My Swedish Career: ‘When you’re based in Sweden, people take you seriously’

My Swedish Career: 'When you're based in Sweden, people take you seriously'
Deepak Kamboj. Photo: Private
Indian-born Deepak Kamboj came to Sweden for work and started his music career as a hobby. Now he works for SAS and has a record label that has been shortlisted on Spotify's Top 50.

“The company I was working for then sent me to Sweden in 2010,” says Deepak Kamboj. “I changed my job now, but I am still here.” Kamboj is 32 years old and comes from Dehradun, a city in the mountains of northern India. In June this year, he started working for SAS Scandinavian Airlines, where he's a buyer and responsible for the strategic sourcing team. “I'm proud to work here,” he states. “This is a position with pretty big responsibility and I am one of the only Indians in the buying positions of SAS.”

In his free time, Kamboj has a hobby that has got nothing to do with airlines: He is the head of a small record label. “Music is my passion,” he says. It all started when he learned to play the guitar back in India.

“I learned how to play it through the internet and eventually started posting my own stuff on YouTube. People seemed to really like it, so I reached out to some record labels.” That didn't really work out his way, though, and Kamboj then started looking for another way into the business: “A friend of mine had a music studio in India. So I started thinking, instead of reaching out, why don't I start my own label?”

That's what Kamboj did – in the summer of 2017, he established Folk Studios Records Sweden. 

Today, the studio supports independent international artists. “I started checking out artists on Instagram and contacted the ones I liked and wanted to support,” Kamboj says.

The logo and some of Folk Studios' achievements. Photo: Private.

“We have three studios today. My own home studio in Stockholm and two others in India.” In these studios, he works with just three other people: “There's me, who's driving things for the label, so to say. Then one who's the composer, one is responsible for the media and one for management.”

Kamboj often uses the word collaborations to describe his way of working. The artists in the collaborations usually don't have to pay to be produced; they also often work together with other artists from all over the world. Lately, Kamboj worked on a project called The Euro Collab, where musicians from 20 European countries got together to produce a song. “We are more than a label – we are a community,” he says with audible pride. “There's so much talent around the world and we can give independent artists a platform.”

The first milestone for the label was set when a song by one of their artists got featured in Spotify's top-50 list. “I just thought 'wow',” recalls Kamboj. Since then, the label has signed its first artists, a singer from Malaysia and one from India. “We are now looking for someone in Sweden, preferably a hip hop or rap artist.”

Being located in Stockholm affects the business positively, says Kamboj. “When you're based in Sweden, people take you seriously. Many big names, like Spotify, are from Sweden and the startup community here is very tight. The country is also really advanced, technologically-wise.”

“Moving here wasn't that hard for me really,” he says. “I'm a social person, so I didn't have many problems adapting to people.” What helped him find friends at first was the app Meetup. Learning Swedish also wasn't a problem, he says. “I had a good experience when learning it.”

His optimistic approach to life in general also helped him cope with the challenges of moving abroad. “The thing is, you can put as much sugar as you want on reality to make it sweet – it depends on how willing you are to adapt. Sometimes things can be a challenge, but you will have to cope and it will get better.”

As of today, Kamboj lives in Stockholm, is married to a Swedish woman and has a family. He enjoys living in Sweden, he says: “The Scandinavian lifestyle is really cool. There are a lot of benefits for the people here and the infrastructure is good.” The thing he mentions the most, though, is the work-life balance. “When you're young, it happens that you just work all the time. Coming here, I started to focus much more on the life outside work.” That's also how his passion for music grew bigger. “When I came here, I was probably about 20 percent interested in music. Now it's 60 percent,” he says and laughs at that comparison.

What does he enjoy least about Sweden? “Apart from the winter?” he asks jokingly. “The negativity about the election, and what people say about expats. But the truth is that internationals are always needed – grow up and be human about it!”

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