Aug. 1, 2022

How The Juggernaut is Rethinking Media Narratives

Harnessing the power of the world’s largest diaspora


Nora chats with Snigdha Sur, the founder and CEO of The Juggernaut, a media company focused on telling smart South Asian stories and news. In the US alone, South Asians have half a trillion dollars of spending power, are the fastest growing demographic, and became the world’s largest diaspora in 2010…about 52 million people strong. Snigdha offers career insights as the founder of a media company, and details how The Juggernaut succeeded by sharing narratives that have been missing until now, and that mainstream media has gotten wrong. For more info on our presenting sponsor, check out realvision.com/businesscasual

 

Host: Nora Ali

Producer: Bella Hutchins 

Video Editors: McKenzie Marshall and Christie Muldoon

Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus

Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder

Fact Checker: Kate Brandt 

Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop

VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer 

 

Full transcripts for all Business Casual episodes available at https://businesscasual.fm

Transcript

Nora Ali: For Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, bringing you convos with people you know, and some you may not know yet, to make business less intimidating. Because money talks, but it does not have to be dull. I'm your host, Nora Ali. 

Now let's get down to business. The state of the media industry is changing. At Morning Brew, for example, we're playing a part in breaking through in an environment that has traditionally been controlled by a few very powerful people and companies, but starting your own company, especially one that focuses on historically excluded stories, is not easy. Today I'm speaking with Snigdha Sur, who, in her words, can't stop thinking about the future of media, and is on a mission to diversify storytelling. Snigdha is the founder and CEO of The Juggernaut, a media company focused on telling smart South Asian stories and news. I met Snigdha over chai a couple years ago, and we immediately connected on the power of diverse storytelling—and the lack of it. This was shortly after the summer of 2020, when our country went through a collective reckoning about racial injustice. And we were both pretty excited to take this opportunity to push forward the voices of the people and cultures we grew up with. But you might be wondering: If you're not South Asian, why should you care? Well, Snigdha pointed out that South Asians are having a rapidly increasing impact on US culture today. First, there's the fact that there's a rising number of Indian-origin CEOs, including from Alphabet, Microsoft, Twitter, even OnlyFans. And in the US alone, South Asians have half a trillion dollars of spending power, are the fastest growing demographic, and became the world's largest diaspora in 2010. That's about 52 million people strong. That is a huge market for The Juggernaut and really for any other company to consider. Snigdha is one of the most impressive and hardworking people I have ever met. She offered some excellent career insights, including the value of having some technical background when you're founding a tech-driven media company. And through this tech-driven company, she's paving the way for other founders and storytellers to feel comfortable sharing narratives that have been missing until now, and that mainstream media has gotten wrong. My conversation with Snigdha is next, after the break.

I would love to start with an icebreaker just to loosen us up, get in the casual mode of Business Casual. So this is a new segment we're trying out. It's called Professional Pet Peeves. So if you could wave a magic wand and get rid of one uniquely accepted professional courtesy, how we operate in the workplace, what would that be? What annoys you, Snigdha?

Snigdha Sur: So this is something that you and I talked about on a Twitter thread actually, which one of my biggest professional pet peeves is when somebody emails you and you have full intention to pay it forward. And they're like, "Can I just have 30 minutes to pick your brain?" So, my biggest advice is that, be as specific as you can be. Going back to Business Casual, it's actually better to be specific.

Nora Ali: Yes.

Snigdha Sur: And so you can say, "Hey, I really love the way you think about storytelling. Can you spend 10 minutes and read my deck? I think you know these amazing investors; can you introduce me to someone?" It's so much easier to actually get an ask fulfilled if it's specific. Whereas when it's general, it's going to go to the bottom of my inbox.

Nora Ali: Totally.

Snigdha Sur: So, professional pet peeve there.

Nora Ali: I love that. I have been on the record saying that I do not like the phrase "pick your brain." If you email me with that, I will delete the email, sorry. Really quickly, you mentioned having this part-technical background, and this is a question that we often ask of founders on the podcast. A question I get asked a lot is, "Should you have a technical background if you're trying to be a founder of a company that's even remotely technology related?" What are your thoughts? Do you think it's sort of a prerequisite?

