Read up in a rick

The trio who started Meter Down  

While the recession has taken away the jobs of many, three youngsters gave up their steady jobs to live their dream.

Right since their college project days, the trio had the desire to make a difference and not just walk the trodden path. Hence Meter Down was born. It is a Mumbai-based monthly English magazine for circulation in auto rickshaws

NXg gets talking to three youngsters who have chosen the path less treaded — Mulchand Dedhia, 24, Simi Sailopal, 24, and Ishan Mehta, 24.

Mulchand Dedhia is an advertising graduate who has also completed his post graduation in business management. He is a photographer by profession and entrepreneur by heart. He gave up his family business of retail to walk the path of entrepreneurship.

Simi Sailopal is a journalism graduate who worked as a freelance journalist for Mumbai Mirror Online while still in college. After her graduation she went to the UK to pursue her Masters in Broadcast Journalism from The University of Sheffield. She also dabbled in Public Relations for a brief period and worked with 20:20 Media.

Ishan Mehta is a Mass Media graduate with a specialisation in advertising. He started his career with Hungama Mobile as a Senior Content Writer and then soon moved on to Ogilvy One to work as a copywriter. Enjoys writings of all kinds: content, copy, script, features, and FB status messages as well.

How did you come up with the idea of starting a magazine for auto rickshaws and when?

Well the idea began taking shape about 10 months back when we felt the need to go beyond our existing jobs and really do something radical. We knew it had to be related to media as that is what we knew and understood best. So, in our process of finding a unique business idea for a media startup we came across an amazing fact — autorickshaws had never been used for brand building before! We saw a great opportunity here as almost every Mumbaikar uses an auto rickshaw at least once a day and therefore the reach of the auto rickshaws is immense!

We soon carried out a survey among 500 people to determine the feasibility of the idea. Not surprisingly, our guess was right — Almost 70 per cent of Mumbaikars spend around 35-40 minutes in a rickshaw everyday and the remaining almost spend 30 minutes or more during every single ride! The survey also revealed that a majority of people simply while away their time in the rickshaw by either talking on the phone, listening to music or by simply looking outside as there is nothing better to do. So we thought what better way to help the passengers than through an exclusive autorickshaw magazine. Now the challenge was how would we place the magazine in the rickshaws and make sure it stays there; which is why we decided to place an acrylic shelf behind the driver's seat in every Meter Down rickshaw which would hold the magazine. Hence, making us the first to use Auto Rickshaws as a brand building opportunity with our two unique properties, the acrylic shelf, that'd help brand's engage their target audience and Meter Down magazine, India's First auto rickshaw magazine that'd help passengers enjoy every auto rickshaw ride to the fullest (despite the potholes).

Is such a concept prevalent internationally?

What works internationally seldom works for Indians. There are various companies that advertise on private cabs but rarely has anyone tried to tap a mass transport system like the auto rickshaws! Also, no one has tried to advertise inside public transport vehicles, which actually gives brands greater time to engage with their audiences!

How many copies will you print initially?

We have a print run of 3000 copies of our first issue, so that we can ensure the soiled copies are replaced as and when necessary and the rickshaws have a copy of the magazine at all points of time.

Will you cover all the autos in Mumbai?

At the moment we are live between Bandra and Goregaon with 500 auto rickshaws. Bandra was our starting point and we will be expanding our fleet deeper into western suburbs all the way up to Borivali within the next few months. We are also looking at covering central suburbs like Thane and Chembur by the end of this year. Our vision is to give every rickshaw passenger a unique fun-filled experience, a Meter Down experience.

Will you pay drivers to place it inside their vehicles?

Yes, the rickshaw drivers are a very integral part of our business model and therefore we will be paying them every month. Along with revenue sharing, we are also looking at various options like providing them with mid-day meals, subsidised medical facilities, water coolers etc. very soon.

Tell us how you plan to distribute copies in so many vehicles?

Well, managing the logistics and supply chain was definitely one of our biggest challenges. Initially we spent a lot of time at various rickshaw stands across the city understanding the dynamics of their shift system. We now have a distribution team of six to seven people, who work very closely with the rickshaw drivers and make sure all Meter Down rickshaws are on the streets. Also, to ensure a fair distribution of copies, we are working in tandem with senior auto rickshaw drivers with whom we have built an amazing working relationship.

What about the content?

This 24-page magazine is compiled keeping in mind that it is an autorickshaw magazine and the commuters interest is at the core of its content. It will be a general interest magazine that'll feature a mix of travel, entrepreneurship, lifestyle and fashion-related articles! The magazine would also have great utility-value for the passengers with sections like ‘Ur-Bazaar: A place to buy and sell' and ‘A Local Area Guide' which would list the numbers of malls, theatres, restaurants, coffee shops etc in that area. What's more, the magazine will be placed in the auto rickshaws free of cost and will not be retailed.

Do you have an office?

No, we don't. We are a start-up and we believe in keeping things as simple as possible. We operate from Wi-Fi cafés and from our homes.

Why do you think people will read the magazine?

Meter down is a crisp, fun-filled with quick-to-read articles that'll ensure that the passengers have a delightful ride, always! Also, the utility section will ensure that finding the closest café/restaurant is not a difficult task anymore! Moreover, our survey showed that there is a clear need for an interesting stimulant to make the long, boring rickshaw rides a little bit more interesting.

Tell us about your expectations?

We hope we can add more ‘fun' to auto rickshaw rides. Like mentioned earlier, we aim to ensure that the passengers have a delightful ride, always!

Tell us about the Facebook page on the magazine…

With no paid advertising we have about 400 fans within a month. Our fans have shown a lot of excitement for the magazine which clearly reflects on our fan page. As of today 57 per cent of our fans are male and 43 per cent females. Our fans are in age group of 18-34 years. Our quality of post has increased by double digits and our Facebook ratings are at stars over five. We love our fans as much as they love us.

How do you plan to promote the magazine?

We believe in the power of word of mouth publicity. We are also making our presence felt in the digital world through Meter Down fan pages. The promotional strategy of the magazine will reflect the novelty of the idea, so keep an eye out for us.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 7:25:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/Read-up-in-a-rick/article16181165.ece

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