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My Quadranscentennial In Bangalore

It has been 25 years since I published the first issue of this magazine. The first issue was launched on 31 March 1989.

Every anniversary, folks congratulate me. In the manner of a surprised relative who had predicted that I would amount to nothing good.

At our first anniversary, I felt a little “frisson”—a wiggle in my spine.

The first anniversary is always unique. Ask any entrepreneur. It’s the first "annum" - the first checkpoint in the life cycle of anyone’s business.

When you have invented something totally new—like a free city guide magazine - it's even more of a thang.

You pitch your product to the market. And watch as your business plan unravels strand by strand,as customer after customer decides that your new idea is "completely moronic".

They don’t want it.

They already have it.

"Who else bought this? I don’t want to be the first."

When my roller coaster ride began 25 years ago, I was out of a job, totally unemployable and because of a weird series of events, totally broke.

I did not have the capital of one rupee to invest.

So when I had the idea of starting a city magazine, I bounced around the city like a pinball on steroids making it happen. In 45 days I went from setting down a self-pitying glass of Peter Scot, to launching the magazine.

My “business plan” was simple: “I am launching a city guide because Bangalore needs one. I will give it away for free. I will get local businesses to advertise in it. And because they will see tourists reading my magazine, they will repeat their ads.”

The first reaction I got, from a friend in an ad agency, went like this: “Hhhhmmmpppphhhhh”.

I almost believed him.

But when you are in the game, you don’t stop to ponder the price of your passion. Nor its penalty.

The ride was turbulent: noisy sometimes, rowdy often, but always festive.

Festive because this was Bangalore.A city that is always in beta, always investing in itself for change.

Festive because from the first issue, all I received from this city was unqualified support.

I have few tales of trouble and hardship. And many tales of happy give-and-take.

I remember the first ads I ever sold.

The first was to the Taj Residency (now, Vivanta by Taj). There was Pep Pereira, a manager then. She listened to my idea, politely accepted a ratty dummy issue and then took me upstairs to meet her GM, Naozar Daruwalla (Crimson Art Gallery).

Naozar was fretting over moving the pool 10 feet closer to the road. He badgered his corporate office on the phone about this. Then he turned to me and said, “Ok, we’ll book a full page black and white.”

The next day, I met Nakul Anand, then GM of the Windsor Manor (and now, the boss of all the ITC hotels).

“How does it benefit the hotel?” he asked me.

“Now your guests can stop scribbling on the telephone directory, Nakul,” I told him.

He laughed. He booked the next ad.

My sniggering friend from the ad agency booked the back cover ad for a year.

And then I got support from Kumar of the Holiday Inn (now Le Meridien) and then, Ashok Sadhwani of The Pub on Church Street.Then I met Prasad Bidapa, who ran an agency called “Design and Print Group”, and he told me, “My clients think your magazine is the bestest thing that has happened to Bangalore.”

And in the years afterwards, the brothers Razack - Irfan, Rezwan and Noaman - with the first few Prestige projects, my pal Jitu Virwani, with the yet nascent Embassy Constructions, Yasho and Sanjay Shroff of Folio, Mr Chandrasekhar of Deepam, UB, Kingfisher, the Ashok hotel, Rajesh Rajaram of Ebony, Mr Govardhan of Vijayalakshmi and pretty much everyone in central Bangalore. Even the great Shakuntala Devi.

In his autobiography, “Simply Fly”, aviation pioneer Capt. Gopinath mentions advertising his new chopper services, in “Bangalore This Fortnight”.

Bangalore loved “Bangalore This Fortnight”.

“Bangalore This Fortnight” loved Bangalore back.

To track a mutable and pluralistic city like Bangalore every day, is to have the most sophisticated gig in the world.

And to do it as a Bangalorean - with roots that go back several generations on both sides of my ancestry- is to be a happy part of its DNA.

So, I spent the first decade kissing the ground I walked on.

Soon it was the 10th Anniversary, which felt good because it had “decade” in it.

By the 13th Anniversary, I was running out of things to say. Well, there was “triskaideka”—a prefix for all things 13.

Other anniversaries, I have fallen to comparing dog-years with corporate-years… if only to find something clever to say.

And now, it’s our 25th anniversary.

I googled it and they’re calling it our quadranscentennial. Whatever be a "quadrans", it feels good to have “centennial” in it.

You’d think that such milestones are contemplated in a velvet robe, whilst smoking an avuncular pipe.

Nope.

For one thing, the great thing about publishing a magazine in a city that never settles down is that every issue feels like it’s the first issue; and every anniversary is a whee-what-a-ride first anniversary. We’re young and wide-eyed in Bangalore’s thrall.

For another thing, I’m writing this on an iPad in a Starbucks in New York City and - to the envy of the millennials around me - I’m wearing Google Glass.

I just realised I am probably defining the next 25 years of this magazine. I simply cannot wait.

Every year, someone always asks me if we are not throwing a spirited party, with celebs and booze and pretty lights by the pool.

An anniversary party would be a way of saying ”thank you”, to all those who support us and make our existence possible.

And as I have done for 25 years now, I explain to them that instead of throwing a party, we donate our “anniversary party budget” to deprived, destitute, or otherwise unfortunate children. (An example set by my friend, Tariq Ansari of Mid-Day Bombay.)

It’s our way of saying “thank you” to Bangalore, from us and on behalf of all Bangaloreans.

So I say - as I say every year to all my friends - when you have a drink this evening, please raise one for us, too.

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Explocity completed 25 successful years on March 31, 2014.

Ramjee Chandran is Editor-in-Chief and MD of Explocity.
rc@explocity.com (E-mail).
@ramjeechandran on Twitter.