The Inspiring Indian Moms behind Namaste Switzerland
It's December 2018 and what better way to wrap up for this year than with a post about not one, not two inspiring Indian Moms but four of them! These amazing women are the brains and brawn behind, Namaste Switzerland, an online magazine that serves as a unique platform for the Indian community in Switzerland. Now, considering we all need that extra push of motivation and inspiration I thought we could speak to all four of them on their journey as Team Namaste Switzerland. I take great joy in introducing Keerthana Nagarajan, Aradhna Sethi, Manasa Mukka and Shinta Simon to the Times of Amma community. Asking them about how they got the idea to come together to create Namaste Switzerland is akin to hearing a story about serendipitous connections. Shinta and Manasa knew each other personally and they knew of Keerthana through her writing for other outlets and met her through local expat meet-ups. Keerthana met Aradhna at her book-reading for a meet-up for Indian woman. The idea started with Keerthana and then moved on to become a google document and finally a Skype call where the four of them finally met each other as the future core team. Six months later, they launched the magazine on International Women's Day, 2017.
From Left To Right : Manasa Mukka, Shinta Simon, Keerthana Nagarajan and Aradhna Sethi.
How did the idea for Namaste Switzerland come about? Keerthana Nagarajan (K) : I have worked in print, television, radio and webmedia, in India, the Netherlands and in Switzerland. When I moved to Switzerland with my husband, I started freelancing for an online Swiss news site, writing about the Swiss-Indian connect and volunteering for a parenting website based here, sharing my motherhood experiences. I then, worked on my online magazine, where I could interview and share stories about women stories from around the world. The thought of creating an Indo-Swiss platform had always been a distant dream. It all came together when I met the rest of the team – each of us being professionals in our own field.
Aradhna Sethi (A) : After starting my career at Femina India, I moved to Zurich and dabbled in financial online journalism for a while before joining Swiss News. Within 3 months, I was made Chief Editor of this sole English language print publication – a monthly. With time and motherhood, I switched jobs within the editorial content management and marketing and PR roles. However, I was a communicator at heart and wanted to set up a magazine of my own since 2010. But there was no one who could help me set it up – content, ad and IT-wise. I had spoken to people – but no one seemed to understand the concept and need! So I continued working in my editorial roles and then took a sabbatical to write my debut book: ‘The Entrepreneur’s Wife – A Survival Guide”. The intention of running an online magazine has taken a backseat - until I met these lovely women who had the IT know-how writing qualities and a larger network within the Indian diaspora. Manasa Mukka (M) : I was in the web designing field when I was working for Cognizant in India. I decided to take a mommy break once my little one arrived. I came to Switzerland as a trailing spouse and started freelancing in my free time. I met the team and we started talking about the idea of an online magazine, and quickly realized that we have all the talent needed to make this a reality. The rest is history!
Shinta Simon (S) : Namaste Switzerland was an idea that each of us, its co-founders had envisioned in our own way. I have always enjoyed writing, and digital media, being a blogger and coming from a marketing background. There was also this yearning for information that I, a newcomer in Switzerland was seeking online and couldn’t find. I was sure that I wasn’t the only expat struggling with a paucity of online resources that would help me understand this new, unfamiliar country a little better. When Keerthana reached out to share her idea for an online magazine that would address this need, I was ecstatic. The magazine eventually took shape and form over several conversations with the co-founders, several ideation and brainstorming sessions led to our launch in March 2017
What specific skills do you bring to the team?
A : I’d say editorial and to an extent marketing. K: I enjoy profiling people, telling their stories. I write, edit, and proof stories for the issue and rolling content. I also take care of the major part of connecting and coordinating guest and regular writers for our site- discussing the pitch and getting the write ups ready. I am also the second pair of eyes for my team as they are for me proofing each other’s articles before it is ready to be published. I have always enjoyed video editing and producing video content. I am responsible for all the video content at Namaste Switzerland. M: I am the web designer of Namaste Switzerland and take care of all the uploads, magazine releases, and also design whatever needs to be designed, be it business cards, brochures, media kits, etc. I also represent Namaste Switzerland for various collaborations. S: I have a somewhat mixed bag of skills. Professionally, I am a market analyst, having worked in marketing teams in Genpact and IBM previously, and my professional background gave me a good understanding of editing – having cut my teeth in creating marketing collateral, pitch-making, operations and management and the importance of branding and digital media. Personally, I am a blogger, and have been writing and online journaling for as long as the internet was a thing. With Namaste Switzerland, I write articles, and manage key aspects of our social media presence. We all also share some common responsibilities such as peer reviews of each other’s work, etc. How has the response to Namaste Switzerland been like?
