“I don’t think a job with a hefty pay cheque would have ever given me this feeling. A good night’s sleep is what White Print gives me.” These are not mere words but a dream that 25-year-old Upasana Makati is living. Having graduated with a BMM from Jai Hind College, Mumbai, Upasana pursued a course in Canada and later moved back to her nest in Mumbai to take up a job in a leading public relations agency. “I wasn’t happy and wanted to set up my own venture. One day while I was in an introspective mode, I was counting the number of magazines that were available for me to read. I could easily list out about 50 names, but when I thought about the same aspect for the visually impaired, I was unable to name even one.” This was Upasana’s Eureka moment. Three months into her research, she decided to quit her job and commit herself to the venture—to set up India’s first lifestyle magazine in Braille.
Touch to See
Upasana collaborated with the National Association For The Blind (NAB) in Mumbai, who agreed to help her with the publishing process and offered their technical know-how, including Braille printing. She even learnt a few software programs that convert typed words into Braille.
“I spoke to a lot of visually impaired people and found that they did not have access to any lifestyle magazine,” shares Upasana.
White Print is a venture that aims at bringing mainstream topics of lifestyle, entertainment and politics to the finger tips of the visually impaired. The magazine also seeks editorial contributions from the community to share their voices, opinions and stories. “The magazine covers topics such as food, politics, music and gadget reviews. Besides a political column by Barkha Dutt, “our readers really enjoy the success stories we publish, which they feel are inspiring. They love the short stories, interviews and our section on recipes, too,” she elaborates. A team of six works on the project, apart from freelancers.
Launched in May 2013, the 64-page magazine is priced at Rs. 30 and has been receiving subscription orders from all over the country. “We would love the magazine to reach the smallest towns and villages in India. Sometimes we get subscriptions from towns I have never heard of and that puts a bright smile on my face.” says Upasana.
The road to success was not easy for Upasana. It took her eight months to get a title. The magazine title was rejected twice; it was only in her third attempt that White Print was registered. Upasana’s biggest challenge though is generating ad revenue. White Print is text heavy and doesn’t have pictures. Even the ads are in a text format. In her constant effort to approach companies for ads, hope is what Upasana swears by. “Since advertisements are all about colour, image and grandeur, it’s difficult to convince sponsors to give an ad in a Braille magazine. Raymond was the first to place an ad with us,” says the young entrepreneur. Another problem she faces is reaching the magazine to subscribers in small towns and villages. "Since these areas can be accessed only by registered post, it takes a while for readers to receive their copies. Some of them become restless and we are flooded with anxious calls,” she says, adding that it's good to know that people can’t wait to get their copy.
From 20 copies a month to 300 copies a month, Upasana's journey so far has been bittersweet. “It is heartening to receive encouragement from people from small towns and villages. A lot of our subscribers are from south India. I’m glad White Print is being read and liked by so many people,” she adds.
Ask her how difficult it is to be a woman entrepreneur and pat comes the reply, “Being a woman was never a roadblock; I always take it as an advantage. Women have the sensitivity to deal with initiatives of this nature.” And her definition of success? “Success to me is calls, letters, emails, messages from our subscribers appreciating the magazine and the initiative. We love hearing from our readers. There are days when I get up with calls and messages from the readers. A reader once wrote a poem for us while another sent us a seven page long letter. That is how I spell success.