Snigdha Sur: So I think it's really difficult when we start saying anything is a prerequisite, because I think what's really cool about—and I think I've said this before about starting a company or founding something, is that the reason you're founding it usually is because something like that doesn't exist before. So why look at prior patterns? And that's kind of the biggest mistake, I think, that some venture capitalists make, is that they often look at past patterns to determine the future, and that's when you miss out on the future. And so, I think it's difficult to say, "Hey, you must have a technical degree, or you must have technical experience to do what you're doing." It all depends on what you're building. 

When I was starting The Juggernaut, I knew that tech would be a really critical component, because a lot of the companies I admired that were doing really cool storytelling and really cool customer service and really engaging people, they were tech-driven, whether it was The Athletic, or even The New York Times has increasingly added more people to their engineering team. And so based on that, I thought it was important for me to do that. But going back to how people view female founders or women of color founders, it's really funny because yes, for me, it might have been a prerequisite, because otherwise people don't take me seriously. And sometimes even though when I tell them, "Hey, this is actually quite a technical product, there's a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes that you're not seeing," people don't really understand that. They just think it's a website that shows you content, but that's like saying Netflix is a website that shows you content.

Nora Ali: Yeah. And on this notion of investors looking at past patterns and having to prove yourself more as a woman of color who's raising funds, you're also selling investors on this idea of a diverse publication, which they might not think has a big enough addressable market. For example, first of all, just explain for our listeners your elevator pitch for what The Juggernaut is. And then how do you convince investors that the market is big enough for something like The Juggernaut?

Snigdha Sur: So The Juggernaut is a media company and community for South Asians around the world, focusing on South Asian stories that rise to the global level. And our pitch—sometimes it doesn't resonate with certain VCs because I would say, yes, some people are like, "Okay, what's the total addressable market? I don't know what it is." Because they haven't really spent time thinking about the problem. And so I think about the addressable market in two different ways. One is in terms of value creation and one in terms of people. So if you look at value creation, if you look at the US alone, South Asian Americans have half a trillion dollars of spending power. So I'm going to repeat that, because it's such a crazy statistic: half a trillion dollars of spending power. And we're also the fastest-growing demographic in the US. And that is partly by design. Asian Americans have been the most discriminated-against group. And so we have been selected for to be educated, or to be from certain demographics, or to be from certain class backgrounds, to be from certain education levels. And then as you see the rise of tech in the US, you're seeing the rise of South Asians. Many of them are the CEOs of these companies, from Twitter to Google/Alphabet, to Microsoft, to Adobe. 

And then the second way to look at it is people, which is South Asians became the world's largest diaspora in 2010. Fun fact: I tell this to people—before 2010, it was Soviet Russia. After 2010, it was India and South Asia. And we became the world's largest diaspora. We're about 52 million strong, but what's even more exciting than that is that if you look at the global South Asian demographic, in South Asia itself, the subcontinent has at least 180 million folks at the top echelon who are English speaking, who are consuming global content. And I think people forget about that.

Nora Ali: You mentioned in a recent interview that about 10% of your subscribers are not of South Asian descent. Is that still the mix?

Snigdha Sur: Yes. That's still the mix. And I didn't even mention that, which is the cherry on top.

Nora Ali: Yeah. Well, I mean to that end, the majority of our Business Casual listeners are not South Asian, and you laid out some really incredible stats, but why should they care about South Asian stories when you face people who maybe don't proactively seek out the stories of South Asians? What is your response to that?

Snigdha Sur: I think that the fun part about the world as it globalizes is that we're all intersecting and we have been intersecting for millennia in the past. It's just that so much of Western history has been written from a Eurocentric view. When you think about what we grew up with in global history class or US history class, it was all about the world wars. It was all about the US constitution and the US founding. But if you look back in history, all of these cultures were actually intermingling and talking to each other for a really long time. So it's kind of like asking the same question as, "Why are people so into K-pop when they're not Korean? Why are people into Bollywood when they're not South Asian?" Bollywood is actually the biggest film industry in the world. It has fans ranging from people in Peru to Nigeria, to the Middle East to Uzbekistan—it's vast. And so I always say that if you've ever gone to a South Asian wedding, if you are a US person who's following the fact that Kamala Harris is the vice president, or if you're using any tech product from Twitter to Gmail, a South Asian has touched your life.

Nora Ali: Yes.

Snigdha Sur: And so some of the most viral stories are about those intersections and those interesting moments where you wouldn't expect. And so, let's not forget that history. Let's not forget those connections. And so, I think that's why we draw those 10% of those subscribers anyway.

