Sangeeta Pillai, host of the award-winning feminist series Masala Podcast, says that she finds the podcasting community to be much more welcoming than other industries when it comes to networking with professionals.
The Spotify original podcast launched in 2019, a year after Pillai won funding through the Spotify Sound Up competition in the UK, an annual initiative from the audio giant that supports women from underrepresented backgrounds.
Pillai told PodPod when she appeared as a guest in the latest episode of the podcast that in that year between winning the competition and launching the podcast, she used the time as an opportunity to network with other podcasters who gave her valuable advice before the launch.
“Most people are happy to speak to you, and that doesn't happen in other worlds,” said Pillai. “I come from a marketing and advertising background, you can't walk up and ask to speak to the creative director in an agency. They won't speak to you, it doesn't work like that; but with podcasting, people do speak to you, and I think that's really wonderful.”
The podcaster credited this type of response to the fact that the industry is still considered new compared to others, comparing it to her experience working in the theatre. However, she said she hopes the podcasting community will continue to be as welcoming and helpful despite the growing consolidation of the podcast market by big companies and new technology.
“I hope as the industry grows… that we retain that because I think that's what makes it amazing and that's what makes it really interesting,” said Pillai. “Say for somebody who's young or someone from a different background or ethnicity coming into the space. We must make sure that we keep this going.”
Masala Podcast tackles cultural taboos within the South Asian community and features Pillai in conversation with women from those backgrounds to share their experiences in those subjects. Since launching the podcast, Pillai has also gone on to do a number of live recordings where she can meet her listeners and continue to build her community through the South Asian feminist platform that she founded, Soul Sutras.
Pillai has touched on numerous sensitive subjects on her podcast with first-hand experiences from guests, and particularly noted an episode with Indian classical music composer Anoushka Shankar where she spoke of her experience with child abuse. Pillai told PodPod that creating a safe space for a guest to open up through an audio format allows for an intimate experience with the podcast listener, which is why she considers herself so passionate about podcasting.
“A podcast I feel like exists in this beautiful stillness between a listener and a podcaster,” said Pillai. “That's how I always think of it when I'm recording, I don't think of it as this thing that's going out to hundreds and thousands of people, I think of it as just me and this guest and this one person listening.”