Free Press Journal

Mini Menon and Akshay Chavan: Romancing with history

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Mumbai: History was Mini Menon and Akshay Chavan’s first love but when it came to choosing their career path it was nowhere related to history. But when they crossed each other’s path during an art course, they instantly connected and decided to use their professional experience to ‘live history’.

Journey
Menon and Chavan met at an art course in Jnanapravaha Mumbai. During the course, they realised that they could utilise their professional experience (in their respective field) to develop ‘Live History India’ (LHI).

Former face of channels like CNBC TV 18, Bloomberg and Times Now, Menon remembered her journey as a history graduate who started off wanting to be an archaeologist in life. “However, as fate would have it, I landed up in communications and wanted to make (historic) documentary films someday in my life,” said Menon who considered Shyam Benegal as her hero.


Author of ‘Riding the Wave’ added, “I started as a journalist because I like political history and business history. That allowed me to get a glimpse of changing India.” She considers meeting people (who shaped the country) as a privilege, during her stint as a journalist. Recalling her life as a journalist, she said, “I had a wonderful stint of two decades working with different channels and media houses.”

In 2015, Menon took a break from Bloomberg to write her second book. While researching for the book, she came across a course on art history. “It was a very convenient course as it took place on Saturday afternoons. It was a year program and I signed up for it. There I met Akshay who was also part of the course.”

Both connected over the course and started discussing about history and the lack of awareness of Indian history among the citizens. Co-founder of LHI, Menon added, “We spend so many hours discussing. We had no doubt in our mind that we wanted to join together for a project.” Co-founder Chavan, could not agree less with Menon.

As an individual, Chavan terms his journey as ‘romance of many many years’. “I always loved history right from my school days. I have been reading and consuming books and had an inclination towards becoming an archaeologist,” revealed Chavan. This digital marketing professional could not pursue his dream job then. This is because his parents keeping insisting that he should work for the living and keep his passion for history going alongside. He did take this piece of advice seriously. Over years, he did not let his passion for history die. He kept reading and writing on various topics of history as a hobby. “I was running a popular blog princely states of India and was writing about unknown stories,” stated Chavan.

Talking about LHI, Chavan said, “I wanted to go beyond and discover art and culture. This was a great opportunity to combine my love for history and my experience. I had a deep understanding on how the digital space operates and about marketing. I had gauged some learning by writing for my blog.”


Focus
The company at present wants to make the content big and if that meant partnering with others, LHI would not shy away from any form of partnership. Menon made it clear that partnership would not mean creating content (or become production house) for major broadcasting channel (or channels) that are in the space. But if needed they would partner with regional channels.

State governments and education will be the key focus area of LHI. As part of their plan, the company has started talks with three state governments and hopes to scale it up further. Menon believes that there is a huge scope for their content in the tourism space. So, partnering with state governments would be critical.

For education, their plan is simple and complex at different levels— as they plan to work with schools and tourist guides. Menon added, “Education is a huge play. It would be interesting for students across various age group and expats as well.”


Content plans
Since January, the duo along with his core team members started building the platform. Around 90 stories are already published on LHI which went live in May 15, 2017. Menon, editor of Live History India said, “We are already working on 150 stories along with 50 plus historians and authors. That number will increase to 100-150 (historians and authors).” At present, there are eight core members and it is expected to scale up further.

Without revealing further details, Chavan, Head of Research, LHI said, “There are a lot of plans. We just have to space is out.” The plan will roll out over the next five years or so.

LHI has set up an advisory panel which is helping the company grow. Currently, Shyam Benegal – one of India’s most noted director and screenwriter, Anil Dharker – founder and director of the Mumbai International Literary Festival, Malavika Singh – Publisher, Wajahat Habibullah – chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities are amongst the others who are a part of the advisory board.


Investments
“Our approach to funding have been to get strategic investors on board. They would not just fund us but also give us strategic inputs,” said Menon. The company has technological support from start-up 5F who is also their investor.

Currently, LHI has on board Cyrus Guzder, Ganesh Natarajan and two other investors who do not wish to be named.

She added that many investors have shown interest as they love what we do. The company has set July as the deadline for their seed funding.