Shubham Sharma: An odyssey from Amazon to TVF Pitchers to AI Magic at Gradium
Shubham Sharma graduated from BITS Pilani, (Pilani, ‘16) with a degree in Information Systems, where he got PPO from Amazon leading him to work on AI/ML and natural language processing for Kindle. His creative abilities later led him to work with Disney Hotstar as a writer, and subsequently his work with TVF on Pitchers S2. He is currently co-leading Gradium, a start-up aimed at harnessing generative AI to enhance content creation.
What inspired you to work in AI/ML at Amazon after graduating in Information Systems? What were the hardships you faced during this transition?
My interest in the potential of ML originated during a disciplinary elective course that I took during my studies at BITS. I fondly remember my first ML project, which used a synopsis of movies as input data to predict their genre. These projects were noticed by Amazon during my PS-II, who then offered me a PPO. So, a would-be difficult transition was facilitated due to the accommodating academics at BITS Pilani.
How did you go from Amazon to securing a content writing post at Disney Hotstar?
My dad was a Hindi language lecturer, so we had a lot of books back home. Storytelling and writing have always fascinated me. I was very confused about my future, between content writing and a tech job but eventually, the PPO set the path for me. But even there, I felt that I wasn't operating at my complete potential, so I joined some Facebook groups where I discovered this post from Disney Hotstar about a nationwide talent hunt for writers. I learned to write screenplays, submitted my work, and was one of the fifteen people selected. Then there was a tough call to make regarding my old job and here I am!
Can you describe to us your experience working with TVF on Pitchers S2?
I left Hotstar to work on some web series, one of which was with Mayank Tewari, the writer of Newton. I had seen a lot of TVF's works and expressed to a friend my wish to work with them. He eventually connected me to some creative producers. I shared some of my works with them and after some time, got on board as a writer on Pitchers S2. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of production, pitching the script, making the actors comfortable with characters they had left 7 years ago, editing, and finally sharing it with the world.
Can you tell us what Gradium does?
I had been working on things like natural language processing when one of my batchmates made me join a group where I realized the potential of generative AI. Then there was an event known as Mumbai Hacks, being organized by the Tech Entrepreneurs Association of Mumbai around developing things that use generative AI, and randomly decided to participate there. I paired with another person and suggested this idea about Branded content generation, that paired a new product or company with a content IP, like a Ford pickup truck could be paired with Iron Man as a mascot. I realized that this could be a source for IP monetization, and that is now Gradium.
What new trends do you expect the advent of AI would introduce in the entertainment industry in the foreseeable future?
I believe that AI would become a handy tool with a human touch remaining at the core, the entry barrier will get lower with high-end productions no longer being limited to Hollywood film studios. Simultaneously there are writer's strikes in Hollywood, AI imagery being misused to add actors to movies without their permission, and copyright infringement due to AI tools generating work that is derivative of some writer’s or comic's writing style. I believe a huge paradigm shift is surely in the making.
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