Hey all, I’m writing after a long time on IMBB. I don’t like to write unless I have something to share because I’m unable to write otherwise. This time, I have many small small things to share with our readers and our writers so please forgive me if this post feels a bit disconnected.
When we started IMBB we were a young couple, newly married, naive and doing things without a plan. Whatever small things Rati would buy, she would write a review about it. She loved Colorbar and Revlon; Chanel and Estee Lauder were too expensive for her. Lakme and Revlon were the kings. We were two small town people just getting to know the world of makeup. Above all, we had no objective in mind. Rati just wanted to start a blog about makeup.
I had seen Rati struggle on totalgadha everyday to generate new content. In order to ease her pain this time around I offered to put in money to have other writers on the blog, people who also loved makeup. And we got a lot of people who were willing to share their experiences on IMBB. Above all, we got Jomol (I really miss reading her articles by the way). Things really took off. Our visitors started building up, a lot of women started coming on the blog. Women searching for makeup stuff on Google started landing on IMBB. We started having a great bunch of people here.
We had a fair share of haters also. Women who would call Rati fat or ugly or wasting money on makeup. If nothing else, they would pick on me. It was shocking. Since we had come from totalgadha background where our students loved and worshipped us for making their lives and careers this was something bizarre to us. Anyhow, we removed all the negative influences from IMBB. Haters, we learnt, was a big part of having an online presence, and growing your blog. We focussed on our work and ignored all the negative voices.
We were by no means perfect. Our photos were very crude compared to foreign blogs. Our pictures were taken on bedsheets, towels, bathroom tiles, anything. We had not much sense of photography or lighting. Nobody amongst Rati or writers had any any idea about photoshop. We would put up pics with facial hair, upper lips hair, bad lips, unkempt hair, bad eyebrows, everything. But we were having so much fun sharing that we never realized or cared. Not only that, our reviews were written in Indian English (if you know what I mean), with loads of breaks and dots, with a lot of mix of Hindi, loads of long sentences, wrong grammar, the whole works. Our writers even shared the pics of their babies, families, their lives. It was fun!
The PR people of some of the high end brands used to send Rati products. We did not buy those products then and they were a dream for us. And if you read comments on those reviews they were full of “this is too expensive,” “I cannot afford this” and we agreed. Where foreign blogs were full of MACs and Tom Fords of the world, we wanted to do more of Lakme. Which was fine actually.
Slowly and slowly competition started emerging. A lot of beauty blogs came up, some good some bad. All of them handling beauty and makeup in their own way. We started to feel the pressure of improving IMBB further. We took on a bigger editing team, pushed our writers to improve the quality of reviews in terms of content and photos, started going through every review thoroughly. Amongst all this IMBB continue to grow. One thing that has surprised me through all these years is growth of IMBB. I have never been able to explain it except the blessing of God. Maybe someone up above there really likes us.
We also started to take bold steps such as buying all products of a particular range, high end or drugstore, and reviewing them. We wanted to review everything for our readers. Literally, everything. I remember so many shopping trips in store where I would be pushing Rati “Biwi ye bhi khareed lo” “Biwi ye bhi khareed lo, ye reviewed nahin hai” and Rati would be so angry and annoyed “tumhein to review karna nahin hai. You are killing all my love for makeup.” Talk about husband pushing her wife to buy makeup and she is unwilling! 😛
Because of growth of IMBB and other businesses Rati and I started having a better lifestyle. We started travelling, dressing better. More brands were within our reach. We stopped taking products from brands and started sponsoring products for our writers. Talk about how your Karma comes back to you. The hard work of Rati and our writers came back to them only. As IMBB grew and we had more money to dispense with, our sponsorship schemes became better. We had more brands. Our writers were exploring makeup all over the world now, trying to order online, finding foreign brands coming to India, going abroad and shopping. We had writers from abroad also sharing their makeup love. The community grew bigger and bigger. The brands exploded.
Two years ago, we received a mail from some Venture capitalists, who wanted to explore about putting in money in IMBB. This was something new for us. Till now, we were a couple of people writing on a blog. And suddenly we found we were in the big leagues. So I went and met a few of these VCs. Since many of my IIT batchmates are anyhow in big positions in these firms, it was easy to setup meetings. Big numbers started floating in; 5 million dollars, 10 million dollars, etc. Ideas started floating in about monetizing IMBB; listing salons, setting up beauty ecommerce etc. Big money. While going through all these talks Rati and I realized that we would have to set up offices, ask our editors to either shift to delhi and work full time or leave, ask our writers to leave and hire full-time writers. In short, all of IMBB would be gone, replaced by a revenue churning machine. Also, we were not in favour of putting foreign money in IMBB. We were fiercely proud of IMBB being an Indian blog and having Indian voices. We were not comfortable with money coming from abroad to be invested in IMBB. Who knows what it would result in future? Also, we were not in need of money also at that time. With god’s grace we were doing good. And we loved IMBB as IMBB was. Our team worked from their homes. Our writers wrote whatever they felt about a product. If they want to share pics of their babies, it was their IMBB. If they wanted to thrash a product, it was their IMBB. After thinking for a week, I wrote a polite mail to all the VCs saying that at this time we would like to continue IMBB on our own and maybe raise funds at a later stage. It was very unprofessional of me to cut short but why waste their time.
