A love for all things Bollywood was all Malini Agarwal needed when she started a hobby blog about the entertainment industry in 2008. Today she’s more popularly known as MissMalini, India’s first and most popular celebrity blogger – and the head of her own media house, which even includes a show called MissMalini’s World on the TLC India channel.
With her hashtag #tothemoon, self-proclaimed Founder and Optimist Prime MissMalini speaks about her career path from dancer to radio jockey to the journey through her own enterprise – and her views on the future of the Indian ePublishing space.
1. What prompted you to start MissMalini?
I was a professional dancer & emcee in Delhi right after college, where I studied English Literature. Then a copywriter for an India-centric portal, after which I moved to Bombay and joined the 2003 dot com boom with MTV India as their Digital Channel Head for Romance & Sexuality. I was a radio jockey on Bombay’s only English language radio station for 9 years. I also wrote a column in Bombay’s popular tabloid Mid-Day, and that’s where I discovered my love for all things Bollywood, Fashion and Lifestyle.
I later became the Channel Head for Digital Content at Channel [v] and continued my radio career. Eventually, it made a lot of sense to take all of my industry experience and access in Indian entertainment and put it online – I started my blog on a friend’s suggestion.
2. Why Bollywood?
Everyone loves Bollywood! Bollywood is the extension of the ultimate Indian dream! Movies offer an escape from everyday life and are aspirational. People want more, they want to know what their favorite celebrities are doing, what they’re wearing, who they’re dating, where they’re going – and I think for all of us it’s kind of magical. But I felt that the way it is so often documented is to the point of abuse. So I wanted to do it in a happy, shiny way!
I also felt that there was a gap in how it was all being reported. No one was really offering a voice for today’s Indian youth. People around the world know India for what they watch on the Discovery Channel or “Slumdog Millionaire” (and of course all of those things exist) but so few talk about the enterprise, talent and entertainment India has to offer.
3. What has the journey been like, turning your blog into a business?
It’s been amazing. If you told me 10 years ago that I’d start my own business one day and forge a path in the blogging industry I would have smiled and said you’re crazy. But here we are and there is still so much to do! When I started the blog I honestly had no idea it would turn into a brand that I am so proud of today! Looking back I realize that every job I’ve had has equipped me with the tools that I needed to become a one-woman entertainment blogger when I first started out – from discovering my inner geek to cultivating the skills that you need to create engaging multi-media content for a blog.
Today as a team we continue to push the envelope in the Indian digital space. It’s been exhilarating building an industry where one didn’t exist. What I’m most excited about is the journey ahead! We’re raising funding and have massive dreams.
We’ve already done Season 1 of our TV show on TLC called MissMalini’s World and Season 2 is coming soon along with more bite-sized TV magazine content on various networks.
4. What has been the biggest challenge?
Time. There just isn’t enough time in my day to do all the things I want to do! Luckily we have amassed the most amazing team who are the heart and soul of this business. It’s always a challenge to find people that fit the personality of this company and we’re very careful about finding team members that have the kind of drive and ambition that will get us to where we want to go.
5. Your predictions for the ePublishing space in India over the next 5 or 10 years?
We will see the rise of independent, digital and social led media houses forming (like MissMalini) that will not only be relevant but will share possibly greater reach and distribution as the traditional, established media houses. We’ll also see some of these new age media outlets being acquired by traditional media houses to enhance their own offerings. You’ll see many more “mobile-first” or exclusively mobile e-publishers get into the market.
In fact, how we consume media in five years time will probably outgrow the traditional mobile screen, so you’ll see a lot of new formats and platforms that don’t exist today. I’m excited!
I think content will become more immersive and customized to the reader, with advances in Virtual Reality technology and device processing power. People will eventually get tired of lists and other current BuzzFeed-ish formats and we’ll move on to the next publishing trend (which I’m sure the creative minds at BuzzFeed will help create).
And I believe there will always be a place for serious, long form journalism, even if there are less players standing. The delivery and consumption mechanisms may change, but the spirit will remain. Whatever happens, we’re all super excited to be part of it all!