Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Radio Idli: Binding Together a Community

Dabbling in photography, a flair for the internet, and a desire to bind together a community with the help of technology, are some things that Nagesh Pai and Krishnanand ‘Sankalp’ Nayak, the founders of Radio Idli, have in common.

Radio Idli began as an audio blog and today, the site has numerous contributors from Mumbai, Bangalore, Mangalore, Goa, US, UK, and the Middle East. Volunteers from around the world are more than happy to use Radio Idli as a platform to share their talents and experiences.

Popular festivals, local events, noteworthy achievements by community members, are all regularly featured on the website.

The site is primarily run by Krishnanand and Nagesh. The former has his strengths in managing back-end technology while the latter’s forte is content editing and administration of the site. The designs are a collaborative effort.

Nagesh works with SBI Mutual Fund in its head office in Mumbai and manages internet marketing communication.

His chief hobby and profession pertain to social media and blogging. Apart from this, he is a student of classical music and ‘bhajans’, besides being an amateur flutist and violinist. His interests in videography and digital photography have helped him in the Radio Idli project.

Sankalp works with Accenture and is a discerning software testing professional currently posted in the US. He is also a semi-professional photographer with his photography site at Sankalpsphotography.com. His penchant for the internet and back-end technology powers the Radio Idli project.

Here are some excerpts of an interview with Nagesh and Krishnanand:

How did you zero in on the name ‘Radio Idli’?

The name Radio Idli actually zeroed in on us. It came to us naturally because of its origins.

The ‘Idli’ comes from Idli House Council, an informal group of young Saraswat youths that met frequently at a Saraswat restaurant—Idli House. The site started off with talented contributions from this group and then spread around the world.

The site started as an audio blog and to make it more appealing to people across age groups, we called it ‘radio’ and hence the name ‘Radio Idli’.

What inspired you to come up with the concept of Radio Idli?

Vivek Pai , one of the members of the Idli House Council, expressed the desire to start a music band of our own.

Getting together and jamming regularly is tough amidst the busy schedule of Mumbai. Incidentally, I (Nagesh) had experimented streaming audio clips through free services on the internet, with hosting on Google’s free Blogger service. The same concept was used to create a stage wherein each of us could record his song and post it online.

One fine day, a surprise meeting was called and the site was inaugurated as RadioIdli.blogspot.com at Nagesh’s residence, with the first recording by Archana Kamath.

In due course, Krishnanand came in and voluntarily provided Radio Idli with its own hosting and domain and today we have www.radioidli.net.

How do you juggle a hectic work life alongside a demanding passion/hobby?

The site is updated mainly over weekends and free time in the evening. The open source Wordpress online publishing platform used for our website helps us update the site with minimum time and effort.

The cause of our Saraswat community, and the joy that we see in people’s feedback fuels our passion and efforts. So far we have been able to manage the site alongside our full time jobs and with God's grace it has worked well.

What is the estimated size of Radio Idli’s audience?

In comparison to many general portals, our traffic is very small since we reach out to a very niche community of Saraswats.

Our unique visitors per month are in the range of 1000-2000, with a good amount of time spent and with numerous page views per visit. The popularity of our site also shows through our fan page on Facebook which has a steadily growing fan following.

How do you decide on the content which goes online?

There are few simple rules for this. Participation is open to Saraswat members only. The content has to be original and owned by the contributor. In case of concerts, permission is sought from the performer to put the content on the website. A basic check of recording quality is also done. The idea is to get as many people to record their talent from their own comfortable homes and share with all through Radio Idli.

How is Radio Idli funded?

The cost of running the website is funded mainly by the two of us. There have been occasional generous donations too. The site runs Google ads, but is yet to get its first cheque. We also had an event hosting a young upcoming artist's concert in Mumbai. Donations towards running the concert were raised overnight through generous viewers.

Anything else you have to say ?

Radio Idli invites each and every Saraswat to showcase his / her talent through the website.

We would like to use your medium to convey and invite all Saraswat brethren to share their talents or community content from wherever they are in the world.

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