This is the story of a portal about things to do in Delhi.
Sounds unimpressive? We are sure Suchita Salwan must have got similar remarks by her friends when she must have bounced this idea off them. But three years later if we told you that this tumblr blog turned website is one of the coolest things to have happened to Delhi, then you would also be surprised, no?
Entrepreneurship happens to different people in different ways, and often works the best when backed by loads of passion and persistence. To beat her boredom of a 9 to 5 job, Suchita, all of 23, decided there’s got to be more to her life and she thought of spreading what she discovered in Delhi through her blog. It was her first interview story with the half Italian half Indian cafe owner in Hauz Khas Village that started it all in 2013. Little Black Book Delhi was born. Most of the original writers weren’t writers by profession and simply used to express what impressed them. The experience led sharing made LBB a go to platform for Delhiites to not just get a listing of the best places to go to or the best things to do, but it made people want to experience what others experienced.
3 years later, the portal’s USP lies in the freshness of its content, promptness of reporting, coolness of covering many of the cities hot spots, latest events, brand launches and much more. Over time, LBB has grown from guest authors to a team of 30+ people, Delhi to Bangalore (and more cities on the way), web version to an app as well. For a startup that caters to an audience which is clearly spoilt when it comes to choice, LBB has done remarkably well. The company raised their first round of funding back in 2015. As the little black book becomes bigger, we thought of making the portal come alive by helping you get in touch with their team.
Q. The story began on Tumblr and you weren’t even a blogger. Did you start off hoping to make this into a such a hugely popular website one day?
SS : Nope! I am an accidental entrepreneur, who happened to start LBB because I wanted to fall in love with my city again.
Q. When you started and slowly proposed the idea to more friends, there would have been a million other websites you had to compete with for attention. What made you guys keep going?
SS : Not really- I think we were confident of our differentiator from the get go; which is, we’re recommendations only, across things to do.
Q. This niche is not new, yet LBB manages to engage audiences in a unique manner and some could swear by it. The writing, the promptness, the creativity or something else, what makes you guys tick?
SS : We’re on the pulse on what’s going on in our city- and everyone in our team loves doing things, across interests, in their city. That, in my opinion, makes us tick.
Q. How many full time members are there in the LBB team? What professional background do most of your members come from?
SS : We’re over 30 people now! We’ve got stalwarts from content, tech and sales, and our marketing team comes with years spent in strategising for some of the biggest brands in our country. Though we love hiring younger people, who may be fresh out of college, our leadership team is made of the some of the smartest and most wonderful people I’ve met.
Q. Other than the funding, what are some of the most special moments that you recall from the last 3 years.
SS : Funding is not really a special moment! It’s tiring, frustrating and as any founder would say- something none of us enjoy, but need to do to grow our businesses.
I think launching our app was super special, launching Bangalore was just phenomenal, and now warming up for LBB Mumbai is what’s taking up my time.
Q. There is a lot talked and said about content marketing, what do you think holds the key to making people keep coming back to a website?
SS : Consistency and relevance. As long as you’ve these two down, you’re good to go.
Q. LBB Delhi, the mobile App and Bangalore, are there any more? What has been the plan of action on the expansion front?
SS : We’ve got a couple of more cities getting their own Little Black Book this year! And lots of exciting features on the app to keep our DAUs and engagement growing
Q. The digital space is ever expanding, and everybody seems to be fixated with numbers. How important do you think numbers are, and do you see people and brands focusing on quality over quantity with time?
SS : Numbers are important, and numbers help you quantify the quality of content you’re pushing out and it’s relevance. BUT, if you’re pushing out generic, Google-able content, that might get you a lot of traction in the short run, but makes you a substitute in the long run, then you’re doing something wrong.
Q. You manage to keep the website ad free by offerings brands a far more engaging platform through articles and stories. How difficult has it been to convince people about native ads, and in the era of ad blockers is that something you see more websites do in the future?
SS : An advertising experience has to be integrated with the product offering. Else, you see attrition. I think the other key thing to keep in mind in the advertiser needs to be relevant to your medium/product. LBB’s a “Things to Do” platform, that connects you to the best experiences in your city. Our advertisers need to be in line with the customer expectation from our platform- otherwise they won’t see returns.
The LBB team also conducts a lot of events to keep their fans engaged, offering brands a great platform to connect with a niche audience as well.
Q. Passion they say is over rated. Are there any words of wisdom you would want to share with people who intend to pursue their interests and make a mark?
SS : Just work really hard and really smart. Passion may be overrated, but persistence isn’t.
Q. What are your bets on the future of digital. Which format(s) and platform(s) do you see picking up, and when do you realistically think digital media will replace traditional (if it ever will).
SS : I think we’re reaching our inflection point- and beyond this point, the upsurge for digital platforms will be stupendous. Length and medium will determine your success- and video’s just the beginning. Personalisation will be the most pivotal feature to get right on your product- especially if you’re in the content business.
And before you go, do have a look at Suchita’s journey that she shared at this TEDx event.