Digital entrepreneur Indi Deol explains how a false start in the world of fashion was the making of him and his business successes
It looked a cast iron certainty that Indi Deol was destined to become a big name in the world of couture when he graduated from uni with an Honours degree in fashion design. Instead, his life took a completely different route which has seen him become a major player in a business that is about as far removed from the catwalk as you can get – that of digital media. “When I left uni I set off to London, leaving all my family behind, because London is the place where all fashion happens. I worked for a couple of fashion houses, and it didn’t take long for me to realise that wasn’t the business I wanted to be in.” As well as being homesick for his family in Brum, Indi knew straight away that he wanted to run his own business, allowing him to realise his own longterm vision. So, in 2008 he started a vibrant online digital lifestyle magazine, DESIblitz, aimed at the Asian community. And then two years later in 2010, he launched Aidem Digital, a social enterprise business aimed at helping others explore and develop the opportunities and challenges of new media.
Besides winning a raft of top awards, Aidem – that’s Media spelled backwards – has just featured in the annual prestigious RBS Index 100 Report which picks out the UK’s fastest growing businesses. Aidem recorded 171 per cent growth last year. Impressive. “DESIblitz came about because I knew there was huge under representation for Asian content online,” said Indi. “There had been a few attempts to produce lifestyle-based online magazines for the Asian community but all were more or less produced by people as their hobby. They weren’t financed properly or had the quality needed to succeed.” What Indi also noted was that no one was daring to cover topics that were seen as taboo in the Asian community. “We published and discussed subjects which had always been pushed under the carpet – things like sex before marriage, drugs and so on. We found a big audience ready and wanting to discuss these issues. It was like we opened the floodgates and the magazine has gone from strength to strength.”
Such was its success and profile that Indi says a growing number of people were coming to him to ask for his help in setting up their own websites and business ideas online. “That’s how I came to start Aidem,” he said. “We registered as a social enterprise as we had 15 or 20 volunteers working for us, and we still do have about that number with us today.” Aidem Digital’s aim is ‘”to provide quality led digital media services with social impact and create jobs and opportunities for the disadvantaged”. The business can deliver the whole package, from the overall digital strategy to website design and implementation, video production, graphic design, mobile applications and more. The emphasis is strongly focused on making a successful business while also giving a helping hand to those who need it. Young and unemployed people continue to find it tough to gain employment due to a lack of skills, social status or experience. Aidem Digital offers individuals the chance to join the organisation as volunteers or on work experience to gain the vital life and work tools they need to grow and succeed. Indi has ambitious plans moving forward to expand his businesses into India and Pakistan. “There is huge potential to grow and develop, especially in the area of mobile phone apps. And for DESIblitz there is a massive readership opportunity.”
The term ‘Desi’ refers to a connection with South Asian subcontinent roots. It is derived from the word ‘des’ or ‘desh’ which refers to country and in this case primarily India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. ‘Desi’ has emerged as a collective term which classifies culture and people from these countries. DESIblitz.com has already been recognised as winner of the Best Website accolade at the Asian Media Awards. “Business is all about the quality of what you do and produce and developing long-term, meaningful relationships,” said Indi, who is also a board member of Birmingham’s Institute of Asian Businesses. “But it is also about helping to make a social impact, too.” To that end, Indi recently attended the Aston University Awards and collected a Visiting Fellowship award as an alumnus of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Programme. The award was given in recognition of the contribution made across the university to the understanding, awareness and experience of growth in business and entrepreneurship.