Quizzing quotient



Derek O Brien talks about his formula for success and future plans

There are quizmasters and there are quizmasters and then there is Derek O'Brien. Flamboyant? Perhaps. Gift of the gab? Most definitely. But most important, Derek, the prolific quizmaster, thoroughly enjoys what he does. And he does that keeping in mind his motto: "Help people/brands grow by making knowledge interesting."

Chatting with him, you wonder what was that deciding moment when quizzing stopped being just a hobby for this ex-journalist and adman.

After the oft-heard "In school, I was good at quizzing and debates" line, Derek says, "In 1988, the mantle of quizmaster for the North Star quiz fell on me. That was the beginning. In 1992, I quit O&M to set up Big Ideas, much to the shock of my parents and friends. Quizzing? A career? That was the unanimous response."

The company began with quizzing and publishing (it runs in Derek's blood as dad Neil O'Brien, formerly of Oxford University Press, is considered the father of Indian quizzing.) The publishing programme began with a coffee table book on Mother Teresa. And it's here that Derek's philosophical side comes to the fore.

He says, "I do not know if it is eerie coincidence or divine intervention. After that book, things just began to happen in a big way for the company. And mind you, I am not religious." And this is the same guy who offers "a silent prayer" and thanks the Lord "for everything that I have" before every show, which has to be "51 per cent content and 49 per cent presentation."

Ask Derek, who conducts at least 100 quizzes a year across the country and The Gulf, about the low turnout of women at quizzes, and he laughs.

"I think men never grow up, while women move on... in their careers and as homemakers. Maybe, collecting trivial information does not interest them much. Or they are just not bothered." Then, he admits, "But believe me, I still get a great kick out of participating in a quiz."

On what makes a good quizmaster, he says, "No ego, no arrogance and the I-know-it-all attitude. Nobody knows everything. I strongly believe in teamwork, and feel credit should be given where it is due."

An interesting aspect of Derek's business is KQ School Advantage, a learn-by-doing programme that lays emphasis on self-evaluation and all-round development. Using interactive techniques, the fun-filled format helps children develop various skills such as communication, memory and creativity. (visit for more information)

What next? "Politics," says the staunch Mamta Banerjee supporter, "I want to be heard in the corridors of power and bring about a social change in West Bengal."


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