Born in Amsterdam, while having lived in Spain, Hong Kong and Dublin, Arjun self-wrote, interviewed, and published his own print magazine – Get Familiar, exploring hip-hop’s global footprint, alongside founding and managing the publishing company Zuurstof Media. With international working experience in tech, advertising, digital strategies and sales, he’s a lover of perpetuating change – from working in big-tech to publishing, and waste-management to video production, Arjun believes strongly in pushing the envelope – drawing from the experiences in different fields and industries to take-on whatever situation is at hand.
What path has your career taken?
An enjoyable path. My education is in the field of economics (strategy economics specifically). My career has been landmarked with a lot of travel: I’ve lived in Hong Kong and Spain for my first job in the production waste-management industry. Afterwards, I joined the tech industry – spending time in Amsterdam at Layar (AR start-up), after which I moved to Dublin to join tech-giant Facebook (and Instagram). I quit my job at Facebook eventually to pursue my entrepreneurial ambitions. I moved back to Amsterdam and started a consumer-facing video production company (making documentaries, online mini-series and advertisements). After building a successful business with full-time employees, I felt that I was making more videos for clients than I was for the consumer. The company basically became an agency that was more focused on client-facing content, than I was comfortable with. I was still toying with the idea of a magazine then, as a consumer-facing branding effort – which I then put into another company, my current endeavor, and 1.5 years realized. That endeavor has resulted into my recently released magazine, Get Familiar. It explores hip-hop’s global footprint, which means that, we try to uncover the influence that the hip-hop has on fields outside of music (photography, literature, etc), as well as the music itself. I am the founder and managing director of its publisher (that also functions as a digital strategy consultancy), Zuurtstof Media. Basically, tying together my story-telling ambitions together with my love for hip-hop.
What brought you/brings you to Amsterdam?
I’m actually born and raised in Amsterdam. I completed my university education at Erasmus University Rotterdam. So, it’s not really a case of what brought me here. It’s always been my home, no-matter where I lived – whether in Valencia, Hong Kong or Dublin. It’s more a case of me coming back to Amsterdam. The city’s always felt comfortable, inspiring, creative and forward-looking. I wanted to get back to that. On a side-note, the only place I would replace Amsterdam with, is Hong Kong: the world’s greatest melting-pot of East and West. My parents are from India, so I miss the Eastern “warmth” sometimes.
How long have you stayed at Zoku Amsterdam/What is your relationship with Zoku, and what were/are your thoughts?
I’ve been a WorkZoku member at Zoku Amsterdam since April 2019, I believe. I’ve never stayed at the hotel. I’m an avid user of the Co-Working spaces, though. The location is great! The Roof Terrace makes it all worth it (in the summer and winter).
What’s a life-changing song, film, event or book you’d like to recommend to others?
For music lovers out there. Hit up Colors Studios
For all the readers out there. Do yourself a favor and buy one of these:
- Breaking News by Alan Rusbridger.
- Creative Quest by Questlove. This sounds corny as hell, but I promise you that it isn’t
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. For any fiction fans out there – probably the best book that I’ve read in my life).
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
At age 20, I was extremely impatient. I had already started working at my first job then, full-time, while simultaneously completing my BSc degree. I had a real hunger to get out into the real world. This resulted in me being very open to move countries and challenge myself. It only dawned on me later that I wanted to continue studying, in order to specialize my knowledge – ultimately quitting my job and relocating back to Amsterdam to start and finish a MSc. I’ve come out of a troubled home and would probably tell that 20-year-old self that the past doesn’t define you. Your current or past situation doesn’t dictate the future. Trust in that and be patient. Let the world unfold before you. Patience doesn’t just mean delaying life. It often also results into a better end-product (provided that you’re committed).
What’s your current/newly discovered go-to product, service or app you would recommend to others and why?
The WeTransfer “Collect” app. If you work a lot with WeTransfer and want to access and send things “on the go”, this app can be a lifesaver. I used it a lot while advising Amsterdam Dance Event on their brand and communication strategy.
Which book/product have you gifted the most, and why?
Tough question. I’m notoriously crap at buying gifts. I’ve recently gifted a lot of books to people. The books vary depending on the people that I’m giving them to (and their interests). I want to share horizon-expanding books to people. But to name a few: This Is Not A T-Shirt (by Bobby Hundreds), Superior (by Angela Saini), Homegoing (by Yaa Gyasi), Inferior (by Angela Saini) and The Hate U Give (by Angie Thomas).
If you could pick one project to work on for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Get Familiar Magazine. It hits a sweet spot. Not only for myself, but also for people purchasing it, who are responding very well to it. Print is on the cusp of a resurgence. It’s physical, which is important for those considering legacy. It marries two loves of mine – namely, knowledge-sharing and hip-hop. Moreover, I’m lucky enough to interview a-list people internationally. For anyone that eventually ends up reading/buying it – I basically speak on important societal issues and interests (as well as music) through the vehicle of hip-hop. It’s a crazy cocktail that works. I guarantee that even if you don’t like hip-hop, you’ll enjoy reading it. It’s basically the New Yorker of hip-hop. Sharing knowledge as well as curating it, is exciting as hell.
What does home mean to you?
Home is everywhere. It’s not bound to any location. Home, to me, is a state of happiness – and that’s ultimately in your head. This probably sounds like a pretentious answer. It isn’t. My parents immigrated from India to Amsterdam. I spent most of my time at international schools. My professional career has brought me to all four corners of the world. My sense of identity is neither here nor there. I wouldn’t identify with labelling myself Dutch. Neither would I identify with labelling myself Indian. Identity and home are closely linked together, in my opinion – hence my indifference to either, result in me redefining home for myself. I’ve felt at home in most places that I’ve lived. If it’s the one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that I adapt quickly to wherever I am. I call it home, quicker than most. Whether I did or did not call a place home, hinged on me feeling happy there.
What is one piece of advice or tip in your field of work that you want to give to people?
Have the audacity to be different. It’s easy to follow the path that’s already laid out. It’s easy to listen to someone telling you “that’s just the way that things work”. Transition yourself from one field to the next. See and experience as many different fields of work as possible. Dive into the unknown. Not because of some self-help “you grow with every experience” type thing – but because understanding the world around you from different angles, allows you to see the same scenario, that a colleague might see, with a different perspective. If you’re working at an advertising/media agency, for example, you’ll arguably learn more spending 1-2 years in the waste-management industry than you would if you, say, spend that same time doing advertising for a brand instead of an agency. Don’t perpetuate more of the same. Perpetuate change.