In 2008, Malini Agarwal, a young Indian woman, starry eyed as any other Indian girl about Bollywood and all its glamour, started a blog from her home. It was meant to be a hobby. Today, Malini is a staple on every Bollywood invite list and is reserved front row on every Bollywood red carpet. Hers is a classic story of turning a hobby into a thriving career thanks to the power of the Internet and the virtual world.
Let’s face it – India is big and Bollywood is global. The appeal of Bollywood has launched India’s first and most popular celebrity blogger, who is today the head of her own media house and hosts a show called MissMalini’s World on Indian TLC. Malini’s case could easily be called being at the right place at the right time.
Having carved a career path that went all the way from professional dancer and emcee after college in Delhi, she has also worked as a DJ and a copywriter. With an eventual background in tabloid journalism, she says she found her love for all things Bollywood when writing.
Speaking about her career, which she says grew thanks to her own enterprise, her take on the future of the Indian ePublishing space is spot on. She became digital savvy early on and knew that the time was right to take India’s mega cinematic world online. She started the blog on a friend’s suggestion and never looked back.
Malini says she understood the power of Bollywood glamour delivered in bite-sized information online. If there was one topic that got everyone started on, it was Bollywood. She, like millions of other Indians, knew that Bollywood is the extension of the ultimate Indian dream. For many, movies offer an escape from everyday life and can become an aspiration. Going one step further, they also want to connect with their favourite movie stars in many ways and find out what they are doing. “But I felt that the way it is so often portrayed is to the point of abuse. So, I wanted to do it in a good way,” she told a media interview.
Malini clearly represents the generation that increasingly finds the web is where they want to do business, start a career and get savvy. Although Malini says that she never thought that it would grow so big and had no idea that her blog would become successful as a brand, she believes in being able to draw on your experiences and expertise in doing something different. In her case, it was her experience in DJing, radio show and entertainment that gave her the background to be able to get started on an entertainment blog.
Creating engaging multimedia content that is so important for a blog to become popular was key to her success; she knew that it has to be the right combination to work. And work it did.
Malini has also taken the lid off the possibilities of digital media space. In her words, she believes that the future will see many independent, digital and social-led media houses emerging in ways that would offer real-time, instant connectivity and information to audiences. There may even be exclusive mobile-led media outlets that would fuel growth.
Malini is right – the world of virtual journalism is on the point of explosion. So many platforms and so many options on how we receive our information is growing and expanding as we speak.
“I think the content will become more immersive and customized to the reader with advances in virtual reality technology and device-processing power. Lists and other current BuzzFeed-ish formats may change and everyone will move on to the next publishing trend,” she says. Yet, for all the hype, Malini believes that serious and focused journalism will continue to thrive online, although, she says that delivery and consumption mechanisms may be different.
So what lessons can we learn from Malini? Primarily that given the right set of talent and tools, many of us can turn a hobby into a thriving business. Secondarily, with the web, the possibilities are endless. If you truly have an idea that can work, even in traditional setting, it can grow into a blog or a business venture. The most important lesson is to know what you can deliver and how you can deliver it regularly to an audience who is waiting for it. And to do in a creative manner that will keep the business growing.
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at email@example.com)