When it comes to serial entrepreneurs, one often wonders how they start and manage more than one venture at a time. Yet, driven by a passion so strong, most of these serial entrepreneurs have clearly defined goals and vision for each of their ventures. Dhimant Parekh, an MBA from ISB, Hyderabad, founded ‘The Better India’ news portal two years ago. Recently, he has started ‘In Good Books’, a book review site. With increasing readership and plenty of good content, both the sites are creating value in different domains. How does Dhimant manage it? Let’s find out from the entrepreneur himself.
Q1. Discuss the idea behind your ventures ‘The Better India’ and ‘In Good Books’.
‘The Better India’ is a news website that features only positive stories. It showcases unsung heroes, organizations and individuals bringing about a change in the form of scientific and economic progress. All these are stories that make us proud of our country and our fellow people. ‘In Good Books’ is a platform for book lovers to come and talk about the books they’ve read – to share what they know with other book lovers.
Q2. Briefly give your background. What are the major factors that contributed to your entrepreneurship bug?
I am a computer science engineer from Bangalore University and an MBA from ISB, Hyderabad. My entrepreneurship bug started in B-school where I got exposed to the idea that one can indeed create something new. There are no rules tying you down. B-school also taught me various aspects of business ventures which I have been able to put to good use since the time I graduated.
Q3. What motivated you to start these sites?
‘The Better India’ was born out of a need to bring positivity into our lives in lieu of the sensational news we are subjected to every day by conventional media.
‘In Good Books’, on the other hand, was a more personal venture created for my love of books and reading. Whenever I got time I would wonder which book to pick up, and always felt the need of a place that would give me this information readily. Thus came about the idea of a book review and recommendation site.
Q4. What are some of the challenges you encountered in starting-up?
The biggest challenge I have faced in running ‘The Better India’ is gathering quality content. It is difficult to get talented writers on board. While hundreds of people show a lot of excitement, only one out of hundred joins us and sticks to it for a while. Talent is highly mobile and hence, making writers stick is a big challenge. Issues of revenues, readership, etc can still be tackled once you have good content on the site. We have, in fact, done well in terms of readership so far. The idea behind ‘The Better India’ portal is to showcase such stories that will otherwise get missed out and hence it is critical that we find writers with similar intent.
The biggest challenge for ‘In Good Books’ is to spread the word about the site in the already crowded market of books and book review sites.
Q5. How did you go about building a team? Who are the co-founders?
My wife, Anuradha, is a co-founder with me in ‘The Better India’. For ‘In Good Books’ I have teamed up with a colleague of mine Saurabh Pandey. The main characteristic of a co-founder in my case is a shared vision and passion. My wife was as passionate as me about starting up an awareness medium for positive content and Saurabh is as avid a reader and book lover as I am.
The team for ‘The Better India’ consists of highly skilled people who are just as interested in the development and social sector as we are. The intent of showcasing unsung heroes and spreading positive news is something that we all believe in and hence we work really well as a team.
Q6. Since your sites deal with online content, how do you generate enough readership?
As of now we have not undertaken any campaigns to increase our readership. Most of our readers have come on board when they heard about us from their friends or through search engines. However once they visit our sites, most readers revisit often and also join the mailing group and feeds.
Q7. How do you plan to grow your ventures?
For ‘The Better India’, we plan to partner with people and organizations in the developmental sector so that we can become online media channels for spreading awareness of their initiatives and help garner support across geographies. We also intend to become a platform for corporates, organizations and our readers to interact and find mutually attractive grounds for co-operation. For ‘In Good Books’ it is important to create a vibrant community of book lovers who would find this site a paradise to share information and spend some time browsing through.
Q8. What is your USP? How is your site different from any other news or book review portal?
In case of ‘The Better India’, the idea is the USP itself. Covering positive news is not something that comes naturally to traditional media ventures. So far, we have focused a lot on social enterprises and stories. Going ahead, we wish to highlight positive news and unique achievements from all walks of life. This is what will develop out USP in the years to come. As for ‘In Good Books’, giving readers a platform to share their opinion on books and helping readers understand their options in a crowded book market is the main idea. Making this possible in a reader friendly way will set us apart from other similar portals. This idea is more of personal interest to me and we are still figuring out the best way ahead.
Q9. Since you promote the social sector through ‘The Better India’, can you throw some light on how the social sector is doing in India?
The social sector is progressively taking on a very positive and impactful role in the Indian context. Gone are the days when people working in the social sector were expected to wear khakhi clothes, carry jholas and ask for charity. The new breed of social entrepreneurs is a set to watch out for. They know their business plans pat to the revenue generation model, scalability and sustainability are the new buzz words that have replaced funding and donations, and are being wooed by social and other investors willing to give wings to their ideas. Even salaries in the sector are now comparable to their corporate counterparts, as many who have exchanged lucrative careers for jobs in the social sector will testify. So this could be safely called the new sunshine sector of India, in more ways than one.
Q10. What does it take to be a successful social entrepreneur?
Firstly, understand very well the target segment that you are going to address as part of your venture. If you don’t know their needs clearly, then no matter what you do, you wouldn’t be able to succeed. And importantly, even as you scale up, ensure that your initial intent of your social venture is not lost ever. I also think that being a social entrepreneur requires a lot of patience, constant monitoring and tweaking your model based on how the market reacts to it.
Unnati is a freelance writer, author and entrepreneur. From her blog to media initiatives like Times Ascent, HT Edge and The Better India, she is always keen on any writing opportunity that may come her way. Her writing bug extends to her ventureÂ www.serenewoods.com, a publishing portal she co-founded early 2009, for emerging authors. She is also the author of Drenched Soul (poetry) and If At All (Fiction).