I have no recollection of how I became fb friends with Mulchand. All I remember is, admiring everything about his facebook life! His timeline would make me jealous (still does!). He’s always posting attractive photos – of him travelling somewhere you’d want to be or he’s seen eating incredible food at interesting places. He is blessed with lots of friends and spends his time doing creative things ALL THE TIME! And yes, he’s a startup dude!
He was in Goa a few months ago and he happened to ping me. Funnily he was in the adjacent lane from where I was at that time! We both came out of our respective lanes and actually met for the first time by the roadside! We ended up chatting for half an hour (on the road) and I realised this guy is really doing awesome stuff!
More in this non-roadside, distant interview!
So what do you do from Monday to Friday?
Monday to Friday most of my time is focused on Meter Down – my day usually starts at 7am. I go jogging/walking after which I tuck into a heavy breakfast :). I am in office by 9.30-10am. On my way to office, I catch up with friends over a phone call, but once I am at work it is all about Meter Down.
Meter Down started in March 2010 with a simple concept of being India’s first auto rickshaw magazine. It was one of its kinds because we’ve always had reading material available to us in every waiting area and in vehicles but not in a rickshaw! Mumbaikars spend an average of 30-90 minutes in traffic everyday. The idea was to just give them an option of reading. So we started our own magazine called Meter Down.
Six months in the business we received feedback from our advertisers who were willing to pay more if they had an option to advertise ON THE RICKSHAW rather than inside the rickshaw in a magazine. The objective was clear, more visibility to brands and hence we changed our model from a publication house to an auto rickshaw advertising company. A few months later a TV channel approached us with an idea of brand activation. Little did we know that a small step ahead on that road would result in a huge hidden opportunity for us! Since then, we have now supported activations, advertising and branding via auto rickshaws in over 170+ cities of India.
And what do you do over the weekends?!
Weekends for me are busier than weekdays – my alarm rings at 5am! It was in 2008 when my friends and I thought we should do something interesting on Sunday mornings. We decided to go for a photo walk with a new DLSR and later hop into a café for breakfast. What started as a small 7 member group on a photo walk turned into one of India’s most active community of photographers with 18,000+ photographers across the country today!
As of now, Photo Konnect has a mandate to host 24 events in 12 months. Our average is about 3 events a month. Photo Konnect has hosted over 250+ photo walks, workshops, panel discussions, workshop tours & exhibition for publishers like Behance. The highlight for the community was when Aamir Khan Production asked me to curate and host a photography exhibition for the premier of his film Dhobi Ghat.
In 2016, Photo Konnect intends to launch two new initiatives
i) The Open Library: Mumbai’s largest free library for photographers. I’ve been collecting photo books since I was in my first year of college. By the time I finished my PG I had over 500 photo books, magazines and journals. I’d never read 500 books at a time but 500 people could, and hence the idea of open library was born.
ii) Project Bol: This is a social experiment that I’ve undertaken to teach photography to deaf and mute students. I am learning Indian sign language so that I can teach them photography and see if I can add work skills to their ability. My vision is for deaf and mute students of photography to stand with other photographers and shoot the same event.
How do you keep such a large community of 18,000+ engaged?
Engagement is always the key to build a great community. It’s not about what you want but it’s all about what they want and how we can channel all the energy of the community in one direction. Communities don’t work when you are working as an island. You need support from the community to spread. We have workshops and photo walks every month. We try and partner with new and exciting things happening in the city to give more value.
At some point of time do you see yourself wanting to scale up Photo Konnect and make it your mainstay venture?
It’s been more than 6 years for Meter Down and right now the business is mostly automated. I am looking forward to add Photo Konnect into my weekday schedule. So 2 days for Meter Down, 2 days for Photo Konnect and Saturday will be left to work on a new passion! Sunday will become my family day. For me, passion is primary as much as making money. If any of my startups stop generating revenue, they will be switched to something more viable.
While most of us are struggling with one venture – how do you manage to juggle everything + travel + volunteer for different organisations?? What’s your secret masala?
My secret masala is pure passion. I have made my passion as my profession. I love studying human behavior which advertising fulfills. I love clicking pictures which I get to do over the weekend. In 2015 I thought of not blowing up money on my birthday, but instead wanted to help the earthquake victims of Nepal. This made me realize that charity does not only mean donating money. My time is more valuable than my money, hence I promised myself to donate myself for charity every year. At the end of the day, if you are passionate about what you do, nobody needs to remind you of what you need to do in your life. You will do it by default.
When you have a seven day week you got to slow down at times as well. That’s why I am usually traveling for 7 days in a month. My holidays are more like a workation. I travel to a destination 2-3 days on a work trip and extend 3-4 additional days for holiday. I spend this time doing some creative brainstorming and learning new things via amazing activities.
