Over the past few years, we have been witnessing the decline of print media readership, as readers are gradually consuming news and information on digital devices like mobile and laptop. With the advent of digital era, India has also seen the emergence of blogs in verticals such as entrepreneurship, technology, politics and entertainment. MissMalini addresses the appetite for Bollywood, fashion, and lifestyle news and analysis with a voice that represents the new, young and global Indians. MissMalini Publishing is a leading Indian digital entertainment platform, which includes its flagship properties MissMalini.com, popular YouTube channel MissMaliniVideos, and a social media network of nearly 2 million followers.
This was founded by Malini Agarwal, who has been a mainstay in the Mumbai entertainment scene for nearly a decade, across various communication media. She was previously a popular radio jockey and a gossip columnist for a leading tabloid. She started the blog in 2008 as a hobby on the recommendation of a friend. Let’s check out the story in the making of MissMalini, its growth, raising funds and the road ahead. Malini Agarwal shares her vision, motivation, and the current action taking place at MissMalini in an interaction with YourStory, in the excerpts below:
Evolution and genesis of MissMalini
After having successful stints as Radio Jockey (RJ), head of digital content at MTV and Channel [v], and a gossip columnist at Mid Day, Malini started the blog with her unique perspective and fresh voice that caught on with a large audience. “There was also an element of luck and good timing, as I started blogging just as digital and social media started catching on in India,” says Malini.
Malini and her team create unique, proprietary and engaging digital content in the areas of Bollywood, fashion, and lifestyle with a voice that represents the new, young and global India. From a business perspective, it helps compatible brands reach out to their extremely attractive audience demographic in thoughtful, non-invasive and engaging ways.
Power of social media and Ranbir-Kat effect
Malini has a natural instinct for mediums such as Facebook and Twitter, and was already personally very active on those platforms. Interestingly, social media is the way Malini has recruited most of her team, and her big break came when she broke the story of Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif spotted on a flight together before anybody else!
The blog following has grown at an extremely rapid pace over the last few years. Since 2010 MissMalini.com has grown from a readership of 10,000 unique monthly visitors, to over 500,000 monthly visitors today. “A little over 60% of our readers come from India, and the rest comes from over 120 countries around the world, with strong strong audiences in the US, the UK and Canada,” says Malini. MissMalini’s social media following has grown even faster, starting from several thousand followers in 2010, to nearly 2 million followers today on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Its YouTube channel has almost 3 million views. “The most exciting part, however, is the incredible room that remains for growth. Despite our current traction, we still know there’s much to do ahead of us,” adds Malini.
On raising investment
Before long, Malini was getting interest from brands and investors, which is when she knew she had something more on her hands. Nowshad Rizwanullah, her husband now, had also just returned from his MBA at Harvard Business School, and with the help of another friend, Mike Melli, they started working through the various scenarios which eventually led to an angel round of funding. The Mumbai-based company had raised an initial angel round of funding in early 2012, and will be raising a second round of funding at the end of this year. “Our current investors include prominent angel investors in India and the US, including Rajan Anandan from Google India, the founders of Chegg.com, Match.com, SherSingh/Exclusively.in, the Asia Director of TA Associates, and other successful entrepreneurs, professionals and investors,” says Malini.
The hardest part of running a startup is the feeling that you never have enough time and resources to pursue all of your plans at once – at least not if you want to do everything well! The potential for a company like ours that bridges the digital divide between internet-savvy consumers and forward-thinking brands is massive, especially in a market like India. We are just barely scratching the surface of India’s digital economy, and we have a lot of big plans for the future.
Another challenge we are acutely aware of is making sure we never sacrifice the authenticity of our brand by trying to grow too fast – in other words, the interests of our audience must always come first. We strongly believe the business of blogging is a healthy outgrowth of the art of entertaining and informing, and not the other way around.
Motivation for being an entrepreneur
Malini has always been a master multi-tasker and she loves all forms of media and when she found an opportunity to use all her social media skills and build a brand – things just sort of fell into place. Malini also felt there was a major gap in the market for content that represents and reflects the modern India she lives and breathes daily. This is where the MissMalini anime evolved from: A desi girl that loves her culture, which of course includes Bollywood, but also someone who is equally comfortable traveling the world, exploring international fashion and entertainment and keeping a keen eye on cool geek chic gadgets and trends.