Episode 32: Scaling a News Startup in India in the Age of Sensationalism: Anuradha Kedia of The Better India
Scaling a News Startup in India

Scaling a News Startup in India in the Age of Sensationalism

Scaling a News Startup in India – The Backdrop

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If you are an entrepreneur wanting to make a difference, the question is – what are the challenges in scaling a News Startup in India in the age of Sensationalism? We live in an age of sensationalism and ratings. And the news published or reported is first viewed with the lens of its ability to create a degree of sensation or stoke debate.

Facts are nowhere to be seen nor are balanced perspectives. Let alone ignoring the sensational, it has become virtually impossible to distinguish fact from fake.

Fact Checking Is Need Of The Hour
Fact Checking Is Need Of The Hour

State of News in India

A research report by Ormax Media on the Credibility of News has thrown up very interesting results. Only 39% of the population attach any credibility to news. Further, there is very little variation between genders.

Drawn from a Sample of People Across India
Drawn from a Sample of People Across India

Now, lets see the credibility by state. Surprisingly, more democratic and developed states in the south seem to suffer from a lower level of credibility than more authoritarian states such as West Bengal. India is certainly a land of interesting dichotomies.

Source: Ormax Report (Some states were not covered in the survey)
Source: Ormax Report (Some states were not covered in the survey

Media Credibility in India

A further look at the media credibility throws up more interesting results. In spite of the ability of Social Media to influence elections and discourse, Social Media does not enjoy the same credibility that traditional sources of news such as print do.

Media Credibility Index
Media Credibility Index

The Age of Digital Journalism

India has seen a surge of startups and companies in Online News and Media. Most of them are founded by people from the press. Unfortunately, almost all of them peddle opinions and narratives under the pretext of informing the public. In this age of sensationalism and fake news, they pander to either of the extremes only making the space more murkier.

The Age of Digital Journalism :Various Platforms
The Age of Digital Journalism :Various Platforms

Why Anu and Dhimanth Started “The Better India”

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Now that we have a somewhat of a decent understanding of the state of news in India, let us revisit the question we asked ourselves in the beginning. Is scaling a News Startup in India in the age of sensationalism possible? Can one truly make a difference?

It is in this context that The Story of Better India shines as a terrific example of positivity. While this is the current state of affairs, it was not that different more than a decade ago when Anuradha Kedia and her husband began The Better India. They began The Better India more as a blog to show case balanced perspectives. Of daily heroes and heroines who were making a difference. So much so that today, it has an audience of about 70 Million a month.

Check out our older episode – Season 1, Episode 17: Changing Lives with Varun Sheth of Ketto

Scaling The Better India

Although Anu and Dhimanth began The Better India as a blog, they have stayed true to their roots of bringing a balanced perspective and news about what is right about India. This has made them India’s largest positivity platform. This also has brought them wide readership and followership as well as appreciation by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is their Story.

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Here are excerpts from the Episode

So this was essentially the concept. Can we use the power of the internet and social media and everything that was emerging at that point of time to build a community of people, who are inspired to do good, all through a medium of storytelling of.

Anuradha Kedia 03:58

Of highlighting good, of inspiring people and empowering them with tools and information to be able to become changemakers in their own right. So this was this was the thought back in 2008

Anuradha Kedia 04:14

And one such annual issue actually featured it’s either the late 90s or the early 2000s. The story of a couple who had worked, I think, between towns and villages of Karnataka and Kerala. And together they had revived 34,000 water bodies and lakes, a wide variety of things.

Krishna Jonnakadla 06:19

500 was not at the start right. 500 was about five to six years down the line, right? It was about 2014-2015 numbers.

Anuradha Kedia 15:58

And at what point did you realize that this had acquired a life of its own, and it had outgrown that little idea. That little beautiful idea that the two of you had thought about?

Krishna Jonnakadla 19:06

You know, I don’t think anyone can survive without being experimental. I think we have, for instance, we have definitely coded experimenting and trying out new things into our DNA now.

Anuradha Kedia 26:20

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The Better India’s Website and Blog is here

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Follow Maharajas of Scale on Twitter here

Krishna Jonnakadla on Twitter @kjonnakadla

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Word Cloud for this Episode
Word Cloud for this Episode

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Episode Transcript

(Automated Transcript)


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Krishna Jonnakadla, Anuradha Kedia, Tania Jadhav

Krishna Jonnakadla  00:01

This is Maharajas of Scale, a podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders who are demolishing the myths around building and scaling a big business in India. These are the stories that have shattered the assumptions around Indian consumers and changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of Flit the fashion locator in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey, everyone, this is your host Krishna from Maharajas of Scale. It's a sort of a partly cloudy Thursday afternoon in Bangalore, not really my favorite day. I prefer days to be sunny. But we have an entrepreneur amongst us today, who's likely to give all of us a cheerful day or a sunny disposition just by reading the content and the information that she publishes. Today we have amongst us, somebody who's bringing out much needed light on the good things that happen around all of us our media, practically most human beings that we meet, usually peddle, negative stuff because it tends to carry itself around faster. But we've never really given given the positive stuff a chance and that is what Anuradha Kedia of the Better India is doing. She is changing so that she's changing what content we read and giving boost to good content. And she's our Maharani of scale today. It's wonderful to have a Maharani after having so many Maharajas after a long time.Anu, welcome to the show.

Anuradha Kedia  01:36

Thank you so much, Krishna. I think that's one of the most wonderful introductions I've heard, you know, relating me to sun to what I do to you know, bringing sunshine because I love sunny days. Well, I never linked it before, but maybe that's one of the reasons I started the Better India. So thank you for that warm welcome and I'm happy to be on a grandiose platform called Maharajas of Scale.

Krishna Jonnakadla  02:05

Awesome Anu. So Anu, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you're working on right now.

Anuradha Kedia  02:10

Sure. So Krishna I founded along with my husband Dhimant a platform called the Better India back in 2008. What Better India is today is India's largest positivity platform brand. You know, it's the place where you would find all of the impact related and solutions oriented news that you need to find about the country. As the name suggests, it is the better part of India. And the, you know, the place where it was born from was essentially an idea back in 2008. Where Dhimant and I were recently married couple we used to, and we were a avid consumers of news and what we felt was You know, what he does almost every single day was this lack of, of a complete spectrum of news, you know, we felt that there was the news was, was leaning so much too heavily on the side of sensationalism and negativity, and highlighting issues and things that were broken, which is no doubt important in a democracy, but at the same time, unless it's well balanced with news and, and highlighting of things that are working as well in our country, right, or the regular people who are actually trying to make a difference. We felt it was it was doing a huge disservice to all of its leaders. So it sprang from that notion, that ideology that within that there should be a better balance to what we are learning and what we are reading and what should news do to you. Right. So it was essentially you know, is there is there a concept and you know, can we use the power of the internet and social media and everything that was emerging at that point of time to build a community of people who are inspired to do good, all through a medium of storytelling of of, of highlighting good of inspiring people and empowering them with tools and information to be able to become changemakers in their own right. So this was this was the thought back in 2008, with which we launched, you know, what we what, what are the same what was essentially a blog at that point of time, you know, called the better India. And this, this was a side project for us for a couple of years completely bootstrapped and something that we did over weekends and you know, on on work day evenings along with our day jobs, and yeah, it was in 2013 that I actually quit my day job and started working on this full time and in 2015, Dhimanth joined as well as you know, taking it up as a fulltime enterprise, that's when we raised our first round of funding. And yeah, it's it's just been great going since then.

