Over the last fifteen years, Malini Agarwal has established herself as a leader, innovator, and trendsetter in the Indian media and entertainment industry. Starting as a professional dancer while attending Delhi University, Malini soon joined MTV India as a Channel Head, where she was charged with creating engaging television and digital content for a national audience.
She later joined GO 92.5 FM as a Radio Jockey, and although private radio in India was still in its infancy, she quickly drew a large and loyal following. After 8 years in the radio business, where she rose to the position of Programming Director at 94.3 Radio One, she accepted a role as Head of Digital Content for Channel [v], where she oversaw all of the channel’s online content. During this time, Malini founded the pioneering lifestyle and entertainment blog MissMalini.com, which has quickly established itself as the leading voice in India’s online lifestyle space. The Huffington Post, the world’s most popular and authoritative blog, has called Malini Agarwal “without a doubt, India’s most famous blogger”.
Here are some excerpts from Discovering-Mumbai’s interview with Malini Agarwal
Malini can you please shed some light on your personal background?
I’m a bit of a tumble-weed! I was born in Allahabad and then grew up all over the world (courtesy my dad who was in the Indian Foreign Service) as a diplobrat in Germany, Somalia, Greece, Lebenon, Ivory Coast and Bulgaria. After college I was a professional dancer for many years with Ronica and the Planets in Delhi and then moved to Mumbai where I created the Mid Day website content framework and eventually moved to MTV India online to run their romance channel. Eventually I joined Radio and was an RJ for 9 years after which I moved to Channel [v] to run digital content. That’s when I started my blog as a hobby and within 6 months realised that is what I want to do full time!
So how did you get around to becoming an RJ? When you started off private radio stations were quite young in India, what changes have you seen in Radio over the years?
I was with MTV at the time and a friend of mine suggested I go for an audition, since it was close by I went and luckily got offered a spot right away! I started as an RJ when private radio had just come to India so it was all very new and exciting. We made a lot of it up as we went along and really created the first ever commercial radio experience for the Indian ear. Over the years I’ve seen radio change a lot, sadly because the initial license fees were very high a lot of stations collapased or switched to Bollywood to survive. As a result there is very little variety on the air right now and it seems to have lost a lot of it’s flavor and soul.
What was your first show? What was it like going on air for the first time? What were the feedback that you got from people and your close ones?
My first show was the nightshift on WIN 94.6 from 9pm to midnigh. I used to go do my show live every night after working all day at MTV but I loved it. I was quite nervous the first time and my hands were shaking! Over time though it became my favorite moment of the day, when I’d put the faders up and say hello to my listeners. My friends all listened to me and were very supportive, it was an even bigger high to know that the ones you love are listening and I’d always give them a shout out!
Keeping the listeners engaged for hours must be a tough job? How do you manage it?
The key is really to be yourself and be engaged in what you’re doing. Don’t fake it because it shows. The best advice I ever got was imagine that you are speaking to just one person and that creates a bond between you and every single person who is tuned in. I also loved researching trivia about the songs I played and coming up with games to play on the air. In fact I even started a radio network called Going Solo where some of my listeners and I would actually meet every week and do something fun!
How has your style evolved over the years?
Over time radio has become second nature to me and I switch on my “radio voice” pretty easily. My style is peppy, up beat and conspiritorial. Like I’m telling you something I wouldn’t tell anybody else!
Who are the RJs you look up to and what do you like about their work?
I look up to a lot of International RJs. I like Ryan Seacrest and find Shock Jock Howard Stern very entertaining even though he’s almost 100% talk radio which is very hard to do! I loved listening to Jaggu & Tarana, Genesia, TMan Nadir, Savio, Glenn… all my old Go 92.5 FM co-stars!
What’s the best thing about being an RJ?
I guess the best thing about being an RJ is the fact that you’re creating a live connection over the air with so many people all at once, and the fact that it’s the theatre of the mind and you can create a magical world with your words and music that each person experiences in the way they chose to. (This is why most people picture their favorite RJs as drop dead gorgeous even if they might not be!)
You have interviewed a lot of people on air. Tell us some of your best memories from these interviews?
Some of my favorite memories are from Pirate Radio, which I started at 94.3 Radio One with Imran Khan, I’d get Bollywood celebrities to come hang out in the studio with me for a few hours and play any music they wanted and just chat, no agenda no rules. It was SO much fun and I loved doing it! I also remember getting super star struck around Abhishek Bachchan once and asking him if he’s ever been in love!
A lot of people call up on Radio, have you had some bad experiences with callers on air? How do you handle such a thing?
Well I had a weird radio stalker for many years who thought he and I were in a relationship. I had to take him to the police station and his mom came and slapped him in front of everyone there!
Most of the time though you get to screen your callers so you know if they’re going to say something crazy you don’t put them on the air.
What talent does one need to be a good RJ? What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a RJ?
To be a good RJ you need a great personality more than a good voice. My best advice to anyone who wants to be an RJ would be to be yourself, remember to talk to just one person in your head (picture your best friend is setting opposite you and talk to him/her) and have fun, it’ll show!
You also started a networking club called Friday Club, can you tell us something about this club?
Yes I started Friday Club 7 years ago and it’s still going strong. It’s basically a group of fun interesting people from Indian and other parts of the world who like meeting new people. I’ve always felt that after school or college people stop trying to make new really close friends but at Friday Club we’ve forged amazing friendships and even though it’s not a “singles” club as such several people met their life partners, including myself!
When did you start blogging and what was the thought behind starting your own blog?
I started blogging in 2008 as a hobby at a friend’s suggestion. I did it for fun because I love writing and at the time I had stopped doing my column in Mid Day for a short while and was missing writing it. I had no idea at the time that it would soon become my whole world!
How has your blog evolved over the years?
My blog has evolved into a one stop entertainment destination for all things Bollywood, Fashion and Lifestyle realted with a desi girl twist! Now I have a team of writers and photographers who cover events and write about everything relevant to my audience. So it’s more of a proper online brand now from the single person’s musings it used to be.
You also write gossip column in newspaper. How different it is from writing a blog? What things do you consider when writing for a newspaper?
Newspaper columns are less interactive but there is a charm to print writing that will last forever feel. My column in Mid Day is usually about upcoming celebrity events and hot happenings whereas the blog takes you inside those parties and events and gives you a fly-on-the-wall perspective!
So what next for Miss Malini?
Like I always say to my team, it’s to the moon! MissMalini is definitely going places so stay tuned