Kashminder has turned his publication, “Mobile World”, into a pure online magazine.
Some people are so risk averse, they would not consider starting up a business even if a great opportunity lay before them. Other workers would take that giant leap provided many key success factors are in place. And a small minority would start up a new business even if the odds are against them.
One such person is Kashminder Singh (pic), a self-described “serial entrepreneur”. So keen was he about doing business that rather than going to university, he opted to go into business right out of high school.
After scouting around for business opportunities, he settled on a photocopying centre. “We started out with just one machine,” he recalls. “It eventually grew to 10 photocopiers.”
Not content with just growing the company, he decided to transform the business into a computer retailer as well. “We were one of the earliest shops to sell PCs to homes and offices,” he says. “We started with Amstrad PCs and eventually offered networking solutions.”
In time, though he realized that PCs would become commodities so he looked for something else to get into. He decided he wanted to become a media owner. Since TV, radio and newspapers were way beyond his means, the only practical media business to go into at the time was magazines.
“I felt the mobile phone industry was going to boom so I decided to launch a mobile magazine,” he says, noting that this way before smart phones existed. “This was 2001, even before phones had coloured screens or cameras. I was that early into the game.”
People laughed. And those who didn’t doubted he would succeed. “I don’t blame them as I knew very little about the business,” he says. But not one to be deterred by lack of knowhow or experience, he dove right in. “I bought a prosumer digital camera and we shot the cover photos ourselves. I also wrote most of the articles in the early days.”
The challenges back then were very different from what they are now. Back then the big boys in publishing and media buying agencies were deeply entrenched with each other and nobody could break through. “It was very hard for small players to break through,” he says.
Ironically, now it’s super easy for anyone to get published – at least online, through websites, blogs and social media platforms. “What you have is a situation of extremes. Back then, it was so hard to become a publisher. Now, it’s too easy. Each situation has its own problems,” he says.
But the latter problem, of too many people just doing their own publishing online, has made it difficult for print publishers, with their relatively high cost structure, to survive. In response, Kash has turned his publication, “Mobile World” into a purely online magazine.
He had experimented with different forms of digital publications including apps but found very little traction for those versions. “At the end of the day, for digital delivery of content, it’s hard to beat web, in terms of universal access. Viewing a website via a browser is far more accessible than apps or digital magazines that require downloads.”
The other thing he’s done to complement the online publishing business is to organize events. “We need events too as advertisers are looking for media that can offer value add services,” he says. “We started GoMobile Expo for that purpose.”
Never one to rest on his laurels, he is continuing to find new ways to evolve the business. “Right now I am in the midst of yet another business transformation exercise,” he says with a smile. “We will soon announce a partnership with another company that will acquire a stake in Mobile World. We are joining forces as I think they are also good content creators and together, we can build a robust online magazine.”
For Kashminder, the serial entrepreneur, it’s important to continually change with the times. “It’s not about changing for change’s sake,” he says. “It’s either change or face annihilation.”
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.