Thanks to Upasana Makati, thousands of visually impaired Indians can now sit down to breakfast with a cup of chai, some toast and their very own braille magazine to catch up on the latest news, music, and film in the country.
Makati launched ‘White Print’ in 2013 with the simple goal of ensuring that the blind in India had something to read. Fast forward four years, and the magazine now enjoys a sizeable readership as well as revenue generated from advertising. It is an accomplishment that is both impressive and inspiring.
In this candid interview, Makati tells us the story of why and how ‘White Print’ came to be.
1) What inspired you to start India’s first English lifestyle magazine in Braille?
Actually it’s something that just came to me one night.
I had been thinking about how a visually impaired person would start their day, and as I had no prior connection with that community, naturally my curiosity drove me to find and speak to more people. I even contacted the National Association of Blind to get information but I didn’t find any reading material available on a daily/monthly basis.
That’s when I decided to quit my job and start a magazine for the visually impaired.
2) Why did you name it ‘White Print?’
It’s a creative term for the braille script.
3) What kind of stories do you publish?
In terms of content, we write inspiring stories of the common man, food related columns, Bollywood and entertainment related news, general knowledge, short stories, political news, etc. We also have an editorial association with the Caravan magazine, wherein one story from them is published.
4) Would you consider printing ‘White Print’ in local languages?
Yes, we’d love to do that. Our readers also want ‘White Print’ in different languages. But for now, we are going to stick to English because of financial constraints. Once we gain stability, we’d love to explore other languages.
5) What were the challenges you faced in starting such a publication?
There are a lot. Running a start-up is full of challenges at every point. We are not a charity. We had to convince people that we needed advertisements, not donations. Convincing corporations was a big challenge in wanting to advertise for the blind. Apart from that, running the company all by myself was a huge challenge because I was required to multitask all the time. It’s pretty exciting though.
6) What has been the biggest satisfaction in publishing the magazine?
I wouldn’t want to do any other job, because this is the most satisfying job I’ll ever do in my life. It’s totally about the readers’ feedback. When they call up or write to me about how happy and empowered they are in reading ‘White Print’, it gives me immense pleasure.
Earlier we had a reader who told me that he used to wait for his son to read the newspaper to him. Now he gets ‘White Print’ on a monthly basis to read and gain information from. It’s the calls and messages like these that keep us motivated in doing what we are doing.
7) What’s next for ‘White Print’?
We have launched a braille-tactile alphabet book in English and in Hindi called the Tactabet.
We use technology which enables people with poor vision and the visually impaired to learn alphabets. For example, when you say “A for Apple”, you have a tactile image of how an apple feels. It’s our latest project and was launched just last month.
Makati’s endeavor should serve as a motivation for other budding entrepreneurs to foster an inclusive atmosphere for everybody, and provide the differently abled with the opportunities that everybody takes for granted. By empowering the visually impaired, ‘White Print’ continues to be an inspiration.
Interview by Nikhil Srinivas
Featured image source:Rocketium