“In a networked world, it’s easier for women to collaborate and promote each other. Women just need to be confident and believe in themselves.”
Having invested two decades in storytelling in the media environment, Rashmi Pratap – Co-founder & Editor and Urvashi Dev Rawal – Co-founder & Deputy Editor got together to launch their start-up – 30Stades.com, a digital magazine. And, in a little over six months, their business venture has managed to reach out to a global audience! In a conversation with Shree Lahiri, they trace their early beginnings, and then discuss the inspiration, the challenges faced, the support received, the entrepreneurship environment, future plans and more…
Q. Tell us a little about your enterprise. How long ago did you start up?
30 Stades went live in January-end this year. It is a digital magazine focused on interesting stories from the nooks and corners of India. Both Urvashi and I have spent nearly two decades working in India’s top media houses and our joint experience is close to 40 years! Stories on art, craft, culture, and grassroots and the little-known local developments that change people’s lives have always been under reported. The idea was to bring these stories to the fore.
Secondly, a lot of life changing stories were also a result of entrepreneurial grit and determination besides philanthropy and CSR. So we included these sections. Lastly, our strong focus is on stories that impact lives, our heritage and our future.
Q. What did you aim to achieve? What is the impact you are making now?
We both wanted to do stories we believed in and focus on issues which often find little space in popular media like giving a voice to local community workers, NGOs, tribal organisations, sex workers, LGBTs, slum dwellers, masons, small farmers, artists, craftsmen etc. And we wanted to do long-form journalism to offer immersive reading where the reader takes away more.
In the little over six months that 30 Stades was launched, we have managed to take these voices to a global audience. Over 25 percent of our readership is from overseas, mainly from the USA, followed by Canada, United Kingdom, UAE and Australia besides other countries. Our stories are frequently followed up by other publications.
Q. Where did the inspiration for setting up this business come from?
While we both were enjoying our work, it ceased to be challenging after a point. We were on auto-pilot. And that need for self-realisation prompted us to start something that could make use of all that we had learned, since the time we started our careers together at United News of India (UNI). Back then, we would write on a wide range of subjects and we wanted to go back to that diversity. That led to 30 Stades.
The 38 years of our joint work experience is spread over four cities and eight publications, including India’s top news agencies, newspapers and magazines.
Q. Could you tell us about the challenges faced by you?
The main challenge is carving out a niche in a market already full of digital platforms. There are much older and established players, who have gained a dedicated readership over the years. We are too young.
Since we report heavily from the grassroots, many of our writers are not well-versed with the rigours of long-form writing. We understand that they have had a limited exposure to features. But it also means that we have to work extra hard because our focus is to create good and unique content.
Q. What is the support you got from family and friends?
Urvashi: My family has been fully supportive of the move. Even though quitting a job was a radical decision, especially at a time when the job market is bleak, I am thankful for the support from my husband and parents.
Rashmi: My parents, in-laws, husband and kids have all been very supportive. Being a financial journalist himself, my husband not only gave me the guidance needed to start off on an entrepreneurial journey, but also provides constant moral support. Within two months of launching, India went into COVID-19 lockdown. My kids helped by turning super independent without domestic helps, knowing well that I was busy with the third baby – 30 Stades.
Q. Do you think the current business scenario encourages women entrepreneurship?
Yes, we think there are good opportunities for women entrepreneurs who are serious and willing to slog. In a networked world, it’s easier for women to collaborate and promote each other. Women just need to be confident and believe in themselves. There are challenges and problems in any field, you just have to be determined to overcome them or have an alternative solution.
Q. What are your future plans?
We have resources to report from 23 states and UTs of India. We plan to expand this coverage pan India over the next six months. Since 30 Stades has been set up as a multimedia platform, we will also expand our video and audio offerings, which have so far been limited due to the pandemic.
Q. Any tips for someone starting out today?
There can be never-ending tips. But the one we both feel strongly about is having a social media presence. Anybody planning to get on the entrepreneurial journey must be active on social media today. Social media users can be your consumers, financiers, advertisers, collaborators and a lot more. Also, overnight success stories are rare. Mostly, it is a long road to success. Have patience and keep the faith.