Krishna Jonnakadla  05:06

That is fantastic. In fact, I think what you're working on here is a dream project. Well, even if, at least for me, I see this as a dream project. And I'll tell you I think 20 years ago, or maybe 22 years ago, The Week, which is published by the House of Malayala  Manorama, which which is a which is a news publication. And as any other news publication, a lot of it is about obviously questioning the government. And you know, this, the sensational news, almost all of them have lost their independence and moral compass these days. And so much so that almost all of it has an agenda behind it, everything but the people, but what the week used to do and I used to be an avid subscriber because occasionally they would bring out good articles and like what you call as art cinema in filmdom, right cinema that should actually be shot because a producer believes that there are no takers for it. And similar to that the malayala Manorama believes that there isn't there are no takers for good stories. They will save all their good stories for their yearbook, there will be some sort of an annual issue. And one such annual issue actually featured it's either the late 90s or the early 2000s. The story of a couple who had worked, I think, between towns and villages of Karnataka and Kerala, and together they had revived 34,000 water bodies and lakes, a wide variety of things. I don't remember their name from memory, but they had also created some sort of self reliance and the renaissance in agriculture in the communities that they went to. Now, when you read news like that, you feel empowered. You feel that yes, there is change that is really possible and When you read the usual news, the feeling that you get is Oh, gee, I have no power. This system is so bigger than me. We've been like this forever. And, you know, there is no way nobody can change this country. Right? That's the feeling we get. So I used to think, why do why doesn't that become more regular, more mainstream, and then it doesn't need to be a yearbook. It doesn't need to be a cover story. It needs to be much more regular. Because, for instance, while there are a lot of leaders in American civil rights history, the blacks and the African Americans, most people only talk about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. Be that as it may, but Rosa Parks, she became a figure that all the other blacks rallied around her for just one simple action that she did, which is she boarded a bus if I remember the exact story correctly, she boarded a bus that was meant for whites or she sat on a bench that was meant for whites in the bus. And she fiercely refuse to give up. And they would the backstory to that was she was already waiting for a couple of times, and a couple of hours and there was no, you know, colored people buses as they were called back then. And it was a simple act of courage. While there are a lot of other people, you know, that fought lots of a lot of riots took place. That just simple act of hers was enough to galvanize a community and then to give birth give a lot of impetus to the civil rights movement. Right. So I'm a huge fan of what you're doing. I read your stories for a long time. In fact, in the US, there's one more outlet called Pass it on. I don't know what the exact name of that outlet is, but in huge billboards in every bus, you know, the bus terminal as we call, bus stop, there are always these huge portraits, for example of Whoopi Goldberg or Benjamin Franklin, all people Who were who punched way above their weight and overcome adversity to create amazing things. So, and after point in time this, I started noticing them in multiple places. And then when I looked up, it is a nonprofit. And what you're doing is awesome. So, but let's talk about the beginnings a little more. You started this as a blog. And at what point of time did you see interest in these stories? Where did you source the stories from? How did you find out the veracity of these stories? How did you establish the facts? Talk to us about those beginnings a little bit?

Anuradha Kedia  09:38

Yeah, sure. Krishna. So so when we started out, right, it was essentially Dhimant and I would go out, you know, in Bangalore, on weekends and then evenings to cover people and organizations that we knew were doing good work, you know, so. So these were genuine, genuinely good organizations and people who are engaged in volunteering or just you know, making a difference in some way. And our focus has always been on highlighting those stories that can show people how it's, it's really possible for people with any kind of background and any kind of, you know, whatever constraints people have, whatever stage of life they are in, they can still make a difference to really put their heart and mind to it. Right. So because I think the conventional, you know, way of thinking, in India at least, and I think almost all over the world has been that you know, there's a time and place for doing good or for thinking about others and that is usually at the end of your, you know, after you're done with your career and all the other years, you know, all your family, you know, everything that you need to do all all the responsibilities and duties that are fulfilled after that you could actually start looking at society. I think even from our scriptures the we are thought like there are different phases in life. And this is the phase in life you know this is kept for the end when people start thinking about others what we wanted to do is the early overturn that entire that entire mindset and and creating the narrative where people know that people can learn about other people who have not really waited for that one point of time in their life or you know, after a certain age where they are very comfortable in life where their kids are married, where they have, you know, amassed enough fortune and everything to start doing good. So that was what that was one of our main you know, thought process behind covering the kind of people we covered it was it was all about small people. It was about regular Joe's regular citizens of India, who who whether you know, they might be working full time they might just want to do something over weekends might just want to help out even their the you know, their own domestic helpers or Whatever it is, right. But the idea is that there are people in this country who are poor thinking about things and people we, you know, beyond themselves, and let's highlight their stories. So the way we, you know, the amazing part about this was that what started as a side project, you know, just the two of us covering these stories very soon snowball into a sort of a movement where movement of positive journalism where people would read these stories share it far and wide. And the the impact that started happening on the ground was was just mind blowing for us. You know, what, what we thought was, yes, let's inspire people and make them think that they can do something actually became this whole. This this whole movement where people started reaching out to the people we covered and asking how they could contribute, how they could donate their time, or money or resources, and all of these things. And, you know, we were regularly bombarded with emails and messages asking us you know, asking us To connect our readers with the protagonist and all of that. So, I mean, very soon, we started giving out all of those contact details, because it was just too much too much communication for us to handle, you know, at that time, but it was it was just so heartening to see that there was the kind of interest that there was, among people, there was this whole latent need among people that they wanted to help out in so many different ways. They just did not have enough avenues to find the people who needed that kind of help, you know, and the second great revelation that came to us was also the number of people who wanted to join our efforts and help us out in you know, finding these stories in reaching out and finding the protagonists, giving them highlighting their work, giving them getting them under the spotlight, amplifying their work, all of that, you know, so it was just incredible. There were people from all walks of life, whether it's mainstream journalists who started reaching out to us and asking us if we would like to cover some of the stories that they have, because their newspapers or magazines did not want to carry them to people who work in different fields on the ground, you know, whether they were doctors or lawyers, or wildlife conservationists or gender equality activists and various people who reach out to us and tell us about the work that we saw around them. So this was incredible. And the kind of network that we created, you know, we had over 500 contributors, you know, reaching out to us and and sending us a whole lot of stories of what they saw on the ground. So this helped us cover the entire country within a span of a few years. And these, these were these were our eyes and ears on the ground. And it was using this network that we were also able to verify and, you know, put out, put out stories that were very, very quantified. So this is what led us to really build this sort of trust and` goodwill that we even enjoyed to this day because the entire process was so organic and built over so many years, you know, the entire network that we have the entire reader base that we have everything grew so organically, that there's so much of trust and goodwill that we're able to enjoy and that's why when people when we cover a story on the Better India people know that it's very well you know, it's very well verified and fact checked and, and uncovered with the right intent.

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:29

Very interesting. 500 is a very large numbers a number for a start. Let's take it even back when you initially started. So you and Dhimant set out how did you source your first few stories? And how did some of these other people discover that you could be a platform to discuss this and how did you build this? Well, well, let's say a small group of 500 believers, which is certainly large for a start. How did that happen?

Anuradha Kedia  15:58

No 500 was not at the start right? 500 was about five to six years down the line, right? It was about 2014-2015 numbers. And I'm telling you, when we just started building our own in house team and started hiring, you know, reporters and editors and everybody in house before, I mean, by the time we started doing that we had we had, we had this large team, like this whole geographically distributed, remote working team, is what we can call them now working for us, you know, sending us these stories. So it really happened by word of mouth, right when our stories started getting shared everywhere and more and more people started reaching out and saying that this is amazing. I would want I want to be a part of, of your network of your efforts. And that's when, you know, we were like, yeah, I mean, you know, a lot of some of the people who even till today they are part of this network who regularly work with us and one or two have are also have also joined us full time Since then, because all because of the entire word of mouth, you know, sharing of stories and impact that happened right from the beginning. So yeah, it was it was incredible for us also to see that it was not by design, but it was definitely something that helped propel us faster.

