With the advent of tablets and e-readers, the traditional market for magazines might seem to be on the decline. Two men thought otherwise and have created Magzter, a platform for increasing readership and sales — and have met with amazing success.

Walk into the conference room of Magzter’s Chennai office, and you will see a table littered with iPads and iPhones, with two men working on their Macbooks. Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan and Girish Ramdas, founders of the first Indian app to rank number 1 in the grosser list on the Apple App Store, are no strangers to innovation.

Having individually established several successful start-ups, the two entrepreneurs joined hands to start Magzter, a digital magazine store that can be accessed across platforms. Girish, who published South India's first English language movie magazine Galatta in 2007, says, “When Apple launched the App Store in 2008, we created an app for the magazine. We created apps for iPad and Android when these were launched. Then we realised that we could not keep creating apps; so we decided to create a global platform for content creators.” With this thought firmly in place, the app took about a year to develop and was launched in June 2011 with 35 magazines on board. Vijayakumar says, “We now have over 1,500 publications; last week we signed on Hearst Magazines (publishers of Elle, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Seventeen). We have close to 80 lakh users globally, and we’ve been adding 10 lakh users every month for the past three months. This is a big leap for us.” Girish adds that content is available in 17 languages from 25 countries, contributing to the growth. In India, over 20 lakh iPad users are registered. Magazines such as Maxim have also incorporated videos, making it a more interactive reading experience.

The idea of the app is simple — it is like entering a store. Downloading and registering with Magzter is free. You can browse the various magazines (six pages are available for preview) and with a click of a button, choose to buy a single copy or subscribe. Archives are also available. Free magazines that have partnered with the app can be downloaded as well. Since the company works on a revenue-sharing business model, Girish says, “We give the publishers a wider audience and increase their reader base with practically no investment. Taking advantage of the tablet and mobile market, we have given a new channel of revenue for magazines that would have otherwise become defunct.”

Easy access

Speaking about the USP of the app, Vijayakumar says, “Since it is cross platform and does not require an active Internet connection while being read, you can buy anywhere and read anywhere. You can download a magazine on your iPad and read it on your computer or iPhone or Android device. Another advantage is something we call ‘NeverLost’ — since the whole thing is on cloud, you can archive the magazines you buy so it does not take up space on your device. This can be accessed anytime even if you change devices.”

On what young developers should focus on, Girish recommends, “Create something that fulfils a need in the market. Also, not every app you develop will get picked up by a giant like Yahoo — that needs some measure of luck as well — but don’t stop creating.” Vijayakumar adds, “The app should bring users back again and again. It shouldn’t be a one-time thing. That’s very important.”

So what’s next for Magzter? “Books and comics — Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle are already on board. It would be great to have DC and Marvel as well,” say the duo . “If anyone thinks of videos, they think of YouTube. We want to be called the YouTube of reading,” says Girish.

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