In 2009, my freshman year, I met a fellow student named Tanay, who was looking for co-authors for his satire blog, called NTMN – short for “News That Matters Not.” To use sarcasm, a rather callow form of humor, as a language for commenting on important issues had always seemed brilliant to me. I joined him, and the NTMN blog became newsthatmattersnot.com.
I would actively seek and recruit new people, many of whom had never written before. One of them was Bijender, an IIT alumnus. NTMN’s popularity really started when his article on an IIT controversy went viral across the IIT circles. I realized how great an impact having people with the right network on your team can have on your product’s success. Bijender went on to be a founding member of Citizens for Accountable Governance – Prime Minister Modi’s PR machinery in the 2014 elections.
A year later, I heard about a business plan competition, and told Tanay that we must participate. He said that he had started it as a simple literary project and wanted to keep it so. It took me several days to convince him that we had the chance to build something unique, but before that, we had much to learn. Hesitatingly, he agreed. We made it to the top ten.
I came up with a growth plan: Tanay would take charge of the content, I, of the business. With a zealous web-designer on the team, NTMN was revamped.
Between 2011 – 2012, India witnessed history being made, as the anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare started a Gandhian civil resistance that spread like wildfire. For the first time, key historical moments were being built around the youth and social-media. NTMN joined the movement, and leveraged its youth network to add to the public discourse.
Over the years, we covered gender equality, anti-incumbency, education and other impending issues. The media noticed. We got featured in prominent newspapers (click here to see NTMN’s complete media coverage).
And were invited at colleges to conduct writing workshops.
Gradually, we grew into a network of 200+ volunteers.
People asked us how had we managed to get so many people to work for us unpaid. I told them they were not working for us, we were all working for a cause.
For our social contributions through ICT, we were recognized by the 2011 Manthan South Asia Award and the 2012 World Summit Youth Award.
This information was never made public, but we also received an investment/acquisition offer from a very prominent internet group. Back in the day, the whole hoopla around startups and funding was unknown to the common public, including ourselves. In our minds, NTMN just wasn’t something we wanted to turn into a for-profit. So, we never responded.
As much as we loved our four-year run, both my co-founder and I had different post-graduation plans. He went on to pursue education, I entered technology.
We weren’t good writers, but we were passionate about writing. We weren’t a startup, but we knew how to hustle. In hindsight, the one thing we did right was to build a good network. Everything else followed from there.