“Mulchand”. What’s the story behind your name? You don’t look like a Mulchand!! Do people often think they will be meeting a traditional older person and are taken aback when they see this dude instead?
Shakespeare probably knew me, that’s why he said “what’s in the name” ? 🙂 . The story started on May 8th 1985 when a crazy guy was born. Among all my family members my grand dad was the most excited one. He named me Mulchand. I never had a chance to ask him why, but as a kid I hated my name. But soon in undergrad I realized that everybody I met never forgot me because of my unique name. You may have 10 Rahuls, Nehas, Poojas in your contact list but Mulchand will ONLY BE ONE. So you see, it was a good business call that my grand dad took when I was born 😉
It’s a very common thing for people to expect an aged man turn up for a meeting. And they are pretty shocked to see me instead!
Okay… so tell us – what do all the ladies call you? 🙂))
I am “MD” (coined by my friend Jitesh Jain) to most of my friends. It works out well.
You volunteer for TEDx Gateway. Tell us the most inspiring speaker you’ve listened to that still gives you the goosebumps…
I had a chance to listen to Vicky Roy a few years ago. His story inspired me. He had nothing and he built his empire of photographs. He is living legend – one the finest photographers from India who has worked with international media. His story keeps my faith alive. When you don’t have anything, the best way is to build it. The best part, he is still very humble and rooted to earth. No matter how big you become, your nature defines your character.
Your most naive mistake you committed early on while starting up…
Never had a mentor.
Your weakness (as a person)
Your strongest point as an entrepreneur?
My faith and my belief. They will never abandon you even if the world around you does.
The one thing you love the most about running your own company.
I get to call the shots in what I believe is right. The best part about independent decision making process is the ability to make decisions faster. If you are not fast enough in decision-making you have already lost half the battle.
The toughest part of being CEO
To manage people. When you are at the top of the pyramid you should learn the art of management and people skills. They come a long way and this can only be learnt with time.
Your fav part of the day…
I actually don’t have a favorite part of the day. But the best part of my week is when I dedicate 5-6 hours to read – I switch off my cellphone and am off all tech devices. I walk down to a nearby book store. I spend hours reading magazines, books and journals. This is my source of new ideas. This is when I get to see what’s happening on the street, what’s around me. My inspiration comes from my surroundings. More chaotic my surroundings, the better are my ideas. Put me in a closed room and my creativity will die within minutes.
Your biggest fear…
I think for me my freedom is everything. The day I lose that, I will lose myself.
If an angel investor came by and gave you 1 crore rupees – how would you spend it?
I would use that money for Photo Konnect to grow my team and create more international quality content. A good portion would also go towards building the biggest photographer community across the Asian region. I’ve learnt that two important aspects of any business are content and delivery of that content. I will use that money to strengthen these two.
An incident from the time you volunteered for the Nepal quake that has changed you forever…
Human life is precious and it’s magical. You can make someone believe that there is a better tomorrow and it’s worth hanging on to. We all want to make a difference in this world and volunteering is my way of leaving this world a better place. When I first traveled in Nepal I saw the touristy part, but while volunteering, the real Nepal touched me within. It added more purpose in my life. After what I saw in Nepal, I’ve become more mentally strong and more tolerant.
After I was back, a few of my friends met at a local bar. Somewhere in middle of the conversation a waiter (of Nepali origin) was clearing our tables. He overheard our conversation a bit and hearing that I was there to volunteer, he suddenly smiled and said, “Thank you for helping my brothers and sisters”.
Since you travel a lot, name 3 must visit places for entrepreneurs to unwind.
Berlin – It’s the art capital of the world. Every entrepreneur has an artist inside themselves.
Amsterdam – The entire city is on sale. The only city in the world where you will find more tourists than the locals! They have definitely got it right to attract more tourism.
Siem Reap – This is all about going back in history, you can spend one whole week here and you will just keep discovering yourself over and over again.
You’re a couchsurfer! List a few don’ts for Couch Surfing for us to learn from!
1. Never have in incomplete profile
2. Always do a google check and a facebook check on your host or surfer
3. Read the testimonials before accepting and hosting.
4. If you are a girl and uncomfortable then always stay with a girl.
5. Don’t use CS as a platform to find free stay. It’s a concept of sharing.
You’re a community guy. And you love startups! What do you love about TheRodinhoods?
The very fact that it’s an open network and community driven.
Parting gyaan to fellow Rodinhooders…
There has to be a better way to do things and we need to keep finding it until we are happy with it.
My aim and goal in life is to help people around me be more successful in their lives. That’s how we build communities. By taking care of each other around us.
Meter Down Twitter: @meterdown_team