Do not be risk-averse – Janeeth Rodrigo | Sunday Observer

Do not be risk-averse – Janeeth Rodrigo

1 August, 2021

A dynamic personality and one of the most successful start-up stories Janeeth Rodrigo, the General Manager at IdeaHell and General Manager at Derana Macroentertainment is constantly exploring the digital platforms.

He spoke to the Sunday Observer Youth Magazine, identifying talent in content creation, helping the youth, reshaping the digital media and finding new ventures.

Q: Being a prominent personality in the digital content creation sector, what inspires your work?

A: Content and creativity have been in my blood since I was a kid. I think what inspired me to do everything I’ve done so far in the content space in the country is the potential of our youth. The backstory of why I took a major risk in starting IdeaHell was in itself rooted in the fact that I saw that in Sri Lanka we had major barriers to entry when it came to content creation. IdeaHell was an attempt at levelling the playing field so that even a young independent creator can have the same platform as a large media conglomerate.

Q: Tell us about IdeaHell’s progress?

A: IdeaHell has over the last four years helped over 500 independent creators pursue their dreams. We have supported the creation of over 10,000 hours of original Sri Lankan content. This is, I think, the best metric I can give in terms of the impact an open creator space like IdeaHell has achieved. And finally being able to lobby for the rollout of YPP (YouTube Partner Program) which enables anyone to monetise in Sri Lanka are the key achievements of the movement that was created through IdeaHell.

Q: You are a success story of your own and have achieved and shared your knowledge about digital content creation on many platforms, and what makes you give back?

A: I am a staunch believer in the mantra; collaboration over competition. We are a small nation that is extremely rich in creativity and originality. However, unfortunately, we have imported certain values from other countries that have created an illusion that competing amongst ourselves in a small country like Sri Lanka is how we succeed. I feel strongly that we must ditch this ideology and learn to work with each other, collaborate and take on the world as a team of 21 million. This is why I engage in knowledge sharing sessions; with all the lessons I’ve learnt and through the successes and more importantly failures I hope that I can shorten the learning curve of at least one person.

Q: If you take the current social media platforms and content creators, what do you think of the standard, and how far do we have to go to achieve international standards?

A: I think we have come a long way since the time we inaugurated IdeaHell. There is a healthy content creation culture now in Sri Lanka. But we do lag behind on certain aspects. When I conduct a content creation workshop one of the first questions I am posed is this; ‘How can I convince my family that I can become a YouTuber or I can make money from content creation?’. This is a systematic and cultural problem we need to fix immediately. Despite our rich heritage of believing in our abilities, we have become a nation of risk-averse people. If more parents encourage their kids to pursue their dreams especially if they are in the creative vertical I feel that we could make our mark on the content creation space. Another area we can improve is collaboration and creating a sense of community among creators. We managed to achieve this through IdeaHell but it needs to be an island-wide phenomenon.

Q: Do you think there is a lot of misplaced enthusiasm with young and upcoming content creators?

A: Not. If at all I think they should be more enthusiastic. Content creation is a very lucrative field and video content is going to be the biggest revenue earner for the next decade or so. Why I say this is because one cannot sustain any art without monetisation and in this heavy content consumption economy the creator stands to benefit the most.

Q: With years of experience, what are your plans to be globally digital marketing savvy?

A: Knowledge is key. Digital media is a fast-changing landscape and those who lag are those who are not continuously learning. My goal in life is never to come to a stage where I think I know it all. With that, my teams and I are always on the hunt for any new developments to stay above the waves. We are also heavily investing our efforts now into big data and block-chain driven initiatives. I can give more details on these ventures hopefully soon.

Q: You are a very adventurous person. Anything you want to try besides the normal stuff you do and why?

A: A lot I am dying to try out snorkelling and get my PADI license. Swimming with sea turtles has been a lifelong dream of mine and my partner’s. Apart from that, I want to skydive and go back to camping in places that are off the beaten track.

Q: What inspires your adventures?

A: I am a major proponent of a good work/life balance. I think it stems from my hedonistic philosophy that life was meant to be lived. This is why I take every opportunity to travel and do something new. I have successfully imbibed this in my teams as well and they are happier for it.

Q: What would you say to the present day youth?

A: Do not be risk-averse. If you are passionate about something, find a small group of friends who will support you and do it. The climb is often tough but it will be worth it. Make sure you are consistent with your efforts to follow your passion and do not burn out too fast. My cardinal rule to the youth; do not compare. This by and large is due to the way social media is rewiring our brains. Likes have become the opium of the masses and the youth get discouraged when their effort is not met with the same ‘success’ as someone else’s because the comparison has become easier online. Hence my advice thou shall not compare, ever. Visualise success; This will keep you focused. I often see that today’s youth are a Johannes factotum but master at none. So focus on tangible goals and work tirelessly at them. Finally, admit when you do not know something. This is the gravest of sins when it comes to one’s personal growth. I am thrilled when I find a subject I am ignorant of and spend the next few weeks/months learning. The bane of the digital media industry in Sri Lanka are those who are unable to admit that they do not know something. This gives rise to groups who do not learn and improve because they are unaware that they are ignorant. To adopt a lifestyle of continuous learning.