Saturday, June 11, 2005

When Kari met PC - Part 1

A tale of one entrepreneur's tryst with political correctness.

Here are the second and third parts.

Many days later, facing a plastic surgeon by his hospital bed, Kari Kalan was to remember the evening when it all started.


He had just finished playing with Andy, his four-year old son; he even let Andy's GI Joe skate down his short and silky soft hair, that stuck out straight like the grass in his freshly mowed lawn. He then told him a couple of stories from Tales from Social Darwinism, a favorite from Kari's own childhood days. After Andy went to sleep, he returned to the living room to cuddle up with yet another childhood favorite, the SuperSleuth comics. In the background, CNBC News was on, where a guest was talking about this new, new thing called blogging...

Kari's brilliance in engineering and MBA courses marked him out early as a star. His firm faith in Red Lysenko's theories of pest control put him on a fast track to the very top of the HR heap in a frontline infotech company. His ambitious nature, however, made him hunger for more, as he felt an indescribable void that only winners, apparently, can feel; a void that a steady diet of SuperSleuth comics -- and gin and tonic -- could not fill. It was during this perceived crisis that the CNBC guest's talk about the business potential of blogging caught Kari's eyes, and it fired up his imagination. He could feel that all-too-familiar itch in his pants, and a dream was born.

As with any entrepreneurial venture, this one, too, was a roller-coaster ride. First Kari discovered that ad revenues in blogs could be truly astronomical. But, some of the rules of blogging -- such as taking others' opinion seriously and speaking straight from the heart -- seemed forbidding. Then someone suggested a group blog, which sounded promising, until he discovered that many of them -- such as Crooked Timber and ZooStation -- were run by academics, a community he hated. The final piece of the puzzle that put him firmly on the entrepreneurial journey fell into place when he discovered TPM Cafe and Huffington Post. The idea appealed to him, and he decided to start a group blog with popular bloggers and MSM columnists. Thus was born IndiJoIndi Blog, the Indiana Jones of Indian blogs.

Kari's facility with 180 degree feedback and his bloggers' flexibility allowed them to target relentlessly that one sweet spot craved by their readers. His bloggers wrote about infotech, but not coir mats (except as accessories to making love). Free markets were in, free electricity for farmers was out. Gurcharan Das was in, P. Sainath was out. Laptops for kids were in, girl's toilets in public schools were out. Bipasha Basu was in, Nandita Das was out (except when she went to Cannes as a jury member). Bunty was in, Babli was out (or was it the other way round?). As Kari put it, "there are two kinds of bloggers; those who make money, and those who just blog. Why would we want to be the latter?".

The advertisers loved Kari's rhetoric, and money started flowing in. The early recruits, particularly those who wrote for MSM, were very excited, and were willing to settle for a share of the advertising revenue. Those from the blogging world, who knew better, played hardball; they wanted a contract with a regular revenue stream -- aka a monthly salary. This forced Kari to go for venture funding. It was a fateful decision that would inevitably put him on a collision course with [PC]2 Funds, the biggest -- and the baddest -- of them all.

(to be continued ...)