Beyond the white print...

Upasana Makati decided to explore the possibility of offering a lifestyle magazine to the visually-challenged. The result was White Print, a 64-page lifestyle magazine in Braille. Janani Rajeswari S catches up with this young founder and publisher of the magazine about its birth, growth and the challenges involved. After having completed her bachelor’s degree in Mass media and spending some time in Canada on a scholarship and thereafter a brief stint in a PR industry, Upasana Makati wished to start something on her own. “Interestingly, there are nearly 56 lakh visually-challenged people in India who are literate in Braille (English),” says the 24-year old Upasana. This definitely got her thinking about what could be the reading options available to them.

“I thought about the magazines available for the visually-challenged people; they were close to none at the end of my research. The National Association for Blind in India brings out a newsletter but not a magazine,” she adds. Six months ago, she decided to start a lifestyle magazine in Braille (English). Upasana then connected with some visually-challenged people and found out that they were equally eager to have a specific magazine for them.

For her, the very idea of starting such a venture was a challenge in itself. So, she shared the idea with a close group of friends who completely supported her. “However, they were initially very apprehensive and posed questions such as support and funding” she reveals. But that certainly did not deter her spirits to start. She adds that it took around eight months to get the title of the magazine approved White Print after two attempts. Then, she approached the National Association for the Blind (NAB) to use their press to print the magazine.

The other decision Upasana took was that White Print not to go as a charitable venture. Thus, like any other magazine, the revenue depended on the ads that would appear in the magazine. “In general, advertisements that appear in magazines are extremely colourful. However, my magazine was going to carry ads that were text heavy,” she says. Raymond was the first company to place their ads in the magazine. It was a five-page article in Braille on their summer collection. “This was indeed a new step in advertising wherein Braille advertising came into the picture,” she adds. In addition, the awareness created through the media has definitely helped popularise the novel form of advertising. Following this, numerous companies have been approaching the magazine for placing their ads.

The editorial team at White Print includes six freelance writers who pursue different professions. When it comes to the content, it’s just like any other lifestyle magazine. The columns include articles on food, travelogues, music, film news and film reviews and reader contributions (poems, short stories) and also a political column. “Lifestyle is incomplete without politics. I was very lucky that Barkha Dutt agreed to do the column for us,” says Upasana. The magazine also carries one success story of a visually-challenged person.

Upasana MakatiUpasana tells us more about her readers, “Our readers are differently-abled and not visually-challenged. One of our readers does shopping on her own. She even identifies the fabric with the help of her walking stick. Katrina Kaif is the favourite actress of a visually-challenged girl, while another doesn’t leave her home without make-up.” Thus, fashion-related and trend stories are definitely a part of the magazine. “We ran a story on how to recycle one’s wardrobe like using old scarves,” Upasana adds.

Upasana recalls how a 60-year-old visually-challenged lady requested her to add more articles on general themes as they all had a life of their own.

“It’s been a learning process for us all the way. As we began experimenting, we began offering them a magazine that would refresh their minds. Also, we are very sensitive when it comes to the language used in the article,” she adds.

Around 300 copies are printed every month, which, Upasana marks is very challenging for them. In addition to the free copies that they send out to schools and colleges, there are also individual subscribers. Some of the readers opt to gift the copies of the magazine.

“A lot of visually-challenged people appreciate us for accepting subscriptions from them too as they do not want to be sympathised” explains Upasana. The circulation of the magazine has been all across India especially in cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, across South India and even in the North-eastern regions.

“It’s very interesting that people in the South are very well-versed in Braille. Thus, small schools and even libraries subscribe to the magazine,” she points out.

“I am very happy with the response. So far, word of mouth and the social media has been fruitful and economical for her. But there are still miles to be reached,” she says. With a huge population yet to be catered to, Upasana looks at reaching to the rest of the visually-challenged people in India.

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