From Engineering to Entertaining
An engineer by training, Prashant Pinge switched career to follow his passion for animation and writing, and has made a success of both.
Benaifer J. Mirza
Isn’t it one of the best feelings in the world to wake up and look forward to a fun and fulfilling day at work? Most definitely, yes! Meet 40-year old, Prashant Pinge, who echoes this thought and is living his dream. Like thousands of other young Indians he started life with the inspiration of becoming an engineer, which he did quite successfully. But only for a while, before a different kind of passion caught hold of him. His paycheck now comes from something entirely different. In his own words he `channels his creativity’ these days. Driven by his passion for animation and writing, he runs a successful special effects studio in Mumbai, and when not doing that writes books for children covering a wide variety of areas including young adult fantasy fiction, historical fiction and romantic comedies. His book `Adventure on Wheels’ was in fact a finalist at the Economist Crossword Book Awards two years ago.
Pinge’s credentials are as impressive as it can be for any middle class boy growing up in Mumbai in the 1980s and 90s. After studying at Mumbai’s very nerdy D G Ruparely collected, he did his electrical engineering from Purdue University, and followed it up with a masters degree in management from Lancaster University in the UK. And he wasn’t done. He went on to get a post graduate degree in management at the prestigious Indian School of Business at Hyderabad, and then travelled to the Thunderbird School of Global Management, where he acquired a post MBA master in international management.
Pinge started his professional career as an engineer with the world’s leading aerospace defense manufacturer Rockwell Collins, at their headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With all those outstanding college degrees in the bag, there was never any doubt that he would was headed for a successful corporate career. Only that Pinge did not think about it that way. One fine day he decided to quit and come back to India. “The decision to quit was triggered by the monotony of the work. There was no room to channel my creativity, or the freedom to engage in other pursuits,” he says.
He embarked on his India career at his family firm which was into the business of education. But not for long. There wasn’t much of `creativity’ involved there either. While working there he had begun writing scripts for a animated television series, titles like Chhota Bheem, Krishna Balram, Kumbh Karan, etc.. He found the world of animation vastly exciting, and began considering it as a potential avenue for his paycheck. Partnering with a friend, he launched a visual effects and animation film production start-up Reptile FX in Mumbai in 2012. “ It’s a great way to see your imagination manifest into an actual audio-visual experience on screen, “ he says, “we are not only creating animated videos for corporates, but also producing our own original content based on some of the stories I have written.”
Reptile FX has been growing exponentially. “We would certainly consider ourselves in the bracket of animation industry leaders in our segment today,” Pinge says. Besides, he has also been active in the area of short films. Freedom of Expression, a film that he wrote and produced was screened at the Greenbay Film Festival in Wisconsin last year, and at the famous Terre di Cinema festival in Sicily, Italy. “The decision of setting up Reptile has been absolutely worth it, “ Pinge says, “ I find myself immersed in a cauldron of creativity; just the way I like it. Things are going well, and I am really enjoying every aspect of my life. There is no longer a separation between work and play.”
His only regret, of course, is that he didn’t chase his passion earlier. “I find myself looking forward to every waking moment, every single day,” he says, “There is so much to be done, but I find the joy in the process. Without a doubt, the destination matters; but there is no pressure to achieve things or prove myself to anyone. I made a conscious decision to drop out of the rat race a long time ago and find myself on a beautiful journey filled with immense happiness and tranquility.”
But Pinge did chase another passion while he was still doing other things and which has also consistently brought him a paycheck. In 2003 he started writing fiction targeted at very young children. “ I started writing after I had a riveting dream that compelled me to jump out of bed and write down my ideas,” he says. His first book was called When I was a Little Boy. It, along with two others, were picked up for publication in 2004. However, due to delay on the publisher’s part Pinge brought back the rights and sold it to another company, which began publishing and selling his books in 2009.
He hit the big time in the world of children’s books with Raja & the Giant Donut, which was shortlisted for the Economist Crossword Book Awards in 2011. It was followed by Adventure on Wheels, which was also nominated for the award, and is his tenth published book. A successful children’s author now, he says writing children’s books, he says, goes beyond passion. He likens `stringing words’ to his `quest for Nirvana’. Though managing the animation studio takes up considerable amount of his time, he devotes as much time as possible to writing. “Though I don’t keep a regular schedule, I do try and write every day, “ Pinge says, “ But, yes, solitude is much desirable, though somewhat unattainable where I reside in Mumbai.”
Having turned his own passion into a paycheck, Pinge has advise for others who want to do the same but are intimidated by what the task entails. ““Understand yourself and decide what success means to you, and not how society defines it. It is necessary to make an informed decision as well as to assume full responsibility for it. The reason for following a passion has to be the sheer joy of traversing the wonderful journey, not keeping an eye on the rewards that may, frankly, never materialize, “ he says, “ It is not that one cannot make money out of their passion, but it would be foolhardy to assume that one is going to be the next big thing; such as J. K. Rowling, for instance, if you were to speak about writing. So, a lot of patience is also required. If you have monetary constraints, it makes sense to ease yourself into your passion and then make a steady and comfortable transition or manage your time in such a way that you can follow your passion while taking care of the practical aspects of making a living. In the end, all I can say is that my journey thus far has been an amazing one!”
Pinge says he does not view his animation studio and writing fiction as alternate careers. “ I do not like to compartmentalise my life. I find life to be a divine gift and want to experience every moment to the fullest,” he says, “Writing is one of the ways I get to manifest my creativity. There is also painting, making films, and running an animation studio, along other things. Ultimately, I see all these as channels to explore my imagination. And the journey thus far has been nothing short of amazing.”