‘Mainstreaming’ is quite the buzz word in the social sector nowadays. However, very few models exist today that conscientiously look at disadvantaged communities as equal participants or informed consumers and not as beneficiaries looking for charity.
White Print is one such venture that aims at mainstreaming the visually challenged by bringing mainstream topics of lifestyle, entertainment and politics to their finger tips. White Print also seeks contributions from the community to share their voices, opinions and stories and is looking to build a powerful business model based on the unexploited terrain of Braille advertising in India.
We caught up with the 24 year old Mumbai entrepreneur, Upasana Makati on email.
What inspired you to start this venture that’d lead to more social inclusion for the differently abled in the society?
Well, entrepreneurship has always been an element of my personality. After I graduated and pursued a course in Canada, I came back and took up a job in a PR company. However, it never seemed right and with every passing day I wanted to do begin my own venture. In this cluttered world, I wanted to do something unique that was untouched. One day, I wondered to myself about the numerous reading options available to a sighted person. However when I actually thought about the same with reference to the visually impaired community, I could think of none. I began to research from that very day and after three months into the research, I decided to quit my job and completely commit myself to the venture.
Can you tell us a little about the existing demand for a lifestyle magazine in braille in the context of the literacy rate among the visually challenged in India today?
There are 12 million visually impaired people in India, of which 56 lakh are literate. A lifestyle magazine in our opinion would be well received by people since it offers great variety. Topics ranging from travel, beauty, short stories, humor to politics is something that anyone right from a college student to a working adult would enjoy.
Since White Print is the first of its kind in the country, we believe it would be enjoyed by most.
It is wonderful to read that a section of the magazine would be also open for readers’ contributions. Although braille literature and reading material have been existing for a while in India, but the visually challenged have for long been treated as passive consumers. How do you hope to change this?
With White Print, readers have showing their excitement and enthusiasm towards contributing for this section. Passion flows through their voice I reckon this would be a platform and a medium through which the community will be able to share their talent with their peers.
If given an opportunity with easy accessibility, I do not think the community will shy away from contributing to the magazine.
How easy/difficult was it to find investors or funders for this magazine in the light of the prospects of its profitability model?
The magazine is not a charity venture. In order to derive funds for running the same, we have approached a number of companies to advertise with us. Braille advertising is something that is not been done before in India and I believe it is a step ahead in the field of advertising too.
Ads in the Braille are primarily text heavy and hence it is a challenge to bring advertisers on board who are used to being dependent on attractive visuals and graphics.
For the inaugural issue of White Print we have Raymond on board who has sponsored content in the Fashion & Lifestyle section of the magazine. The company talks about the Spring Summer Collection’ 2013.
Is this venture also looking at social inclusion by employing an editorial staff team of visually challenged writers or is it regular text being transformed into Braille?
Being a start up company we aren’t in a position to hire anyone as of now. However, we would love to in the near future. Currently, regular text is being converted into Braille through a software at the National Association for the Blind, India.
Having said that, there is a section dedicated to reader’s contribution and we are welcoming content about anything that interests them. It could be a poem, article, opinion piece etc.
Will there be an online version that will be readable for all?
Not in the phase – I of the venture. White Print is born out of the need for having a physical magazine and hence we would like to promote that