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Living off the Internet

Starting a business or pursuing a passion online with your savings is an idea that appeals to many
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First Published: Fri, Sep 28 2012. 06 02 PM IST
A visitor browses through books of online book retailer Flipkart on a screen at the New Delhi World Book Fair. Photo: Maral Deghati/ AFP
A visitor browses through books of online book retailer Flipkart on a screen at the New Delhi World Book Fair. Photo: Maral Deghati/ AFP
Updated: Fri, Sep 28 2012. 07 05 PM IST
Maybe it’s because I live in Bangalore these days but I feel like I’ve moved from a place where everyone I encountered was writing a book to one where they are all Internet entrepreneurs. In fact, fewer books are being written across the world. In India one big publisher tells me that her firm’s list of published books will fall by 50 in the next calendar year as she attempts to tighten/focus her business.
Yes, the future is mobile and all the geeks on technology’s edge know that, but for now, starting a business on the Internet with somebody else’s money or pursuing a passion online with your savings is still an idea that appeals to many. Earlier this year in Mint, Osama Manzar, founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation, said the mobile phone had the power of converting India into a knowledge-based society. I’m still thinking of a way to make a living out of India’s 300 million women mobile subscribers after reading Manzar’s article. Until then, I’m enjoying all your ideas: to buy and sell digital creations (Instamojo.com ); to love socks (Footsy.in ); sell furniture (Urbanladder.com ), provide a platform for all our—ahem—poets (Ode.la ), organize six decades of Hindi film music (Myswar.com ), list your rental (Housing.co.in ), engage continuously (Hoppr.com ), be an NGO marketplace (Socialheart.in ), create a social network of like-minded travellers (Farinto.com) and so many more.
Recently in Lounge we predicted that the next Flipkart-sized e-commerce success would come from websites such as Jabong, Fashionara, Myntra and Futurebazaar. But I’m old school and Sindhi. I have a deep fear of credit cards and credit card theft. Last week I made my first ever online purchase—two books on Flipkart, COD of course. Naturally, the Internet businesses that interest me the most continue to be focused not on commerce but on content, the soul of my profession. This month, three new and extremely cool ventures—Thebigindianpicture.com, an online magazine on cinema; Strut120, a daily style diary; and the India Food Network (IFN)—were launched by journalists.
I called IFN’s founder to find out how it would be any different from the food video avalanche that’s already out there (even Lounge does a video Cook Out). Scale, he replied. IFN is part of Ping Digital Broadcast Pvt. Ltd, a self-funded start-up television network for digital audiences founded by journalist Govindraj Ethiraj and run by co-founder Prashanto Das. Ping Digital is a YouTube partner, a small part of Google’s big effort to battle mainstream television by redirecting traffic to YouTube. Indians consume online videos voraciously and we love food. Ping’s team believes that there’s no comprehensive India-based database that organizes and catalogues home food prepared by home cooks. Rebecca Lando’s Working Class Foodies was an inspiration, as were the immensely popular Khan Academy tutorials. The result is a YouTube channel where “professional amateurs” (bloggers, winners of local competitions, conductors of cooking classes) demonstrate their favourite recipes in their kitchens. I like the way Archana from Vasai tells you in matter-of-fact Marathi how to whip up modaks for those festive days. But who knows if she will be able to keep pace with video savvy celebrity chefs such as Sanjeev Kapoor. Ping has ambitious plans. Next up will probably be a channel on music. So what’s your big idea?
Write to me at lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Sep 28 2012. 06 02 PM IST
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