The bridge of books
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you" celebrated American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou's words ring true for people who have a penchant for observation, imagination and expression that are intrinsic to story- telling. For all the reams of written material available around the world, there are many untold stories that remain in the deep recesses of thought for want of avenues. Bridging the gap is "Kahaniya" a self-service, content market place based out of Hyderabad nurturing the much-needed vernacular eco-system for writers. This initiative launched in 2016 helps debutant writers set up their profiles, publish literature, build an audience base and monetize their work. It is today a strong community of 3000 plus writers with opportunities and recognition pouring in for young writers, who got noticed through this platform. "We are happy that a book titled "Daitya dairies" written by debutant author KV Aditya won a 'novel writing' contest and has done exceedingly well. Script writer CA Sai Teja has made his celluloid entry with the film Kalki which is an investigative thriller inspired by true events based on the story of the book. Our success is defined solely by the opportunities our writers get." says Pallav Bajjuri co-founder Kahaniya.
A software engineer who studied and worked in the United States before returning to India in 2012, Pallav had to face the rough and tumble associated with start-ups beginning his entrepreneurial journey with a social network built around journalism. The period between 2009 and 2011 witnessed great civic activity with the Radia tapes expose, the emergence of organizations like 'India against Corruption' and other movements beckoning him to return to India and explore ways to present hard facts through a digital platform. "Saddahaq" the news platform he started created ripples becoming a case study for the City University of New York and receiving endorsements from journalistic greats like Jeff Jarvis. Despite appealing to many influencers, celebrities and politicians, the initiative shut down in 2015 as it became an unviable business proposition. Moving from fact to fiction Pallav decided to tap the market for vernacular fiction inspired by the Canadian initiative "watt pad' whose tag line is 'where stories live'. Says Pallav, "The vernacular publishing scene was not organized. There were no written contracts between publishers and authors and things were in total disarray. With digital consumption in India picking up we decided to leverage technology and create a free live publishing platform with a model of micro-payments where authors fixed the price for their books, revised them if necessary and received reader responses. We created a meeting ground for authors, publishers and readers".
The shift from fact to fiction has been good for Pallav with Kahaniya which began with English writing shifting focus to Telugu literature. It slowly gained credence featuring works of established and popular writers like Yandamoori Veerendranath, Malladi Venkatakrishnamorthi, Kadeer Babu and others. Anything that is considered literature can be written about and anyone can create an account and start writing but monetization happens only when readers like what is written according to Pallav, who says many homemakers have started earning anything between 8 to 10 thousand rupees per month through this platform.
What about the argument that there are no takers for books and reading habits are passé. With technology that can support 11 languages, Kahaniya is expanding into other languages as well. The Hindi platform has been activated through a tie up with a publishing house ' Hind Yugm' to bring out an anthology of love stories by writers who have never been featured before. Bengali and Tamil platforms are being set up even as the script writer's platform called Konnect is bringing together production houses and story tellers. In Hollywood the ratio of the film budget to script budget is about 4 % but in Bollywood it is abysmally low and less than 0.1 percent Pallav points out. Through this platform production houses are finding it easy to select talented script writers from shortlisted works and there is scope for greater professionalism and better monetary deals he opines.
Association with works of established writers comes with its own set of problems as there are different groups and rivalries among them. Pallav Bajjuri however is unfazed by this and determined to grow his platform by encouraging good literature that is the hallmark of a cultured and refined society. With two films and a web series for Zee 5 set to roll out of Kahaniya this year, there is plenty to look forward to on the growth front. For Kahaniya then, the story has just begun.