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Why We're Going Free
An Update for 2021
2020 has certainly been a whirlwind for me - both personally and professionally. In what has been a crazy year, Perhaps the coolest thing to come out of what has been a crazy year was the fact that I accidentally launched two newsletters.
I have followed and kept up with the Indian ecosystem for as long as I can remember, and had always been annoyed by the lack of writing both within and about the ecosystem. Some Indian VCs have blogs I love reading, but don't post very frequently. I also felt that India's tech reporting has by and large been pretty bland historically other than The Ken, The Morning Context, and ET Prime. A lot of the reporting just focuses on funding announcements without much reporting on what exactly the companies do themselves. So, since I felt no one else was really chronicling the ecosystem in a way that made me happy, I decided to attempt to do so myself. The WhatsApp newsletter started off as an experiment to see if folks in India would pay for a daily newsletter summarizing and contextualizing stories about Indian startups. And there definitely was interest- It was clear that a lot of people wanted curated, bite-sized startup news updates + analysis delivered to their WhatsApp.
Around the time I started the newsletter I also met up with Vedica, who I knew through Twitter, in real life. We grabbed a coffee in Bangalore in January, which seems like a really long time ago, and then caught up again once we were both back in SF. Vedica was keen to get back to writing more frequently, and asked me if I'd be open to her contributing to the newsletter. I had my plate full with a full-time job at the time, and had been a fan of Vedica's, so it made perfect sense to me! A couple months after we decided to run the newsletters together - in addition to the daily WhatsApp updates, we now also provided a free weekly round-up of news on Substack .
Running the newsletters together has been super fun and we experimented with long-form pieces. In these initial couple of months we picked up steam when Vedica's pieces on Jio (I & II) dropped (she even got a s/o from the Ben Thompson!!). Week over week, we were also adding dozens of paid subscribers to the WhatsApp newsletter, along with the several thousand we had accumulated on Substack.
And then, we kind of hit a wall. After the summer, once our most popular pieces (CRED and Jio) were out, both of us were kind of burnt out. We were juggling really hectic jobs - I had just started at a new start-up and Vedica was working crazy hours at her consulting gig. As you all know, work from home has definitely been challenging when it comes to maintaining work-life-boundaries and the daily grind definitely got to us, when it came to generating long-form or more interesting content. We had ideas, but no time or mental space to write!! We also realized that perhaps we were hitting our ceiling with paid subscribers - when we had just started the Whatsapp newsletter, subscription slots sold out within minutes or hours in the first few months; but that slowly stopped.
We evolved to add a weekly update on our Substack. This included a quick rundown of the news we'd covered on WhatsApp the past week and one story with commentary and analysis. Over the last couple of months, rather than just cover two news stories every day, we've also taken to writing one short thematic update on WhatsApp every week, which we then share are our story on the week on Substack (for example, I wrote about Building in Public, and Vedica on the fight between Amazon and Reliance.) This felt like a good way to ensure we were providing our thoughts and opinions on things, without the pressure of a super long-form essay.
Overall, it's been a great year for us, and we have learned a lot. There was a lot to celebrate. But we also learnt that producing content is hard, and we want to be thoughtful and ensure that the newsletter continues to be valuable rather than just another source of noise in your inboxes :)
So moving forward in 2021, we decided to change up a couple of things:
First, we will be making the WhatsApp newsletter free
We will post 4 days a week instead of our current 6 days (5 days of WhatsApp updates + our weekly Substack round-up):
On Monday, we'll write our weekly column along with what we read / listened to / watched over the previous week. This will also go out to both our WhatsApp newsletter and our Substack mailing list.
On Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, we'll cover 2 stories each day in the Indian startup ecosystem with our summary and analysis on them. This will only go out to our WhatsApp newsletter but will be archived on our Substack.
We're going to try a couple of experiments on:
Interviews with VCs and Founders - Vedica's interview with Anu Hariharan (Partner, Y Combinator) was quite popular so we're looking to set a couple of more these up. If there are specific people / themes that you would like to see covered or have suggestions, please do drop us a line!
Small software products around our content - starting with a searchable archive of all past editions.
Why we're going free
Our paid WhatsApp newsletter really started as an experiment, to see if there was a market for paid curated content on the tech eco-system in India. Both Vedica and I have closely followed the shifts in the US media landscape with creators starting their own paid newsletters. However, we feel that this is not necessarily the right approach for India right now. We are incredibly thankful to all our early supporters who felt our content was worth subscribing to! One of the most incredible things about the past year has been the number of people we have met, become friends with, and had fantastic conversations with because of one of our newsletters. We feel that by making all our content free, we can expand the number of people we reach, and allow people to choose the frequency with which they want to consume content and the medium on which they want to do so. We view this step as a logical one that helps us streamline our content and improve its quality. We are excited about everything 2021 promises for the ecosystem!
Thanks once again for subscribing to our content. And if you haven't yet, feel free to subscribe to our weekly column (on Substack):
And / or our daily newsletter (on WhatsApp)