Malini Agarwal better known as ‘MissMalini’ led the blogging and content creation revolution in India. From moonlighting as a blogger while juggling her day job to now having an eponymous media empire, Agarwal, Founder of MissMalini and Creative Director of Malini’s Girl Tribe, spoke to Re:Set about how she got started, the challenges of content creation and her advice for entrepreneurs. This conversation is part of our new series ‘In Hindsight’ where some of India’s most influential names across industries reflect on their careers.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve had an incredible journey where you’ve gone from having a blog to now having a media empire — take us through it.
My journey in content creation has been quite an adventure. The hardest part of it was finding good people who can help. When I started out, the concept of blogging was quite new and there weren’t many people in this line of work. So finding talented people who can understand the way I envision content and can write in my style was a challenge. But, I did work really hard to build the right culture and I’m very proud of the team I have now.
What’s been the hardest part about creating content and how do you tackle that?
When we started, people didn’t entirely know what I was doing. I had to carve a path for myself, which was exciting because we could make up our own rules. But Mike Melli, my co-founder and business partner, had to work really hard to open up the landscape of influencer marketing. He had to convince brands on how this would be an interesting and fruitful way for them to connect with their audience. Now if you look at the industry, it is still huge and amazing.
For me, the hardest part is never having enough time to do all the things I want to. I’m always pulled in new directions. I try to organize myself with the help of Google Calendar. I also have a fabulous manager who keeps my life in order, but my biggest struggle is that I still don’t have enough time.
How did you learn to value your worth and your talent? Is it a work in progress?
I have always been quite proud of my talents and I do have enough self-worth. The only work-in-progress for me is to not be self conscious. I’m quite shy and overcompensate for it by being friendly and loud. But people don’t realize this. Sometimes I also worry about people judging me or laughing at me but that is probably a work-in-progress for everyone.
What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and content creators?
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and content creators is that if you want your brand to outlive you then you have to think of doing more than just creating content under your name. It’s really important you collaborate with other creators because I think it’s collaboration over competition all the way. You will find a huge audience that’ll grow both yours and your collaborator’s fan base.
“I have always been quite proud of my talents and I do have enough self-worth.”
For entrepreneurs, the most important thing is good delegation. Build a good team, trust them and give them enough control to be creative and grow.
For those in content creation and in related industries, creative block is one challenge many have to deal with. How do you tap into your internal creativity and what’s your advice for those who face creative blocks?
Creative blocks are part and parcel of being a creative person. I remember when I was writing my first book I really struggled with a writer’s block. The most important thing to do when you’re feeling creatively stifled is to consume lots of content that you like. You will find a lot of inspiration there. When I got stuck writing my book, I started reading all my favourite books again and that got me back into the zone.
For newly-minted content creators, what are some of the factors they should keep in mind when it comes to monetizing their content?
Don’t start creating content with just the aim of making money. You have to be true and authentic with your content and that is the most important part. When it comes to monetizing, have a good strategy on the kind of brands you’re going to work with. Working on larger campaigns where other creators are involved is a good idea. Make sure the kind of content you’re creating still fits with what your brand ethos is.
Malini’s Girl Tribe has become a safe space for women to confide, find resources and get support — what prompted you to start it and what are some of the most common concerns members raise?
The Girl Tribe was actually an experiment, something we only wanted to try on Facebook groups. I was amazed to see the kind of conversations people — especially women — can have when there is no judgement, trolling and sexual harassment. People were really able to confide with each other, find all kinds of advice and recommendations, and even connect with each other.
I think one of the big things we realized during the pandemic is how the landscape and environment online can be quite toxic. I feel women just needed a safe space where they can be themselves and unapologetically so.
When it comes to most common concerns, it ranges from dry hair and skincare recommendations to more serious topics where it could be domestic abuse or issues with family that maybe you’re not always able to discuss with yourself or with people that you are close with. I have always maintained that women’s issues are not just rape and menstruation. There is so much more in our lives: work, relationships, mental health, travel, luxury. And that’s why this group has been amazing because it is a catch all for everything related to women. It has just been incredible to meet so many amazing women from all over the world and watch them connect.
Tell us a bit about the #IgnoreNoMoreOnline campaign and why you started it? How can we be kinder to ourselves and to each other online?
In the pandemic, we were all spending so much time online. Creators made a lot of content, and we would receive horrible comments even when we were doing an Instagram live. I thought a lot about how we have always been told to ignore it, but why should we have to?
“Women just needed a safe space where they can be themselves and unapologetically so.”
A friend of mine, the actress Tina Singh, would call out people who would send her sexual messages and DMs. A lot of times they go from saying the most horrible things to ‘Sorry.’ I realized that there is accountability and people aren’t aware of that. You can do more than just report on Facebook. You can file an FIR, and these guys can be booked for outraging a woman’s modesty, stalking, or harassment. These are all crimes by law. And I think when more people know about this, it will create an atmosphere of accountability. That is how the #IgnoreNoMoreOnline campaign came about.
We also want to understand what we can do. Maybe teach gender sensitization — especially on the internet — at a young age even at a primary school level. That is the goal of this campaign — to tell people who are being harassed online that they don’t have to ignore this anymore.