In conversation with Paper Planes founder Nupur Joshi Thanks on her digital startup focused on the evolution of design and print in India
Founded in 2014, Paper Planes was one of the first Indian e-commerce start-ups and has influenced the country’s media landscape. Initially laying the focus on inventing a platform to familiarize Indian audiences with the idea of independent print journals, founder Nupur Joshi Thanks included later on a digital magazine segment, featuring ‘Design & Living’ as well as ‘Interview’ subsections. In 2019, Paper Planes launched the panel discussion series Oddly Enough to initiate an open conversation on topics of current importance, involving Indian authors, artists, or chief executive officers as speakers.
Before Paper Planes, Nupur Joshi Thanks was pursuing a career as corporate lawyer at a company in Mumbai , when she decided to take a sabbatical year. The break, which she intended to spend traveling, resulted in a career change and the start-up company Paper Planes. Provoked by an article on MagCulture thematising the niche of Indie Magazines, Joshi Thanks began her research on the underground culture, during which she came across various indie titles like Elephant or Cereal. With her discovery of the industry branch, she decided to establish a business concept for a magazine subscription kit, tailored to the reader’s preferences.
«The idea was to launch a subscription service to which readers could sign up and indicate their categories of interest. Based on the genres selected, we would send them one independent magazine each month», demonstrates the foundress. The decision to operate the business online was incensed by the rental costs in Mumbai and Joshi Thanks plan of self-funding her start-up.
«Opening a physical shop would not have brought us a cost-benefit and an online presence could reach a vaster number of people. […] Physical spaces will furthermore have to work harder. They will have to find a way to engage with the readers and constitute their relationships». With no mentionable concurrence at the time, the business idea persuaded creatives and enthusiasts for print magazines. The online platform evolved into a leading Indian source for magazines and books.
In 2018, Paper Planes expanded its concept and launched a Design & Living, as well as an Interview section, on which the team introduces Indian authors, business founders, architects, or design newcomers. They welcomed guests such as Gita Wolf, the co-founder of Tara Books, a Chennai-based independent publishing house that has been championing children’s literature and art traditions in India for three decades.
The curation process. When curating the magazines and books, Nupur Joshi Thanks pays attention to key aspects such as the consistency in the quality of writing, laying her focus on upcoming titles. «We love introducing publications exploring fresh themes and ideas. When we hear of a new magazine in the market, we write to the editor and take it from there. […] And since the niche for indie magazines is small, sometimes publishers write to us directly if they want to enter the Indian market».
An additional curation criterion consists in selecting titles that cater to topics of current importance. After Joshi Thanks, a magazine should address topics that foster conversations, to have a scope to expose its audience. Parallel to global titles, the online shop presents national publications or products by independent Indian design brands to its audience.
«Through Paper Planes we want to explore the importance of design, what it means to the consumer, how the culture in India is evolving and write about the people who are making a difference. […] We still have some way to go before we can see Indians leaping faith to put together magazines of their own and brands meeting them halfway to make these magazines a reality».
Oddly enough. Intending to initiate events, where the Paper Planes Mumbai readers could come together and exchange their thoughts or celebrate the launch of an issue, Joshi Thanks revealed the panel discussion series Oddly Enough in 2019. «Paper Planes has been a community-driven brand. We often arranged events and magazine launches in the past, constantly seeking an excuse to meet more people who reciprocated our love for magazines. […] Having done events in the past, we recognized the added value of interacting with audiences face-to-face in building a brand. Oddly enough came to life for that exact reason».
The series focuses on exploring the intersection between design and quotidian life, where social and environmental factors that determine the themes of the sessions. Speakers are those who possess an understanding of the subject matter at hand.
After the pandemic measures, the platform aims to re-launch the video series Paper Planes Live. The events series suffered from the circulating Covid-19 crisis and had to cancel the Oddly Enough event in mid-March. Unable to ship orders, the commerce side of the business has been in revolt as well. However, the team uses the time to focus on stocking up with new product lines and creating online content for the web magazine to keep their customers cherished. «With more time to read, people are looking for writings more than ever before. It’s the proverbial silver lining in the darkening horizon», observes the founder.
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