Marketing

A business that stops to smell the roses

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on January 10, 2021

Neelesh Misra, founder of Slow Network

Slow Network, promoted by journalist-lyricist Neelesh Misra, pushes rural products and experiences

In this age of celebrating agility, speed, and instant gratification, it may seem a bit surprising to find someone launching a brand called Slow. But listen to journalist, author, scriptwriter and lyricist Neelesh Misra’s story behind his Slow Network and it sounds a compelling proposition.

“How you live life depends on what you watch, what you eat, where you go, and the content, products and experiences you consume. Slow is an emotion we are talking about — unhurried, uncluttered, and untainted. Brand Slow stands for looking at life in that fashion,” he explains.

“This brand stands for who we are intrinsically,” says the man who quit the fast-paced journalist’s life in the city to start Gaon Connection, a news enterprise chronicling rural life.

From slow content to slow products has been an organic evolution, says Misra, though the lockdown gave it momentum as he and his team could coalesce their ideas together.

Under the Slow Network umbrella, there is Slow Journalism (Gaon Connection); Slow Products— healthy products that take us back to our roots; Slow Content (unhurried audio and video content); and Slow Experiences (homestays and cafes).

Some of these subsidiaries are getting extensions. For instance, Gaon Connection now also offers market insights from the rural heartland.

 

Slow Products — which currently offers millet, ragi and oats cookies as well as different types of honey — has an e-commerce home in Slow Bazaar, a portal. It also retails on Amazon. Eventually, Misra says, Slow Products, which is handled by his wife Yamini, who has experience working with self-help groups, will include handicrafts, textiles, and other rural products.

The multiple ventures tie in with each other. For instance, Gaon Connection already has reporters and community managers in 400 districts of India who will garner insights as well as ideas for new products. Slow Content will produce audio and video content about the products and experiences.

Slow beginnings

The name Slow for the brand has quixotic origins. Misra describes how he relocated to his village — Kunaura, near Lucknow — some years ago and built a small house. “My wife asked me what should we call it? I did not want to call it the Misra estate, which was how most people around named their houses. So I told her to put up the name Slow, which was how our life was. Everybody loved it.”

Sometime later, Pankaj Tripathi, the actor famous for his role in the web series Mirzapur, visited Lucknow and accompanied Misra to his Kunaura home. “I did an interview with Tripathi on camera and called it the Slow Interview, because that defined our conversation.”

A lot of people connected with the unhurried pace of the interview, says Misra, and he turned the format into a series. A year and a half later, Slow Products was started. “Till then we were interviewing farmers for our Gaon Connection. The objective was to create awareness and impact about their challenges and issues. We discussed how do we take it a step further and help create wealth. Slow Products was the outcome.” A percentage of the profits from the sale of the products will go to the creators — the farmer or the artisan, says Misra.

The philosophy of slow products, says Misra, is that it would reflect “what is rooted, what is rural, and have the same integrity and honesty that was in the content we produced”.

Future plans

For Slow Experiences, land has been acquired in Thano near Dehradun. Greenfield cottages will be built using local material.

Right now, Slow Network is self-funded, says Misra, adding that he is wary of getting investors as it might change his venture’s style of working, but does not rule it out as there are ambitious expansion plans. At Slow Lab, in Kunaura, Misra says they are engaged in resource mapping of 50 villages. “We are figuring out who can do what, which skills are monetisable. If somebody can make baskets, bags, etc. How can we bring these things to national and global attention,” he says.

Also on the anvil is upcycling — creating products out of plastic waste. Slow Products has an export licence, he says. Wouldn’t it be amazing if something created in rural India finds a home in Singapore or Dubai, he says.

The dreams are large, but slow and steady is the route to achieving them.

Published on January 10, 2021

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