Nora Ali: And in fact, one testimonial on the website says, "The Juggernaut has a way of tapping into conversations I didn't even know I needed to read. It reflects the evolution of South Asians across the world in a way many publications haven't been able to quite do." And that's from Ankita Rao, the editor at The Guardian. What is your process for choosing stories? Especially for these topics that might not be top of mind for even those of us who are South Asian, but we read it, we're like, "Oh my gosh, I didn't know I needed to read that or learn about that."

Snigdha Sur: I think it starts with having a wonderful, smart team around you. So we have some incredible editors and writers. So the way our pitch processing works is, every Tuesday we have an editorial meeting and what we do is a two-step process. We first each independently review the prior week's stories and we're like, "What did we like? What didn't we like? What would we want to see more of?" And then we look at the news and look at what's ahead. And we try to think about, what's something that no one has really said before or that we haven't read, but that would be interesting to us? And I think that's the magic of being in a space like this, because I call it Coca-Cola versus Red Bull. If you're Coca-Cola, you gotta create a formula that appeals to the most amount of people because that's how you have sales. And that's what you think about when you look at mainstream media companies like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. But if you're making Red Bull, if you're making kombucha, you actually succeed when that kombucha is a very specific flavor, that has a very specific audience. And so that's what we're going after. We're like, "You know what? We want to be like your WhatsApp group chat. We want to be that place where you're having those casual conversations," and we're surfacing those stories and we can do it because we're kind of sourcing from our own community.

Nora Ali: Very relatable content. We're going to take a quick break. More with Snigdha when we return. So I want to zoom out and get to the media industry overall, because you saw issues with mainstream journalism when you decided to launch The Juggernaut. What do you think is the biggest issue with media and journalism right now? And I'm intentionally keeping this question very broad to let you opine on that.

Snigdha Sur: I would say that media and journalism—for a long time, I think it goes back to what we started with, which is history and who's writing history. So, I view media and journalism as for a long time, many of these companies were owned by very wealthy families. Many of whom got their wealth through certain ways through history. And so when you look at the stories that they're writing and the stories that they feel like they must write, it's a very different kind of mandate. And I'm not going to try to pick on any specific brand here, but it makes sense. If you're a national news company, you are on the hook to write about the most important national news. So for some reason, something is happening in India or something is happening to South Asians, who technically are about 1% of the US population, even though we have so much spending power, even though we have so much cultural influence, that might not be the top dossier on an editor's desk. Why would it be, just by pure definition? And I think that's the issue. Which is that we're not going to see that rate of change happen until you see more people from their own communities re-owning their stories and reclaiming their stories.

And that's why there's so many amazing media companies out there that we should look at. A lot of people in the Black community inspired me, because they did Blavity, they did Black Entertainment Television. Hispanic community did Telemundo and Univision. And then I think Hispanic media has raised a record $80 million in financing in this year alone, and we're not even halfway over. And think about it. That is a very crowded market. So why are they able to raise funding? It's because their own community has very specific needs that are still never going to be met, just by definition of the mandates each of these companies have, to fulfill what they really want.

Nora Ali: To that end, you have said before that newsrooms in America are some of the least diverse workplaces. I've been in newsrooms and I can attest to that. How do we bring diversity to storytelling while this is still the case? Obviously, it takes time to diversify your newsrooms, but what can these newsrooms do in the meantime?

Snigdha Sur: Yeah. Part of it starts from the bottom. Aka, I think about even Hollywood. And I know I've said this before, but if you look at the training programs for Hollywood, they expect you to go work in a mailroom and you earn $20,000 a year and that's okay. But if you're an immigrant, if you're from a different background, that is not okay. There's no way you're going to be able to do that job because it's just out of the question. You're going to go for a more stable job. And so, I would say that as companies can, it's so critical to create the budget such that not just trust fund kids are working at your company. I understand you are hurting. You feel like you don't have that much money. I get it. Media companies are going through a lot right now. I get it. But how do you create the space that if you do want that diversity—and the data shows from peer research that consequent generations in America are going to be more and more diverse, which means that you gotta tap into that younger generation. And that means creating the budget and the space for them to thrive. And that's really difficult, but you got to start somewhere.

