Ethics and Bollywood

Last night, the Casa Neuva Restaurant and Cantina, a local bar in Athens, Ohio, had a Bollywood dance night. Even if it is really close to finals weeks the bar was full of Indian students, who even if they are a little hesitant to visit bars otherwise, were there, shaking a leg to popular Bollywood numbers.

I have written about this earlier that the Indian diaspora is using Bollywood as a cultural identifier and as a connection that binds them. Hence I also decided to prominently feature Bollywood news on my site. But then there are some ethical issues that crop up even when featuring Bollywood news!

A few days back a popular Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif, had a wardrobe malfunction, and needless to say the Indian media blew it out of proportion. But, now this kind if things though it arouses public interest is not quite important. So do I at all put in this kind of stuff that in my news judgement is trivial? Also since I am curating the news and not doing my original reporting, which website do I choose if I want to link it to a news site, the site that has reported it in the most sensational way, of the site that has it in moderation?

Time to Tweak the Idea.

 

As we prepare our final pitch presentations, and reconsider every possible questions that may come up, I’m rethinking the viability of this project.  Keeping in mind I am a full-time Ph.D. student, with a 20-hours a week job that pays for my stipend, how am I really going to keep up with curating the news everyday?

Unlike some of my colleagues, who are developing an one-time App one time, not to say that will not require time and effort or sustained maintenance, I have to keep up with this on a daily basis .Also the time difference between India and U.S.A may be a factor in updating the site, unless I have someone working for me in India or here on another shift, which will mean added expenditure.

I am actually now inclined to make my service a weekly service. This will help me to test-waters and moreover give me time to curate quality stuff. I could pick out the 10 important happenings of the week, and then have in-depth stories covering those issue or events and have it up on my site every Saturday morning, so that the users have the entire weekend to read the same. As for the write-up to go with these news stories, I will have a brief summary about the first the news and then about the story that I’m proving a link to.

But my initial problem which I sought to solve  was, how does one keep up with the daily news in India? How do I solve that problem? I do not know if ti is a viable option, but what if I could Tweet five important headline for the day? Five-words headline and then one sentence to elaborate. For example, and interesting story from India for today is- One if the Prime Ministerial candidates for the Indian general elections in 2014, Narendra Modi has called Gandhi, Mohanlal instead of Mohandas, and that has caused some stir. I can Tweet “Modi confuses Gandhi’s name. Refers to Gandhi as Mohanlal instead of Mohandas at a rally in Jaipur.” This kind of Tweeting will keep me relevant and in service through the week without burning myself out, and will also leave me time to do the curating stuff for the weekend.

The MVP for My Kind of News

While we want to make our projects useful and “cool”, in doing so we may often move away from the core function our app/site is suppose to perform. Hence revisiting the basic problem and how our app is suppose to solve them is a wise idea.

For me the problem that I seek to solve is: For the Indian diaspora in America,it is difficult to keep up with India related news on a everyday basis. Hence I need to have a product that will solve this problem.

My core product is have a news curated site that will have the 10 most important news from India everyday. I will provide a brief summary of these news and then link it to a news site that has a well written story on the same news.

The next question is what can be the MVP or minimum viable product for the same. In my case this will be a webpage that has a numbered list of news. A, four-six word headline followed by a 75-80 word summary of the news, followed by an active link that will link it to a news source. I plan to follow the Daily Beast Cheat Sheet Template. The Daily Beast Cheat Sheet however has a mug shot picture with every story, for which it gives a photo credit to either the photo stock service or the wire services, but I do not think I will be able to do that.

Socializing the Idea

As suggested by our Professor we need to socialize our idea that we have for our entrepreneurial projects. What is socializing an idea? According to the urban word dictionaries this word means to spread and idea with a hope that familiarity will gain it acceptance or build a consensus. I understanding it as bouncing an idea around, very much what we do with our story ideas before we write them.

So where do I socialize my idea? My first stop is the Facebook page for the Indian Students Association at Ohio University. This page has 219 users. These users are Ohio University students of the enrolled in various courses, but staying true to the Indian stereotype, they are mostly enrolled in the STEM subjects. Age range 22- 32 years, mostly graduate students.

