Twinkle Khanna’s upcoming online venture will be the Refinery29 of India

Twinkle Khanna  

Twinkle Khanna is flustered. One of her children is competing for her attention as she fields questions about her latest venture. In a moment reminiscent of the many droll anecdotes that light up her début book, Mrs Funnybones, the child is triumphant and drags her away. Khanna excuses herself apologetically: “It is Saturday. Everyone is home.”

We’re discussing Tweak, the women-centric digital media platform launching on September 30. It promises to be “a space for the modern Indian woman to challenge old ideas and discover new ones and offer readers solutions that offer maximum results with minimum effort”. Khanna says that the idea found its roots in the many women who approached her after her columns became popular. “I realised that even though these women often had starkly different backgrounds, they had similar problems.”

The easiest way out, she admits, would have been to start an Oprah-style TV show. However, that would have clashed with her penchant for avoiding the spotlight. “I can’t be bothered to continually fix my eyelashes and make-up. I’d rather go to work in my pyjamas.” Her work apparel of choice led to a rather more ambitious denouement. Tweak will have contributions from experts in various fields, eminent writers and celebrities. These range from parenting (with an emphasis on topics like bullying, LGBTQ+ sensitisation, gender equality) to wellness (with a holistic approach to fitness, positive body image and mental health awareness).

Twinkle Khanna with Sudha Murthy

Twinkle Khanna with Sudha Murthy  

Mass appeal

While the platform is not yet live, the publicity material suggests Tweak will also provide a deep-dive into culture, with a focus on sustainability, beauty, career and lifestyle. “We wanted to make the aspirational a little more acceptable,’’ says Khanna. “Not that it means we’ll push a $4,000 Dolce & Gabanna bag, nor will we nudge you towards Big Bazaar. We’ll help you find a trendy sweet spot.”

Doesn’t this sound uncannily like the Refinery29 of India? Khanna says the team looked at the most popular platforms in India and abroad (which includes the aforementioned Refinery29, apart from Goop and POPxo) and found that there was an opportunity to learn from the best and turn it into something unique. What’s special about the platform, according to her, is that it is agnostic to demographics. “We’re not running after just the youth. We also want to hear from older folks. Nobody seems to want to hear from them, but their experience matters. They have so much more to share.”

Standing out in the crowd

In times when the explosion of content is almost anxiety-inducing, and platforms are constantly competing for eyeballs, Khanna says the quality and range of content are key to set themselves apart. “We have something for everyone: short and long reads, podcasts, videos and events. And we aren’t giving sermons or telling people how to live. We’ve kept our tone irreverent and funny. I think that’s why people read me, and I hope that works for the platform as well,” she says.

The team running Tweak is small but feisty. While the initial plan was put together by Khanna and Vikram Raizada, they eventually recruited Rochelle Pinto, a former digital editor at Elle and GQ, to be editor. “We planned to have very skilled writers as freelancers supported by our in-house writers doing simpler pieces. Ultimately, it turned out to be the exact opposite. Our in-house team of 11 is brilliant,” says Khanna.

Have they figured out how to make money off a content platform? Khanna says it would be foolish to enter a business without a plan. “We’ve identified five revenue sources — but I can’t tell you what they are. We don’t want others to benefit from our hard work! Hopefully our projections will hold up.” She also emphasises that technology plays a critical role in ensuring the success of such platforms as well, right from the back-end that manages content, to the servers that handle it.

Buddy system

As for the overall approach, Khanna says it is three-pronged: in-house opinion, contributions from freelancers, and articles by experts in various fields. She herself will contribute long-form pieces and conduct interviews with experts and celebrities. “Trust me, interviewing is much more challenging than being the interviewee,” she laughs.

Given the celebrities who have recently taken to social media to promote Tweak, I ask if there’s another writer from the fraternity who is ready to surprise us with their pen. “A lot of people started writing at the same time as I did. I don’t know how they fared and whether they were passionate enough about writing,” she says.

For her, however, the last seven years have been transformative. Writing is now an inseparable part of her. “I don’t know a different way of living. I didn’t have any acting skills, so thank God I could write!” There is a thoughtful pause. “... But I don’t want Tweak to be about me,” she says. “It’s a collaborative platform. I’d like it to stay that way.”

Just as we’re winding up, another (or perhaps the same) recalcitrant child clamours for her attention once again. She returns to our conversation with a well-aimed dig: “This is what women have to deal with, even when we’re doing interviews. Somehow, this doesn’t really happen to men.”

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 5:47:59 PM |

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