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Friday, June 1, 2001

In the summer of 1997, Raj Kaushal approached young record producers Shabbir Ahmed and Jay Kumar with an idea for a free student entertainment publication. They called their creation Snoop and set out to tap into the sudden rise in edgy youthful magazine journalism typified by mainstream publications like FHM and Maxim, hoping to duplicate the phenomenon for the UK’s large South Asian market.
Kaushal explains that more traditional Asian media, targeted at first generation South Asians, was completely lost on the growing numbers of young second and third generation consumers in the market. Snoop grew in phases. After a year, the editors charged a token 25 pence to keep away people outside the target audience who were picking up copies just because they were free. But marquee advertisers weren’t coming aboard. So, after another year, Snoop’s founders made a leap of faith, adopted a glossy A4 magazine format, and began charging £1.50. Kaushal remembers wondering if people would pay.

At every stage, the founders bootstrapped the company and were, in Kaushal’s words, “flying by the seat of our pants,” always investing everything back into the development of the product.

Still, the biggest advertisers weren’t ready to go for Snoop, so the magazine doubled in size and took on an appearance much closer to Vogue or Cosmopolitan than would ever have been imagined from its humble debut. Snoop, which now sells for £2.50, outsources the fashion photography that is the centerpiece of every issue to India.

Kaushal explains that the magazine’s Web site, www.snooplife.com, had seen virtually no development over the years, but cautiously ventures that the Web will be a big part of the small company’s expansion from now on. As has been evident recently, building a business on the Web is never easy, and the founders of Snoop may have to stick to the magazine business to drive the bottom line. But their creation has built its own devoted following, and is on sale in the UK’s major resellers, like WH Smith and large supermarket chains. From their small office in Southall — the heart of London’s South Asian community — they hope their brand name will soon become visible overseas.

Interestingly, Kaushal says he has never heard of Vinod Khosla, Kanwal Rekhi and others like them — a good indication that the UK can foster its own brand of entrepreneurship.

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