TV host, blogger, best-selling author, digital influencer, entrepreneur, content producer – Malini Agarwal is all this and more. Founder of an eponymous content behemoth, Malini Agarwal wears these myriad hats with élan. Her lifestyle and entertainment content platform, MissMalini Entertainment, is one of the (if not ‘the’) largest and most influential home-grown content platforms in the country. So much so, that Malini is counted among the most influential women in Indian media and has even made it to the Fortune India’s 40 Under 40 and GQ 50 Most Influential Young Indians lists.
Here, we indulge in a free-wheeling chat with the empress of entrepreneurship, coaxing valued nuggets of information out of her.
Tell us about your journey from being a dancer to emcee, to heading a youth channel as Content Head – Digital, to starting a blog which has now shown you great career heights.
The journey has been really incredible for me. It was one of the situations where I was not expecting many things to happen, but they happened one after the other. As you mentioned, I was a dancer for a while. At that point of time, I never thought I would get into the digital space. In fact when I started my career, there was no such thing in the vicinity. I realize now, when I look back, that all these things that I did at various phases in my career, were actually preparing me to do the job that I am doing right now. I really enjoyed being in the digital space with Channel V and that is where I learnt what I am doing today. I was a radio jockey for 9 years and that’s where I learnt a lot about personal connections. That made me move towards my blog.
How did the blogging start and how did the initial idea happen?
Blogging started when I was writing a column called Malini Mumbai for a paper. It was fun writing it, but there was never enough space to write all that I wanted to. In 2008, a friend of mine came up with the idea of blogging. But to tell you frankly, I actually did not even know what a blog was. My friend told me that it was something like an online diary. I wrote my first blog in 2008 as a hobby. As days passed, it grew and there were people who got in touch with me to write for them. The growth was so tremendous that now it’s not just a blog. We call it Miss Malini Entertainment. We produce our own TV shows, have come up with many seasons of Inside Access with Miss Malini, ad films, TLC, web series, etc.
Did you find any problem areas when you started blogging initially?
The only problem area when I started blogging was that people did not take me seriously. Nobody knew what blogging was. But I always made sure I had a full-time job with me even when I was blogging. I used to blog side by side while I had a full time job in Channel V. Over time, people started to understand that blogging is real.
When did you think of working out a business strategy with your extensive blogging?
I used to work with a friend of mine, when she told me to take this up seriously. When my husband, studying at Harvard Business School, came back, he made me realize that blogging is the future. He persuaded me to give it a shot. And when my partners joined in, we thought of working it out as a business.
How does it feel to be called as ‘Digital Influencer’?
It feels great. It is a great tag to have. I think, being responsible in whatever we do, we have to influence people in the right way. It’s time to let our young generation understand that it’s about doing what you are passionate for and what you are confident about.
What is your take on the blooming digital market today?
It was bound to happen. We are living in a space where people use smart phones for anything and everything. So the big digital market will surely grow with time.
What do you think are the pros and cons of the digital space?
Pros are many – you connect to so many people from around the world; you can have your huge network. The con is that it has become noisy, in the sense that there is so much available on the internet that sometimes trolling and sadness create an impact on people’s mental psyche. So, every now and then, one needs to step back from the digital world and detox.
Being linked with major fashion properties in India, what is your personal take on fashion?
I think what fashion really says is about the personality of a person. It’s not about the trend that a person follows. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and confident is fashion.
MissMalini has now ventured into the web-series space. How has this experience been?
It’s been fabulous. I did not know anything about producing a TV show or web-series. I have learnt a lot during this process. This has brought a digital feeling to it, a young vibe in the way people create content.
Tell us about the series, The Girl Tribe.
I started the series as a Facebook group with just 200 girls. It very quickly grew to become a 5000 and 10000 and even a 15000 club. I realized it was a great way for women to connect, inspire and support each other. I also realized that no place was doing this. So I wanted to create a show that would help women talk about things nobody ever talked about; like the menstrual clock, having children and then giving up work, trolling, bullying etc. I tried to get in people who have the best of stories to say and share it with viewers. The show is meant to bring women from all walks of life on the same platform.
The best part is that people have responded to it very well. A lot of them have said that it is amazing that we showcase such stories. Women watching it feel that somebody is finally talking about topics that nobody talked about before.
You have also written the book, To the Moon? Take us through the experience.
It is again a great feeling. It is always daunting to write a book. I never knew I would write. I am very grateful that ‘To the Moon: How I Blogged my Way to Bollywood’ has done so well and that it is a best-seller. I will surely write another book in the near future.
What are your ideas when it comes to making your presence felt on the digital space?
It is all about being yourself. It is very important to maintain your own personality and not try to be someone else. Empowering women has always been a satisfying experience.
What’s coming next?
Well, I am committed towards making sure that women in India come together and find a place to express themselves. We will be launching our vernacular, coming up with Hindi content very soon.
We will be expanding a lot in terms of content, covering many topics, and not keeping it restricted only to beauty and fashion. Also, we are working on a fiction series, titled ‘Offline Conversations’, which will depict the conversations we have apart from work in life. We will also be bringing Girl Tribe on television soon.
What are the kinds of genres you will want to focus on as maker, on the web space?
I will want to focus on what we can do to have a successful and happy life. Also, I see it as a great opportunity to show a much happier and friendlier entertainment industry.
What is the fashion statement that you will want to make for every teenager of our country?
Honestly, be comfortable in your skin, wear comfortable clothes, wear something that will make you happy and you will stand out.