Sidin Sunny Vadukut, now in his after-youth, is a humor blogger and freelance writer from India. He attended couple of India’s finest technology and business colleges before deciding to write full-time. Often touted as India‘s first famous blogger, he credits his blog for his success as a freelancer. He blogs at Domain Maximus, which for the statistically oriented, has over 700K visitors and 1250 subscribers. After stalking him for a while, I caught up with him on a Sunday morning, unclean and unshaven, more candid than humorous.
Who is Sidin Vadukut?
I am an engineer-MBA, who did the entire usual good boy education and career things before veering off track in January 2006
How did it all begin? How did the blog happen?
I wrote my first piece of any significance when I was about 7 years old, a piece for the school mag. I kept writing a little now and then, mostly school mag material. I started doing more humour, essay and satire material at engineering college.
When I graduated, I continued to write a weekly email newsletter to many friends – Movie reviews, jokes, observations about life and such like. Many people read the newsletter, around 40 or so at its peak. In October 2002, I discovered Blogger by Pyra Labs and figured it was a more efficient way to communicate to people without stuffing their Inboxes, and voila!
One day you decided to write full-time. Did the success of your blog have a bearing on the decision?
Absolutely. The blog’s success and the experience of writing regularly for the notice boards at IIM Ahmedabad helped. The feedback and appreciation I got from people really convinced me that I could do this full time. That appreciation gave me the self-belief to take the leap. End of 2005 I figured that if I needed to give this a shot I had to do it when I could afford to take the risk. So that even if I screwed up I could always go back and get a regular MBA job again. When the equation made sense, I jumped.
How easy was the decision, considering that people from your college seem to be making an insane amount of money?
It gets tougher as they continue to make more!
However, no, I am thrilled now. I write a fair amount – several newspapers and a portal. The blog is doing better than ever before. I am doing better as a writer, creatively and professionally. So, absolutely thrilled and of course paying the bills and all.
Good to know that writing pays bills. Two years since you took the plunge – What do you think of it in hindsight? How has the journey been?
I set myself a set of goals when I started out and a timeline to achieve them. I wanted to have my first book out by now. Otherwise it’s all been ahead of schedule.
When are the book(s) coming?
Books! One will come early next year – the one with collected essays and blog posts. Do not want to speculate on the next ones yet.
Tell us about Hafta, Jam and your other projects
JAM is ongoing. An alumnus of IIMA and a very good friend owns it. I deputy edit the magazine and do a LOT of work for the online properties.
Hafta is pretty much on hiatus. I do not think the model works unless I can find much more time for myself. The non-compensated writer model is tough to pull off without a core team with lots of time and energy.
Is it true that at REC Trichy, you used to take novels to exam centers?
Ok that is a popular rumor online. I never read a novel during an exam. I did take a few with me into the hall so I could immediately pack up and go to the airport or something after that. But, yes I did most of my novel reading during exam times. I would go buy a bunch the week before exams. Helped me concentrate when I studied I think.
Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, Martin Cruz Smith and Umberto Eco
Do you read a lot of blogs? What keeps you wanting to come back to a blog?
I read a fair number, but very irregularly. A combination of style and content. Latter more than the former.
If you had to choose five favorite bloggers, who would they be?
How would you describe your blogging style? What do you think sets your blog apart from other blogs?
For a time I did not know because, there are funnier blogs and more regularly written blogs and so on. Now I think it is the humor, first person narrative and general honestly of my style of writing. A lot of people tend to identify with what I write
Do you earn from the blog?
Directly I make enough money off ads to pay for my domain and hosting comfortably. But I don’t really work on the Adsense part as much as some people do. But indirectly it has got me almost all of my writing work.
How do you go about promoting your blog/writing, building the ‘brand’?
The first thing I did was moving to my own domain and giving it a unique look and feel. I make sure the domain goes out in all communication: bylines, email signatures and so on. I try to communicate with the readers a fair bit, who pass out the domain themselves and I make it really easy to stay in touch: feeds, emailers and so on. No overt marketing, so to speak.
Is it true that a successful writer/blogger has an awful lot of time on their hands?
Alternatively, as in my case, very very little sleep!
All you want to say to bloggers looking to go freelance
Develop a unique combination of content and style. Polish it well. There are enough ‘good’ writers out there clamoring for space. Have a unique proposition. Your blog helps you do all that. And then, attack!
Final question, WordPress or blogger?
WordPress all the way. Don’t know how I managed without it.