And so, I think that's where it begins, which is, "How do you create budget and bring in people who are different from you?" It's a very intentional choice. And the second thing is that, I see this happening all the time and we know who's responsible. I see large publications often taking these very specific stories that these smaller publications are doing and just doing it again themselves, like six weeks later. Don't do that. Rather, just go partner with that publication and help elevate them. And we've been really lucky to have those kind of partnerships. We did a partnership with The Guardian and Ankita. We did a partnership with 538. These were all much larger platforms than us, but they recognized that what we were doing was very special and unique and they helped co-elevate each other where they're like, "Well, The Juggernaut's expertise is South Asian community and political organizing. Let's bring that expertise into this very data-driven article." Whereas, 538 brought their data.

Nora Ali: That's great advice. Speaking of budgets, let's get to the money side of things. What is The Juggernaut business model and how did you come up with it?

Snigdha Sur: The Juggernaut business model started with subscription. And the reason we started with subscription, which is asking our users to pay so they could access our articles and access our community, is because initially when you look at how advertising has been going, so many of the biggest winners in advertising are the big social media platforms. From TikTok to Facebook to Google, et cetera. And that relies on size. So you have a cold start problem. When you don't have an audience, how do you earn enough ad revenue to justify your costs? And so, subscription revenue allows you to kind of grow into your growth, which means, "Hey, in the beginning, I'm not going to have that much revenue. So I might not have as big a budget to do stories, so I can pace myself accordingly. And then as I grow, I can keep reinvesting." So it adds a little bit of more sustainability, in my opinion.

The second thing we did more recently is we started adding ads, a la Morning Brew, to our free weekly newsletter, because we noticed that a lot of our customers were like, "Actually, I just want to advertise in your newsletter. You have this audience I really want to reach out to." So we forged a deal with McKinsey and we just forged a deal with The Washington Post. And so those are ways to also kind of diversify your revenue, but remember, how would I even have gotten to that point? We had to grow our audience slowly but surely. And lastly, we do have venture capital funding. So to be fair, we have intently chose not to be profitable for a while because we do believe there's network effects in our business. There is value in growing our audience and there's value in investing more in our content that is technically profitable in the beginning, so that we can eventually have even a larger impact down the line. Thank you, venture capital, for also allowing me to pay diverse writers and diverse illustrators, because that wouldn't have been possible without you.

Nora Ali: Amazing. Our attention spans are getting shorter. As you said, it's a really hard environment for media companies generally. Another very broad question for you, because you're so smart and have a lot to say on a lot of things. What is the future of news media? What do you think are going to be maybe the biggest developments, the biggest changes? Whether it's because of consumer and reader behavior or because of the way VCs are operating now, what do you think is the future going to look like?

Snigdha Sur: I mean, there's a future I fear and there's a future I'm hopeful for. So the future I fear, which is something that tends to happen, which is you are seeing these big mainstream companies getting more and more powerful. They are just getting way better at getting subscribers. They're getting way better at just being who they are and just getting really big. That's what America's great for. If you want to get big, go to America. And I think one future I'm fearful of is that if we really do pursue that path, are we losing out on the kombuchas and the Red Bulls and the India pale ale and the artisanal brewery of America. And if you look at history, media has usually been a very fragmented industry, usually. In the 1800s and the 1700s, you could find an Italian newspaper in New York, you could find a German newspaper, you could find everything. You're seeing some of that now in the future that you're hopeful for in TikTok. You're seeing the democratization of content creation. You're seeing so many people from all over the world that aim to create in so many different ways. Of course, it's banned in India and some other countries. So we know that's happening. But in many parts of the world, you're seeing a lot of these amazing people you wouldn't have seen otherwise.

So I would say, I always think about what will change and I think about what won't change. And what won't ever change is people love a great story. So you can make it two minutes. You can make it 100 minutes, but if it's a great story, people will stay. And that was the biggest issue that I think Quibi had, which was this big media company that said, "We're going to create 10-minute movies." And people were like, "Wait a second. I don't really care if it's 10 minutes. I just care if it's a good story." It's like 15-minute delivery versus 13-minute delivery. It's a very arbitrary number. But what people really care about is whether they have good food at the end of the delivery. 

And I think that's the thing that I am hopeful for too, which is, as you see democratization, you're also seeing way better content coming out. And you're seeing that lackluster content is going to get punished. I don't think that Netflix's stock price is going down just because they're seeing lack of growth. I think that is tied to maybe their content not hitting for some of the pieces. Who knows? Again, I'm not a stock expert. Please don't take any decisions based on what I'm saying. I'm just saying that one of my perceptions based on all my friends is that they don't always go to Netflix anymore for all of their best stuff anymore. There has been a little bit of a dispersion across the streaming services. So I think that's something to think about, which is there's going to be a lot of bigness happening and a lot of mainstreaming happening, but hopefully there's also going to be a lot of great democratization, a lot of great stories that you wouldn't have seen otherwise.

