NAME: Rhea Saran
FROM: Mumbai, India
JOB TITLE: Editor-in-Chief, Condé Nast Traveller (Middle East)
When did you arrive in the UAE? I’ve just arrived and today is my first day at ITP. As you can imagine, I’m still orienting – especially because I take off almost immediately to Paris for a three-day training and creative brainstorm session with Condé Nast International. I suppose all the jetting around is fitting for a travel mag.
Where did you work prior? Before coming on board at ITP, I was Features Editor of GQ (India), part of Condé Nast India. I spent five and a half years at the magazine, having moved to Mumbai from New York in 2008. Prior to my India posting, I did stints at Working Mother magazine and New York Resident magazine in New York, as well as freelance assignments for Condé Nast Traveler (US).
What are your first impressions of the Media Industry in the Middle East? This is hard to answer having only just arrived – I can say from what I know, though, that it’s clearly a diverse and vibrant scene, which is something you can tell from even just the sheer number of titles being produced and doing well here. I think the market for media in the region is exciting, especially for a luxury travel title like Condé Nast Traveller. I’m very optimistic about it.
Tell us about your new role? My new role at Condé Nast Traveller Middle East is that of Editor-in-Chief, which means that I work across the board on the magazine – from editorial vision and managing my team, to client relationships and representing the brand to the outside world. In the initial stages, a key part of that role is going to be in guiding the launch of the magazine, which is quite different from stepping into an established publication. It’s particularly exciting because you get to shape the eventual form of the magazine (though within certain parameters of the brand), so there’s a lot of creative vision that goes into it beyond the month-to-month story plan.
What challenges have you faced in past roles? Given that I’ve worked in multiple markets, I’d say the greatest challenge every time I’ve moved is learning and adapting to new markets, audiences and cultures. I actually think it’s great fun, but it certainly also makes for a rigorous learning curve. I’ve also addressed myriad topics with the different publications I’ve worked for – from the issues of working mothers, to the nitty-gritties of city-specific reporting, to writing for a male audience with GQ. Again, the challenge is in adapting to your subject matter, evolving your tone and understanding your audience. Once you’ve figured this out, the rest comes pretty easily.
How do you plan to make your mark? By launching a world-class edition of Condé Nast Traveller in the Middle East and ensuring that this edition is the final word and the greatest authority on luxury travel lifestyle in the region (and beyond).
What’s the most rewarding part of being a journalist? For me it’s two-fold. At a personal level, it’s about the exposure and learning. Every day is a different topic, a different place, different people, a different angle. You learn about things you never thought you’d have a great interest in, but are often pleasantly surprised by. The second thing I find rewarding is that I create something that is consumed for pleasure. Even if it’s a fleeting few minutes as someone finishes a story, they’ve entertained themselves – and perhaps learnt something – and that’s a great feeling.
Have you worked with PRs in the region before? If so, how have you found that? I haven’t – so those are exciting new relationships I look forward to forging.
What’s your pet PR peeve? My primary PR peeve is being pitched stories or products that have nothing to do with the subject of my magazine. Non-targeted solicitation annoys me.
What advice can you offer PRs seeking coverage in your magazine? The most important piece of advice I can offer is to truly understand the magazine and its space when you come to meet us, send us emails or phone us. If I receive an email from or speak with someone, and they clearly know what my magazine is about and have a thought-through, tailored proposal, I’m infinitely more likely to give it serious consideration. Condé Nast Traveller also works best with exclusives, so I’d suggest keeping that in mind, too. And finally, I’d encourage familiarity with our lead times, so that we can work together in a way that benefits both of us.
Do you prefer work calls via Landline, mobile or either? I prefer emails for initial introductions. But alternatively, landline at the office as a preference – though I’m rarely away from my cellphone.
Describe yourself in five words… Creative, perfectionist, adventurous, social, global.
What’s your most overused word or saying? This is a terrible thing to make a writer admit! I have to go with “totally” – I say it in conversation more than I should when I agree with something. Though if I saw it in any writer’s copy, I’d chuck it out immediately.
Five things you can’t live without? Close friends and family, my passport, my phone, chocolate and the movies.
If you weren’t a journalist, what would you be? An actor. Though I’m pretty sure my dad was happy I went this way instead…
Rhea Saran is the new Editor of Condé Nast Traveller Middle East. Contact her at Rhea.Saran@appgulf.com /+971 (0)4 444 3503