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Mumbai 59 and the press

A couple of months ago we carried a story on how a Singapore company recruiting employees from India was rude and insulting to candidates. The story also pointed out that the terms of work offered by the firm were horrendous.

That story was followed up by The Times of India with an article in August. After that appeared the paper received numerous telephone calls from women who had been hired by the Singapore company and were treated miserably there.

In the past too, stories that first appeared in In and Around Mumbai 59 have been followed up by mainstream papers like the Bombay Times supplement of The Times of India, Maharashtra Times and so on.

With its tiny circulation our magazine cannot hope to have an earthshaking impact on the municipal corporation except at the ward level. What it can do is act as a catalyst for articles in larger newspapers or serve as a basis for public interest litigation.

So do let us know about any event or person that moves you tremendously, whether in a positive or negative sense. We will try and write about it and hope that larger newspapers will pick up the story.

In and Around Mumbai 59 has been fortunate in receiving mentions in big newspapers right from the start. Below, we reproduce an article that appeared on 10 July this year in The Financial Express. We have so far resisted the temptation to blow our own trumpet. But this time readers must forgive us for replaying the two cheers that others have raised in support of this magazine. We promise not to do it too often.

EARLY MORNING GIVEAWAYS

From The Financial Express, Mumbai, 10 July
For a self-confessed nightbird like Philip George, the toughest bit of running a home business is rising at the crack of dawn to slip his local paper to the newspaper delivery boys. "I realise now that it is hard to do business and easier to write about it," laughs George, editor-publisher of In and Around Mumbai 59 and part-time senior journalist with a business magazine.

Still, a year of running this community paper which takes its name from the Marol area postal code has only made him more ambitious: George would like to run several more community papers. "Abroad, big companies own about 40-50 community papers. I would have to set up more here too in order to survive and also to be able to attract bigger advertisements."

Mumbai 59 was conceptualised on a hunch that local area papers had commercial potential in Mumbai. George had also seen such papers run very successfully in Chennai and while surfing the net realised that while large papers in the USA were suffering financially owing to television, local papers were prospering.

The idea had a gestation period of about three-four years since this pen-pusher had no reporting experience which he thought was essential if he were to bring out a newspaper. George shifted to reporting for a while and decided that the work was entrepreneurial in nature. "You have to go out looking for both stories and clients, they don't come to you." When his employers offered him the option to work from home he found the spare time for his first venture.

"It was my impression that publishing was a very expensive business but bringing out a monthly 8-page magazine size newsletter was something I could finance myself." But was there a market? He went about asking people near his house if they would like to read about local people and history, issues and events, services and products and the response was encouraging. Next, friends and acquaintances said 'yes' to future advertising and after prospecting for subjects from March 1997, George found that there was enough to write on easily.

What makes the now-occasional morning constitutional entirely bearable for George is the instant feedback from readers. "The most satisfying thing is the response that you get from readers. When you write for mainstream publications rarely will anyone phone to say it was good or bad whereas in local publications the reader response is instant. It makes you feel you can have a positive impact on the community."