About Khabar Magazine:
Khabar is an award-winning print magazine that caters to Indian Americans and other South Asians in the Southeast. We also have a digital edition and a website, allowing us to reach readers outside this region. Our features include deeply reported cover stories on topics relevant to the community, interviews with notable people, commentaries, arts coverage, fiction, personal essays, and columns on immigration, humor, spirituality, entertainment, business, money matters and geopolitics. Besides focusing on local and national desis, we write about India and, occasionally, the broader diaspora. Please go to www.Khabar.com for more details. Freelancers interested in Khabar can write to firstname.lastname@example.org for guidelines.
About Murali Kamma (Khabar Managing Editor):
Murali Kamma, who grew up in India, has been an Atlanta resident for two decades. His debut book, Not Native: Short Stories of Immigrant Life in an In-Between World (Wising Up Press), won an Independent Publisher Book Award for multicultural fiction. His stories have appeared in Havik 2021, The Apple Valley Review, Cooweescoowee, and South Asian Review, among other journals, and is forthcoming in Rosebud and Evening Street Review. He has written columns for India Abroad and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and is a contributor to New York Journal of Books. His fiction has also been published in Wising Up Press anthologies and The Best Asian Short Stories 2020. He earned degrees from Loyola College, India, and SUNY at Buffalo.
“Khabar is an award-winning print magazine that caters to Indian Americans and other South Asians in the Southeast. We also have a digital edition and a website, allowing us to reach readers outside this region.” ~Murali Kamma #DesiLitBiz .@DesiBooksTweet
Desi Books: Let’s start with the origins of Khabar magazine. Whose idea was it and how did it get started? What were the early aspirations or goals?
Murali Kamma: It actually started as a monthly coupon mailer. Parthiv Parekh, the current owner and editor-in-chief, teamed up with the founders, Rajesh Jyotishi and Mehul Parekh, to provide a service to local desis and promote their own ventures. But soon they saw the potential for a community magazine aimed at Atlanta’s fast-growing South Asian population. The beginnings were modest. “Our first issue in this format was an eight-page publication in two-color ink that begged to be defined as a magazine,” Parthiv notes. Before long, though, his editorial passion—along with Rajesh’s entrepreneurial energy and Mehul’s artistic talent—turned Khabar into a household name among desis in this region. Despite the pandemic, there’s been no interruption in production, and the full-color print magazine now runs to just over 100 pages.
“[Khabar] started as a monthly coupon mailer […] a service to local desis and [to] promote their own ventures. [Parthiv Parekh, Rajesh Jyotishi, Mehul Parekh] saw the potential for a community magazine.” ~Murali Kamma #DesiLitBiz .@DesiBooksTweet
Desi Books: Looking back on this multi-decade growth journey with the wide-reaching glocal readership, the writing team, and multiple offerings you have now, what were the top one or two surprises and challenges you dealt with?
Murali Kamma: Khabar turns 30 next year, and that’s the biggest surprise! How did we, in the tenuous print media world, manage to stay in business for so long? In all modesty, I believe it’s because our ads continue to provide great value and our magazine content remains strong, thanks to a dedicated team that includes freelancers. Perseverance also played a role in our longevity, as did timing and deep roots in the community. But I don’t want to discount the challenges. Like countless other businesses, including some of our clients, we’ve been hit hard by the pandemic. Full recovery is the immediate goal as we continue our journey, but growth and improvements in the magazine are important objectives as well.
Desi Books: Your about page says that Khabar is a features magazine rather than a news publication. Was that always a conscious choice? And why features vs news?
Murali Kamma: Being a monthly print magazine, features make more sense for us than news, which is more appropriate for dailies and web outlets. We mentioned the distinction on the website because the word “Khabar” may confuse some people. News is ephemeral, and there are any number of sources for desi news. We’re more interested in the stories behind the news.
“Being a monthly print magazine, features make more sense for [Khabar] than news […] We’re more interested in the stories behind the news.” ~Murali Kamma #DesiLitBiz .@DesiBooksTweet
Desi Books: Would you mind sharing a bit about the revenue model? Is it all mostly ads, sponsors, self-funding, or some combination thereof?
