Welcome to FactorDaily: Signals that help you read the future

Pankaj Mishra May 25, 2017 10 min

FactorDaily turned one earlier this month and we couldn’t be more excited, more confident about the journey we started last year.

Right now, as I write this piece, a thousand thoughts are crossing my mind. But, honestly, most of them are about how much needs to be done in the coming months and years ahead to build out the FactorDaily enterprise and brand. Challenge and excitement, in equal parts.

Our stories, design, and technology speak for our past 12 months in the business. We’ve had our share of bad hair days, of course, but it’s been a fulfilling journey so far.

Technology is going mainstream in India, and how

When we launched FactorDaily last year, the mission was to make sense of technology and its impact on the way India lives. That focus remains intact; mission unchanged. What we underestimated is the pace of change that the technology is bringing across the things it touches — disrupts or transforms, really.

From fintech to social media, from the future of jobs to workplace culture, from health to entertainment, from geekdom to the way hinterland India touches technology for the first time, from policy to corporate strategies… Technology is that broadbrush stroke changing almost all spheres of life in India.

When we launched FactorDaily last year, the mission was to make sense of technology and its impact on the way India lives. That focus remains intact; mission unchanged  

To take an example from legacy media, there is hardly a newspaper front page or prime time show on news television that doesn’t have a story with a technology angle to it. Be it the electronic voting machine or Aadhaar or digital privacy debates; loss of jobs in Indian IT services, the biggest job creator in the last three decades; the average Indian’s obsession with a screen— more often than not, in his pocket — nearest to him; startups and electronic commerce; violence on social media; clean tech in energy; and, above all, the people driving this change.

It’s easy for me here to say, “I told you so” and smirk. And, add that we always meant to chronicle technology as it mainstreams in every fabric of India’s and an Indian’s life. In doing so, we are a little different from technology journalism as is practised elsewhere in the country. There are gadgets-led sites, there are startup-focused ones, there are trade journalism destinations, there are broader business journalism companies that also dabble in technology journalism, there are experts with unmatched insights who write occasionally; and there are curators on social media.

We like to believe we are all this and more. We chase and tell you the big stories with context and guided by our patra dharma enshrined in our Code of Conduct. Of course, we miss stories and when we do, we point to them on our social channels. Our daily newsfile will expand in the weeks ahead but we promise to stick with our “less is more” and “fall on my sword rather than break the code” approach to our journalism.

Public spirited technology journalism

There is another layer that you, dear consumer of FactorDaily, should be proud of in the journalism we do: the public service storytelling remit we have for ourselves. We believe we have an important role in technology journalism to seed and frame debates on issues of public interest, take down those involved in wrongdoing, and push for change towards good. All this limited by the context of the times we live in, admittedly.

There is another layer that you, dear consumer of FactorDaily, should be proud of in the journalism we do: the public service storytelling remit we have for ourselves  

“Show, don’t tell” is an age-old adage in journalism and let me tell you about our public service journalism with examples. (Yes, I am breaking my rule of not looking in the rearview mirror but bear with me, please.) All those who have tracked the growth of India’s tech and startup ecosystem in the last three decades or more will tell you about how sexism — and, indeed, sexual harassment — has been growing quietly like a cancer in our workplaces. Call it “bro culture” or whatever. The tech and startup industry with its high percentage of male workers was a petri dish for this scourge and we decided early on to keep an eye on it.

Our culture editor Shrabonti Bagchi, always on the front foot when it comes to sexism, started with a stinging column on how women entrepreneur events were “weep fests”. We went on then to track gender related issues such as what it means to be a transwoman working in the Indian IT sector followed by podcasts on sexism with PandoDaily’s Sarah Lacy and MadStreetDen’s Ashwini Asokan. Or, Jayadevan P K’s interview-based story of Hana Mohan, an entrepreneur who suffered from gender dysphoria. Shrabonti wrapped the episode of sexual harassment charges against TVF founder Arunabh Kumar in this rich, behind-the-scenes narrative.

The big one, however, has been our series of investigative stories on sexual harassment allegations against Mahesh Murthy, a prominent venture capitalist in the country’s startup ecosystem. We were clear that what Murthy does in his private life is not someone should bother about, but when business meetups and professional meetings become a setting for him to indulge in predatory sexual behaviour, that’s when it becomes a public service journalism story for us.