The question that I am putting up on the page is- Will you guys subscribe to an app that will give you 10 most important news for NRIs everyday? As further explanation I will add- This app will have brief summaries of 10 most important news from India, and will lead you to a webpage that will give you the news in details, if you wish to read further. Skewed towards the requirements of NRIs this App will also have timely updates on immigration, higher education and any other legislation that are important to Indians living here.

Now let me see how many and what kind of responses I get to that.

Interacting With My TG

Last Saturday night,I got a chance to meet some of my target audience  when I went to the Indian Night, organized by Ohio University’s Indian Students’ Association. The occasion was to celebrate the Indian festival Diwali.

The ballroom at the Baker Center, at Ohio University, which holds 350 people was packed to capacity. In fact, the association spokesperson said that they had managed to sell all the tickets way before the scheduled end-date of the ticket sale.

The event was attended by a number of students from OU and Indians who are part of the Athens community. It was interesting to see what the Indians connected over and what does this diaspora community consider as inherently Indian.

There was Bollywood-song and dance. A lot of it. There were a few hybrid dance performances, such as Bharatnatyam mixed with belly dancing and a few traditional Indian raaga performances. The loudest applause of course were for the Bollywood dance performances. Even the American kids who are born and brought up here, put up performance of Bollywood dance.

This only prompts me to feature Bollywood even more prominently than I thought I would. Though I am a firm believer that Bollywood is not the only cultural symbol we have, but seeing the reaction of my target group towards Bollywood, I have to think otherwise.

 

Give Them Cricket!

Cricket is religion in India. It is the most popular and the most watched sport in India. The final match of the 2011 World Cup Cricket series (in which India played Sri Lanka), was watched by 67.6 million viewers over four hours. In contrast, the 2010 FIFA World Cup final was watched by only 1.5 million people in India. For most Indians who come to the US, a common grievance is they never get to see enough cricket here. And it is not just about watching cricket, culturally people also devote time to discussing a game and are very opinionated about it.

Cricket combines the idea of nostalgia; the feeling of staying connected to ones roots and ties in with the ethnic identity of the group that is my target audience.

So to give my audience more value for their time and money, I will prominently feature cricket-related news, as and when there is a tournament that is on. But considering there are scores of other news sites that are doing it, and actually will be doing it way better than me, I need to give them something extra or different.

I will again delve into the realm of nostalgia, and I am thinking of adding YouTube videos of some historical cricketing moments of the Indian Team. The audience is already aware of it, but somewhere curating these goose bump-inducing moments will help them refresh their memories, and serve as that add on to the current news. I can make it a weekly feature.

Some of the moments that I’d ideally curate is the nail biting finish of the Natwest Series, which is famous for the them captain’s reaction to the win.

The cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan go back a long way and curating a moment form these matches (where of course India won) will go down great with the audience. And Indian cricket is incomplete without the batsman Sachin Tendulkar, so I’d definitely have best moments of his matches. 

Saying It With Pictures

 

One of the things that anyone who visits India talks about is “colors” and “contrasts”. The country is vibrant when it comes to imagery in terms of these two things. Colors in India can be associated to almost anything- clothes, religion, cities, public transport- everything. And the contrasts come from the move towards urbanization, the existence of tradition in a rapidly growing industrial environment. To visitors when this can be a little too much to take it, through the eye of a discerning photographer these come out as timeless images. It will be stupid not to capture this vivid imagery of India from my audience. Images such as this one which document the celebration of the Indian festival Diwali, or this one which was shot in a mosque in New Delhi, India, or this one which captures the Hindu ritual of the holy dip in Kumbh Mela; will be curated into a “Photo of the day” or “Photo of the week” section- depending on the availability of the images.

I think organizations like NYT and Daily Beasts have tie-ups with several photographers, wire services and stock images companies such as Getty from where they get their pictures. But since I do not have these tie ups and may not be able to subscribe to them till my app/website starts paying for itself, I will actually source the images from publications with well stocked photoblogs. Though, I will check on the legal issues of sourcing the images.