Keynote Nusrat Durrani, SVP of MTV World

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“My story is not interesting,” was the first thing that Nusrat Durrani, General Manager and SVP of MTV World, wanted to get across at last Saturday’s Find & Follow Your Passion at NYU. What he found compelling was our Founder Emily’s Miethner’s curiosity when they first met in 2008 at Hofstra University. He was speaking during one of Emily’s classes about an idea he had called MTV Iggy, sourcing feedback from a classroom full of members of his target audience.  Emily found herself so inspired by Durrani and his story that it compelled her to stay in touch with him over the years, sending him photos of MTV Iggy stickers that she would spot at her subway stop in Astoria six years later.
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Durrani was born in Lucknow, India, as the only son of a well-off family who encouraged him to pursue a safe career, such as being a doctor. He eventually found himself working for Honda in Dubai, managing multi-million dollar budgets and traveling the world. However, Durrani felt suffocated by the “culture of mediocrity” and still had dreams of working in music. He grew up with rock and roll in his heart and through the music of Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, and the literature of Jack Kerouac, Durrani began imagining his own “hallucination” of the United States. In 1994, he saw a “visualization of [his] dreams” through David Bowie’s music video for “Let’s Dance” on MTV and decided that it was his destiny. He planned his next vacation to head to MTV’s headquarters in New York, uninvited, asking for a job.
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The HR woman Durrani spoke to said that while MTV would employ every passionate music fan they could, without experience in the United States or a communications degree, there was no position for him. It was the first time Durrani was rejected. He went back to Dubai, but after getting the taste of a life that would nourish his soul, he decided to get his student Visa and go back to the US to get a masters in communications. After completing his degree, he went to the same HR woman, who was surprised to see him but said there was nothing she could offer. There was, however, an internship program he could apply to. At the age of thirty-five and having worked at Honda and earning two masters degrees, Durrani became an intern at MTV.
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Once MTV opened their doors, Durrani learned as much as he could and took on challenging projects. He has now worked at Viacom for eighteen years and launched MTV World, a platform that introduced Asian pop culture to the United States, of which Durrani won a Cultural Achievement Award from the Asia Society. Looking back, Durrani was happy he followed his passion. “I feel blessed that I have the best job in the world to do what I want to achieve, which I built for myself.”
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While there is no formula for success, the best advice that he felt able to provide attendees was that when “creating something new, driven by passion, is not easy. When you struggle, you can find yourself alone. That’s when grit and determination along will get your through the setbacks.” Durrani also told attendees that thanks to digital and social media, there are more opportunities for them today than he had. Everyone within that lobby would help shape the future, and to Durrani, the future was very bright indeed.

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