Atamjeet Singh Bawa is India’s most known Paper Modeler. This highly enthusiastic, quick-witted and surprisingly funny influencer inspires everyone he comes in contact with. It’s easy to be awed by his personality and one-liners! He has given TEDx talks and Josh Talks. He has been rightly awarded the title of “The Paper Smith” by BBC Top gear. His paper models were exhibited in the world-renowned Auto Expo. He has worked with “The Viral Fever” aka TVF with his rocket launcher model.
Influencer Speaks, is where we aim to bring Influencers on board with us. This series will focus on knowing the influencer journeys more closely. Here are some questions on which Atamjeet interacted with us.
Piyuesh- In a world where everyone is struggling to understand his/her passion how were you sure that Paper Modelling is what you wanted to pursue? (1:00-3:00)
Atamjeet- I strongly believe I was born to be pilot. Even as a child I would look at things, like tractors and JCBs and imagine how they worked. I would wonder if they would work with the same tires or the importance of wheels or bearings. Those paper planes we all flew as children; I would improvise mine with logos back then.
Piyuesh- Is this Origami? (3:15-4:00)
Atamjeet- Anything that you do by folding a piece of paper is Origami. What I did as a child with the planes and boats was Origami. Paper Modelling is different, you cut and join parts of the paper to form a structure.
Atamjeet-(In continuation of question 1) (4:30-12:20)
I was always good in 3D geometry. I went on and did my engineering in Chemical Textile. There was Engineering drawing in the first year. That was what I needed to ignite in paper modeling. I could use the drafter and do 3D images of things, their front view, top view lateral view etc. I used my strong areas of geometry and 3D drawing to make a model. I picked up a book from the library on airplanes and found the 3D plan for an aircraft used in world war 2. I took the dimensions from the book, picked an ivory paper sheet from the market and started working on it. I traced out the model and made it 3-4 times larger than the book’s plan. Surprisingly all the parts joined at a point and it was the “Engineered accident” motivated me to try harder.
This was the time when people sent emails because there weren’t much social media platforms back then. I mass broadcasted my model to 500 odd email addresses. Some of them were journalists, teachers etc. Most of them reverted with criticism, but that told me that people were actually reading what I sent them. One fine day, this man from Kentucky, DeWayne Barnett, my now mentor, reverted. He introduced me to the small world of paper modeling. He published my model on the front page of his magazine. I wanted to stand up to his expectations. He sent me 2 templates, that I completed successfully. Templates are small pieces of paper that you join together to make a model.
I was lucky to have found my passion early in life. It’s important to listen to your heart and follow it blindly. Gradually all lines join at a point, very much like paper modeling.
Piyuesh- How do you prepare your models now without templates? (14:00-17:00)
Atamjeet- The first 10 yrs went in making models that were designed by others. That made me see the flaws and real-time problems with the process. I try to design my own models now, it’s hard to manage the time, but I do. I recently made the T-90 Bhisma Tank used in our army frontline. I learned the 3D software, Blender 3D used to make 3D models. I took help from a paper Modeler, Julius Perdana, in Indonesia to make the design. I don’t have the time, given the fact that I have a full-time job too. It took around 450 man-hours to complete it. Had I done it alone, it would have taken me a good 6-7 months.
Piyuesh– How do you plan your time or the amount of effort you invest in a paper model? (17:00-19:30)
Atamjeet- I have experience of 15 yrs now. I can tell you the amount of time or effort that would be required if you tell me the model. Paper modelling requires a serious amount of patience and concentration. I used to play TT at the Nationals during childhood. Patience is something that I was probably born with and TT helped me to improve my concentration.
Piyuesh– Tell us about your journey to fame. When and how did it happen? (20:00-35:00)
Atamjeet- I believe these things happen as a chain reaction once you put the right effort. I put my models on Facebook and other social media sites now. I reach out to people and publishers like yourstory, logical Indian. So I had pinged to the TVF guys too. And one of the directors reverted and asked if I could make a rocket launcher in the next 2 days. It was certainly very difficult to pull off something this complex in such a short time. I managed to do it and each time their video lagged they used to promote my page as a distraction. And immediately I got 2000 more followers on my page that day.
