The issue you are holding in your hands is the last printed copy of Moneylife magazine. From the next issue, we become a purely online magazine. Moneylife was launched with the premise that financial consumers are not told the truth about financial products; we promised to bridge this gap. This was not an easy task and goal; most new financial products were useless or downright harmful for the vast majority of savers and investors who had begun to look away from physical assets like gold and real estate to protect their incomes from the dragon of inflation.
And our start was ominous. For our second issue, we got an advertisement for the UTI Contra Fund. As it happened, I had written an article in that very issue advising readers not to subscribe to it because it was just a fad. I turned out to be right; but UTI Mutual Fund was not amused and we stopped getting ads from this big advertiser for the next few years.
Our first issue had an article that discussed the Fund of Funds concept and pointed out that it was a gimmick. Again, not something advertisers liked to hear. Conversely, the opportunities to write nice things about bad products or puff pieces on people and organisations were aplenty and would have been hugely profitable. A leading stock exchange made it clear within six months that we should either be ‘nice’ to them or forget about advertisements. We refused to write about initial public offerings of corporates even if it meant losing guaranteed advertisements.
In 2006, utterly toxic unit-linked insurance plans (ULIPs) were selling like hot cakes. This was a depressing story of organised, countrywide loot of financial consumers, sanctioned by the regulator. Our second issue said, “ULIPS are like Tulips” and told investors to stay away. The business media was a ready ally of insurance companies hawking toxic ULIPs because they were advertised hugely and sponsored awards for ‘Best ULIPs’. In June 2008, our Cover Story on ULIPs called them a ‘Seductive Killer’. Needless to say, we missed out on all the revenue from ULIP advertisements. No other publication has done even 10% of the writing that we have on the various ways in which insurance products duped people. Advertisers disliked us; but we often told their head honchos that they may want to read Moneylife
’s content to keep their own money safe, because it is guaranteed to tell the truth. I wish many readers would have appreciated this a lot more and persuaded their friends and family to subscribe.
While the ad support was too thin, distributing free casseroles or backpacks to buy the loyalty of subscribers and vendors, as our competitors were doing, seem mindless too. Meanwhile developments in communications technology portended a challenge and an opportunity. So, we decided to take our content digital—much before our competitors. A free daily newsletter and the advent of social media gave us a branding boost while it meant acquiring new skills. Our other business moves also underlined our philosophy of putting readers first. Moneylife Foundation started in 2010 with frank financial literacy seminars, multiple helplines, counselling, etc, and has grown from strength to strength. Once we were confident that our research on stocks and mutual funds was often better than that of professional investors, we launched a financial advisory service. Moneylife has become a viable group because of multiple sources of revenues and a genuine commitment to help and protect financial consumers.
The hassles of print publishing have only increased over these years. Antiquated British-era rules required me, as a publisher to stand in a witness box at Esplanade Court (Mumbai), every time we needed to change our address, printer, price, logo, etc; distributors don’t pay and postal delivery is erratic. Thankfully, we will leave these problems behind now and focus on delivering better content much faster in the digital space. For those of you who have been with us all these years, we thank you and hope you visit our website as regularly.