Krishna Jonnakadla  17:20

So how long did it take in that beginning period where you launched a few articles, maybe the first few you directly sourced and then you created a network. So were these paid journalists? Or were some of them sharing some of these stories? Sheerly for the love of it?

Anuradha Kedia  17:37

Yes. So it was it was really a mixed a lot of the contributors who were sharing their stories virtually sharing for the love of it for the for the sheer joy of seeing these kind of initiatives. See that the light of day you know get the get the kind of spotlight that they were hoping they would they would get you know via via some media outlet. So since there was a company dearth of such media outlets, and then they would, they were really joyful to even see such initiatives being covered and reaching the right audience, right, our audience is essentially, you know, by virtue of the kind of stories we do, it's essentially the kind of audience that is interested in reading about positive initiatives about progress about change, and also helping out in any way that they can. Right. So that's how the entire audience also grew. Today, we have an audience of we reach out to almost 70 million people every month. And this this audience is is really I mean, I would say is the kind of filter audience which is really interested in stories of change and in helping out in in all the different ways that they can So yeah, I think it was so there were a few of course that we even paid because we you know, love their work, love the stories. We love everybody's but it was only that Yeah, we most of the contributors came on board to just share their stories, even without any sort of expectation of compensation in return.

Krishna Jonnakadla  19:06

And at what point did you realize that this had acquired a life of its own, and it had outgrown that little idea, that little beautiful idea that the two of you had thought about?

Anuradha Kedia  19:18

So I think we have an ever evolving journey, right. For us, I mean, so I'll know, the thing has been, like, even our ideology, right, the way we think about it, the way the what we always wanted to do, you know, in this space in the impact space has been evolving for us. I mean, a few tunes have been constant though. I think the some of the things that were remained constant right from the beginning is the idea of creating a large business in the country, which was focused on doing good, you know, we also wanted to break the myth that if businesses cannot be set up for, for good purposes, you know, and so, the myth that is like even today, many people believe that we are an NGO, we are not an NGO, we wanted to set up a sustainable business that could run while while working on the tenets of building a community of doing good of creating impact. Right. So it's an impact business in that sense. And the other thing that is remain constant is that everything we do we do it for impact. But the way we we've been going about impact right, what essentially started for us largely impact was defined as social impact, you know, how are we helping people in society who are doing something good or helping others and things like that, for the upliftment of of the marginalized communities and different areas like that has evolved to a large extent to become very sustainability focused, as well today, you know, we over the years We felt that there was a huge, huge need, I mean, all of the talk around climate change, global warming, all of this had a huge impact on us and the better India also evolved into becoming a large sustainability platform. You know, I'll be happy to call it India's largest sustainability focused branch today. And when I say it's more of an umbrella brand, because there are also different business models that have that have emerged, while we were taking, you know, stock of our of the needs of our consumers. So we also have the better home now to the better has become an umbrella brand with the Better India as the content focused enterprise and the better form has become eco friendly, home cleaning range of products, you know, so it's essentially a consumer brand that that is focused around giving people access to sustainable products, and that's where we're seeing this taking shape. You know, and growing in different ways where we know that we want to stand for impact and sustainability. And there are so many different avenues and directions for us to grow and evolve because there is such a huge need and there's no single brand in India which is focused around, you know, FMCG products which are environment friendly, which are non toxic, and which cater to people's needs. So, yeah, it's been it's been a it's been a journey that has been evolving with time.

Krishna Jonnakadla  22:31

We'll come back to better home in a little while. We'll definitely cover that. Let's go back to the Better India for a few minutes. So the the blog and the start. And today, it's like a it's it's a media outlet, right. It's a media outlet that publishers pick. Today the lines have blurred between blogs and news outlets slash media outlets, because a blog that informs readers Could be categorized as news as well. But the fundamental difference between blog and use being at least is that a blog can be an opinion. While a lot of news is opinion too but for the most part news should be about the reporting of facts rather than embellishing. So from that perspective, you are reporting facts, you are reporting stories about people that have made a difference. And 70 million is a big number. Is that that viewership or traffic from across the world? Or is that just India?

Anuradha Kedia  23:30

Yeah, so that traffic is definitely across the world. So almost seven, I would say around 70% of that is from India. So about 30% we have you know, traffic coming in from largely from the US, UK, Singapore and Middle East as well, you know, apart from many smaller countries, of course, but yeah, most most, like 70% of that is from India. In fact, we've had like people reach out from the smallest of small countries like Ethiopia. Pakistan also, you know, Netherlands, Italy, a lot of countries where people reached out and said that they wanted to set up something like, like this, you know, and if we would, we would be able to help them or mentor them. And we have. So it's it's really been amazing that people reach out that they're that people from all over the world reach out to the elite, the Better India and reach out to us as well. So yeah, I think the appeal is universal, you know, if I was to read a story about a change maker, and that change maker could be anywhere in the world, right? If it's a great idea with the great initiative, it really crosses borders. And that's why I think the appeal is so universal when we're talking about, you know, transformative ideas and initiatives that people take. They're not really confined to our country, though, of course, we love to read about what's going on in our country. We also feel a great sense of pride about what people are doing, and we feel a sense of involvement. But at the same time, it's amazing to read the same initiatives wherever else they are. In the world, that they might have been taken up, and also get inspired from them and through frequent reading them in our own country in our own communities, right. So I think from that perspective, we have we have audience from across the world.

Krishna Jonnakadla  25:13

So businesses and sites that started in 2008, up until 2012 -13, the social channels or the social networks, twitter, facebook et all, they had organic reach, because, you know, right now, organic reach is practically dead, because that's how they've changed their platforms. Obviously, they needed to monetize. How did that growth, growth combined in terms of viewership readership? Did you do anything specific? Did you do any growth experiments? Or has it always been? It is great content? Because usually we like we like to oversimplify things. Because, you know, that's how human brain stays at peace. We say okay, we started We created great content. And then we did word of mouth, we grew. But when you actually start appealing the audience so to speak, you realize that, you know, all growth stories have a lot of effort behind them. There was some sort of a method to the madness. And what what sort of things did you do to grow your readership or viewership?

Anuradha Kedia  26:20

I think, you know, I don't think anyone can survive without being experimental. You know, I think we have, for instance, we have definitely coded experimenting and trying out new things into our DNA now. So especially in the Digital India world, you really can't, you know, you really can't just depend on you know, good content pulling in people, right. I think that is that is a no brainer that has to that's the first basic, you know, check checkbox that you have to take off, but at the same time, unless you are innovative and unless you are trying out new things. You're going to become obsolete very soon, so we were definitely on to trying a lot of new things. We, we were very, very experimental, we've always been done and we continue to do so. I think we were also very, very early movers on a lot of a lot of fronts. You know, when when, for instance, when Facebook opened up videos, we were one of the first platforms to start putting out videos and we saw a huge traction on that on that front. So whatever it is, that is, you know, and we use technology a lot to our advantage. Right. So I think that's again Dhimant is also, you know, a computer science engineer and looking hard at heart. So it's really been a huge advantage for us to be ahead of the curve in that sense and be able to use a lot of tech to be able to analyze how we're doing to be able to push out new products, we're very product based as well, you know, so how do we how do we create impact in better, newer and better ways? How do we cover our stories in better ways, new formats that we could try out. So we, I think, I think every startup has to have that as part of their DNA, you know, innovating and experimenting. And thankfully, we have been a company that has always believed in that.

Krishna Jonnakadla  28:17

Can you talk a little about the so go go a little deeper and talk about the experiments describe a few that you tried and pick out a few that succeeded and a few that didn't go anywhere?

