Storming into the webspace when blogging was still new and tweeting was reserved for birds, Malini Agarwal —popularly known as MissMalini—has quickly cemented her name as a digital content creator. Along the way, the celebrity and lifestyle blogger has authored a book and anchored television shows. She talks to Travel + Leisure India & South Asia about the changing face of digital content and making the web more inclusive and safe for women. By Bayar Jain
T+L India: You started from being a professional dancer to now being a digital content creator. How has the journey been like?
Malini Agarwal: I started my career as a backup dancer but in 2000 I moved to Mumbai to join MTV India as their digital channel head. Later, I became a radio jockey and programming director and eventually, the digital content head at Channel [V] India. While I was working with radio, I had a gossip column called Malini’s Mumbai to document all my fun experiences in the city.. Over time, I taught myself Photoshop, copywriting skills, and learned the most important lesson of my career— how to connect with people.
I love the Japanese concept of Ikigai which means your true passion lies at the centre of four things—what you love to do, what you’re good at doing, what you can get paid to do, and what the world needs. I am fortunate to have been able to make that work for me. Launching Girl Tribe by Malini was a personal and professional milestone. What started as a Facebook experiment to spread positivity, empathy, and kindness amongst 100 girlfriends in 2018, has now catapulted into a community that is over 70k+ women strong, and growing each day.
T+L India: What motivated you to start blogging?
Malini Agarwal: I started writing my blog in 2008. Back then, I was just doing it for fun. I wanted to document my experiences. It evolved into a column that I wrote in the Midday called Malini’s Mumbai. But I didn’t have enough space in my column to write about everything I was experiencing—like art, music and nightlife. I decided to start the blog as a way to keep track of everything I did. Then it evolved into a digital magazine that covered everything from Bollywood to fashion, beauty, and lifestyle, and the rest is history.
T+L India: How do you think digital content creation has changed over the years?
Malini Agarwal: The digital landscape has evolved and changed significantly since the time I started my blog. From new platforms being launched every day to a massive flood of new creators and influencers joining the ranks daily. Digital media continues to adapt and the pandemic has made us even more reliant on our devices for work and play. In turn there is a race between content platforms to make the most of the current situation. So, it’s a competition for mind, space and home screen real estate.
T+L India: Tell us about Malini’s Girl tribe and how it came into being?
Malini Agarwal: The Girl Tribe is our attempt at creating a kinder internet, especially for women. I love the digital age and I owe it all my success. But I have always found that there is so much noise and junk out there that is preventing women from living their best lives. A simple way to correct that is by creating a safe and secure environment for like-minded people to find each other and connect on a more human level.
While on most social media platforms, you spend the most time on your own pages, trying to gather likes and followers, the app is a place where we encourage you to reach out and have meaningful interactions that will lead to a more satisfying experience.
Taking the men out of the equation has really helped clean up the kind of creepy interactions you find online. Perhaps one day we will all be able to live together in one ‘tribe’.
T+L India: What, according to you, are some of the biggest challenges female entrepreneurs face?
Malini Agarwal: The biggest challenges entrepreneurs face are always scale, strategy and revenue. Company culture is also key. As female entrepreneurs, we have the added pressure of constantly being asked about our “work life balance”. We’re always asked how we would manage a family and business—entrepreneurs rarely get asked that! I think the challenge is having to prove that we can do all of it without slacking somewhere. In my opinion, that societal doubt is always the most exhausting.
T+L India: You’ve spent your childhood travelling. What have been some of your most memorable vacations?
Malini Agarwal: More than vacations, I grew up in some incredible countries such as Germany, Lebanon, Greece and Ivory Coast. They have shaped me into the person I am today. As a kid, Walt Disney World® Resort, Florida was always my favourite. A cruise around the Greek islands was unforgettable too!
T+L India: What were some of your favourite hangout spots in Delhi during your graduation days?
Malini Agarwal: It was all about keeping it cheap and cheerful! I loved Bengali market for the chaats, Chanakyapuri for the momos and Delhi Haat for a trip around India via various handicrafts.
T+L India: What kind of traveller are you?
Malini Agarwal: I’m enthusiastic! But I over-pack like crazy. I love the beach and going on road trips.
T+L India: Are there any places that you desperately want to visit but haven’t gotten the chance yet?
Malini Agarwal: The Northern Lights!
T+L India: Five things you cannot travel without?
Malini Agarwal: My hoodie, battery packs, cross body sling bags, comfortable sneakers, and my sunnies.
T+L India: Any tips for budding female bloggers?
Malini Agarwal: Enjoy the trip! Be present when you’re on it, the Instagram version can follow.