Twelve years ago, when Ravin Lal established his Indiana Publications (NZ) Limited as the harbinger to Indian Newslink, the only wealth he had was unbeatable experience of more than two decades in the publishing industry in New Zealand, Ireland, UK and Hong Kong.
The proverbial paucity of finance and the somewhat lackluster attitude of banks to extend credit constrained him to mortgage his home to raise modest capital for the newspaper. With a part-time editor and a pagination artiste, he commenced publication of Indian Newslink in November 1999 as a monthly publication. His tasks in the newspaper included that of a salesman, lensman and distribution boy.
The failure of the Auckland Star that year did not help to either boost one’s morale or assuage the feelings of those who were apprehensive of the concept.
“It will never work.” “You are wasting your time.” “Who will read your newspaper?”
As the sound of the detractors and doomsayers became loud, the determination to launch the product and allow for public reaction grew even stronger.
People who never tried would never know if they would fail or succeed.
The first issue of Indian Newslink was a much discussed topic.
There were a few who encouraged its continuation and many who still considered it a nonstarter.
It was not long before they were proved utterly and depressingly wrong.
The market seemed to have accepted the product but a number of challenges remained.
For, producing a newspaper, aiming to institute itself as the voice of the community was not easy. It required resources – financial, no less human, with all the attendant issues of marketing, production, printing and distribution.
The first year came and went, so did the second, bringing with it increasing market support, accentuated by advertisers and readers.
And then disaster struck.
November 11, 2001 was the day when the offices of the publication were gutted by a merciless fire that raged through the precincts.
Everything perished-computers and computer equipment, software, newspapers, documents-three years of hard work reduced to ashes in less than three hours.
Everything went up in smoke.
Except our determination and the will to carry on relentlessly in our professional pursuit.
Less than 24 hours later, we were back in action, with the work station shifting from place to place every 24 hours, giving way for loss adjustment officials, builders, painters and others to do their job.
Indian Newslink was released on schedule, thanks to the cooperation of the then production team.
Profession, not hobby
Twelve years on, the newspaper has witnessed a sea of changes. We now have full-time staff in editorial, production, circulation and accounts departments and contractors in marketing and circulation.
But little else has changed. Mr Lal still does a lot of leg work to procure advertising and reach the paper to a number of distribution points.
Unlike some others who make it a point to announce at press conferences and private conversations, journalism is a profession for us and not a hobby. We of course have a passion for what we do but to us Indian Newslink is the only source of livelihood. We have neither large sums of money pouring in every month from other businesses nor the involvement of millionaires to underwrite expenses.
We are simple and humble people like ordinary New Zealanders who must work hard for every dollar.
We love it, because that gives us meaning and purpose to our existence.
Like most other businesses that operate on a moderate scale, the past two years have been a challenge, with economic meltdown, tight money market conditions, bankers shy of extending additional credit and worst of all, unhealthy, cutthroat competition. Thanks to our advertisers, contributors, readers and well-wishers, we have marched ahead in our journalistic mission, without compromising our principles and moral rectitude.
In such a sense stepping into teenage is gratifying.
Twelve years may be a wink in the vast canvas of time but it becomes a milestone in the history of a newspaper.
Twelve years that brought with them challenges, hardships, struggle, mishaps and a mixed bag of bouquets and brickbats.
Twelve years of anxiety coupled by excitement and despair, accompanied by hope.
These short twelve years seem like a millennium for a small community newspaper that ventured out of the mind of a sole individual whose penchant for the media industry played with a passion for marketing.
It has been a journey characterised by a mixture of rough and smooth rides, success and failure and achievements and drawbacks. The one has instilled in us a spirit of fortitude and the other a sense of humility.
It was all because of our responsibility to someone precious.
You, dear Reader.