Some of FactorDaily’s readers even asked questions about a technology media site tracking “tabloidish” topics.

Most others though had different opinion and several women, who know what it is like to be propositioned, groped, or just be the subject of loaded comments, came out in support of our stories.

But, guess how many among the 29 tech leaders I’d listed in this story, including three women, asking where they stand on sexism and the pervasive bro culture in workplaces got back to us? Just two. It’s a long journey, but be sure that we will be at our public service journalism. And, fyi, in light of what has emerged in our stories on his behaviour, we have removed a Mahesh Murthy-authored piece on FactorDaily. We’d reproduced it from his writings on Linkedin and said piece can still be read here.

There will be more investigation-based stories — not just around sexism— in our newsfile in the year ahead.

So who is FactorDaily?

FactorDaily is the voice of technology disruption in India. It’s the voice of change providing signals to help you read the future.

We’re also a voice of balance, determinedly so. We believe in empowering our readers with world-class technology journalism so they make decisions, form their own opinions and get ahead in life and at work. When we have a sharp view on a topic, we make sure to label it an opinion column. And, when we make mistakes, we correct them with obsessive diligence — most of the time, even before someone from outside points out the mistake to us.

Let’s face it — there’s extreme cheerleading on one side, and an outright negativity on the other when it comes to defining personas of most of the media organisations today.

For us, the starting point for every story is an idea or a topic that matters to our audience. We don’t start with thoughts of doing a “negative story” or “a puff piece.” We practise journalism the good old way — by getting as close to the truth as possible  

For us, the starting point for every story is an idea or a topic that matters to our audience. We don’t start with thoughts of doing a “negative story” or “a puff piece.” We practise journalism the good old way — by getting as close to the truth as possible.

And, yes, we believe journalists shouldn’t be activists. You can’t be both at the same time.

“What is FactorDaily’s persona? What’s the persona of FactorDaily’s target audience?”

I have been asked this question in serious conversations over a dozen times in the past one year — almost like once every month.

And to be honest, I struggled to answer them convincingly because we’re neither of the extremes. For us, and for me personally too, the following lines from Joseph Pulitzer have been a beacon:

“Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.”

(‘Them’ and ‘they’, as may not be obvious to all, is reference to a reader or consumer of journalism.)

Again, some “show, don’t tell” examples: on May 5, we captured the journey of Ram Sewak Sharma, chairman of India’s powerful telecom regulator, as a tech savvy bureaucrat in this Outliers Podcast. Just ten days later, we published a strong critique of Sharma’s opinion piece by our contributor Thejesh G N.

Our profile story on Kiran Jonnalagadda and Zainab Bawa, who we called India’s geekiest couple quietly building communities and shaping geek culture in Bengaluru, was an absorbing piece. We had been on and off been in touch with Kiran until he hit the headlines last week again when he told the world that Sharad Sharma, co-founder of software products thinktank iSpirt, was trolling anti-Aadhaar activists from sock puppet Twitter accounts.

We were among the first to report on it but Kiran was critical of our story and updates. We decided to interview Kiran on his views on anonymity on the internet and he wrote this thoughtful piece for us that ran Tuesday.

Moral of the story: “agreeing to disagree” is a good rule to have in life when you are running an independent, balanced, evidence-based news shop. An ex-editor of mine used to call his newspaper an “equal opportunity offender” meaning to say there are no friends or enemies in journalism.

Moral of the story: “agreeing to disagree” is a good rule to have in life when you are running an independent, balanced, evidence-based news shop  

Much of this, dear consumer, by the way, dates back to the over four-and-a-half centuries that journalism has been around. And, it is, most certainly, normal in a modern-day newsroom. Just that in a world dominated by social media and in the technology journalism space, we see good old independence and credibility as key ingredients going into building the FactorDaily brand and promise.

So dear readers, if you’re looking for the most balanced and unbiased insights on people and companies shaping India’s future using technology, FactorDaily is the destination to turn to.

Disclosure: FactorDaily is owned by SourceCode Media, which counts Accel Partners, Blume Ventures and Vijay Shekhar Sharma among its investors. Accel Partners is an early investor in Flipkart. Vijay Shekhar Sharma is the founder of Paytm. None of FactorDaily’s investors have any influence on its reporting about India’s technology and startup ecosystem.

Visuals: Nikhil Raj


               

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