The City Story, A Website Which Brings Cities And Its People Closer
Shivani Shah has studied communication and has a law degree with an experience of working for five years in Mumbai. But her clearest memories of her childhood – a lot of adulthood too – are of sitting in a corner and writing something. She says, “It’s what I’ve always done and always wanted to do. So I quit my job to write.”
Soon after this, Juhi Pande, an old friend reached out to her with an idea to kick off a platform to tell stories about the things and people who give a city its character. She didn’t have a name for it, and the duo spent a fair amount of time fine tuning the idea. Around this time the third co-founder, Genesia Alves, had gotten involved as well. This led to the inception of The City Story. A unique website which aspires to enrich the experiences and interaction between people and cities.
“As far as cities go, Mumbai and London are both vibrant, thriving cities with so much to offer. There’s no dearth of stories to tell about them.”
Shivani says that there were two reasons on primarily focussing on the cities Mumbai and London – “Firstly, as far as cities go, Mumbai and London are both vibrant, thriving cities with so much to offer. There’s no dearth of stories to tell about them. We launched a year and a half ago and we’re still nowhere close to running out of stories to tell.
Secondly (and more practically), it’s where the team is – Genesia and I live in Bombay. And Juhi shuttles between Bombay and London. With a small team, it’s easier to run the website and focus on where we’re located.”
Her role at The City Story requires her to multitask and pay attention to a lot of things at once! Commissioning stories, editing them, constantly thinking of ways to evolve and draw in readers, building relationships with partners, being aware of the finances and tax and legal requirements, all the endless admin.
She adds, “Everything is important, and you’re constantly juggling between them. But each of us, in the team, has different strengths, so you concentrate on the things you know you can do well and let your partners concentrate on what they do best. You work as a team – trust each other, listen to each other, and challenge each other.”
And all the hard work boils down to building a special relationship with the website’s audience – “When people write in to us or comment on our Facebook page about how a story resonated with them…it feels wonderful to know we’re striking a chord. We’ve had people write in to us to say they love what we do and can they write for us, and they’re not only our strongest writers but have also become close friends. Whether you work with The City Story or read it, you’re why we do this. It’s these relationships that are memorable.”
Although Shivani quit her job to write, she ends up doing so once every few months because running the website takes up all her time.
“You’re thrown out of your comfort zone and have to do things you know nothing about. You have to learn so many things from scratch.”
About being an entrepreneur, she says, “You’re thrown out of your comfort zone and have to do things you know nothing about. You have to learn so many things from scratch. And that’s when you realise your capabilities and your limits. Seeing the growth of your product or business and your growth as a person – that’s what’s empowering.”
When not on her desk, Shivani likes working out regularly and at a stage where she is focusing on expanding the website along with her co-founders, that’s all she really has the time for.
She informs, “I’d like to see The City Story in more cities around the world. We have our merchandise line – art prints of landmarks in cities – that I’d love to see not only include more neighbourhoods and cities but also on the walls of homes and offices worldwide! As far my life is concerned, I prefer to take it one day at a time – best-laid plans and all that. But I can say that I see myself with The City Story. We’re here to stay.”