Nora Ali: Yeah. It comes down to the great stories. To your point about Quibi, they just focused so hard on the platform, the format, and not on the actual stories, and also on signing on really high-profile celebrities. Paying them lots of money to make Quibi content doesn't always translate into good stories. So, we will take another quick break. More on great stories when we return. Snigdha, one of your articles that you wrote for The Juggernaut that I loved is called "Parminder Nagra Should Have Been a Superstar." So I hope many of our listeners have seen Bend It Like Beckham. If not, check it out. Parminder plays the main character, Jess, and she did not go on to become a superstar like Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Myers, her white counterparts. What's the hypothesis here? What did you uncover in this piece?

Snigdha Sur: Yes. And I think the overt answer is very obvious. This one woman made my article go viral when she said, "Racism." That sums up basically everything, which is really funny. But yes, in my piece, I talk about racism, but I also talk about a lot of other dynamics that are happening here, which is also colorism. So one other person that I talk about near the end of my piece is Archie Punjabi, who played Jess's sister. Now Archie Punjabi is also of South Asian descent, but she's lighter skinned. And guess what? She went on to have so many more series that were more successful, that didn't typecast her as just the doctor or just the person with the accent. There's definitely that happening. The second thing that happened is what I call a timing and initial conditions. Soon after Parminder played Jess, she got typecast into the sidekick. She was in Ella Enchanted as the sidekick fairy. And that's really crappy because you are taking this person who clearly has leading role sensibilities and pushing her onto the side. And then the last piece I talk...there's so many things I talk about. There's also ageism. So Keira Knightley was several years younger than Parminder when she was in Bend It Like Beckham. And we know Hollywood is quite ageist. They definitely have much shorter careers for women as leading heroines than they do for men. You're still seeing Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, I don't know, 20. It's going to happen. And we don't even know if it's going to be a deepfake, we just don't know.

Nora Ali: It could be.

Snigdha Sur: But it could be, whereas Parminder Nagra, I get to only see her in Bird Box as a side character, as a doctor with an accent. Like why? She is so good. She's so good. And I think it'd be different if she was bad. I think if she was bad, I think people would be like, "Ah, this article didn't hit." But I think the article hit because it rubbed that wound in all of us when we're like, "Why, when after we've worked so hard and we are so good at our jobs, are we not getting promoted? Why are we not getting that job? Why are we not getting that recognition?" And that's what hurts so much. And I think that's what happened there. And that's why I think that article really resonated. 

Here's another side story I wanted to tell you, which this is the fun part, which we get to talk about. But I met Parminder when I was 11. I know. So, I used to be the New York City Spelling Bee champion. So as the New York City Spelling Bee champion, you get certain perks.

Nora Ali: Cool flex. I love it.

Snigdha Sur: Cool flex. So this is before all South Asians or Indian Americans were becoming spelling bee champions. It was like 2004. It was after Bend It Like Beckham. One of the perks is you show up to Regis and Kelly, and you do a fake spelling bee, which I probably lost on television or something. So you go to this fake spelling bee. And so you're in the green room with all the other guests of the day. And so I don't know how they grouped us together. Maybe in the producer's head, they're like, "There's a brown person. There's a brown person. This works." I don't know. But it was me and it was Parminder Nagra and it was her agent. And I literally freaked out. I freaked out. I was a 14-year-old and I was like, "I am in the same room as Parminder Nagra." And I ended up talking to her for a full 20 minutes. I talked to her so much, and her agent was so impressed that he gave me his card and invited me to the premiere of Ella Enchanted, which I went to with my parents.

Nora Ali: Oh, my gosh. What?

Snigdha Sur: Imagine that brown Illuminati/magic moment. I sometimes think that if it was not me, if it was like any other spelling bee kid, she would've never had that moment to realize that she is the shit. Sorry, I don't know if I can say that. But she's amazing. And that she has these little kids, like me, who had never seen somebody like themselves crush it at sports, still wear a fricking sari in the back of a cab, and do it all. And she really changed what it meant to be funny and fun and hilarious and effective and smart, and I'll never let that go.

