Pickbrain Interview

Priya Vishwanath
Sunday, December 30, 2018

Introduction- Mr. Giri “Pickbrain” Balasubramanium is the founder and chief executive officer of Greycaps claimed to be India’s largest on stage quizzing and knowledge service provider. He is nicknamed Pickbrain. Giri is a noted quizmaster and author of several quiz books. He is also the mind behind the Global Awareness Program (GAP) one of India’s first focused, structured knowledge enhancement programs for schoolchildren and Knowledge-Hub & Global Business Review for management students. He has pioneered a program on Values Education in schools called "Keystones". Over 250000 children are part of these programs. He and his team have presented close to 3000 shows across 84 destinations of India, Sri Lanka, Oman, Singapore, London, Kuwait and United States to emerge as one of the fastest growing quiz hosts from the region.

Recently the IIT IIM Association in Kuwait invited him to be the quizmaster for their fifth annual quiz competition in Kuwait. This is one of the flagship quiz programmes in Kuwait and attracts quiz enthusiasts from all the schools as well as the open category. This year more than 120 teams – each team comprising of 3 members – participated in the event. I had an occasion to meet him on the morning of the competition and requested him to ask a few questions which he gladly consented. Am presenting below the same for your consideration.

Priya – since you are always the one who is asking questions, i decided why not you answer some questions that I have jotted down.

Do you remember how you got the name Pickbrain?

Pickbrain – yeah sure I do. My dad gave it to me. There were many people who were trying to coin the name but it was my dad who gave me the name Pickbrain

Priya – so if it is not Pickbrain then what would you call yourself?

Pickbrain – there were quite a few which we were actually toying with. The story behind it is that I used to work with times of India, and I started writing a quiz column. I was not part of the editorial team so in those days. We were not allowed to carry our real name. Therefore, we needed a fictional name. We debated with names; I remember ‘Mr.q’, ‘quizbuzz’ but my dad came up with ‘Pickbrain’. The logic was a master who picks on brains.

Priya – that is nice. Well the next one is a dicey question - so it is up to you if you want to answer or not because today we have the quiz competition and there is a prize for the best Team Name. If you were a participant in today’s quiz competition, what would you name your team?

Pickbrain – oh! That way! Ok that is fine. I have liked a few let me put it that way - maybe there is an easier way of answering this. There was one open quiz team name in Oman called ‘Jet Set Go’. There was one more team, again in Oman called ‘QSQT – quiz se quiz tak’. In India I have encountered a very nice team name which is ‘(I) ^3 – I, Iyer, Iyengar’. Therefore, you get many of these interesting team names.

Priya – when did you start quizzing?

Pickbrain – as a quizmaster or quizzer?

Priya – when did you cultivate your interest for quizzing?

Pickbrain – that I think started at an age that I do not remember. I think class one or class two. Our school had a very good quizzing culture. I conducted my first quiz in class four, because my teacher was on leave and they needed a substitute. In addition, in those days we did not have mics nor the kind of things that you all have today in your schools. Therefore, anybody who had a loud voice qualified and I had one. As simple as that.

Priya – what is your advice for young children these days to hone their quizzing skills?

Pickbrain – see, quizzing is an output. What is important is to cultivate a good reading habit. It does not matter if you do well in a debate or whether you do well in a jam or whether you do well in a quiz. These are all events which measure what you know or help you how what you know. So what’s more important in than doing well in a quiz is to cultivate a good reading habit. That is the core. In addition, it is not even about competitions, if you have a good reading habit, you become a good conservationist and that is important in life. How you speak to people, people respect you for what you speak. Therefore, when you are well read, you will probably make better conversations then. That would be my advice.

Priya – the next one is a simple one. What is your favourite movie?

Pickbrain – quite a few. All-time favourite would be ‘Gandhi’. I really like that movie.

My all-time favourite actor would be Hugh grant. I love Hugh grant movies. Tom hanks as well. I am a huge Tom Hanks fan as well.

Priya – have you ever taken part in a quiz as a participant?

Pickbrain – Oh, yes many years. I am probably one of those last generations of quizmaster who is from quizzing backgrounds. Because today you have many anchors, who are just anchors. May not have necessarily been active quizzers. Today both have become different fields. To take part is different and to conduct is different. So yes, I was definitely very active.

Priya – how about your scores? I bet you would get all the answers correct!

Pickbrain – uh no honestly no. In our days, we had quizzes, which would allow either teams of four people or teams of three. Moreover, I was always the fourth person in that team. I distinctly remember. Moreover, I was a good debater. The whole idea was that you know all the friends together would go for an interschool fest. That was the larger objective than whether you are in the quiz or the debate. Because plus we got to travel and got to go to functions together.

Priya – If you had not been a quizmaster, which profession would you have chosen for yourself?

Pickbrain – I would have been a teacher. No doubt about it. I love to be a teacher. I still think that quizmasters are teachers in some way.

Priya – how did you start quizzing as a profession? Was it by chance or by choice?

Pickbrain – a combination of both. One of the things again that I would advise children is that when you give your passion a chance, you have to be very clear to test it out whether it is going to be economically viable. The blind belief that I will do what I love sometimes does not lead you anywhere. Proven academic paths of career sometimes earn you a better living than trying to pursuing your passion.

Priya – well the next one is what I have been most excited about. It is a question, which I think that you will not be able to answer. So let us see.

As we know, in Central America and South America, the national game is soccer. Except for one country. Which one?

Pickbrain – well that question should actually go to Vishnu. (Pointing to his colleague) .He is good with soccer. Well anyway, Central America and South America… one country that does not have soccer as their national sport… I am actually running my list of countries. You said a country. Ok you win! What is the answer?

Priya – the country is Nicaragua in Central America. It has baseball as its national sport

Pickbrain – Oh, I would not have been able to guess that!

Priya – It has been wonderful talking to you. Thank you very much!

Priya Vishwanath
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Friday, January 18, 2019
Priya,Good going! Read and enjoyed the interview.

Keep it up! Need to write many more.

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