear many hats. Which one is your favourite?
All of my jobs complement each other. But my favourite has to be emceeing. I am a communicator, so I need to see my audience and interact. I do quite a few events in a year. The ones that I look forward to the most are the Oscars and the Emmys. It’s really fun because you always dream of walking down the red carpet, so you get one step closer to it. I used to do it on television as a live narrator. But now we do it here with Major Cineplex, who hosts an Oscar party every year on the big screen.
You are very fashion-conscious. What’s your style?
As a professional on TV, you have to dress well in order to be taken seriously. I think dark colours look dapper on TV. I am an avid collector of sunglasses and neckties. I usually get my neckties from abroad, and my favourite designer for them is Satya Paul.
What is the real Varin like off-camera?
I am passionate and friendly. I have a good sense of humour, and I love to laugh.
Featured in Masala magazine, April 2013, Thailand
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