She makes the world of zines go buzzing

By Deepika Sahu
Ano Patel // Pic supplied

It’s her deep love for zines in different forms, sizes, shapes, colours and images that inspired Bengaluru-based Ano Patel to start Bazinega, India’s first online zine marketplace and an independent publishing house exclusively for zines.

Zines are a great medium for storytelling. They are short, quick, easy-to-carry reads, and they can be anything between 10-100 pages. They can be informative, illustrative, intense, reflective, and entertaining.

For 32-year-old Patel, it was in 2019 just before the COVID-19 pandemic that she randomly stumbled upon the hashtag #zines and started following it. “The zines were captivating, immensely creative and individualistic and opened up a whole new world of art, words, and colours for me. I got an opportunity to collaborate with women around the world for a zine-based theme on grey hair. We put together poems, stories, personal anecdotes, and illustrations…but we could only see the finished zine in 2021.”

Ano Patel’s Bazinega, India’s first online zine marketplace and an independent publishing house exclusively for zines // Pic supplied

Patel reached out to independent bookstores in Bengaluru to see if they would stock the zine. It was a long and tiring process that involved explaining what zines are (to a few), negotiating commissions, getting rejections. “I had also ordered a few zines for myself during the pandemic and saw that most independent zinesters sold their work only via Instagram or at zine festivals in Mumbai, which didn’t happen during the pandemic, obviously.”

Moreover, the concept of zine distros didn’t exist in India and Patel could relate to zinesters’ struggle. This is what gave birth to the idea of Bazinega in December 2021. “I wanted to come up with a platform that united all these amazing zinesters so that they could connect and collaborate with each other and showcase their work round-the-year!”

Ano Patel // Pic supplied

In July 2022, Patel started reaching out to various zinemakers in India while working with a web developer on the website and a social media manager to start marketing. After a few iterations, many discussions, and several sleepless nights, she launched Bazinega, House of Zines, on August 25 the same year with 12 artists from across India and 47 titles.
Since then, it has been an exciting journey for Bazinega. This year, it got an opportunity to display zines at the prestigious Jameel Arts Centre in Dubai.

Today, almost 35 of its zine titles are a permanent part of their ‘Special Collections’ along with other artist books and projects. Sharing the growth story, Patel says, “There’s lots on our platter right now. We will be holding the Annual Bazinega Award in March. The nomination process started in December 2022, where along with all the Bazinega titles, we received zine entries from Argentina, UK, USA, and South Korea. We announced our first collaborative zine in December on the theme of Winter Warmers, and got entries from India, Finland, Belgium, and Taiwan. We’re publishing and releasing those zines later this month.”

Ano Patel’s Bazinega, India’s first online zine marketplace and an independent publishing house exclusively for zines // Pic supplied

Talking about her journey as a woman entrepreneur, Patel says, “I feel women have an innate ability in people management and multitasking. As a sole proprietor who was completely new to the world of business and zines, I had to outsource a lot of jobs to external parties at the beginning. I had to make sure I communicated my vision and expectations clearly to my web developer, social media manager, and outreach manager. I had to coordinate with multiple artists simultaneously, get printers (till the time I launched my publishing house) and delivery partners on board, and speak with a number of venues to do pop-ups.”

The challenges are many but the excitement of seeing new creative zines and warm response from different parts of the world keeps her going. “The initial challenge was to figure out the brand personality, give it a striking look and an authentic voice. I had no advisories, sponsors, or support (except friends and family, of course!). I had a clear vision as to what I wanted my website to look like and what features I wanted it to have. The next challenge was to bring this vision to life and get the website up and running. It has been a learning process for me on a lot of fronts—visual elements, copy, payment gateways, legalities, marketing,” she says.

Ano Patel // Pic supplied

Patel is hopeful that the growth curve will be upwards now as the zineverse is getting bigger.

What advice would she give to other women entrepreneurs? Patel says, “I would simply say—just do it! If you have an idea, put it out there in the world. Take baby steps but take them! Don’t shy away from seeking help. Spend more time upskilling yourself to get the relevant experience that’ll help you be a better entrepreneur.”

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