How this newsletter takes its readers on a journey across time and cultures
An overload of information has rendered the habit of reading nearly obsolete amongst millennials and Gen-Z. Enter– a curated newsletter that promises to cut through the clutter and share snippets of the most interesting culture, travel, and work life related information. Launched in 2019 by London-based Priyam Sharma, who was later joined by Delhi-based Mohika Sharma, this newsletter is delivered every weekday to inboxes around the country.
“The concept of The Jurni emerged over conversations while travelling, reading in coffee shops, and observing the routines of younger people around the world. As no established player in the travel newsletter space existed in the world’s largest millennial market, nor one with an insatiable appetite for discovery and adventure, we launched The Jurni,” explain the founders in a chat with YS Weekender.
How it started
Priyam was born in India, grew up in the US, and now lives in London, where she attained her MBA from the London Business School. Her portfolio is a wide one – she has been part of the investment banking division of KPMG and has marketing experience with consumer products at Unilever. She has also worked with L’Oréal and the Lloyd’s Banking Group.
Mohika is originally from Guwahati, Assam, and currently resides in New Delhi. Having studied Sociology at Delhi University, she was exposed to a constant cultural dialogue. She began her career by creating video content for Times Internet before joining NDTV as an anchor and producer.
Their unique skill sets and interests brought them together for The Jurni. “I was fascinated by media trends among urban professionals in the US and Europe, and found a gap in the Indian market for curated insights on culture. This inspired me to focus on India and introduce a short-format newsletter for the busy Indian professional,” explains Priyam.
Though it started out as a weekly newsletter, the global pandemic and ensuing national lockdown brought in further change. Most Indian millennials were working and studying remotely and looking for new and creative ways to engage themselves. Due to increased demand for The Jurni’s curated content, they began daily publication of their newsletter in early 2021.
Mohika says, “We have noticed that in the last two years, the readership for quality, intelligent content has grown significantly. Our material is well-researched, thoughtful, and specially curated and thus attracts a specific type of reader – those who appreciate the world around the as well as fresh and new ideas.”
As a publication focusing on travel, The Jurni is aware of the adverse impact of air travel on the environment. Keen to spread the message about conscious travelling, they designed a unique referral programme to offset carbon emissions. Every time someone refers their friends to subscribe to The Jurni, they fund the planting of trees in India. Known as their carbon offset program, this initiative went live on Earth Day last year - April 22, 2021.
What’s on offer
Focused on culture and travel and catering to the global Indian millennial, The Jurni’s weekday newsletter is widely read. Priyam describes it as a, “fun, clever morning read about the world - making you feel smarter and imparting a feel-good factor to begin your day right.” Aimed at busy professionals, the newsletter’s collection of varied themes from around the world strikes a chord with many.
Currently, three editions of The Jurni are available for readers as per their preferences. The regular edition covers culture, work-life, and travel pieces from around the world. Thursday’s edition is also called ‘Thread Thursdays’ as it follows a common theme or ‘thread’ through the entire newsletter. Friday’s edition focusses on arts and leisure and makes for ideal weekend reading.
“We believe information should be freely accessible to our readers and so we are looking for advertisements and corporate sponsorships among other mechanisms of monetisation. We seek out brands and companies which have a natural affinity towards our brand values,” explains Mohika.
Though the original founder Priyam is based in London, United Kingdom, the rest of the team is based in India, and everyone works remotely.
Their articles are hand-picked by the team with attention to detail. The editorial team goes through hundreds of sites around the world, and selects fascinating stories, trends, and insights to write about.
“Some of our best pieces have been those that have found the familiar in the exotic and the unusual in the mundane. For example, our pieces on the ‘addas’ of Kolkata, where the culture of conversation continues to thrive, as well as an intimate look into the lives of the lowrider community of Los Angeles, USA – that goes beyond what popular films have shown us – were well received by our readers,” shares Priyam with a smile.
Other memorable pieces include one about the ‘aunties’ of Singapore that keep its street food alive, and a piece on Riyadh being an emerging destination for both business and culture.
Story of growth
According to data published on nextbigwhat.com, digital / online newspaper consumption is at an all-time high. Interestingly, the consumption of e-newspapers has gone up significantly in smaller cities, and the readership there currently constitutes close to 67 percent.
The Jurni began as a boot-strapped, self-funded startup, and on their own steam have attracted over half a million subscribers to their weekly newsletter.
Mohika shares, “We have always believed that our product meets a consumer demand. And word of mouth has been the steadiest way of growing our platform. We started with a few hundred readers – they asked their friends to read it, and on and on.”
Naming their competitors as ‘The Ken’ and ‘Splainer’, The Jurni feels it stands out from these as they work on a paid subscription model. The Jurni also narrows its subjects by limiting them to culture, travel, and work-life, in order to increase appeal.
“After the pandemic, our readership has grown from strength to strength. In fact, we had to shift technology platforms a few times as we kept outgrowing them! Finding the right platform was indeed challenging. Another challenge we face is educating the general public about the merit of email newsletters,” explains Priyam.
The founders highlight a number of exciting things in the pipeline. Prominent restaurant and café chains in India who realised the value of what they are doing, have enlisted them for upcoming partnerships, which the team is not yet at liberty to reveal. However, they are most excited to increase their access to include more people throughout the country.
The founders sign off by saying, “It might seem surprising, but our entire team has never even been in the same room! In fact, we have hired everyone virtually and have worked remotely since we began. Despite these challenges, we have managed to create the country’s largest newsletter during the pandemic. Just imagine what we can achieve once we are all together!”