A: Overwhelming. We are reaching out to over half-a-million people – within just about one and three-fourths of a year! K: It’s been great so far. In the nearly two years of our presence in Switzerland, we have created a niche for quality content, in-depth stories at the same time striving to make it the first stop of all Indians living in Switzerland and anyone and everyone interested in Indian culture in Switzerland. M: Namaste Switzerland has received immense positive response. We are even featured in the Indian Embassy of Switzerland website. I can never get tired of hearing wonderful things about the website design, and the logo. The content is of course the best part of the site, but as I do not contribute much content, compliments on the design makes me very happy. S: We have received tremendous support, encouragement and good advice from people who have read our work, and seen value in the website and in our content. It has been very uplifting and it does feel like all the hard work has been recognised and valued. What challenges have you faced in publishing and bringing this out?
A: Finances, time lines adherence at times, and since we are a voluntary team – there are times when motivation runs a bit low. Still – we manage it all with each other’s support and the bonding we share.
S: Time is often a constraint, as it is a difficult task managing home and family and working on your passion. There are limitations, particularly with mobility given that all of us have children in various stages of their lives, and our schedules are not easy to align. Aside from that, publishing content online comes with its own set of challenges. Copyrights and disclaimers are essential and we go to great lengths to ensure our content is not duplicated elsewhere. K: As an expat trailing spouse, I am totally in love with the fact that I have had the opportunity to become part of a team of women each one from different work background, but we have all come together to share a common interest – relevant content creation. Namaste Switzerland is very much part of my life here. Just like I plan my week for my family, I think for Namaste Switzerland in terms of content and scheduling. We all work from home – or when we are on the move, juggling family life and managing it all. And we all strive hard to strike that balance. M: I actually found no major challenges so far, touch wood. But it is also because I really enjoy working on Namaste Switzerland and I want to see it grow to reflect the love and effort that we have put into it. My personal challenge is to balance work at home, and 8 year old and a 2 year old toddler. So far, I have survived. What do you envision for Namaste Switzerland in the future? S: Namaste Switzerland has a huge potential for growth, especially with technology making the world a flatter place. Switzerland itself hasn’t gone through a digital revolution like India or other emerging markets have. This also means that online magazines such as ours stand out from the rest, because we are the only one of its kind. Our uniqueness and strong readership in the Indian and expat community in Switzerland, and also India, remain our strength and USP. In the future, I would like to see us reaching more people, touching more lives and forging more connections with our writing.
A: We are already the only online English magazine for Indians. We see ourselves as a one-stop-shop for all expats interested in Swiss matters and all Swiss interested in knowing a little more about India. It’s a dream to realize which, we would need funding and ongoing revenue and a larger team that we can employ. But we aren’t quite there yet! M and K : We like the way Namaste Switzerland is progressing. Our unique presence and content is our strength. I see us expanding our editorial content (with in-house, regular and guest writers) reaching out to more readers. I also see us being a sought after online magazine with an Indian flavor.
I asked the team about their favourite articles so far and like most good editors and content creators, they agreed that it was very hard to pick favourites and that each story was special in its own way. Here is one of Keerthana's picks though - "The story of Lakshmi Natarajan who coming from an IT background chose her love for animals over a corporate career. She’s spent a decade taking care of Penguins and other animals at the Zurich Zoo." And while Shinta was inspired by the interview of former Indian Ambassador Dr.Smita Purushottam, she also chose this piece on women's cricket in Switzerland, that she enjoyed writing. Thank you, Team Namaste Switzerland for your time and for inspiring us with your journey. The Times of Amma Community wishes you all the very best and we hope to see more from you in the future. You can follow Namaste Switzerland on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For more from inspiring Indian Mothers from across the world, you can follow the Times of Amma on Facebook and Instagram.