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MissMalini a.k.a Malini Agarwal, uncensored, about her journey to being the social media star that she is today, that she has written about in her book, To the Moon – How I Blogged My Way to Bollywood.
If you have not heard of MissMalini, chances are you are not a millennial – the primary audience for the site which is an interesting blend of lifestyle, music, and that ubiquitous ingredient of every Mumbaikar, possibly every Indian, Bollywood.
The brain being this brand, Miss Malini Agarwal, started out as a columnist at Mid-Day, did a stint as an RJ on 94.3 Radio One, was a channel head for digital content on Channel V India, and now is also an author of a book – as interesting a career mix as the site itself.
The website offers a heady concoction for the youth of today which explains the staggering 90 million followers that her site boasts of. Her current project is a web series called The Girl Tribe, which has also become being an instant hit, though in nascent stage.
So, what drives this young ‘Social Media Jedi’ as she once described herself?
We decided to find out – through a tele-interview.
Malini Agarwal was born in Allahabad in 1977 and has been all over the world, owing to her parents’ professions. She graduated from Delhi University and made her way to Bombay. Quoting a line from the MissMalini website itself, “I moved to Bombay in the millennium with 2 suitcases and a dream (and lived in a house with six girls and a pigeon!)” And since then Malini Agarwal has taken the world by storm.
But is Malini Agarwal different from MissMalini? If she is, what distinguishes the two?
Malini says that she’s been asked this question often, and each time she tells people that MissMalini and herself are sort of like two personalities in one. But the two are different. Her online persona comes across as bubbly, confident and extremely energetic, and while she is all of that too, she has her moments of vulnerability.
Malini herself says, “Something about ‘Malini’ that nobody knows is that she is actually very camera shy, very insecure and has mad amounts of stage fright.” She says that sometimes when she’s on stage, she feels like she should take someone along with her, wearing a T-shirt that says, “Moral Support”. Something that many of us can relate to – at least once in our lives, whether we’ve had to present in class or in office, or talk during family functions, we’ve certainly experienced this!
She says that one of the reasons why MissMalini is so extroverted and makes people play games, and is chatty is because she dislikes uncomfortable silences. So, to make herself and the people around her feel more at ease, she does her bit by engaging with them.
She sums it up by saying, “Malini Agarwal likes to stay at home and write and read and chill and MissMalini likes to party. But I guess it’s a good combination.”
Indeed, it is!
She calls her blog, started in 2008, ‘her baby’. She began her blog out of her love for writing as a personal space of her own. Back then, online content wasn’t as big as it is today. Yet she enjoyed blogging so much she would write every day after her work, however late it would be. Even when she documented her journey in her book To the Moon – How I Blogged My Way to Bollywood, she did it in her favourite format – in the form of 42 blogs!
Though Malini has done it all – from being an RJ to being on TV to being a columnist to being a blogger to being an author, and now having her own series on YouTube, some of her fondest memories are from when she was working on radio. She says she enjoyed connecting with real people and enjoyed the direct connection it provided her.
On being asked what her favorite medium has been, Malini says that she loves to write. It’s one of the reasons why the blog came into existence in the first place! Text content is here to stay, she says, but the audio/visual based content has gained momentum and is the way forward.
On asking her about her journey, Malini mentions her parents and adds that she’s been extremely privileged because of her parents. “They have never stopped me from doing what I wanted.” She says. And so, she could try many things before she found her own niche.
Finding a niche is one thing – keeping the readers coming back for more, is quite another. The secret to keeping readers or an audience hooked is by forming a connection with them. She says it’s very important to make everyone feel acknowledged, to make them feel ‘seen’. Of course, this isn’t an easy task when you have a fanbase as large as hers’ but then again, not everyone is MissMalini.
The Girl Tribe is an initiative that was taken by MissMalini to serve as a safe space for women to come together and converse. Started as a small Facebook group, it has now grown to have over 10 thousand members. The space also celebrates the #GirlWarrior which is a woman who has faced odds of various kinds and has emerged as a strong, empowered individual.
They are also featured on MissMalini’s YouTube series ‘The Girl Tribe’. The series features Malini in conversation with different women – a few of the names are actor Dia Mirza, Mallika Dua (a standup comedian), Reg Jha (ex editor in chief of Buzzfeed India) – and each video discusses very different topics. The purpose of the varied range of topics is to educate the audience without making it seem too heavy. Malini says she makes sure the conversations are “light-hearted and bite-sized”.
What’s next? Despite the impressive body of work across all mediums, this achiever has no intentions of resting on her laurels.
She has another Facebook group called Positive Masculinity which has both female as well as male members. The group discusses the impact of societal norms imposed on men and how showing emotions is considered feminine, synonymous with weakness. This page encourages a dialogue between both men and women about issues that concern both. And by extension, gives men an opportunity to address issues personal to them without the fear of being judged.
Malini also hinted at bringing on a male guest on the The Girl Tribe show – we must wait with bated breath to know who it might be – and also mentioned Prime Time television as a possible destination in the future.
Malini’s book is an engaging account of her inspiring journey of brand building. She feels gender has not hindered her much except for stray instances. She recalls an incident when a journalist asked her how she resisted the urge to have an affair with a Bollywood actor. And this question was asked in a follow up interview to her being a part of Forbes’ list of successful young entrepreneurs!
Malini goes on to say that being passionate about something means that it’s worth the effort one puts in. Even if the going gets tough and the passion does not look worth the hard work, remember “Passion is always worth all the hard work”. She also emphasizes the importance of setting goals for oneself and then attaining them one at a time.
For all those who wish to walk in Malini’s footsteps, it’s important to find what you are good at and identify a niche position. Ensure that your content is something that sets you apart from the others in the field and is of the best quality YOU can offer. Identify the gap in your area of interest and work on it. She felt that there was a gap between Chota Bheem and Bollywood sites – and that was her targeted audience, the millennial.
So, all you avid brand builders, identify yourself, know who you are, find what drives you with a passion and work your creation around that. Whatever the medium, never compromise on quality and content. And the adage holds true here more than ever – NO Substitute for Hard work.
Bash on, regardless!
Images source Malini Agarwal & book cover Amazon
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