Manuela de Souza, Ursila Ali, and Debashish Mukerji
By day, Srijan Kaushik is an Associate Operations Officer in IFC’s Financial Institutions Group focused on Asia and Global Housing Finance. His work focuses on affordable housing, digital financial services, and SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) banking. By night, he is a stand-up comedian who has performed across India, racking up millions of views and thousands of subscribers on YouTube along the way.
With degrees in both engineering and management, Kaushik worked in microfinance for four years before joining IFC in 2013. In this interview, he speaks about his love of development finance and stand-up, and how he manages two seemingly different pursuits.
When did you first realize you were funny and could do stand-up?
I grew up around funny people. My dad’s side of the family is hilarious and doesn’t even know it, and I always tried to measure up to them—which I’m yet to do! I had no idea that stand-up was an art form until I was exposed to it as an undergraduate—when I saw comedy specials of legends like Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, and Chris Rock. It was then that I really started to pay attention.
I like jokes as much as the next guy, but I had no idea if I’d actually be funny on stage. Once, while in college, I performed a short comedy set and the positive reactions gave me hope. I began to try my hand at open mics and, while pursuing my MBA, decided to give stand-up a shot. I figured if I bomb, so be it; if not, even better. I started performing in earnest in 2014, around the time I joined IFC.
How do IFC and comedy go together? How did everyone react to you doing stand-up?
I wouldn’t say it directly fed my desire to do stand-up, but it was nice to have fun and banter at the office. My teammates were extremely encouraging and warm. My parents, on the other hand, were in utter shock as they discovered I was doing comedy when a local newspaper covered one of my gigs, complete with my picture. At the time, they were concerned that I wouldn’t stay focused on my career, but they remain very supportive. My dad even critiques my material, especially if it’s not good.
Kaushik and his colleagues at an IFC work event in 2016. © IFC
Have both your worlds ever collided? Do you get recognized by clients, or others?
Although it has happened only a few times, it was surreal to be recognized at client meetings. I also had my local grocer tell me he was a big fan, which is something I’ll never forget.
How do you balance your twin passions?
I’m fortunate to work at IFC, which has afforded me the time and work-life balance to pursue my passion. Managing the day job and my comedy does take a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort. Anything that makes you happy is, I think. My vision is to continue to work hard and also grow as an artist and see where it goes.
Srijan Kaushik at the Bengaluru Comedy Festival in 2018. Photo: Courtesy of Wagon Productions Private Limited.
What do you like most about working at IFC?
I love the people I work with. Having been in microfinance before, coming from the grassroots, I was not sure I would fit in. But all the people I’ve met have been friendly and forthcoming, dispelling my fears right away. IFC is full of extremely smart and grounded people, and has tremendous potential to influence sectors and trends, and drive great impact all over the world.
What inspires you?
I’m really excited about our collaboration with Aavas Financiers Limited, which will promote affordable green housing for low-income borrowers, including women, in India. Until now green housing was mostly thought of as suited more for cities, commercial buildings and complexes, so this is a novel approach with immense potential for impact and replication.
On the comedy front, I’d recommend watching The Comedy Store, a five-episode series on the evolution of comedy from the vantage point of one of the greatest comedy establishments in the stand-up world.
This story is part of the IFC NextGen campaign, amplifying the voices of young IFC staff and recognizing their significant contributions to the World Bank Group twin goals of ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity.
Published in August 2021