An Exclusive Interaction with Malini Agarwal- The woman behind India’ biggest Bollywood News Venture “MissMalini”

#CoffeewithaLatika series covered Malini Agarwal and her inspiring entrepreneurial journey of MissMalini

It was a regular busy day during my recent trip to Mumbai- the city of dreams and who knew that in the morning your phone will be ringing and as you pick there is going to be a call from the PR Team of MissMalini and ofcourse on the con-call you listen to the melodious and cheerful voice of Malini Agarwal aka MissMalini.

We decided to meet the very same day as I was travelling to the same area and thankfully we met that day itself as Mumbai Rains were planning to be the spoilsport for our meeting had it been the next day or days after that.

While entering the office premises everything was very silent and serene and as you went inside it was a complete transformation of a world so full of life. It’s a world of celebration, happiness and empowerment.

The epicentre of the office is Malini Agarwal who is a lovely person at heart. A very  positive and gentle person who will make you feel at ease and that’s what her strength which made her to launch India’ biggest Bollywood News Venture “MissMalini”

Here is my exclusive interaction in #CoffeewithLatika with Malini Agarwal 

1.Tell me something about yourself – your educational background, your career journey. 

My father was the Indian ambassador so I grew up all over the world (Somalia, Lebanon, Greece, Germany, Ivory Coast and Bulgaria) where I attended various American and International schools wherever he was posted. When I was 17 he retired, so I lived in Delhi for 6 years and did my ‘A Levels’ at The British School and then studied English Literature at Delhi University. My first job was as a professional dancer (while I was in college) and then I became a copywriter for a city portal.

I moved to Bombay in 2000 and worked with several “dot.coms” like Activ8 Technologies and Ideas4u and eventually built the entire content strategy for challomumbai.com (The official MidDay website.) After that I worked at MTVIndia.com as the digital content head for their romance & sexuality channel. Then I became a radio jockey with WIN 94.6 and Go92.5fm (which is now 94.3 Radio One) where I was also the Programming Director. I started writing a gossip column in Midday called “Malini’s Mumbai” along with my radio show and eventually kicked off my blog in 2008 (initially as a hobby). I was still writing my column and doing my radio show when I joined Channel [v] as their digital content head. I raised a small seed round of funding in 2012 and decided to quit everything else and do my blog full time. The rest as they say, is history! 

2. How you started this entrepreneurial journey of MissMalini.com 

When I started my blog in 2008 there really was no “digital content industry” or concept of “influencers” but looking back, MissMalini was the first digital influencer in India! I didn’t have any kid of business background, but I realise now that all the jobs I did were actually preparing me to create MissMalini Entertainment. The most important lesson I learned was probably at the radio station. I learned that even while you’re broadcasting to millions of people, the listener is having a very personal experience with their favourite radio jockey. There is an intimacy and connection created that is extremely valuable, so I took that same ethos to my blog and wrote with personality and as if I was writing to a friend. Luckily that resonated and has been our USP ever since.

Initially I started as a one-woman show creating content, writing blogs, taking my own pictures and editing my own videos… I met my business partner Mike Melli (CRO) and my now husband Nowshad Rizwanullah (CEO) along the way and we built this brand together from scratch! Our team is now 65 minds strong and the most important lesson I have learnt is that you must create an authentic brand. Part of the reason for my success is that I never started out trying to make money off of it, I was simply creating content and forming a voice that eventually resonated with my audience. I truly believe that has been the secret sauce to our success.

It’s been a decade, but it still feels like there is so much more we can do! What started as a blog evolved into a digital magazine/destination for all things Bollywood, Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle. Eventually we launched our own production house and even though we were digital-first, we created 5 Seasons of television plus digital radio, I even managed to fulfil a life-long ambition of writing a best-selling book! Now my motivation is to carve out a safe space for women on the Internet with Malini’s Girl Tribe. I’m thrilled to be creating a “sisterhood” with the Mompreneur Circle as well because I believe the future is in collaboration over competition.

  1. What challenges you faced as a women entrepreneur?

I feel like there have been as many challenges as there have been benefits of being a woman. I didn’t face any overt gender discrimination in my career, in fact being a girl was often an advantage. The only challenge I can say that probably exists till this day for me is making people aware of the dire need for a safe space for women online. I wish there were more female investors in the eco-system. Perhaps the greatest challenge I faced was facing my own insecurities or doubts about my ability to hold my own in a board room full of men. I had to develop my own confidence, since you don’t grow up believing women can run a business. I am happy to say that the number of role models in this regard are rapidly increasing today. Especially in such inspiring spaces like the Mompreneur Circle. I can’t wait for us to network more and find new ways for women to work together and lift each other up!