Anuradha Kedia  28:30

Yeah. So you know, for us, it's like, it's not even a we we never wanted to set up a media company as such right. For us. It was always about impact. And what we set up was an impact platform. So I mean, the idea was always how do we increase or improve the kind of impact that we're doing? How do we reach out to more people and get them more involved in various activities where they can participate. So you know, some of the early experiments were and have been continuing doing around improving the entire entire experience for our leaders and how they can come in, you know, come in through our stories and do so much more with a platform, right? Whether it's whether it's a lot of impact campaigns that we take up in house as well. We reach out, we partner with a lot of on ground organizations. And we've brought water and electricity to villages, we have built toilets and made places go open defecation free, we have funded slum schools, we've influenced policy. So there's a lot of there have been a lot of impact campaigns that we've taken up in house as well as partnered with so many other organizations out there. So So, you know, in order to amplify that impact, there have been various ways in which we try to do that by by effectively crowdfunding and getting people to come onto our platform and donate to various causes, with which we saw great traction, you know, back in 2016-17, as well. We continue to do that for a while. And even now we have in house impact projects, right? So it was it was really about how do we innovate on different products. We also launched, we were one of the first, I would say the first media company in the country who built their own WhatsApp platform, you know, at a time when WhatsApp did not have. They don't give out API's did not have API's for business. And it was not possible to have more than two to six people in one group. We had a Whatsapp group, we were reaching out to over 70,000 people on WhatsApp within just a couple of weeks. So you know, there was so many experimentations on tech that we took up in house and that we follow through. You know, it was Yeah, it's been a great journey of of experimentation.

Krishna Jonnakadla  31:00

What are the ones that you thought would work but really didn't succeed? The experiments?

Anuradha Kedia  31:06

Yeah, so interesting question because you know what, what I was really, really very keen on and very optimistic about was really a marketplace model. You know, because we saw from the stories that we would run and saw a lot of people would be very interested to buy the kind of products we were talking about, you know, whether they were product moved by marginalized communities, whether they were product made by small enterprises, and products that help people live a more sustainable lifestyle and all of these things. So So back in 2018, we started working on, on launching marketplace model on building a platform for small enterprises and NGOs and all of these people to come on board come and and, and be able to sell their products to our leaders, you know, so that was something that we were all gung ho about. We, we launched something called the design workshop, which was eventually called carnival.com. And we, we also were very successful at getting a lot of great enterprises on board. And we had listed over 10,000 products as well, you know, so it was it was incredible attraction that we saw. And we were able to get all of these amazing, you know, find Actually, it was a very well curated website platform that we had a product that was meaningful and utilitarian to people. didn't anticipate were a couple of issues, right. One was on the, on the, on the supply side itself, where we were, we had some amazing enterprises and you know, they were all small enterprises. But as you know, as because they were so small, a lot of times they could not really keep up with the demand, you know, and there your customer experience would some times not be all that great because the customer has been has ordered and has been waiting for a while for their products to ship, you know or that they are not able to. So we were not able to control a lot of things through the supply chain because of these issues. Right. So what led to I mean, what did not really work out there actually led to great learnings for us in terms of what what we should be doing next. And what we should do next was is what essentially led to the birth of the better home because we realize that there is a huge demand for products which are sustainable, which are eco friendly, which people which help people move towards a more conscious lifestyle. But at the same time, the supply chain is very fragmented and very broken. And we need to have better control over the supply chain, you know, and that's what led to us actually thinking about this whole process of starting our own launching our own brand of products because we would like at least I mean, we working with a lot of the same Social Enterprise, I mean, small, small enterprises that we were working with in carnival. But here, there's a much there's much bigger, you know, much better predictability for those enterprises much better control on the entire experience for the customer and a brand that they can trust as well. So yeah, there were definitely been ideas that didn't work. But that have led to, you know, even better ideas for us, I would say, I think that's what normally happens today.

Krishna Jonnakadla  34:29

I suppose what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger?

Anuradha Kedia  34:32

Yeah, exactly.

Krishna Jonnakadla  34:33

Interesting.So the marketplace model. In fact, you wanting to have a better experience for the customer. I'll ask you to peel that a little more. last couple of months, you know, obviously, given the COVID dynamic, and which I will also address to see what sort of impact you're seeing from COVID. We've ordered a few house supplies because they are all stuck at home and then trying to take care of home. Everything that you order and it has been have, we usually prefer amazon for all the things that Amazon offers. And we've lived in the US we've lived we live here now, we've had an opportunity to compare in the US. It's a joy, you know, when a package shows up, you know, inside that is something beautifully packaged in India, it's anything but to be honest with you, the last 10-20 items that have come from Amazon, they are so poorly packaged, and there is no joy in shopping at all. You don't feel like yeah, you know, the item inside it might be nice looking. Or maybe not because it's so poorly packaged. But unless and until it happens to be an Amazon Amazon original packaging that joy is not there. So even with Amazon Prime products, you know, that kind of quality control doesn't exist. I think that is some of the risk some of the risks that you have to you end up taking in a marketplace model, although it doesn't work exactly. That way in the US, I'm not surprised that you move to a more controlled marketplace or a calibrated marketplace kind of a model, where you have a much more greater say in the quality, you possibly have much more greater say in all the, you know, the messaging. So therefore, the consumer has a much better experience, so I'm not at all surprised you went that route. So, but let's talk about that a suboptimal experience. When you say they did not have a great experience. Was it the quality of the product? Was it the packaging? Was it the outcomes? What was it?

Anuradha Kedia  36:34

It's a mix? Right? So I think you know, it's a good point you brought about brought out about Amazon packaging, right, especially when it comes to you and you're so disappointed in so many ways. For me, the greatest disappointment used to be the amount of bubble wrap that you know, even the most mundane products which which couldn't break even if you throw them from 10 feet came wrapped in right the amount of sometimes they were So much thermocol, there was just so much unnecessary secondary packaging. And that was a huge pain point for me personally and one of the reasons for launching the marketplace was essentially that we will at least be able to, you know, let's let's really cut down that kind of unnecessary packaging that's going and filling our landfills you know, so on that front, yeah, there was so many, you know, one one part was definitely the the inability to meet demand cycles, right sometimes, like the the kind of partners, what we call partners were like our vendors and sellers on the platform that we worked with were, you know, so small and that was really our USP and where we really wanted to work right? We wanted to uplift those small, marginalized, you know, entrepreneurs, or artisan, and that is why we actually went out and found, you know, there's over 1000 of such such people and listed them, you know, We had over 10,000 products listed as well on the marketplace. But on the flip side, the issue was also that, you know, there were, there were so many different things that could hit them. And there were so many different places that you know, they would have to go out and sell for instance in exhibitions or you know, it could also be very seasonal, they might have higher demand coming during some festivals and things like that, or you know, they might run out of stocks. As soon as we see huge demand coming, you know, of course, we had a, we had a great content to commerce or sort of a model. So we would cover these cover stories of these enterprises or artisans. And we would see a huge surge in demand right? And many times they would not be able to meet, keep up with that demand. So and we really tried hard to control the experience of, you know, control the packaging and everything as well as when we actually started shipping out our own boxes and our own, you know, paper tape. And all of these kinds of packaging tool to the partners so they can use that instead of using bubble wrap and you know, the plastic leaves and all of that stuff. We started we we, we educated the partners on more eco friendly ways of packaging, right? What are the alternatives that they could use to bubble wraps and thermocol and all of these things. So we, so we took up a lot of these initiatives, and we saw, you know, we saw great response from the partners, but at the same time, it's very challenging to keep this up as you scale up, you know, and there'll be a lot of partners who are not able to keep up with that and will fall fall behind. So yeah, that's when that's when the it was difficult to keep up the customer experience and our promise to our customers.

