New Delhi: On 9 August, Saurabh and Swati from Pune wrote to Amitabh Bachchan to tell him how much they enjoyed reading his blog and to wish his friend, politician Amar Singh, a speedy recovery. Barely 24 hours later, the superstar responded: “Saurabh...Swati... hi and welcome to the blog and thank you for enquiring after Amar Singhji... he progresses well...”
A cross section of Indian bloggers talk about the Indian blogosphere and what to expect from it in the future
Ten years after blogging became accessible to a large, varied, non-technical population, it has assumed multiple faces. Today, it is personal diary, news outlet, discussion forum and publicity agent, sometimes all of these rolled into one. Everyone from stars looking to connect with fans, fans looking to connect with stars, politicians, aspiring writers, poets and musicians, big companies, media organizations and publishing houses seem to have jumped on to the blogging bandwagon.
“A blog’s interactivity is its strong point; it has the potential to become the mouthpiece of a brand, whether personal or corporate,” says Shivanandan Pare, chief executive of Bigadda.com , a social media site that is most famous for its celebrity bloggers such as Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Harbhajan Singh. Celebrities use their blogs to build, maintain and, occasionally, defend their image.
Kumar, for instance, used his blog to talk about the infamous “belt unbuckling” scandal (where a case was filed against him after photos were published of his wife unbuckling his belt at a fashion show). “Listen, I understand journalists need to sell their papers but guys, you can’t make a fool out of your readers… all that really happened was I came back and drove to the police station myself… it was as boring as that… But I’ve been made to feel like the Bad Boy criminal of Bombay,” he said in a post immediately after the incident.
“A blog tells you a story you won’t find on a piece of official communication and facilitates a far bigger emotional connect,” says Prodyut Bora, the convenor of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT cell. And despite criticism that prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani focused too much on his Internet strategy in the run-up to this year’s Lok Sabha polls, Bora maintains that the response that Advani received on his blog was “terrific”.
But the benefits of blogging are not only for the stars. “Where blogs have done well, you see people who are budding writers or poets who have used their blogs as a vehicle to get to the next level,” says Chennai-based blogger Krish Ashok . Meenakshi Madhavan Reddy, who writes a blog named Compulsive Confessor , Arnab Ray, who blogs as Great Bong , and Amit Varma, who blogs on India Uncut , all managed to garner book deals because publishers were impressed with their blogs.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
“There is no doubt that if you write a popular blog today, you are definitely on the radar of publishing houses. Blogs give you visibility and showcase one’s writing style, so if a blogger is interesting/exceptional, chances are he/she will be noticed,” says Avanija Sundaramurti, a commissioning agent with Penguin. “However, the transition from popular blog to book deal is rare. Writing a great blog doesn’t necessarily mean you will get a book deal. Blogs provide limitless writing space, but books are characterized by restraint.”
The ease with which content can be posted on a blog, coupled with the fact that it allows instant feedback and easy interaction, have made it the medium of communication for firms as well. Travel and hospitality company Club Mahindra runs a travel and lifestyle blog called CLAY (Club Mahindra And You) targeted at travellers and holiday-makers. The blog features various holiday locations, provides travel tips and invites readers to submit stories. “Blogs have helped us reinforce our brand attribute. People start relating,” says Arun Nair, senior marketing manager at Club Mahindra.
Blogs are also used by companies which do not directly sell to consumers as a means of getting feedback from end-users and showcasing new developments. IT solutions company MindTree Ltd has seven corporate blogs focusing on various core aspects of its business, and Intel Corp. , which maintains a gamut of blogs for employees as well as customers, uses blogs to gauge end-user satisfaction with its products. “We can also directly engage, where this is not possible through other traditional forms of advertising and marketing. This is a valuable resource for any company,” says Camille Miranda Gonsalves, head of public relations, Intel South Asia.
But these corporate blogging efforts may not always translate into higher sales, according to Kiruba Shankar , chief executive of Business Blogging Pvt. Ltd, which advises firms on social media strategies. “The use of blogs as a medium of publicity is very much in its infancy in India,” Shankar says. “Indian corporates are just about beginning to scratch the surface of all that blogging can do.”
However, not everyone is hooked on blogging. Parull Gossain, a publicist based in Mumbai, is one of those who believe that the fuss around the blog is overblown. Gossain has handled publicity for over 50 films including Kaminey, Chandni Chowk to China and Guru, and says she would never advise a client to start a blog to build publicity. “Blogs are passé,” she says. “They are quite boring after a while and they really don’t have enough reach. Even if they are getting 10,000 hits a day, what is that in a country of 1.5 billion people?”
This is the second in a four-part series. Tomorrow: The graveyard of abandoned blogs.
To read part one click here