Published: 24th May 2019
From engineer to Insta-influencer: The story of the man behind Walk With India
Vignesh Prakasam takes us through how he went from being an engineering student taking pictures of the hills in Yelagiri, to being a food and culture influencer with 400k followers
If you're big on Instagram, chances are you'd have come across fab photos of appetising food and gorgeous destinations by Walk With India. What started as a pastime is now the most happening Instagram food page in South India with 398,000 followers. They have put together the perfect guide for your cravings making sure that you don't meet with any bad experiences. Cool, isn’t it?
For most of us, food and travel are things we think about after work, but for Vignesh Prakasam and his team, it’s their 9 to 5 job. It obviously seems like they enjoy working overtime. How did it all happen? How do they have a lot more followers than most other mainstream food pages? Did they have a marketing strategy? Vignesh Prakasam, who started the page way back in 2015, spills the beans. Excerpts:
We should support good food. One cannot freeze a chicken for 30 days and then cook it. That’s unhealthy and not right. There are many restaurants that serve fresh food and we should support them
Vignesh Prakasam, founder, Walk With India
How did it all begin? I’m sure there is an interesting story to it.
I was brought up in Yelagiri. During the weekends, I used to take pictures of scenic places and post them on Instagram. I then came to Chennai for higher studies and joined SRM Institute of Science and Technology, where I met my team. After graduation, I got placed in a company as a Computer Crime Forensics Analyst, but I never did join. I created the page Walk With India that mainly discovers new and underrated food joints around Chennai. Initially we were a team of four. Now, we are a team of twelve. We're all content creators. We are like-minded people who are on the same page.
What did your parents say when you told them that you are going to be a full-time influencer and not a Forensics Analyst?
Actually, my parents don’t know what I do for a living. They only know that I’m self-employed and that I make money on my own. My parents aren’t educated and they cannot understand my area of work. They believe that I’m doing something good and they’re happy. They also support me in every way possible.
Everyone gets pushed into a professional course for securing a definite career. Do you think people should pursue their passion even if the line of success is blurry?
This is so tricky! I feel we should do something we love but get into something spontaneous on the sidelines as well. Do not be afraid to experiment. I love food and travel, but I also loved Engineering during college. I enjoyed every class of Internet Security and wanted to pursue my higher education specialising in Internet Security. But I left that and moved to Food and Travel.
Smart guide: Although, the team has visited over 10,000 places, they have posted only 4000 pictures online — glossing over the negligent ones. They work hard to be the ideal food and travel guide so that we don’t bump into any bad experiences
Did you see something promising in the long run when you first posted something? Or was it just a pastime?
Not at all! It was just for fun. I was like any other person who posts pictures of food and travel after visiting a new place. After a point, we became somewhat popular. People also came on board and we became a team. We were being invited to many restaurants to review their food and we even recommended new ideas for improving their standards. That’s how it all began. I believe we have visited almost all the restaurants in Chennai.
Is there any story behind the name Walk with India?
No, it was a random decision. I wanted to include India in the name and my friend randomly asked ‘What about Walk With India?’ I felt it was a nice name and we decided to go for it.
So how do you decide what content goes up?
We share something only if it’s worth it. We would have visited about 10,000 places by now but only have about 4,000 posts. It’s basically a recommendation for people who search for good food. Restaurants work very hard and invest a lot while many pages specialise in posting negative reviews. We here at Walk with India, don’t negatively criticise or post bad reviews about a restaurant. We're sure that something would have gone wrong that particular day. No one’s perfect every day and a bad review can trash a ₹50 lakh investment.
In a scene where there are foodies and food blogs literally everywhere, why do you think you stand out?
I never had any ambitions, marketing strategies or a business plan. Also, we never sponsored our posts. The growth is completely organic. I love food and that's what motivated me. I just loved what I did and kept doing it. So, I believe that one will be successful if they do something with passion and by not giving up during adversity.
On what basis do you visit a place?
We visit any place. We also get a lot of DMs through our Instagram page suggesting that we review a restaurant. It’s not just us suggesting places to people, but people also suggest places to us.
I’ve always wondered what would happen to your (or any foodie’s) health with the amount of eating out you do. Tell me about it.
Yeah, basically, I’m healthy for 15 days and the rest of the days I’ll be sick. It’s a barter system between me and the doctor as I suggest a lot of restaurants to him and he doesn’t charge me a fee.
Discovery: The team mainly discovers rare and underrated food around Chennai and Bangalore
So what's next? Is there a growth plan?
We are looking forward to travelling a lot more and not restrict ourselves to India alone. My aspiration is to become a global travel brand like Beautiful Destinations. I really love that page and admire the work they do. It has impressed me big time.
If there was one thing you'd like to tell your followers, what would it be?
We should support good food. One cannot freeze a chicken for 30 days and then cook it. That’s unhealthy and not right. There are many restaurants that serve fresh food. That’s called the right food and we should support those restaurants.
Reach out: instagram.com/walkwithindia