I contacted Auto Car and asked if they would be interested in exhibiting my models. They agreed and I rushed to meet them after work. I was supposed to have passes which I didn’t have. And then God dressed in Prada came in in form of a gentleman and gave me his absent friend’s ticket. On my way, something struck me and I took out the model from my bag and held it to gain attention. I rightly did so too. On my way I saw Adil Jal Darukhanawala, he is a big name in the automotive industry. He stopped his interview and came to ask if my model was paper model. Surprisingly, he was an enthusiast himself and asked me to be interviewed by Zee- Business instead of auto-car. On my way back I met the top-head of Carwalla and they wanted to exhibit my models for free at their stall. Imagine my happiness, it all happened within a span of an hr. And later, Top gear interviewed me. Things fall into place!
It’s important that you not shy away from marketing yourself. It’s important you tell people about your talents so that they know how they can use you effectively.
I was a loner for the first 10 years. I could have done everything that I do today back then too, but I didn’t. I didn’t outreach, I didn’t let the world know what I was up to.
People buy what they see, broadcast yourself if you want to sell.
Piyuesh: What are the Hurdles you faced? Mistakes you would suggest to others to avoid? (36:00-40:30)
Atamjeet: Don’t waste your time, it’s ticking away faster than you think. I missed out on time because I was not outreaching or speaking out loud about what I was doing for 10yrs.
That’s a long time! Feel the rush, push yourself, do big things and speak loudly about them. There’s no shame in marketing yourself.
I manage time very carefully now. When you are passionate about something, you feel the urge to give it your effort.
Piyuesh– Tell us about the small paper model on your glasses. Is that part of your marketing strategy? (41:00-45:00)
Atamjeet- It’s important that people connect to you as an identity. I wanted to attach a unique style or statement to myself that people could connect to instantly. I had heard, Alok Kejriwal say it once, “Wear your brand and be proud of it” So I decided to make a small airplane and wear it on my glasses. It gets people curious and gives me a chance to market myself. Right now many scientists at DRDO are wearing it on their specs while making the original Plane. I have started doing the same for other people. Be it a chef knife or paintbrush, it’s important you wear your brand and make it a part of your identity.
Piyuesh– You are a fast and crazy thinker. What’s your mind thinking about lately? (45:22-49:00)
I seek attention, a lot of it and for all the right reasons. I talk to people and listen to their ideas. I learn some from them and share my inputs as and when it makes sense.
Right now, I want to design a revolving minigun with lots of bearings in it. The same kind you see in Terminator 2 and Predator. And I want to put it on the top of my car. That would be very interesting actually.
I have made a Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher that I want to take to Rajiv Chowk Metro Station in Delhi. I would stand there with it and want people to see it and ask about it.
And yes, I want to make a paper model of Harley Davidson that showrooms could hang from their ceilings.
It’s not very costly to make the models actually. What needs most investment is the video production process.
Piyuesh- You are a husband, a father, have a full-time job and a paper modeler. How do you manage the time? (49:00-53:00)
Atamjeet- Organization is key. Family and friends have been very supportive. Even my company IBM is very supportive. Here’s a small story. I had mailed IBM CEO Ginni Rometty when I joined IBM, talking about my passions and skills. As mentioned earlier, you should tell people about your strengths, so that they know how to use you effectively. I was obviously not expecting for her to respond, but surprisingly she did. She had said,” Atam, Passion and Perfection are 2 very important attributes for our clients”. That certainly made my day and pushed me further.
When you are enthusiastic about something, you find ways. Set your priorities right and complete them on time.
“If you want to achieve something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”
Poornima- What videos or materials would you suggest for beginners? (54:00- 56:00)
Atamjeet- Google “paper modelling”, you will find thousands of PDfs. You can download them and read the instructions. Then watch a couple of videos on YouTube on how to execute them all. You can always check my YouTube page “Paper Model Guru” or direct message me for guidance.
On an ending note) Atamjeet:
Share your ideas with people. Stop worrying that they will steal your idea. They cannot, because they do not have the same level of passion for it as you. Talking to people makes you aware of things you aren’t aware existed. It gives scope to new opportunities. You will get appreciation, which is a great motivator to move ahead in life.
“Take the first step yourself, the momentum will make you take the second one voluntarily”
~Atamjeet Singh Bawa