Aishwarya Ramesh

“These days, buying on Amazon has become a cliché. Editorial sells better”: Sajan Raj Kurup

A chat with the founder of Ventureland Asia on its recent investment in Rolling Stone India and Man’s World magazines.

We, at afaqs!, just reported that Ventureland Asia Advisory Services, a Mumbai-based venture capital (VC) company, has acquired the controlling stake in MW.Com (MCPL) India, the publisher of magazines, like Rolling Stone India and Man's World (MW). MCPL was, until recently, owned by the publishing company Spenta Multimedia.

The man behind Ventureland Asia is also a well known personality in the Indian adland. Sajan Raj Kurup founded this company in 2017 – 10 years after he founded Creativeland Asia in 2007.

Ventureland Asia plans to use its strong presence in areas of marketing, brand building, visual communication and new-age technology to chart an omnichannel digital-oriented growth strategy for Rolling Stone India and MW.

2021 has been a busy year for Ventureland Asia’s business in India. It acquired a 40 per cent stake in Revenant Esports. The firm also made a high-profile investment and backed the launch of Saintfarm, an end-to-end e-commerce venture in organic and sustainable food. The fund has, thus far, invested in media, e-commerce, education, healthcare, agritech and esports – with technology innovations as the common investing theme

Sajan Raj Kurup
Sajan Raj Kurup

Over a phone call, Kurup reveals that at this juncture, media is undergoing a massive overhaul and there is an increased interest around pop culture. “If you look at the history of the pandemics, right after the Spanish Flu, there was a boom in pop culture at that time too. Both Rolling Stone and Man’s World are popular publications, when it comes to covering pop culture. You have to keep in mind that this is also the time when the society, as a whole, resets its cultural tone. There is also a reset happening in the content space, with people looking beyond Bollywood for popular content.”

Kurup adds that now, the content consumed is on various OTT platforms – going beyond Bollywood and televised content. He says there is also an emergence of esports and gaming, so, the whole entertainment industry is in an interesting space of reinvention.

He goes on to explain that he’s always been fond of the publishing industry and trade media, and when an information boom happens – these are the companies that will grow.

“I definitely see a future for culture-based publications to go digital. Today, more than ever, these possibilities exist, thanks to the Internet being operated on handheld devices. It’s almost like going one-on-one with the consumers. It’s a window that opens up to a portal of discoveries. We’ve all been living in our caves in the last 18 months and our cellphones have become the window to our world. Now is the right time to bring the legacy of print to handheld devices.”

Kurup adds that this is the time when people are using their phones to look for information. They are also comfortable with carrying out transactions on the devices.

“This new ecosystem is the best thing that can happen to a publication, such as Man’s World or Rolling Stone, because people are no longer simply consuming content, they can also transact with content. Now, we need to focus on creating an omnichannel network, using technology.”

“These days, buying on Amazon has become a cliché. Editorial sells better. When someone is reading editorial content, it’s more likely that they will click through and complete the purchase.”

Kurup says that his focus is going to be on the digital wing of these publications and one of the reasons (for this) is because the print numbers are not as high as they used to be.

“There is a vast difference in browsing the editorial content of a magazine digitally, as opposed to physically holding a copy of the magazine. A consumer will be able to interact with content better and transact with it more fluidly. A person may be reading an article about a band and get an opportunity to book tickets to the next concert in the same reading. That’s what the future will look like.”

Kurup mentions that today, the person who consumes content is also the one who creates content. “The beauty of this medium is that the engagement is not unilateral, it can be bilateral and, sometimes, even multilateral when your content reaches a multitude of people. If you look at content any other way, you’re not going to do justice to it.”

His investments are in the gaming, edtech, agritech, esports and media spaces. Kurup tells us about his investments in the agriculture space and that he also dabbles in hyperlocal grocery delivery.

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