Meghna Girohtra talking about her idea, Mumbai Instagrammers
Meghna came up with a unique idea of forming a community of people who go around Mumbai and Instagrammed pleasing pictures of the city. People use Instagram to share pictures with their friends, but this group using this social media channel to share their city’s beauty with friends and families.
IndianCEO talks to Meghna to find out more on these Mumbaikars.
IndianCEO: Tell us everything about Mumbai Instagrammers?
Meghna: The idea was simple. Explore Mumbai like-minded photography enthusiasts and not shy away from taking pictures. A whole bunch of us had been active on Instagram during 2012 and after meeting a few people in February 2013, I hosted the first PhotoWalk in April 2013.
A month after our first photowalk, I received a slew of requests from Instagrammers asking about the next walk. It soon became a monthly phenomenon, with walks in different parts of the city. The more we met, the greater was the collective passion about photography.
Today, Mumbai Instagrammers is a Photography Collective – it consists of the city’s most vibrant photography community en masse, has been a mentoring ground for many Instagram influencers since its inception and changing the photography scenario – be it smartphone photography or the always-rampant DSLR-driven photographers.
IndianCEO: What motivated you to start this idea and how did you overcome your challenges?
Meghna: The wonderful people I’ve met via Instagram have continually motivated me. And it’s inspiring to see the friendships forged within the large group who meet regularly. We’re not just photography-obsessed, but an energetic bunch to socialize with.
After the first few walks in 2013, the number of attendees at each photo walk went up from 25-40 to 100+ by 2014. That has been one of the challenges, we became very popular and that does affect overall interaction at the meet-ups. Smaller walks are always more fun and many Instagrammers who met at our PhotoWalks have enjoyed those a great deal, including me and smaller bunches.
Additionally, we can’t venture into some parts of the city like Dharavi, given that we are a huge mass. We’ve also had run-ins with authorities regarding congregating in public spaces. Anyone who sees 100-odd people with DSLR cameras is unnerved quickly!
Our most recent photowalk was on April 24th where a whopping 400+ Instagrammers and photographers met at Sanjay Gandhi National Park to celebrate WorldWide InstaMeet 13 initiated by Instagram and coinciding with the Earth Day weekend (#LifeOnEarthWWIM13, #WWIM13Mumbai)
We were definitely overwhelmed, although we did manage groups of 200-250 people earlier on few occasions. I have decided to train and enlist volunteers to help coordinate these large meetups.
IndianCEO: What’s your business model? Is their any monetary aspect involved?
Meghna: I haven’t charged people attending walks, since that wasn’t the core idea. Except for one partially curated walk in 2015. As successful bloggers do, agencies and brands for campaigns that include promotional posts, theme-specific PhotoWalks and contests pay us.
Since last month, we have initiated paid workshops that are ideal for the evolved photography hobbyists and aspiring commercial photographers.
Mumbai Instagrammers Workshop
IndianCEO: How did you build the core team and how did everyone align to the idea?
Meghna: While I’ve largely led the majority of the community-building and management, I’ve had help from several Instagrammers-turned-friends. I met most of them at the PhotoWalks over the last three years. It took just the first few meetups for us to become a collective force of energetic, photography-obsessed people.
IndianCEO: Give us a background of your core team and yourself with the age
Meghna: I’m 36, gregarious and obsessed with history, architecture, art and design. There’s great joy in discovering something new everyday, because I despise the routine nature of things.
Being in Mumbai is stifling and I’m happiest when I get to travel. An ardent traveller, I’ve met and extensively interacted with Instagrammers across the country since 2012. And it’s great to know like-minded photography-obsessed people in various places!
Professionally, I have 13 years of marketing, advertising and digital media experience. I worked within brand teams (Emami, Reliance Entertainment) and in agency roles. (DDB-Mudra, Grey, WWO).
I quit my last role in advertising in October 2015 and started freelancing on digital projects. Since February this year, decided to devote more time on growing the community and building the Mumbai Instagrammers brand.
My core team is a flexible bunch of sorts since this hasn’t been a full-time professional endeavour for most of us. We’re an eclectic bunch, with educational backgrounds ranging from MBAs to engineers. We’ve held jobs in a variety of fields including advertising, digital marketing, consumer goods and IT.
Frequent collaborators include:
Siddharth Samant (24), engineer and graphic designer with a passion of capturing everything beuatuful in a very distinctive visual tone. @that_sidartguy)
Rahul Vangani (23), recently completed his MBA and shares my passion for architecture. His photographs capture the immense beauty of Mumbai’s heritage architecture. (@rahul_vangani)
Swapnil Junjare (24), an engineer turned commercial photographer, his images of weddings, food and fashion are splendid (@satanssj)
Kuber Shah (35), a lifestyle photographer and digital marketing consultant with superlative creative concepts. His stunning pictures across architecture, fashion, landscapes are riveting (@thekuber)
IndianCEO: Any competitors for this idea
Meghna: In Mumbai, we have been the largest and most vibrant community of this nature. There are scores of photography groups since many years. But we are unique since our virality is off the charts! I may have made PhotoWalks a regular phenomenon, but the authentic camaraderie happened thanks to our massive community.
There are very successful Instagram entities in Mumbai like @everydaymumbai and @my_mumbai who showcase the city through well-curated photographs. But our objectives have been distinctive, so we all co-exist wonderfully.
IndianCEO: What are your future plans for Mumbai Instagrammers?
Meghna: Within the next few months, my goal is to hire a permanent team of few people who can lead the various types of activities we undertake. As well as do more interesting things on our Instagram handle itself. More videos, more curated coverage of happenings, more mentoring of emerging talent.
I want to also document certain aspects of the city like the decaying architecture in the older vicinities. There’s so much that can be done to showcase the many facets of the city, to global tourists. And Instagram is such a powerful, visual enabler.
In September 2015, we initiated the non-profit ‘Joy of Photography’ with AngelExpress. This is an initiative to teach underprivileged children about digital photography. I’m working on a structured program to take it to more NGOs and educational institutions.
Since late 2014, I have managed Instagram influencer campaigns across the country. So that has also become more interesting with popularity of other visually driven platforms like Snapchat and Periscope.
And we will host workshops covering photography and videography frequently – Lightroom training, food photography, lighting, portraiture, wedding photography, mobile and more.
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