Fifteen years ago, Shalini Joshi helped found a small eight-page newspaper in rural India with a team of fellow women journalists with an eye toward informing people in their region and promoting literacy. Now, that team is ready to create an empire. With the success of Vice Media as their ultimate goal, the women are launching a digital media start-up called Chambal Media, based on a “feminist business model” that aims to distribute news written and published by women.
“We see a feminist business model as one where profitability can be achieved while holding close to the values of independent, progressive rural news; and by a team and organizational culture that is democratic, transparent and inclusive of women from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds,” Shalini told India’s Economic Times.
The digital media company, like the newspaper, will focus on allowing marginalized women’s voices to be distributed throughout India, with a focus on including communities like Dalits and Muslims. Their digital audience has already surpassed their print audience during a six month trial period, they said. Within three years, they hope to expand coverage to 80 districts in their area, and then across India and the region.
Inside the operation, the few-dozen female reporters use computers and smartphones to report the news, checking WhatsApp and shooting videos to tell otherwise-untold stories, including that of a rural family in Uttar Pradesh that asked local authorities to allow euthanasia since they could not afford healthcare. The writers use only their first names in by-lines to avoid being associated with their castes.
“With the growth of internet in rural areas, reaching the least likely consumer, for example the young rural girl, is a massive and exciting opportunity,” another founder, Kavita, said. “I think it will bring hundreds of women into journalism from the villages and kasbahs of the country, as producers and consumers, but also as shareholders in a business that could take the media world by storm.”