Frustrated with the power hierarchies and constraints of corporate media, a talented young journalist Dhara Kothari launched the concept of www.whitedrums.com, an organization that promotes citizen journalism. "I realized true reporting and journalism was dead, no matter how sympathetic the editors were, they were still answerable to the management," says Dhara. Whitedrums.com has come out with innovative ways to place adverts on the site and it is also not solely dependent on adverts alone. "Advertising fuels the very existence of the media, hence we accept only those adverts that come without any strings attached or terms that can hamper true democratic reporting."
In 2005, Dhara Kothari started the website with an idea, a concept and a two-person team consisting of herself and the site's owner Biren Shah, a business man who envisaged and realized the great potential the concept had.
Now, White Drums has a team of volunteers that contribute news stories, videos, photographs, cartoons and editorial for the website. With double digit growth since its inception, Dhara Kothari envisions White Drums as a global destination for citizen journalists' all over the world.
The biggest hurdle in Dhara's daily work is to encourage people to write, she believes. "People shy away from writing because they are never encouraged to write; not in kindergarten, not in schools, and not in colleges or elsewhere," says Kothari. "White Drums urges people to write and report, rather than be passive consumers of news manufactured by corporate media. The website involves the common man in by giving him the opportunity to participate in news- and opinion-formation."
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur? Why did you not pursue a regular job?
Both of us belong to a tradition of businesspersons, so entrepreneurship came easy to us. Being an entrepreneur in the modern world is to be a visionary.
Can you tell us something about the initial years – what kind of challenges, struggles did you face?
There have been many challenges and struggles and we have not seen the end of it. The biggest challenge was to make people aware of citizen journalism and to convince them it was important for the society. We also struggle to encourage people to write, report, send photos and videos.
What was the turning point in your business /career?
The turning point in our business was the launch of the website wwww.whitedrums.com – a portal through which ordinary people can disseminate news and participate in the formation of public opinion.
Did you ever feel like giving up and returning to a regular job or doing something different?
We are not afraid of entrepreneurship; in fact, we have a parallel business too. We would never give up on the concept of entrepreneurship.
What drives you?
Our own trust in this venture. When people acknowledge our concept and strive to be part of White Drums, our faith in the vision is reinforced.
Could you please elaborate on business – the operating model, the differentiators of your business, plans to scale up etc?
Until now, White Drums has not been geared towards profit making. The website, www.whitedrums.com is sustainable enough to barely cover service and maintenance costs. We do not accept donations because we believe in free reporting sans commercial constraints. However we do accept advertisements minus terms dictated by the advertiser. With the introduction of online and offline events, the company will become more profitable but it will not necessarily be for-profit venture. Whitedrums.com is a genuine platform for everyone to share news, information etc. White Drums plans to grow at a grand scale in the future.
What is your vision for White Drums?
Our vision is to make White Drums the primary and democratic platform for citizen journalists to reach the remotest corners of the world.
Any tips for budding entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is a faith in itself, so never lose faith in yourself or your work. There will be times when you just want to give it all up; but your dreams and your vision for your venture will carry you forth. An entrepreneur must decide which road is best for his/her organization, and for that, you must look into your own soul and prioritize it over others' opinions.