When Mukul Ranbhor was studying Islam, he realised that there is very little writing done on the subject in Marathi. Then again, his friend who studied cricket found beautifully written prose only in English, but not in Marathi. That’s when Ranbhor and his friends thought of making a magazine for these niche issues that weren’t written about in Marathi, rather than waiting for someone to start such a publication.
All of 22, Ranbhor decided to take the reins for this project. He’s been the founding editor of the magazine Akshar Maifal for over 10 months now. “It might look difficult, but it isn’t,” says Ranbhor modestly.
He admits to have been putting the monthly magazine together almost single-handedly. From delivering the paper to the press for production to co-ordinating with authors and keeping the books, he does everything. And most months he still lands up with more articles than he can fit into the magazine. It takes Ranbhor 15 days to complete the magazine, apart from commissioning the articles and marketing it for the remaining part of the month.
Apart from subscriptions, the issue on Karl Marx was released in May, since this May was his 200th birthday. There were articles about his life, ideology, his relevance today, among others and sold 1500 copies despite being available only in one local bookstore Akshardhara in the city.
“I want to publish articles that people should read, for example about sex education, rather than populist pieces,” he said. He is clear that the magazine’s content must have archival value. “People should be able to refer to these pieces after several years,” he added.
But what about the concerns about print being a dying medium and digital being the preferred one among youngsters? “People want to read. If the quality is good, people will buy the magazine. I feel print is considered serious, but digital is not,” said Ranbhor, who has studied both History and Journalism.
The magazine is a platform for subjects as varied as Charlie Chaplin, Tukaram, foreign affairs, Cambridge Analytica and data breaches, European language politics, how dogs became pets, and more. The magazine does have an associated website, but the content there is much lighter than in the magazine.
Akshar Maifal was officially launched on August 19, 2016. His experience in a weekly magazine has stood him in good stead where content is concerned. He runs the publication on subscriptions and the rare advertisements that he is able to secure. “Marketing is tricky,” he confesses. He only marketed the magazine on social media platforms like Facebook. He isn’t making a profit, he has managed to break even. Even then, the magazine has a total of 550 subscribers in Delhi, Indore, Bengaluru, and all over Maharashtra. His friends from London also want copies, but he is yet to take the overseas leap!
Ranbhor is cautious about declaring his venture into the publishing world a success. But he has dreams of spreading wide. Now he has reached out to distributors in 15 districts in Maharashtra, who will sell his magazine. He has also been reaching out to libraries to keep his magazine. He believes the upcoming Diwali issue could give him over 300 new subscribers. Ranbhor also wants to start publishing books too. “The books will be in Marathi, but they will be translated into English too,” he shared, with the conviction and confidence of a man with clarity.