We talked to Rajkumar Shukla of CosmosNow about astronomy, and this is what he had to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Rajkumar Shukla: We are doing well. Thanks for asking. However, this pandemic has been a really tough phase of our lives. We have seen a few losses in our family due to COVID-19, but we all are trying to get over it and focus on thriving in such times.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded CosmosNow.
Rajkumar Shukla: I’m a science communicator/educator as I have my major inclination towards science. Entrepreneurship has equally allured me, so I’ve co-founded a couple of startups. CosmosNow is one of such startups where our primary objective was to bring Astronomy in a fun and affordable way to the general public. In fact, our mission is #AstronomyForEveryone. Apparently, our product – CosmosNow Magazine, is India’s First Independent Astronomy Magazine. The Founders of CosmosNow are long-time friends from the same field of science communication, and I believe that is why we can implement everything so efficiently.
How does CosmosNow innovate?
Rajkumar Shukla: The primary motive of our company was to make our product as affordable as possible; thus, I believe, the decision of dropping the idea of generally accepted printed copies over the new digital formats led to a window for innovation in our magazine. Now, as our magazine is in digital format, we are able to use the skillsets of our team to provide the best, well-organized, and engaging material on astronomy to our enthusiastic readers. We create one of a kind magazine with much more visually appealing content than our peer brands.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Rajkumar Shukla: CosmosNow is not a money-centric business, instead of an objective centric startup. As money isn’t our primary interest, our company’s financial infrastructure hasn’t been directly affected by the pandemic. But we have faced many indirect consequences. Firstly, the coronavirus pandemic has lessened the number of good sponsors/advertisers for our magazine. Secondly, let’s not forget the health issues of our team members. Several operations at CosmosNow was hindered due to the unavailability of our team members. None of us were ready for this once-in-a-lifetime kind of pandemic that we are facing. We had to make a few tough decisions to cope up with the coming challenges.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Rajkumar Shukla: Yes, we had to make a few difficult choices. We were releasing our magazine every month before the coronavirus pandemic, but as we faced the shockwave of this global calamity, we had to shut down the operations for a couple of months. Later, we decided to release our magazine every alternate month until we get back on our track with our team. We also made a few changes in our company infrastructure to cope up with the phase. Now, we believe that those were the right decisions that we went with, and it really helped us survive in such tough times where several established businesses from all around the globe are getting shutdown. If that was a phase where several businesses joined the prestigious Unicorn Club, it was also a phase where we witnessed some of the big names getting shattered by the blow.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Rajkumar Shukla: Meditation has helped me a lot, not just in these tough times but also throughout my life, to deal with stress and anxiety. Another therapy for me is my habit of reading books. I believe books open a kind of new dimension for the human brain where all our stress and anxiety become insignificant, and we sail on the ocean of imagination. I mostly prefer books from the science-fiction genre. The nationwide lockdown was like a big break from our stressful lives, where all members of our families could finally sit together and have a ball of a time.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Rajkumar Shukla: There are few highly established brands in our category, like COSMOS, ASTRONOMY, NEW SCIENTIST, AIR & SPACE, etc. More than competitors, we consider them as inspirations. Before entrepreneurs, we are hardcore readers. So we look up to these brands, figure out where we stand, and ultimately innovate with our own identity. We will stay in the game because our business strategies are far different from the above-mentioned brands. These magazines are very costly for the general public, especially in India, where our CosmosNow magazine gets an edge over them. We are constantly improvising with each aspect of our product, and that’ll ensure our long stay in the game.
Your final thoughts?
Rajkumar Shukla: You and your startup can survive any phase if you keep believing and valuing the motive behind your inception. Not giving up on your creation is the best thing that you can do for its survival. If you have an exceptional idea, no matter what could be its result, implement it! You never know it could possibly change your life for good. Lastly, I would advise that you don’t prioritize money, instead prioritize adding values to people’s lives through your products or services and rest assured, the money will definitely be a byproduct of this process. Good luck!