Travel Diaries Day 4: Tinkering Around the Edges

Train journeys are enjoyable once you resolve the dilemma of whether to concentrate on the book in your hand or on the view outside the window. However, that was not the dilemma I battled onboard the Marudhar Express from Jaipur to Jodhpur on day 4 of the Rajasthan tour.

“We need a broader concept” I said to Il Sognatore, the dreamer who also had the ability to execute his dreams.  While toying with the vague concept of giving people positive news, we stumbled upon many websites (The Better India deserves a mention) that do exactly that, and immediately let go of that idea.

At this point, the talk shifted to content in general –web serieses or videos, spoofs  that offered a unique take on the Indian society, and the like. Here, there was an interesting place for product positioning.

As opposed to the mainstream media, there are no censors on the Internet. As a result, a lot of bold, and sometimes a little offensive content is broadcast. There is content which is provocative, designed to incite fear or satirical content that comments on pressing social issues of the day. The point is better illustrated by Professor Marcia Stepanek of Columbia University in her article “Algorithms of Fear”. She states that media companies are increasingly using provocative content to capture and hold people’s attention. They are stocking people’s fears and this has affected the quality of online discourse. What the Internet needs today is “civility, resiliency, and broader civic engagement”.

“So are we offering things such as motivational posters or videos?” The dreamer’s small bloodshot eyes narrowed in thought.

“No. Don’t give people anything that excites them in any way. Instead, calm them down.” I suddenly knew where we could make a stand and grow.

There are websites and pages that give motivational material. There are sites that give positive news. But what if you get well-researched videos and podcasts (because I make typos while writing) about positive trends? What if there is a humorous web series that talks about values instead of highlighting social issues? And when I say values, I mean values that are relevant to today’s day and age, such as calmness, minimalism, and detachment taught by Buddha. Where others are bold, radicle, and vulgar, we could be calm, down-to-earth, and sankaari! ( at this point, we slipped into a vivid daydream about how appointing Alok Nath as our brand ambassador, but later learned that Babuji is now launching an adult chat show (named Sinskari!) interviewing celebrities about their dirty secrets.)

“We are a firm that “sells” optimism, minimalism, calmness, and detachment.” A shiver of excitement ran through my body. The Dreamer, however remained sober and shifted instead into a pensive mood.

“The plan looks good on the surface, my friend” he whispered, careful not to ruin the happy moment but certainly driving his point home “but how do we monatise it? How do we rake in piles of money while selling the slogan “less is more”?

Upon hearing this question, I was overcome with appreciation and pride for my cunning friend. He was not at all uncomfortable with what could be perceived as hypocrisy – taking your money and telling you to spend less. Instead the shrewd lawyer chose to focus on how best to do it.

Before we could address that issue however, the train had pulled into Jodhpur station and we had to disembark. We stepped out into a terrible, stormy night, and what happened next deserve a story of its own.

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