Krishna Jonnakadla  39:45

That's, that's great. I'm actually amazed at the sensitivity. You have to be able to fulfill that demand to be able to keep up some of the promises that you that you make or you are making but let's change tracks and talk about COVID. We are we are recording this episode in the times of Coronavirus pandemic, arguably, you know, one of the greatest recent, I would say invasive events in human history but but it does have an upside for you it has a silver lining, what sort of, you know, stories are you seeing what sort of growth Are you seeing? How is COVID changing the Better India

Anuradha Kedia  40:26

You know, COVID is not drastically changing the Better India apart from you know, helping us discover a lot of COVID our soldiers you know, COVID people who've been helping others during these times and been they've been such amazing heartwarming stories that have been coming out and in fact launched a campaign to recognize and reward such heroes. You know, we have a 12 week campaign where we are awarding one lakh rupees to COVID soldier every week. You know, we have a jury who's picking out you know, these COVID soldiers, as we call them, so it's been amazing to see the kind of humanity we've seen around us the kind of fantastic stories. And I think in general, the consumption of content has definitely gone up, right, because there's so much, you know, more time and people are working from home and all of that stuff. And of course, I think what we really saw, interestingly, was the whole the whole connection of Coronavirus with positive news because the, you know, there was just so much anxiety that was building up during these times, with the kind of news that were being flashed across all of our, you know, TV screens and mobile screens and everywhere there was just so much so many mental health issues that were cropping up that we got a lot of response from people saying the Better India is really what has become essential reading for them. In fact, somebody did write to us and say that, in these times the Better India should be made an essential service So, it is so true because I think it's it's extremely important to know that there are good things happening that there are people who are, who are taking charge who are trying to find out or you know, to find cures and vaccines there is there's a lot of positivity in the world, right and, and really, things are not as bad as we start to think especially when we are living in our silos, or we are locked up in our homes, our social life, have come down to minimum, a lot of things might play on our mind and getting access to certain news has been a lifesaver for a lot of people. So that's the kind of response we've seen, we see our numbers shoot up tremendously during this time. English has our English reach almost, you know, went up by more than 50%. But more interestingly, our Hindi reach almost tripled. So it was the Better India Hindi which actually saw a major spike during this time. With more and more people discovering it and and becoming regular readers. We also have, yeah, so it's it's just been, I think, in that sense, it's been very important and and from the Better Home perspective Also, while we launched the better home in February, it was really sad that we were hit by a lockdown within just a few weeks. So we had to shut down all you know, we stopped taking orders for a couple of months, and then we relaunched in May, and since then we've seen the revenues double month on month. And that's, again due to the entire focus around health and hygiene, and especially around products that compromise our immunity, right. I think there's so much more awareness. So, you know, you have your regular chemical based products which which might kill everything around us, which are great for disinfecting, but they're also compromised our immunity in the long run and that kind of awareness, I think is what is has really propelled these products. To take off, especially during the COVID times, so yeah, it's been positive all around in that sense.

Krishna Jonnakadla  44:05

Yeah, I still remember when, I think early February or towards the third week of February when the Indian media started focusing on COVID. And practically every positive case, not even intense. Every positive case was breaking news. And and a lot of people don't know it. That's one of the other reasons why we need intuitively human beings know that. You know, there is good stuff happening out there. Yes, I don't think there are blatant deniers of the COVID pandemic. But, but then again, for instance, if we see the number of kids, not even adults, kids who died in 2017, from tuberculosis, that is one lakh, 27,000 and COVID numbers are nowhere near that in spite of it and there's so much information out there to show that one crisis after another has been amplified. And as a result of it, some real issues have suffered. So tuberculosis became the issue of tuberculosis became hostage to the hype that was created around the AIDS pandemic. And the funny thing is life and everything around it is really an amalgam isn't it? It's not really one issue, there was this chief economic adviser or chief economist of Goldman Sachs, who very early on when this was still unfolding in Wuhan, said, Thank God, something of this sort did not happen in India. And the presumption in there was that India was somehow a place where nothing of this sort could be managed. And we've seen these apocalyptic predictions for a long time. But if we go back and reread our history, and especially the ones that have been selectively hidden and deliberately hidden from us, We see so many examples. For example, in the fourth century AD in a while during the heydays of the Gupta Empire, or the golden period, there used to, there used to be a book about the man about town, and what should he do for fun on a Friday evening, you know, what sort of fun should he have? You know, all of these mean that, you know, it is an evolved, you know, country and a civilization, but we seem to have forgotten that part. So, I'm not surprised that during the COVID people did believe that there was a lot of hype around it, there is some amount of fear that definitely needs to be infused in people because people definitely need to be cautious, but a lot of the mental health issues that, you know, alluded to, has been completely forgotten because by design human beings are gregarious, we are, you know, people that believe in freedom, and therefore, just locking ourselves up. What we should possibly have had is a calibrated understanding. Yes, this disease has affected people at random. Tanya, our executive producer has seen someone close to her being affected my own uncles who are all you know, in their mid 50s, or right now recovering in the hospital. And it, it looks like, you know, they'll be out tomorrow day after it is real. But at the same time, I think people's courage and valor could have been marshaled a lot better. And I suppose you're the antidote, you know, for the lot of the negativity we see out there. So let's quickly cover the 70 million how you got to 70 million some inflection points. What were some of the initial things that let's say a coverage in some, some new some other news magazine, or maybe endorsement by some celebrity. I'm just giving you some examples of maybe some inflection points. Talk to us from 2008 to 2013. was in it when you raised Funding?

Anuradha Kedia  48:00

2015. Yeah,

Krishna Jonnakadla  48:02

So 2008 to 2008 to 2015. And then how were the numbers then? And then 2015 to now? What were all the inflection points that has that has brought you to 70 million?

Anuradha Kedia  48:12

Yeah. So I think, you know, there were no, there's nothing that has stood out as such as a as a major boost to the numbers as well. But there are, what I would say is that it's been very organic and incremental. Over the years, I think what helped was really, you know, where we saw numbers increasing was as we kept increasing our content, you know, from the beginning, where we used to probably publish one story a week to starting to publish, you know, more regularly to publishing daily to maybe publishing two articles a day when we hired someone, you know, things like that. So that was what really, really took up the numbers. And I think the other thing was around really a decision that we made quite early, maybe around 2014 or 15. That we will, we didn't really want to believe in this metric of getting people to our website, you know, we felt that it was a pretty outdated metric about how many people come to read your content on your own site. And what we really wanted to be was socially distributed, you know, platform. So we did not really care if people just came to our website to read our stories, but we wanted the stories to reach where people were, because we felt intuitively that it doesn't make sense. Like if I'm on Facebook, or if I'm on Twitter, I should be able to find to read those stories on wherever I am browsing. Rather than having to click and come to a particular site to be able to read the stories. It was also a very conscious decision because these are stories of impact, right. And these were stories that intended to amplify the impact that was happening as well. And we wouldn't really be achieving that purpose. If we kept insisting that people come to our website alone to Consume that content to learn about in stories to learn about these people, and to do something for them. So that is the reason why we really took this conscious decision to go to to take our content wherever people are, and that's the reason why we are very, very, we have a huge community on Facebook, on Twitter, we reach out over 600,000 people on Twitter, we've got over 2 million people on Facebook, Instagram is again a growing community for us and and so many different places that people can just find our content, read about the stories, read about the initiatives, the ideas, and move on do something with that rather than just click and come to our website. So that really helped propel our growth as well.

Krishna Jonnakadla  50:42

Okay, and any particular platform, there is a tendency amongst us as humans to search for the silver bullet, that one thing or those two things and what you are alluding to, alluding to is like what we see reality happen but amongst them aware, were there some things that you You thought that sort of acted as catalysts or galvanize the entire growth in readership.

