You can buy and read on any device. — Girish Ramdas (left), Co-founder and CEO, with Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan, Co-founder and President, Magzter Inc.
You want to read an international magazine, but cannot afford the annual subscription. You don’t mind reading it digitally. Then, you should check out if the magazine you want is available on Magzter, which calls itself a digital-magazine store.
More than anything, the price will surprise you. For, subscribing to the US print copy of Maxim will cost you $64.99 a year. On Magzter, you can get it for just $14.99, a 75 per cent discount. You can read the magazine on any device — desktop, laptop and tablet, and soon on your smart phone too.
Magzter Inc, registered in the US, has been started by Girish Ramdas, who is its co-founder and CEO, and Vijayakumar Radhakrishnan, co-founder and President, both of whom are from Chennai.
Girish, 37, an engineering graduate from Anna University, had dabbled in a portal on Chennai and another one on movies.
He then started a print version of the movie portal, named Galatta.
He is a gold medallist in the national rifle shooting championships and still has one national record to his name.
Vijay, 35, completed his bachelor’s in computer science from Madras University and a master’s in management from BITS, Pilani.
Vijay used to run his own software company that made products for network technologies.
Dotcom Infoway, promoted by Girish and his friend, used to outsource some of its work to Vijay’s firm, which subsequently got merged with Dotcom Infoway.
The launch of the iPhone triggered the development of mobile apps and the apps store came into being. This was also the trigger for Girish and Vijay to develop applications for the apps store. They launched Galatta’s app in 2009.
“Within one year, that Galatta cinema app got downloaded one lakh times with no publicity at all. It was a free app,” says Girish.
Similar apps were developed for the iPad and tablets on the Android platform.
Vijay had product development knowledge and Girish publishing knowledge, and their company had an app-development team.
Their idea was to marry these skills to make a product that can go really global. As a single standalone publisher, Galatta needed Dotcom Infoway to develop apps for it. Since it was an in-house product, they could develop separate apps for various platforms and devices.
Why not provide a platform for publishers from across the world to come online and offer their magazines? Thus was born Magzter.
It is device agnostic.
Magzter Inc was incorporated in May 2011 and the Indian arm, Magzter Digital Pvt Ltd, handles all the back office operations. Magzter was launched in June 2011 and within a few months, got first round of funding from Kalaari Capital, which invested $3 million in February-March.
Girish and Vijay say they want Magzter to provide a complete reading experience to its users.
They should come to the site not just to subscribe for magazines but also get news feeds, which is what they are working on.
“We bring the convergence in Magzter that you can buy on any device and read on any device. I can buy on my iPhone and read it on the Web. I can buy on my iPad and read it on my Samsung device,” says Girish.
Vijay explains that Magzter works on the cloud system that identifies and delivers content based on the fact that the user has registered with it.
“You have registered with us, we know who you are, and what you have bought.” It will be expensive for a publisher to develop apps for the different devices, and that is what Magzter’s selling point is.
All that a publisher has to do is to provide the magazine in PDF files, and they will be digitally available on any platform.
Magzter now has about 1,000 magazines, some paid for and some free, from India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, the US, the UK, Malaysia and West Asia.
Magzter has four million users, a fifth of them in India, 15 per cent each in the US and the UK and the rest spread across.
Vijay reckons 10-20 per cent of Magzter’s users will buy magazines from it.
“One of our objectives is to increase this percentage by giving them more content,” says Vijay.
How does Magzter gets its revenue? It shares revenue with the publisher, says Girish. It is like any brick-and-mortar book store, he explains. Magzter gets half the revenues on each magazine bought.
“We are very much like a physical store. We did the investment, we have the footfalls, we do all the marketing, you keep your magazine in our store,” he says.
Revenues, according to him, are growing 10-15 per cent every month, without disclosing details. The company hopes to be profitable by next year. The company is using up cash as it expands its marketing overseas and tries to bring in publishers in Brazil, Russia, Japan and other countries.
Magzter is available in 14 languages, including Spanish, Portuguese and Korean. The technology can support 100 million users and 25,000 magazines.
‘Orey’ click publishing
Lending a local touch to their business, Girish and Vijay are trying to patent what they call orey click publishing — or one click publishing — orey being the Tamil equivalent for one.
That is, a publisher needs to click only once to upload the magazine.
It will be available on all the different platforms. Magzter also has something similar for its users — single sign-in.
Would Magzter not be an ideal target for a large global distributor of magazines? “One of the people who wanted to buy us out was Hudson News. They are the largest distributors in the world,” says Girish.
“They were in talks with us to invest and with a potential buyback option. But then we had bigger ideas than getting bought,” he adds.
If the valuation is right, everything today has a price, he muses. “I think it is a great business to be in.
It is like a Wal-Mart of magazines,” says Girish.