How Malini Agarwal built a million-dollar empire– And why this is only the beginning!

Women

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 “I realized I am happiest being Optimist Prime! So, I’m making that a thing! You may not have realized this but your social media identity is a digital representation of who you are. And it’s leaving an ever-lasting imprint. So, make it a good one,” says Malini Agarwal when she recently stepped into the little red circle on TEDx talk about how broken our social media is.

Malini Agarwal is the Founder and Creative Director of MissMalini Entertainment, a multiplatform positive-only new media company based in Mumbai, India, that creates exciting content and experiences to appeal to the digital generation. She is also a digital influencer, a TV host, an entrepreneur and a best-selling author. While delivering her talk on TEDx stage, Malini speaks about the three rules she has come to follow based on her experience as an influencer who also had her fair share of controversies to face and battles to win:

Rule #1: Never post anything about someone you couldn’t say to their face.

Rule #2: Spark joy with what you post.

Rule #3: Remember, followers are people too.

Malini says these rules help her decide on the kind of content she wants to promote and how to promote it without losing sight of basic humanity and core values. She had this vision to shine a light on the young, dynamic and exciting side of India that is hardly ever shown on platforms such as Discovery Channel or National Geographic when it is featured on them. This also included the vibrant entertainment industry, fashion and lifestyle news, and trends. Malini explains, “We felt there was often too much negativity around these topics. On the business end, we wanted to offer brands and advertisers more targeted and effective ways of engaging our audience without alienating them. And we wanted to create a sustainable, homegrown legacy brand that we could be proud to call our own.” Sworn to always peak through a rose-colored lens with an objective to uplift and encourage, at her organization, they call themselves ‘a faction of dreamers’, who are always looking to push the envelope and stay ahead of the game. 

“Know your strengths. Women have an incredibly high EQ which resonates deeply with millennials today. When someone asks you what it’s like to be a female leader, tell them what It's like to be a leader. Female or otherwise.”

Malini Agarwal, Founder & Creative Director, MissMalini Entertainment

All this was not long before Malini packed her bags and moved to Mumbai twenty years ago to build her life on her own terms. From a popular radio jockey to an entertainment columnist, originally it started as a hobby blog (missmalini.com) in 2009 but later in 2011, Malini turned her mania into her professional venture. And raising an actual brand from zero with the potential to create a legacy for Indian women via Malini’s Girl Tribe is the kind of achievement that clearly reflects the amount of effort and dedication she has put in to do so. She conveys, “Our story is one of ‘passion and perseverance’. When we first proposed quitting our jobs and starting a digital media company in 2012 most people thought we were mad. Remember that Facebook and Twitter were barely getting started in India at the time, let alone professional lifestyle blogging. Internet connectivity was still a severely restricting factor. Digital marketing made up less than 2% of the total ad spends. And there was no workforce to draw from because there was no industry yet to speak of. At the same time, people who were close to us could see our passion, our solid business plan, and the successful examples from other markets. So, with a solid plan, a great team and excellent execution, over time we were able to bring people over to our side. From there, our growth was informed by a mix of what our audience told us they wanted, the dynamics of a changing media and technology landscape, our personal instincts, and a healthy dose of good luck.” And how it grew. The blog quickly expanded into adjacent fashion, beauty and lifestyle categories as the readership rose. Alongside the blog they also started creating content tailored to different social media platforms, creating what was then India’s first independent digital media company. The company took on a small angel investment in 2012 which is when it underwent its first phase of growth. During this time, Miss Malini Entertainment became the first digital company to cross over into linear television, launching their show ‘MissMalini’s World’ on TLC in 2014. They went on to create two other shows for Times Network and Viacom. In December 2017 the company raised a pre-Series A from NEA (USA) and Orios Venture Partners following which they’ve grown their core content business, established a market-leading influencer marketing practice. In 2018 they launched ‘Malini’s Girl Tribe’, a thriving women’s social network. Through this platform Malini hopes to transform social media into a better place, filtering out incessant and unsolicited trolling, and allowing women to talk, share, support, network, connect, empower and inspire each other in every way possible. 

Malini drew inspiration for Malini’s Girl Tribe from a number of obstacles she encountered throughout her career, including a lot of spoken and unspoken bias in the professional arena. She asserts, “It’s no secret that women have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition. But that said, being one of the few female founders and leaders has also gained a certain share of attention that’s been helpful to us. There’s still a lot to do to even the playing field and that is something we’re dedicating a significant amount of our company resources towards.” To all the fellow women who are fighting the same battle, Malini says, “Know your strengths. Women have an incredibly high EQ which resonates deeply with millennials today. When someone asks you what it’s like to be a female leader, tell them what It’s like to be a leader. Female or otherwise.”

Malini measures her success in terms of the satisfaction she gets from her work. At the end of the day, she believes if you sleep well then know that you did ‘good’. She also pays huge regard to the impact her organization has on its consumers, and the kind of opportunities they’re creating for their team and partners. She exclaims, “You may be knocking your business metrics out of the park, but if it leaves you drained and unhappy by the time you get home then I don’t consider that a sustainable success.” Speaking further Malini mentions how having an inspiring team to work with has helped her cause, “Everyone will tell you that your team is the most important aspect of any successful company, and I couldn’t agree more. This means not only finding the right people but creating a corporate culture that allows them to share in your dreams and helps them achieve theirs at the same time.” Outside work Malini is a simple human being who loves dancing, playing pool and doing puzzles! That’s literally how she unwinds- A 2000 piece puzzle and a glass of wine. And she has a beautiful dream that we all would love having come true: “My legacy will be a homegrown brand built with empathy and kindness. I hope to leave behind a community that will far outlive me. Malini’s Girl Tribe is a piece of my heart and is already fixing the internet experience for women, especially Indian women, in a significant way. I believe that MissMalini Entertainment has all the right ingredients to make this community soar and succeed.” 

“My end game is a softer, kinder world – virtual or otherwise,” says Malini. “Where women uplift each other and rise together. And have a lot of fun doing it!”

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