Anuradha Kedia  51:05

So yeah, again, try looking at silver bullet. Not exactly. But another thing that that I can think of that has really helped us grow is languages right? When we started expanding into regional languages, again, we were able to tap into this whole new audiences that was hungry for such news but did not have access to them in the kind of publications they they were consuming. So that opened up an entirely new audience for us. And if you look at small boosts, I mean, there was there was the the time that Prime Minister, you know, Mr. Narendra Modi also spoke about about the Better India on his Mann Ki Baat, I'm sure we definitely saw some sort of, you know, some amount of traction there like people discovering it for the first time he said that it was essential reading for him, you know, he made sure that he read it at least once a day to find out what happening in India, what good things are happening in India. So these kind of things are definitely a boost. But I would say for us, we've never had too much of an external influence on, on our, on our increase or whatever growth numbers, it's largely been a function of the kind of stories that we cover the kind of audiences we reach out to, and how do we continuously keep, you know, expanding and growing that audiences, you know, whether we reach out to different kinds of audiences, right, in our very interesting, yes, or, you know, even the demographics, if you look into it, like 5050, you know, gender parity. So, we have almost 50% men and women readers and it's the, it's just all about reaching out to different kind of demographics, you know, whether it's the elderly, whether it's young kids, whether it's, you know, students, it's our content, basically, who we put out a lot of content that appeals to different age groups and different you know, people different interest in life that really helped us grow.

Krishna Jonnakadla  53:03

I loved what you said about taking your content where people are, and you said it so simply or in, in such a simple manner. But it's it's profoundly profoundly impactful. And I couldn't agree more with you. And I'll and I'll tell you why, in in the year 2011, I was co founder of a startup called mango mobile TV, which is very similar to what Amazon Prime and Netflix are today. And the funny thing is, our tech partner was a partner who had their own set top box, it's a term that we are not very widely familiar in India because we only have either Tata sky or Airtel. Set top boxes but in the US, there are set top boxes for a variety of things. For example, the fire stick or the Chromecast, which are actually set top boxes that have grown. One of the things that Netflix did very, very Early on, and they've done so superbly, and continue to do it is to really have Netflix out there, wherever users are, wherever users were. And the funny thing is, the set top box, for instance would be you would you would you could walk into an electronics retailer like Best Buy, and even today, you're likely to see 20-30 set top boxes, although the numbers have come down because of the advent of amazon fire stick and then the Chromecast. But at one point in time, you could walk in and then you could see cheap Chinese knockoffs. You could see Sony build one Western Digital build one, you would, you would see all sorts of them. And the funny thing was, no matter what box you bought, Netflix used to be there on every single one of them. So today, their viewership runs into the hundreds of millions back then their DVD or the mail order DVD business was much much bigger than their streaming business, in fact, in 2009 2010 around the time I started mango, they only had two hours of content that you could watch because their whole content library was limited. Like today they have, you know, thousands and thousands of films and then, but in contrast, we had close to 10,000 films, which were and, and and videos and at that point in time, and perhaps even today is a largest library of content. And we had such a resistance internally to Yes, we had we were a little short on resources. But see startups are, you know, a startup is another name for punching above your weight in being more resourceful, right. So even if in that, let's say the viewers viewers were a million or other number of customers were a million in that even if there were 5000 customers that had an obscure brand set top box, they had created a Netflix app and then they were out there. So they were so good and distribution is in many ways, you know, for example, with films and most product distribution is the is the king, you know, distribution may can make even an average product successful. Right. So I'm with you on that.

Anuradha Kedia  56:14

Yeah, however good the product is, distribution is one of the most underrated things that people focus on. You know, I think it's very, very important to focus on that in addition to building a great product.

Krishna Jonnakadla  56:25

Right, right. Yeah, I think that's what you mentioned. And I think intuitively you sort of figured out that you have to go, you know, where the people were. That's awesome. So I thought I would contrast this better so listeners could understand this. I have a different question. We all harbor passions in our heart, right to do good. And like you early on alluded you know some of us think, Hey, we have to reach a certain point in life to start doing some of the things from an impact perspective. But as John Lennon says, you know, life is what has To you, when you're busy planning other things or doing other things, this is something that you have to make happen. But yet at the same time, it's one thing to dream of a passion like this. And for that to become your full time thing, right? So you and Dhimant started this and and if there is bound to be this degree of discomfort, I don't know if you had it you possibly you know stepped right in when Better India took off. And then you realize that it was no longer this, you know, nice little thing, but it had become much larger. And now, from a passion it was likely to be something full time or maybe even go define going for something that is that was going to define the rest of your lives. How did you receive that? And do you ever have that feeling or you feel that we have that feeling today? or How did and what did you do with that?

Anuradha Kedia  57:59

Oh, Absolutely right. Like, we would have never imagined that we would reach out to 70 million people in India, like we didn't even know there were so many leaders in India, like when we started. So it's definitely been, you know, much larger than life sort of an undertaking for us what really started out as something we felt, you know, we started out of passion. And we felt Yes, this was this, these are the stories that we just want to be told we want them to have a life and be able to generate impact is now a force that is able to, you know, influence policies is able to inspire people create awareness, create habit change, create a mindset change, change the whole narrative, in fact, and what we've seen since we started is, you know, what was, you know, there was not a single publication that would cover such news to now like almost every publication in India has a positive news section, you know, of some sort or the other so it's really, really changed the entire media landscape and narrative in a lot of ways, and it's, it's like you said, You know, sometimes it's all consuming, right? Not something that we knew would be happening when we started as a side project. And it's definitely a huge undertaking for us. We sometimes do wonder, you know, where, where we started and where we are today. But at the same time, I think because it's been in the impact space. And because we've always had, we've been able to see the impact taking shape in front of our eyes, right? A lot of times, like, with stories, you're not able to exactly see what's happening. But a lot of the times, like the campaigns are taken up and all the protagonists who reach out to us, you know, on a daily basis, we get so many emails from people thanking us for giving them that voice for getting for amplifying their work for getting them you know, and from so many others, you know, thanking us for the ideas and inspiring them. It's really been an incredible journey. So I think the impact is what has really kept us going. And I think that that really, you know, keeps us excited all along, whether it's the better home product, whether it's the better India stories, everything is impactful and meaningful, you know, so, I mean, for us, it's so important to even measure the impact because it's such a huge motivating factor for us. Right, we, we do get back to our protagonists check with them, you know, how are they doing? What happened after that, that impact is, is something incredible for our entire team, not just for us, right? Even though the battery home products has just been a month since we launched and we've already saved, we've already you know, shipped out 65,000 bottles, and we've saved that many bottles from going to landfills, because they are all reusable bottles. It's it's just and if we've actually saved 50 million litres of contaminated water from entering our oceans as well. So everything thing that we do has, but you know the angle of impact. And that's really something. We obviously have days of highs and lows. But this is what really, you know, helps bring us up again. So, so thankful for the opportunity to have been able to do this.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:01:17

Have you ever been overwhelmed? I know positively. It has been overwhelming in terms of the growth you've had. But have you ever had, oh, gee, what I started part time now I have to do full time. Have you ever had that feeling?