Nora Ali: That's incredible. I'm so jealous. And it's a really good point, because we have celebrated South Asian representation recently, like very recently, only with Ms. Marvel and Bridgerton and all of that. But to that point, how do you think about your own South Asian identity, where you and I, we grew up around the same time and I grew up in some ways rejecting culture. We all have so-called lunchbox trauma or smelly lunches we bring to school, but I personally have leaned in more to my South Asianness. You live and breathe South Asianness for your job, telling these stories. How do you think about how your identity even has transformed over time?

Snigdha Sur: Yeah, and I think it's a huge tailwind that's also there for The Juggernaut, which is so many more people feel more comfortable just leaning into who they are and who they were and what their culture is and what their traditions are. And part of it is because I guess being South Asian is a little bit cool now, because you get to go to these fun weddings. And part of it is because of what we see on screen. As we see more and more people on screen, as we see more and more people in real life, also from tech executives to the president, vice president being half black and half Indian, it feels like you can do it all. You're now part of American society.

Whereas, I think for a long time, we didn't feel like we were part of American society. For me, my South Asian identity manifests, like I was born in India. I moved to America when I was three. I wasn't really American. And I definitely was hazed as a little kid because I definitely had an accent. We also had a Twitter thread on this. It was, people yell at me sometimes, "Why do you call yourself South Asian? You should just call yourself Indian." And I said, "Well, actually I have multiple identities." You and I, we're both Bengali. I am Indian, but my ancestors are from your ancestors' same place, which is Bangladesh. I don't have an ancestral home in the geographical borders of India today. I don't. My other ancestors grew up in Burma and they had to escape during World War II. So I am South Asian. All of these borders were created by a British colonial exit that was very hasty and very traumatic and very dreadful. And so I do think that there's something about reclaiming the subcontinent for yourself. And so in terms of how my identity has changed, I definitely think I rejected it when I was far younger because I was trying so hard to assimilate, especially as a recent immigrant. And then as I got older, I realized, "Wait a second. I just love Bollywood more than Hollywood. I just gotta accept it. It is who I am." And I think college helped a lot with that. I took Hindi class. I became a South Asian studies major. I ended up starting a film festival there for Bollywood. I ended up getting to have dinner with Shah Rukh Khan. So I think those—

Nora Ali: What? Sorry.

Snigdha Sur: Yeah.

Nora Ali: Pause.

Snigdha Sur: My senior year, I basically petitioned then head of my college for a year and I said, "Here's why Bollywood is huge. It has billions of fans. And I think we should really get Shah Rukh Khan to come to our college." And then I had Isha Ambani the year below me in Hindi class and I was like, "Isha, you can make this happen because you know Shah Rukh." Obviously, we're on a first-name basis now. And then it happened. And so I got to have dinner with him and he was wonderful. And quite the gentleman. He probably does not remember me at all, but he was just so kind.

Nora Ali: Oh my gosh. I'm flushed thinking about that. For our listeners, Shah Rukh Khan—they know this, but biggest Bollywood star on the planet. His episode with David Letterman on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction is one of my favorite interview episodes I've ever seen in my life. So I highly recommend. Check that out. Okay. Amazing. Snigdha, before we let you go, we have a fun bonus segment and it's called Shoot Your Shot. We would love to hear what your moonshot idea is. So this is your biggest ambition, your wildest dream. It could be personal, work-related, anything at all. Go ahead, Snigdha, and shoot your shot.

Snigdha Sur: My biggest dream is I want The Juggernaut to one day bring you a movie that's produced by us, researched by us, edited by us, cast by us, produced by us. And one day you're turning on your Amazon or Netflix or Hulu or Disney Plus and you're like, "Whoa, that movie's by The Juggernaut. Oh my God. They helped co-produce it. It's awesome." So let's make that happen. It's going to happen.

Nora Ali: "Oh my gosh, Shah Rukh Khan is the star of this Juggernaut film? Amazing." That's awesome. Okay, Snigdha. One last segment, and it's sort of a game. Okay. This is called Bullish or Bearish. It's like, "Do I like this thing or not?" basically. So I'm going to list three business and work topics and you decide if they're overrated or underrated. Are you ready?

Snigdha Sur: I'm so ready for this. I'm also thinking about the Morning Brew cover of the bull and the bear, so—

Nora Ali: Yes. There you go. Okay. So the first thing: Bullish or bearish, use of exclamation points in work emails?

Snigdha Sur: Bullish.

Nora Ali: Yeah, me too. When I saw that this was an option, I went back to my inbox and checked my emails from you. Both of us are very generous with our exclamation marks and smiley faces in emails.

