She is the first non-resident Indian woman to edit and publish a newspaper outside India. And it won her an entry into The Limca Book of Records. Meet Veena Rao, who edits and publishes the news magazine NRI Pulse from Georgia in the US.
Launched in 2006, NRI Pulse is a free monthly newspaper with print and online editions. It serves the roughly one-lakh-strong Indian-American community in Georgia and the neighbouring south-eastern states. “The recognition by The Limca Book validates my efforts at running a quality publication, and raises its profile in the community,” says Rao.
Mangalore girl Rao studied in Pune, and has a post-graduate degree in economics from Fergusson College and a diploma in journalism and communication from Symbiosis College. She worked in the media in India before moving to the US. In an e-mail interview, Veena talks of her journey from Pune to the US. “Looking back, it has been an exciting journey although it was not one I would have imagined possible 15 years ago!”
Her experience as a journalist gave her an innate understanding of what people like to read, and what people need to read. But it was not just that. “I think I happened to have the right skills and be at the right place at the right time. I also happen to be very impulsive by nature.”
Launching a newspaper seemed like an exciting, glamorous mission but in the summer of 2006 Rao did not realise “the sweat, toil, disappointments and the persistence it would take to keep the mission alive”. To make matters worse, recession arrived and keeping the magazine alive proved her biggest challenge. She survived by keeping overheads low. “Ours is a free newspaper, which relies totally on advertisements for survival. Selling ad space has been the biggest challenge and the least attractive part of my job, she admits.
NRI Pulse prides itself on being a publication that focuses on the positive. “We cover news that is not found on the Internet. Stories about men and women of the Indian community and their activities form a large chunk of our coverage, and this ensures that our copies are picked up month after month. People will always be interested in knowing what’s happening in their community,” she says.
Over the years, the magazine’s mission has been to work towards building a stronger, more vibrant community. “We are constantly focusing on topics that affect our lives, the real estate market, the job market, rising gas prices, resettlement of refugees…”
Like many writers, Rao too hopes to complete a novel she began long ago in 2009. “My mother and son remind me everyday that my purpose in life is to write a book. My family will be very disappointed if I don’t!”