Anuradha Kedia  1:01:31

I will be lying if I say no right? Definitely Yes. I think that happens. So to every entrepreneur and we have been doing this for 12 years now. So definitely gets overwhelming sometimes. And, you know, to, you know, we were both actually we don't even come from the media background. We were both engineers. Happily, you know, in our engineering jobs after that we done we actually met at the Indian School of Business while we were doing our MBA and you know, going about our business and how we find ourselves, you know, in a media setup, which was completely new for us, right? When we started out and all of the years, we, we discovered things for ourselves, we try to set up so many different things and build an organization for start from scratch. It's so many times you find yourselves out of your depth, right? And it's, it's definitely that sense of being overwhelmed at times. But yeah, I think, too, I mean, an entrepreneur has to really figure things out and keep going and find new challenges to keep the journey exciting at all times. And I think that's what we've really managed to do. And like I said, the impact keeps us going. I think what also helped us in some sense was, while it was very challenging to enter, domains like media and fmcg, and all of this where we have absolutely No experience, or educational background or anything of that sort. It also helps us to reimagine the entire sector. You know, I think if I had gone to a journalism college or I had some sort of exposure to this before I started, the Better India, I might have been, I might have done things more conventionally. So I think what really helped us, you know, probably set up an entire new entirely new paradigm was because we had zero exposure, and we had to really build things from scratch, you know, just imagine everything on our own, and and say that this is the kind of organization I want to build, and then go about and build it set up our own norms, our own rule, and our own value systems. So I think that's been a very, very interesting challenge for us.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:03:49

I'm glad you were honest with this question. I think in the year 2006 when, my wife and I were married for a little more than a couple of years. And we got suckered into, you know, one of those network marketing things, because one of our best friends were part of it. And for me, the wake up call was, we were moonlighting in it. And one day, one of the leaders, you know, the ones that had achieved some milestones, made a passing comment saying, for you guys, this is a career because this is exactly what you are going to be doing. And, you know, that hit me like a ton of bricks at that very moment, saying, oh, gee, is this going to be is this going to be our career and then I started imagining, okay, if this was going to be my future career, did I really want it and then I realized that I didn't want it. And the way a lot of people in it approach it is there are some things you need to do in the beginning. And then the phase is over with a lot of things are practically all things all of them are journeys and there is there is very rarely a destination. Right? so I can imagine the thought process that would have gone through your mind. And let's touch upon the, you know, the husband and wife founder relationship. How is it is either you know, Eden of roses or, you know, Highway to Hell, because, you know, you could still have a great relationship, but working together in a enterprise with responsibilities is not exactly a bed of roses. Right? How has that been?

Anuradha Kedia  1:05:27

Yeah, something we get asked a lot. Krishna to be honest. It's, you know, I, I, I'm sure like, I've heard so many people ask me this i and i think i have such a boring answer for them. Because, incidentally, not been not been a throny, you know, journey for us. In that sense. I think we what really worked for us is that we really complemented each other in our skill sets and the kinds of responsibilities that we need. But we wanted to take off. And I think that's what has really, you know, it prevents us from really stepping on each other's shoes or something like that that might happen, you know, between a working couple, but I think I don't know, I think there's always been the sense of, you know, a shared purpose and understanding between us. Like, like I said, this was not this is not a regular enterprise, right? It's not it's not a business just for profit business set up for maximizing profit in that sense, but it was always a, it had a purpose and passion behind it. And I think that that just made our bond that much stronger, you know, so it really helped us deal with a lot of things together, keep ourselves motivated. And also, you know, find out a lot of things about each other in the process. So, surprisingly enough, it's been a journey that has brought us closer, rather than tear us apart. And I think like The main reason is because, you know, we've been able to understand where each other's boundaries are, where, and what kind of responsibilities each one of us takes up. And, and and be able to just candidly discuss everything, you know, without without the fear of being judged, or without the fear of feeling. I yeah, I don't know what it is. Exactly. I can't really pinpoint that. But for us, it's been just a remarkable journey. I think the only flipside of working with your partner is that you end up talking about what you're doing all the time. And that happens all all the time in our at our home as well. So there's no point where you really switch off, you know, and so it becomes sort of all consuming in that way. And I think that is, that's definitely one of the flip sides of working with your partner that I can think of

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:07:55

who's the more grounded balanced one amongst the two of you?

Anuradha Kedia  1:07:58

And I'm sure you know the answer. Great. It has to be me.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:08:02

well, then in that case, I guess

Anuradha Kedia  1:08:05

 Since Dhimant is not here to counter that I can safely get away with.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:08:11

Well, I used to hear, I used to hear someone say, as a lady of the house, are you a thermostat or a thermometer? Meaning do you do you go up and down with the temperature of the spouse? Are you? Are you the one who knows how to keep the temperature in check? So I suppose I'll take it that you are the thermostat between the two of you.

Anuradha Kedia  1:08:35

I think it's the most I think I'm definitely more temperamental and he's definitely the more grounded reasonable one. So for all honesty, I have to admit that.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:08:45

You just gave away the reason for the success. So awesome. Okay, obviously, you're a platform of so many stories, thousands, what have been two or three stories that have really stayed with you practically Something that has touched you, and that continue to that you continue to sort of go back in and say, Okay, this happened this person, what are some of those?

Anuradha Kedia  1:09:08

Oh, there are so many like over the years, I think we've covered over 10,000 stories and so many stay with me. I think I'll touch upon some of the earliest ones, right? That really, really had an impact. For instance, there was, I mean, there was a story of remarkable woman that we covered. I think she's been heavily covered since then. But she was very less known when we covered her. She's gone on to win several awards, I think including the Padmashri and things like that, but her name was Sindhu Tai. And she was a person who was, you know, a lady who was abandoned, you know, right from birth, like some some people used to just don't get any break. She was one of them. I think. I think she was abandoned at birth. She married somebody and that was a terrible Marriage, very, very abusive, and her husband left her when she was pregnant in her like eighth or ninth month of pregnancy. She, you know, gave birth and raised her kids on her own trying to, you know, make a living somehow on the, on the streets. And in spite of that she ended up not just raising her own kids, but also raising several other kids, I think about 25-30 or more kids from the, you know, from the railway platforms and all of these places that she would find them and she had over I, you know, she had hundreds of grandkids after after everything, she she's just, she raised them by begging on the streets and being able to support them somehow, you know, being able to manage everything. So it's it's stories like those in the initial days that really kept us that that amazed us at one end and on the other end, it just made us feel very strongly about continuing to run this platform because when we covered her story, there were hundreds of people who reached out to us and said they wanted to help her out that they wanted to do something for her. And all of that actually, I very underplayed the number of orphans that she helped she raised, she had 1400 orphans in her life time, till the time we covered her. And these were all kids that she would find, you know, abandoned here and there and all through our measly whatever she earned by begging on the streets. This, you know, there was these kinds of stories, there was another story that we covered about a photography club for the blind. You know, it was such an amazing concept when we heard of it, and we were like, yes, this is something that you know, we should totally talk about, you know, maybe they'll get a lot of support, maybe more people will come to know about it. Maybe some visually impaired person will benefit from the story way back you know, when we had like a few hundred readers also, and and the beautiful part of it was within a few days of our covering the story we did hear back from a visually impaired girl who said that she This is exactly what she was waiting for her entire life. To find out, she was very she felt very passionately about, you know, photography and she was not able to find any sort of any sort of outlet for that. So it was, these were some of the earliest stories that we covered but they were the stories that really gave us that conviction that this is something so important. These are the kind of stories that people need to read and learn about and go out and do something with that. You know, so these are some These are just two of the hundreds of stories. I can narrate if you have all day.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:44

