In this Weekend Special Interview, we have for you The Quintessential Woman. Ritu Kapur, the co-founder of the news platform The Quint is as vivacious and quirky as her digital venture. She prides in spotting trends early on- we daresay she creates new ones herself. That keen eye led her to explore the World Wide Web, after a 14 year stint with Broadcast journalism as a top notch CNN-IBN executive. Her mantra to keep the wrinkles at bay and the heart young- is to challenge herself and revel in the uncertainty. In this candid conversation with Binjal Shah, she tells us of her exploits in all three forms of media, why fearing failure is futile in the startup world and even gives us her 8-point mantra to nail this digital storm.
As a veteran in the media industry, was it tough leaving that comfort zone behind to take the plunge and start from scratch once again? What made you decide you want to go the entrepreneurship way?
I had become very restless with news and TV for some time at Network 18 and had been debating what I could do next even while we were with the network. The ever elusive film? Or a venture away from the media? Or the one that everyone was talking about – new media. I had flirted with digital and tasted its potential in my work with Citizen Journalism with CNN IBN. One year down I am convinced that we couldn’t have made a better choice.
I’ll be honest. It WAS tough – but only in the beginning. It was a bit lonesome as well in the beginning for someone used to working with a noisy team around. And it was challenging to discover a new medium and build up from ground zero. But it was so exciting – to explore what people were doing across the world with digital, to try and keep up with the crazy pace of the evolution of this medium, to see how tech and content tango-ed to an all new sound, and to see how close one could be to one’s audiences.
wanted to see if we still had it in us to do the ragdaa without the luxury of large teams
It was equally exciting to bring together a team – all young and, in their own way, they were all risk takers. Besides, there’s no better nuskha to stay young than live on the edge, because it was important to build a brand again, because we wanted to see if we still had it in us to do the ragdaa without the luxury of large teams and infrastructure, and mostly because both Raghav and I are extremely restless and feed on a heady diet of ideas and creation – of teams, of products, of entities.
How did the concept of The Quint come about?
We knew digital was the next step. Since we have been content and news people – we decided to stay within that familiar zone while challenging ourselves on all other fronts. We traveled and met people innovating in digital news – and soon chanted the new mantra of SOLOMO – social, local, mobile. And as we went about brewing ideas around a mobile first news product, we stirred in another key ingredient – video. It was what we had done for the past 23 years and it was a question of figuring how video worked for the smallest but the most dynamic screen – the mobile.
chanted new mantra of SOLOMO – social, local, mobile
We also pencilled in a lot of new ideas for our tech team to work on. That would lead to a product that offered an innovative user experience and allowed the reader / consumer to participate in content creation, a product that allowed the reader to customize and personalize the content for her/ his consumption and so on. We also wanted the product to be as agile as possible – as audiences changed and as ideas developed.
we have seen content ideas feed into tech and tech innovations push content to think out of the box.
We then went into a partnership with Amit Rathore, a tech entrepreneur in the Bay Area, on the hunt for his next gig. Together we founded ‘Quintype’ – another startup that would develop the innovative software, content management system and all tech solutions as The Quint evolved.
And over the past six months we have seen content ideas feed into tech and tech innovations push content to think out of the box.
What excites you the most about being a woman entrepreneur?
That you have to waggle a solution in the face every problem, every morning. The push to get the 360 degree perspective on everything that the company needs. The drive to stay ahead on every new move, innovation in the industry. That you can be as much a content person as an excel sheet starer, a housekeeper and an interior decorator. That you can help build not just a team, but a culture.That you learn to stretch within the resources and innovate therein. It is like having a baby. The birth is the painful, scrappy bit but every little cackle, every little milestone that the baby then achieves is such a kick.
There is this impression that to be a successful woman one has to be the ‘man’ in the pack? What’s your evidence to refute that?
Not sure if that holds true. You need to strive to be on top of your game – man or woman. People look for the mind and energy of an entrepreneur more than the gender, now. Will she make our investment worth it? Does she have it in her to take the product/ company to the next level? The fact that she is a woman becomes incidental, if she is delivering. You don’t have to be the man. But you have to be bloody good.
there is no point fearing failure
And thank God for women entrepreneurs. There are only those many boring black suits that conference rooms can yawn under!
Think women make good bosses?
Here is a disclaimer – I’ve never had a woman boss.
But I would like to believe they do. They lead with ideas – thinking through the execution to the last detail. They are conscientious, they are far more sensitive, perceptive to the team’s needs. They are more fastidious, in some cases, which could be annoying. But mostly women bosses are fun.
How do you think digital India is changing the future for women entrepreneurs?
Digital is so accessible – to an entrepreneur, writer, a blogger, a stay at home innovator. Just look at the number of women who have quit their day jobs to start small businesses through social media platforms. Look at where Miss Malini took her blog.
You don’t need huge start up investments, all you need is an idea that has an audience/ market and you can set up your site, your social media space overnight and get going. A good idea/ product travels so fast on the net through the sharing via friends’ circle. You don’t need massive advertising budgets. Your audience is so within reach, if what you have on offer is exciting.
You don’t need huge start up investments, all you need is an idea that has an audience
And you have the double advantage on no office space overheads ( if that is the route you choose) and being close to family/ kids etc.
What are the certain key aspects that you have to get right to make it big in the digital content business today? What has The Quint taught you?
Clearly Technology and the drive to Innovate – all the time. The space is so dynamic that you are only as good as your next idea. You need to be agile and thinking on your feet.
The Quint has taught me to-
One, doubly respect my readers – they are very discerning and participative and it cannot therefore be a one way creation of content/ journalism
Two, be where your audience is. If they are on their smartphone, make that your platform and craft your content to work for that screen – keep it visual, edgy, pithy, interactive. If they are on social media make sure your content is pinging into their news feeds and pages – on Twitter, Facebook, whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat.
Three, let the young lead. The millennials are digital natives and adapt to technology faster. They are also closer to the audiences. They also have the best ideas.
Four, stay on top of tech and trends. Smartphones and their consumption and tools, software, developments, innovation
Five, be honest in your content – and don’t be a fence sitter. Take a stand. Have an opinion
Six, first build your audiences and then innovate on revenue sources as well. A lot is changing in mobile, targeted advertising.
Seven, don’t let the downswings get to you.
Eight, sleep when you can.
8. What would be your advice to young aspirants who want to start off on their own?
Just get started. There isn’t that much at stake, so there is no point fearing failure. And if it works then .. balle balle!
And if you are a working mom, just shift as close to your parents/ his parents and then let them bring up your kids while you focus on your venture. The cocktail of good sanskaars, Nani ke haath Ka khana, exposure to saas bahu serials, cleaning the old family car with grandpa – all make for a great childhood! And a successful venture.