From a time when most people considered it just a hobby and got around to it only on weekends, blogging now is being taken up professionally by many in the country. We speak to some game-changers who made the ‘shift’ as early as a decade ago, enticed by the opportunity to work on one’s own terms, as well as make a living out of it.
“Naked Cricket’s timing just happened, almost like a streaker on a cricket field… there’s no explaining it really,” says Gaurav Sethi about his first blog. New Delhi-based Sethi, who shut his advertising agency in the capital in 2005, started Naked Cricket (a blog on cricket, with articles, songs, cartoons, etc, on the game) the same year. At that time, blogging was a relatively new phenomenon in India, but that didn’t deter him. Three years later, after warming up to the online space, 50-something Sethi, with some friends, started his second blog, Bored Cricket Crazy Indians (BCC!), which features other bloggers apart from Sethi and their commentaries on cricket. As early as a decade ago, the idea of blogging was very simple: most people considered it just a hobby and got around to it only on weekends. It was bloggers like Sethi who gave it a twist by pursuing it professionally. The appeal, of course, is manifold. As a profession, blogging offers a mix of subjects—fashion, food, travel, tech and much more—to write on, the opportunity to work on one’s own terms, as well as make a living out of it. For some like 30-year-old Harsh Agarwal, it was a ticket to live a “boss-free” life. New Delhi-based Agarwal, a professional blogger and entrepreneur, quit his job at Accenture in the national capital within the first five months of launching his blog ShoutMeLoud, which offers solutions to aspiring bloggers and enables them to build their own blogs, in 2008 and has never looked back since.
“I never thought blogging could be pursued professionally until I discovered Google AdSense,” he says. Google AdSense, like other ad programmes, is designed to display targeted advertisements on website pages through which website publishers generate revenue, depending on the number of visitors or clicks on the site. “I was amazed to discover that all I needed to do was write what I liked, get traffic and the money would just come in,” Agarwal says. Today, Agarwal has eight blogs—ShoutMeLoud is the most popular, he says, followed by ShoutMeTech, which offers tech solutions, and Wpfreesetup, which helps users navigate WordPress. Ads, undoubtedly, play a very important role in the life of a blogger.
But more than being just a source of income, ad contributions help bloggers deliver better content on time by providing an incentive, offers 30-year-old Srinivas Tamada, the brain behind the blog, 9lessons. US-based Tamada started his blog in 2009 as a way to offer unique solutions to complicated Web programming problems. Later, Tamada transformed his blog into a money-spinning venture when he built a commercial social network software, Wall Script 8, which aims to enable people to understand and build their own social networks. The software is currently available in two versions for purchase on the Wall Script 8 website priced at $89 and $109, respectively, and has been downloaded over 5,000 times till date, with several ad-on upgrades on sale with it. Clearly, bloggers like Tamada didn’t take long to catch up to speed with the lucrative side of the profession that opened up because of the Internet boom.
A recent inductee into the club is 33-year-old Charu Tripathi, who, after spending four years in the e-commerce industry, quit her job as a brand and marketing consultant in Mumbai in 2015 and started Le Hedonist, a luxury-fashion blog, the same year. “Seeing the whole magic of building brands from the ground up had me itching to create something of my own,” says Mumbai-based Tripathi. It was her friend Neha Dwivedi, a graduate in luxury brand management from ESSEC Business School in Paris, who pitched the idea to collaborate for a blog to Tripathi. “I believed this was a truer application of all that I had learned,” says 33-year-old Dwivedi. The two girls started Le Hedonist with the aim to educate Indian consumers about fashion and luxury, they say.
Then there is 43-year-old Kalyan Karmakar. The food columnist and author relocated to Mumbai around 15 years ago after spending his early life in Iran and the UK, where he worked as a market research consultant. Interestingly, it was his wife Kainaz, who works with an advertising agency, who nudged him in the direction of blogging, observing his passion for food over the years. Karmakar’s blog, Finely Chopped, started eight years back and has been instrumental in fulfilling his “life’s mission to give men the confidence to cook, so that they don’t have to depend on anyone else to eat well.” Karmakar’s blog has him trying out recipes he saw his mother whip up or those that catch his fancy every now and then. He posts videos of himself cooking, along with pictures of places he has travelled to just to eat something famous, tasty or special.
Finely Chopped has not only won awards from the Food Bloggers Association, India, every year since its inception in 2013, it has also spread to other social media platforms such as YouTube, where Karmakar conducts personalised food walks in Mumbai to introduce viewers to his favourite food haunts throughout the city. Interestingly, Karmakar isn’t the only one branching out to alternative media. In the pursuit to stand out, many other bloggers, too, have begun to publish their content on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. “It’s very crucial to drive traffic from these channels to the core site,” say Tripathi and Dwivedi.
Sethi of BCC! agrees. Bloggers need to use social media to reach out to the right people, he says. His advice to nascent bloggers? “(There is) no use writing in isolation. So be prepared to use social media tricks if you are starting a blog,” he offers. But in spite of its mass reach, social media has a flip side as well: the problem of plenty. With so many self-made experts in all fields, blogging is getting a tad bit saturated, admits Tripathi. The challenge that, hence, presents itself to bloggers, old and new, is how to be heard or seen over the clamour? Tripathi says it helps to give a thought to who one serves instead of just replicating the same content everywhere. “Bring a spin to your original idea,” the co-founder of Le Hedonist advises.
The other challenge is that of credibility. Agarwal of ShoutMeLoud ensures that the content published on his website goes through a basic checklist, verifying if it’s going to help someone programme their blog better. “I only publish it if the answer is yes,” he says. Similarly, cricket blogs like BCC! came up at a time when fearless comments in cricket journalism in the country were not aplenty, says Sethi. When he started BCC! in 2008 with a few blogger friends, they constituted pretty much all the Indian cricket bloggers back then. Soon, they added a Pakistani, a Bangladeshi and a Sri Lankan as guest bloggers. BCC! struck a chord with enthusiasts of the sport and even went on to win the BlogAdda Cricket Blogger Award three years back. “It has been one helluva ride,” says Sethi.