Snigdha Sur: Smiley faces. Yes. I've also started of seeing VCs use exclamation points, which I was like, "Whoa."

Nora Ali: Oh.

Snigdha Sur: It's a new era.

Nora Ali: A new frontier. So yes, just be yourself. Be enthusiastic over email. It is totally acceptable. Okay. Second thing. It's a little out there. Bullish or bearish: corporate podcasts? So this is like The Sauce by McDonald's, Rise and Grind by ZipRecruiter, Insights from Goldman Sachs. I don't personally listen to them, but I'm wondering if you're bullish or bearish on these.

Snigdha Sur: Oh my god. This is a tricky question. You're putting the tights on it. Okay. So I would say bearish. Here's why. I think that it's not always true. I think some people can really pull this off, but you gotta do it with some authenticity and some love. It has to be unique and fun, but if you're just doing it because you're like, "I'll get SEO or I'll get free acquisitions," or whatever, I hate that. And it's so obvious. I can tell. I can smell it a mile away. You can smell it a mile away. So I think, I'd say bearish, if it's just going to be for customer acquisition. Bullish, if you can put some heart and soul into it.

Nora Ali: So when I saw this, I decided to Google The Sauce by McDonald's. It's an investigative podcast. And I think the first episode talks about the "uproar" caused by the rerelease of Szechuan sauce in 2017. And it's very dramatic. I don't know if it's a parody of itself, but it is very dramatic. It's very investigative, true crime sounding. The content is McDonald's related, but it takes itself very seriously. So there's obviously different genres of corporate podcasts.

Snigdha Sur: Wow.

Nora Ali: Maybe this is one that we should check out. I'm wondering about The Sauce now.

Snigdha Sur: Let's go check it out then. I'm going to go check it out. Yeah. I'm going to go check out The Sauce.

Nora Ali: And I know they sent influencers boxes of it recently because of the rerelease of it. So yeah. It's a whole phenomenon.

Snigdha Sur: That's so interesting to me. Yeah. Okay. All right, McDonald's, we'll go check it out.

Nora Ali: We see you, McDonald's.

Snigdha Sur: I still think it's a ploy, but I'll go listen to it.

Nora Ali: Maybe a little bit. Okay. Last one. Bullish or bearish: using the phrase "Just circling back" in a follow-up email?

Snigdha Sur: Oh, totally bearish. Oh my god. That's totally on my list of pet peeves. Circling back, like whatever, resetting, I don't know, looping back. I hate that.

Nora Ali: Bumping this to the top of your inbox.

Snigdha Sur: Yeah, just say what you need to say. Be like, "We'll get back to you Tuesday." Leave it short. I always think everyone can write an email and then cut their email in half.

Nora Ali: Oh, 100%. And yet another conversation I think you and I had on Twitter is...or no, this is just something you tweeted. It's okay if you're sending a cold pitch or cold email, it is okay to follow up a few days later, a week later, maybe two weeks later, because people get inundated and you might look at something for the first time and maybe ignore it. But all it takes is just one more follow-up. So that is totally acceptable. Just don't say, "I'm circling back."

Snigdha Sur: Yeah. I'm huge into the follow-ups because literally, sometimes I get the important email and you're like, "I'm totally going to follow up." And then you get so racked with the right thing to say, and then you forget about it and then they re-up, and you're like, "Oh yeah, I was going to respond to this."

Nora Ali: Yes, exactly. Okay. So we are bearish on the phrase "Just circling back," but bullish on sending follow-up emails when appropriate. Okay. With that, we covered a lot of ground. Snigdha, it was so fun to have you on the podcast. Thank you for joining us on Business Casual.

Snigdha Sur: Thanks Nora, for having me on Business Casual.

Nora Ali: This is Business Casual and I'm Nora Ali. You can follow me on Twitter @NoraKAli. And I would love to hear from you. If you have ideas for episodes, comments and thoughts on episodes you loved, fun segment ideas, just shoot me a DM and I'll do my best to respond. You can also reach the BC team by emailing businescasual@morningbrew.com, or call us. That number is 862-295-1135. And if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen. And if you like the show, please leave a rating and a review, please. It really helps us. Business Casual is produced by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Olivia Mead edited this episode. Additional production sound design and mixing by Daniel Marcus. Kate Brandt is our fact checker. Sarah Singer is our VP of multimedia. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali. Keep it business, and keep it casual.