Yeah, well, these are really heart touching story. There is no doubt about it. It is the story that perhaps doesn't fit the Slumdog Millionaire narrative, right? Because it's Slumdog Millionaire has kids and begging and orphans on the street, but it has Anything but the kind that you would read about something like Sindhutai's story I, now that you mentioned it, I think I have read that story. Incredible. You know, I was in my research for this. I was looking at one story that I think you carried maybe some time ago or Yeah, about a week ago. This was about a lady called Sucheta Dalal who exposed the Harshad Mehta scam. Within journalism, there is a dictum called follow the money, right? And I think recently, I don't know which web series or movie it was, when you follow events, you don't really put things together or rather you just uncovered a few things but when you follow the money, you uncover a whole lot of different things is something you know i think that's how the saying goes and she if she possibly did that, I know you don't yet do it. Someday, I think I hope the better India will do or something. Something does investigative journalism follows the money and sort of brings about the political change that we badly need. Demonetization is perhaps the most grandest follow the money experiment across the world, because I know that the intelligence that was gathered from it did give the government not that the government didn't already know, but it possibly confirmed a vast amount of their suspicions about how money was flowing in and out of the system. But we haven't yet seen that put to use or maybe it's a two decade plan to put that to use but be that as it may, investigative journalism, easier to find mainstream, you know, application in India. I hope that changes and Modi you talked about Modi, you know, reading the better India I'm not surprised when Sardar Patel was a freedom leader fighter he used to read you know, from what I read in the book freedom at midnight, you would wake up at 4am in the morning, and between 4am and 8am. In the morning he would read newspaper 44 newspapers from across the country to get a sense of what was going on in various states and provinces of India, and no wonder, you know what he did, he did what he did. So that's fabulous. Anu it has been a terrific discussion, discussing your story. And let's talk maybe before we wrap up about the better home, it's an interesting foray, I can understand the whole landfill and making and I can understand even what COVID is doing in terms of immunity and all of that, but this is a really extremely crowded segment. You know, just wearing a strategy hat here for a second. I would have expected that given a lot of impact stories. I personally believe a lot of impact should be entrepreneurial in nature, because two and a half decades ago, when I was very active in the rotary, we had Madhu Dandavate, I think who was then Finance Minister or had some economical economic position in the, you know, economics departments of the Indian government in the I K Gujral government. And he very touchingly spoke about all the welfare schemes that were that the government had done. But the unfortunate part has been that you know, welfare only goes that far. It is about wealth creation, we badly need wealth creation. And a lot of your impact stories I see are about entrepreneurs making different devices. 15 years ago, I invested in a company or a sort of a social enterprise called rural innovations, which was touring all the hinterland to find out new innovations and actually commercializing them. I thought maybe that would have been a better outlet where you could easily blend what you're doing with the better India and bring light to that. So the choice of the better home is a little intriguing from a strategy perspective. Can you throw some light on that?

Anuradha Kedia  1:16:55

Yeah, I mean, absolutely. Krishna. The the demand has, I mean, the choice has been made by our readers more than as you know, we have, over the years tried so many different ways of engaging with our readers right and gauge their response to various possibilities, like crowdfunding, you know, like, like different ways of creating impact. And what we saw was the early a gap in the whole sustainable product space where people, what we saw from our leaders was that they there was such a, such a need and such a desire to lead a more sustainable life. I mean, people were becoming more aware about the damage to the environment about everything that we heard about climate change and global warming. And people wanted to make a shift. And that's what we saw through you know, a marketplace model. Also, the products that we were listing which were sustainable, which are which people wanted to adopt for the eco friendly lifestyle were flying off the shelves. Actually the marketplace model was a great teacher for us. It helped us mine so much data on what people really want. You know, there's so much talk about different things, but eventually it's only from that data Can you can you understand from solid data that you can understand what people are really interested in. So, that really showed us the path that sustainable products and especially you know, everyday use kind of sustainable products, which are utilitarian which people need and high frequency which people use in their homes, was a huge gap that was lacking in the market. There was so many products and brands that were on the, you know, on the hinges and call themselves natural, organic, and all of that, but they were really not solving the problem of being or being  biodegradable of using plant based, you know, ingredients, and all of those things. So that was a need that we actually captured through the Marketplace model. And like I said, you know, sometimes, you know, your failures are your biggest, you know, success, whatever, you know, they help you with the turnaround the most. And our marketplace. Carnival really did that for us. It gave us immense and invaluable data on what kind of areas we should get into and what kind of products are the audience is really looking for. And since we had a huge base of the audience to the Better India and the better, you know, the Carnival as well, we were able to actually do get a lot of this data that that was that was real and leading in a lot of ways.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:19:53

I find it fascinating that this is where it lead you. Amazing. So before I ask you for your closing comment If I were to ask let's say if you were to describe the better India into using two things one is in terms of numbers, stories, we've already discussed the number of readers stories and you know, the ones that are popular and something that would be different from what others would believe. So for instance, on LinkedIn, you know, at least while I'm not very active on the social channels, what I usually find is off late it has become the stories that I see are okay somebody takes a picture of somebody on on the street and then Okay, this person did this this person did this. We don't we don't know if that story has been verified or not. So what are your popular categories? And what are the ones that are surprisingly popular categories and things that may not be you know, that people might believe and actually in reality, we totally different.

Anuradha Kedia  1:20:52

So the most popular categories are around, you know, sustainability and sustainable living you All right. So from out stories around organic farming to people making a shift, you know to words being more responsible in their consumption to you know, adopting home gardening practices and starting to grow their own fruits and vegetables at home to recycling and upcycling what they have, you know, there are so many different ways in which we, you know, talk about sustainability, but this has emerged as the one you know, unifying thread for all of our leaders where they are seriously interested in knowing about sustainable life choices and following them. So, in a way, I mean, like I, you know, if I look at it, the better India has morphed into a really influential sustainability brand, you know, and a voice in the, in the space of, you know, changing mindsets and creating more awareness around issues. did do, and solutions related to, to the environment as such, so, it that that really has been, in a way a little bit of a surprising shift for us also like, this was around 2-3 years ago that we started seeing this huge shift happening, where a lot of our sustainability content started seeing a lot of traction. And that's where we said, yeah, this is this is something that really not only excites us, but excites a lot a large percentage of our readers as well. And we started going deeper into that space. And, you know, since then a lot of our decisions have been driven by that audience, which really comes to us to learn about, you know, about eco friendly living, and, you know, being more responsible citizens of the planet. So yeah, it's, it's, it's been that sort of a surprising change in some way. So, while we cover a lot of, you know, social change makers and all of that, but at the same time, when we Talk about sustainability. I mean, it's definitely one of our largest categories. And most popular one.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:23:07

Interesting. And in closing, if you had to share your two cents or words of wisdom for would be entrepreneurs and current entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, what would that be?

Anuradha Kedia  1:23:18

I don't think I'm that wise, Krishna. But, I would say that it it's, it's really important to to understand and to make changes to to your assumptions you know as when they come like a lot of times entrepreneurs are too married to their ideas and too blinded by their passion to really see whether their product market fit or not. I think that's been one very important learning for us that you have to you know, keep your eyes open and keep a feedback loop always or, you know, open Your customers, we do that a lot with the better India we also do that a lot with the better home. In fact, we have customers you know reach outs, we actually speak to our customers every fortnight. And we we get them together on a call, we have built a community where everyone talks to each other. So we are we're always in that constant feedback loop where we're learning a lot from our customers. And I think that's something that a lot of entrepreneurs neglect or they they might think that they know better but I really do believe that if we had not, you know, understood or learnt from very quickly from the limitations of the marketplace and moved to the brand model, we would have been in a bad position now. So I think it's very, very important to learn, you know, to to not be stuck to an idea and actually evolve very quickly and keep learning from your listenening to your customers and learning from them.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:24:51

 Terrific,Anu it has been fantastic and an engrossing discussion, I had a great time listening and your passion is, you know, coming through with every response and whatever you've shared about your story, we know that this is one more, the COVID is going to be perhaps one one of the smaller inflection points and you are going to grow from here. Maharajas of scale will be there to talk to this Maharani, again in the off scale again in the future when you scaled a new peak, we wish you the very best and anything else you would like to add in closing before we sign off?

Anuradha Kedia  1:25:00

it's been a it's been wonderful speaking to you, Krishna, I've really enjoyed this conversation and wish to I hope to speak to you again again in the future.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:25:53

All right Anu.

Tania Jadhav  1:25:56

We hope you enjoyed the story. If this story made a difference to you,tell us by leaving a comment on the website, or our social media channels, help us Spread the Love by subscribing, liking and sharing our show. We welcome speaker suggestions and collaboration. Write to me at heythere@maharajasofscale.com