Murali Kamma: It’s simple yet hard! Khabar is fully dependent on advertising revenue. There would be no magazine without our advertisers.
Desi Books: How did the global pandemic affect the work you do? Did you have to cut back on features or coverage? Did you see circulation or traffic change?
Murali Kamma: Yes, unfortunately, our content space has shrunk because of the pandemic. Once our ad revenue goes up again, we’ll be able to add more pages and features. On the plus side, because of pandemic-related restrictions, our website traffic has jumped and there’s been an increase in print subscription, which is free for residents in our area. We’ve also seen a rise in the number of inquiries and submissions from freelance writers.
Desi Books: Khabar is certainly a big part of the desi Atlanta scene. But how do you see Khabar’s role in the wider US desi diaspora?
Murali Kamma: Khabar has always been interested in the US desi diaspora, and the only thing that held us back from deeper engagement was a lack of adequate resources. But I see that changing once we come out the pandemic. The desi press has shrunk, sadly. The absence of India Abroad is particularly noticeable. While Khabar will remain a features magazine, I think now we have an opportunity for a bigger role on the national scene.
Desi Books: You’re a literary writer and book critic yourself. And that shows in the way that Khabar covers books and authors. Given that you’ve been covering desi writers and books for a lot longer than Desi Books, what are some key insights about the US desi literary scene that you’ve observed? What’s evolved from when Khabar started, let’s say, to date?
Murali Kamma: The desi literary scene was not only small but cliquish—and unless you belonged to legacy media or academia, it wasn’t easy to be taken seriously. There were always gracious exceptions. Things have changed for the better in recent years, in part because of social media and the reduced space for book matters in the mainstream press. There’s also greater awareness of the need to engage with readers at every level. More work is needed, but certainly, democratization and diversity in publishing have helped to create a broader and more vibrant desi literary scene.
“The desi literary scene was not only small but cliquish—and unless you belonged to legacy media or academia, it wasn’t easy to be taken seriously. There were always gracious exceptions. Things have changed…” ~Murali Kamma #DesiLitBiz .@DesiBooksTweet
Desi Books: Looking ahead, what are two or three new things coming up at Khabar that you’re personally excited about?
Murali Kamma: Well, I can’t give too much information because we’re still working on our initiatives. Personally, I was pleased to see the launch of our flash fiction series this year, and we’ve already published some wonderful stories. We’re introducing two new columns, touching on food and entertainment, which I think readers will find very useful. Stay tuned.
Desi Books: How can readers and writers support Khabar best? And how can writers reach out if they’d like their book considered for a feature/review/interview?
Murali Kamma: We’re always gratified when people read Khabar, tell their friends about it, and share articles. Spreading the good word is the best way to support us. Readers outside our region can subscribe to our free digital edition. As a general interest magazine, Khabar makes room for book reviews and author interviews. But given the space crunch, especially now, we do give preference to works published in the US. There are exceptions. Pitches can be sent to email@example.com for our consideration.
Desi Books: Thanks so much for your time, Murali. And here’s the usual closing question: what’s your favorite desi book and why? It can be in any language. It can even be more than one, of course.
Murali Kamma: That’s tricky. There are several books—I don’t think I can pick just one. I’ll pick an author instead, if you don’t mind, although that’s not easy either. I love all three of Rohinton Mistry’s novels as well as his collection of short stories, which I’ve never forgotten. He inspired me in my younger days. Like him, I was in banking before I turned to writing. Another reason for choosing him: I’m intrigued by his long silence. His last novel, Family Matters, was published almost 20 years ago. So what happened? Is he done? That’s the great mystery of Mistry!
“Like [Rohinton Mistry], I was in banking before I turned to writing […] I’m intrigued by his long silence […] the great mystery of Mistry!” ~Murali Kamma’s fave desi writer #DesiLitBiz .@DesiBooksTweet