And IMBB still continued to grow. More than 75 lakh (7.5 million) people visit IMBB every month. We do more than 1.2 crore (12 million) pageviews every month. Even our haters (who regularly tell us they hate Rati or IMBB) visit us regularly to make their presence felt. And it’s a blog run by the common Indian women of India. But more than that, we love IMBB. I cannot explain it. I can find several faults with IMBB; theme acchhi nahin hai, high end jyada review hota hai, mail ka koi reply nahin karta, so many things! But I still love IMBB. We’re so bloody imperfect ki tum koi bhi saabun de do, complete safai to kabhi nahin hogi 😛 Aise hi hain ham.
Going a little back in time, Rati and I started traveling 3-4 years ago, mostly because I wanted to. Once Rati got the taste of travel she also wanted to travel. And we travelled and travelled. We could afford the best of hotels and travel to the best of places and we did just that. There was such a hunger to see the world, such an itch to see everything. We would see a travel photo and we would be like “ye dekhna hai” In 2- 3 years, we travelled to 22- 25 countries. However, even during our travels, we never forgot IMBB. No matter in which city we were, we would automatically end up in a makeup store. “Biwi ye bhi khareed lo,” “Biwi ye bhi review nahin hua hai.”
Slowly and slowly, a feeling started building up inside us. Gathered through our travels, our experiences, minor feelings etc. And the feeling was that we Indians are not respected. Yes we are a third-world country, made poor by foreign powers that looted us. But all Indians are not the same. And unlike others, Indians live simply and do not show off wealth. But the image of India is all poverty and hunger. Rati and I were so angry and furious that a big foreign street fashion photographer/blogger came to India and all he photographed was beggars, drivers, conductors. A foreign blogger came to India, stayed at a five star hotel and then went ahead to photograph the poverty of India for her readers. Big Instagrammers who feature makeup looks of everyone except Indians. Nobody features Indians. Even Indian magazines suck up to foreign blogs. We are not political at all and we have loads of friend abroad but these kinds of things pinch us a little. There have been instances that we would walk into big makeup stores and SAs would be uninterested until we started buying. And boy, when we start buying makeup they would stand in attention. I remember once at Sephora Champs Elysees, Paris, there were two SAs, each holding basket full of makeup products, moving behind Rati. One of them even asked “are you from Dubai?” and Rati said “no, we’re from India.” Talk about images and impressions of a country.
So somewhere along these experiences, we decided to make IMBB global. We decided to make IMBB a place Indians are proud of. We would do everything, from a drugstore product to an expensive high end one. Not only that, we would do good in makeup also. And we would be a Desi blog, operated by women in towns and cities of India, with a global presence.
We recently spent a long three-and-a-half month period abroad, learning everything we could to make IMBB grow. We learnt about products, about makeup, brands, everything. We wanted to bring a lot of things on IMBB for our readers. It was an exhausting trip. We started missing India so bad, that we even loved our Delhi pollution this time the moment we landed. To everyone who dreams about settling abroad, you’d not know how beautiful India is till you start missing it. 🙂
And this just what I wanted to share with all our IMBB readers and writers. I really love you all. I have never felt so much gratitude for anything in life as I feel for IMBB and the people we have with us. There’s so much love on IMBB that it is hard to express. We have so many good people with us that even naming them would take time.
And no matter how we are, unprofessional, unsophisticated, clumsy, poor, whatever, we are going to show everyone what a bunch of committed people can do. We’ll do it our way. We are going to make IMBB a bigger and a much more comprehensive blog. If you think that we do too much, we’re going to do three-much. We’ll get all brands, all products, all ranges, everything on IMBB. If people think that everything big can happen in US or Europe only, we’ll prove them wrong. Maybe we are not born with a camera in our hand and our pics are not so polished. Maybe our English is not so good and that we dress in simple clothes. But if we decide to do something, we’ll move mountains. And this time we’re going to stamp IMBB on world map.
As the first step in the process, we ask all our readers to let us know the makeup range, Indian or foreign, you want us to review/swatch on IMBB. As I write this post, biwi has already gone shopping for Indian drugstore brands as many of our readers were feeling we don’t do them enough. And biwi has now agreed (finally!) that she would buy all. 😛 So everyone, just tell us the brand/range you want reviewed and we would get it on IMBB for you.