  1. How was the support of the start-up industry when you started?

I have been very fortunate that my investors were early believers and they understood the value of creating an influencer-led brand. My early angel investors as well as Orios and NEA have enabled us to create a home-grown legacy brand for positivity and entertainment and are now enabling us to expand that into a much-needed community for women, to work hard and play hard. In return I hope that many women are able to fulfil their entrepreneurial dreams with the help of groups like ours.

  1. What tips you want to give to those women who are either trying to start post marriage or after becoming a mother.

 We discuss this often in Malini’s Girl Tribe and since I’m not a mom (yet) I thought I’d get some valuable advice from members of the tribe. Also, I have been very fortunate that the issue of working post marriage never came up. But I am sure that is a factor for many. So here is some first-hand advice from those who have done it!

Everyone unanimously agrees that if you are independent you can give your child a better future – whether it’s a single or double income family financial independence is always a good thing.

Diya Kapoor My advice for any mom trying to get back/or into some kind of work post babies is to start slow. Perhaps start with something which takes only a few hours of your day, leaving you with the time for your children’s need and any other family commitments/household responsibilities you have. Mommy guilt is very real and it can really take the joy of working out of it entirely if you aren’t sure enough and really passionate about what it is you want to do. Take your time to plan and structure your life in a way which gives you the best balance hopefully both as a mom and a working woman.

Sunainaa Chadha Get the husbands to contribute from day one. Raising a kid is not a one-woman job and the husbands should know this from day 1. So whether it’s the night feeds, change of diapers, bath time, massage time, it should be an equal effort. So once the woman resumes work after her maternity leave, the separation anxiety is less. And secondly, men should not be rewarded or patted on the back for doing chores at home. It should be expected of them just as it is expected of a woma.. Only then would a woman not have to think twice about going for a work trip, or seek permission or feel guilt for having to stay away from home responsibilities.

Nayantara Bagla For moms who work, don’t have Mother’s Guilt. It will make life difficult for everyone around. Just because you work doesn’t mean you kid is going to have a harder time than usual.

Paulomi Pandit Upadhyay Start ups post marriage can be a challenge for any woman more on the emotional front I believe.

To balance it out this is what I suggest, as a married woman, working on a new venture.

1. Have a routine as far as possible
2. Don’t punish yourself if you don’t follow it sometimes.
3. Be bindass about work. the more you appreciate yourself and your skills; others follow!
4. It’s okay to make mistakes, own up and move on.
5. Mentally don’t bring work home and home to work.
6. Pamper yourself! You’re too precious.

Alpa Kapadia Teli I do a lot of work in this field, the biggest tip I have is never stop caring for yourself post marriage or post children. Women often put their needs last and have been conditioned to put themselves last or more ask for what they want. Remember you are as human as your spouse or child and self-love and self-care are non-negotiable. You aren’t the damsel in distress who needs permission, you’re your own knight in shining armour!

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Malvika Sehgaal Kaura Malini first and foremost decide to! Everything else follows through. Maid /family etc. Don’t be ashamed to take your kids along at work (I could, being my own setup). Discipline your kids from day. Make them independent. I’m not commenting on post marriage as I don’t see how marriage should be an impediment! Children of working mothers are by far more respectful, focused, disciplined and independent! Globally.

DrKalpa Jimit Shah I would like to share my personal tips..
I worked post marriage and post baby and working now as well.
What worked for me?
1. Work timings were flexible and quite part time when I began working after marriage. As I knew, to bond with new family, I will have to spend time with them.
2. I was fortunate to have a understanding family, but make sure to explain them your nature of work. So they would know if you are on phone or laptop, they may not disturb you.
3. Kindly keep work at work and home at home, mixing both with create chaos.
Post baby:
1. I had arranged for help in clinic. Ask for help. Also learn to delegate work.. Don’t waste time in doing things which you can delegate to others.
2. Keep helpers to help you in work. But you yourself must manage your baby. So if the helper messes with work it’s fine.. but baby is safe..
3. Try and include your family in upbringing your baby. This is a mistake most mothers make. They try to bring up the baby all alone. Now, when they are frustrated and want to resume work, the baby is not manageable by anybody.
4. Train your baby to be a low maintenance child. If somebody has to manage your child, it should sound like burden to them.
5. Time your baby’s sleep and food according to your schedule. Make sure you get some quality time with your child. 

Srirupa Sen A woman needs a very strong support system at home in order to give her very best at work. Hence the essentials for a working mom are :
1. A live in helper who is adept at multitasking. If possible another maid for odd jobs and as back up for the main helper.
2. Some friends and neighbours that she can depend upon in case there is no other family member is at home.
In case of an urgency they would reach and help out till she reaches home.
3. Be technologically savvy. Use apps extensively for groceries, paying utility bills etc.
4. Flexibility of mind-set of bosses at work. Her own flexibility in terms of bringing work home when required.
5. A supportive husband who values her career.

Contact : Malini’s Girl Tribe on Facebook and join the conversation. Also on Instagram @maliniagarwal, @missmalini and @malinisgirltribe

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