On 5 February 2015, Lakshmi Rebecca put out a note along with her Internet talk show, Chai with Lakshmi. The 14.25-minute webisode featuring governance project Swaniti Initiative would be the last of its kind.
The focus of Chai with Lakshmi, started in July 2011, had till then been on entrepreneurs working to improve the quality of life in urban India.
Rebecca and her production company Red Bangle now spend more time on paid assignments for clients including start-up incubators Microsoft Ventures and Nasscom Ventures.
“When I started the talk show, I wanted to feature entrepreneurs who were making a sustainable impact,” says Rebecca in a phone interview from Bengaluru.
“I wanted to celebrate these for-profit businesses. Along the way I discovered my own joy in film-making.”
Chai with Lakshmi won the Manthan Award for e-news and media in 2012.
By then, Rebecca, now 35, had interviewed nearly 100 people across sectors including Nandan Kamath of GoSports Foundation, Shubhra Chadda of knick-knack maker Chumbak and home-schooling venture Genie Kids’ Aditi Mathur.
“The first year of the business is always the hardest,” says Rebecca. She was mostly funding the Internet talk show herself to maintain control over the content and tenor of the shows—the only exceptions, she says, were contributions from organizations like Arghyam Foundation and the Sankalp Forum for specific episodes.
“Manthan was the biggest encouragement I could get at the time,” she says.
“I noticed a spike in the number of viewers on my YouTube channel immediately afterwards.”
Rebecca and Red Bangle, incorporated in 2011, continued to “vlog” or publish these video logs on the Internet regularly for three more years.
“When you are a blogger (including video blogger), as much as you want to make money off it, your focus is on producing the next episode and the next one after that,” says Rebecca, who in 2008 received a master of science degree in international marketing from the Sheffield Hallam University, UK.
“I invited the unsung heroes on my show. Usually, these were entrepreneurs running a for-profit business. Or if they were a non-profit, they had to show a model that would be sustainable without external aid a few years down the road,” she adds.
Making and publishing the videos on her own steam was of course both expensive and time-consuming.
From September 2011, the third month of its existence, Red Bangle started accepting paid assignments.
The ratio of commissioned videos to blogs has now reversed; whereas she was mostly vlogging with a two-camera set-up in 2011, by early 2016, she was making four to five paid-for films (40-second ad films as well as 2-3 minute corporate films) a month.
Red Bangle’s revenue has grown 3.5 times in the past year, Rebecca said.
Her films also include “how-to” videos for start-ups with advice on how to apply for funding or get a mentor, for example.
“I use everything I have learnt with Chai with Lakshmi for my videos,” Rebecca says.
Every year since 2004, New Delhi-headquartered Digital Empowerment Foundation has been giving Manthan Awards to recognize people and businesses using Internet communication technologies for development. Mint is revisiting some past winners to gauge how they have evolved.