The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Ashokan Entrepreneurs | The Bastion

Gahena Gambani, Class of 2020

Bastion Media LLP (The Bastion) is a registered news and media website which provides a weekly analysis in the fields of education, sports, and the environment. Started by our very own Sourya Reddy, Swagam Dasgupta and Chirag Chinnappa, The Bastion was born out of a deep-seated frustration with the condition of the Indian media today and a conversation about it over a ‘cup of chai.’ While what was once a conversation over chai is today looking at potential collaborations and sponsors, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed — the fact that this was something started by a group of friends. The Edict met with Sourya and Swagam to learn about a venture that primarily works out of dorm rooms.

There’s no lack of student-run media outlets on campus. What prompted you to start The Bastion?

Sourya: We actually had a pilot project called The Ripple Effect (TRE), which we started 2 years back. We found some problems with it and wanted to improve, so we stopped TRE 5 months in, and came up with The Bastion in August 2017. Not all of the TRE team was on board with the vision behind The Bastion, so most of the people in it dropped out. The Bastion is a media project that goes beyond Ashoka. The few student-run media outlets on campus mostly cater to the Ashokan audience.

Swagam: An important reason why we believe we’re more than just this campus is because the main problem we’re trying to tackle is that of uninformed opinion, a problem that plagues the entire country, and not limited to a college campus; especially in a place like Ashoka, where there’s a lot more informed opinion. We wouldn’t really have been addressing the main problem if we restricted ourselves to this campus or any other campus for that matter.

Why start with being a registered company? Why not start something on a smaller scale?

Sourya: I’d say the main reason we went official is because we saw that we had an idea, and we knew that we had it in us to implement it. But we felt that we won’t be taken seriously, and more importantly, we won’t take ourselves seriously, if we didn’t formalize it. TRE was our small-scale idea; it helped us realize that we wanted to do more within the field of media and reporting, and The Bastion was born out of that understanding.

Swagam: TRE helped us understand what we’re getting into, and why. It also identified why we want to take this seriously; those 5 months were very important.

It couldn’t have been easy to strike the balance between academics, extracurricular activities and The Bastion. How do you guys work around this?

Swagam: I think Chirag would best answer this question with him being football captain as well, but focusing on everything is extremely hard. You have to make a conscious decision to not study for an exam or to not submit your paper on time. Some professors like Professor Gilles are understanding because we’ve spoken to him, and the university is “that sort of place” [where you will find support], but it’s extremely hard. However, I think the team has now solidified to a point where if someone has work that’s pending, someone else will pitch in and help them out.

Sourya: At the end of the day, my advice to these guys, since I’m a year older than them, has been: “It’s how you manage your time. It’s not like suddenly you find yourself with 10,000 things to do, that just happens when people procrastinate like idiots” (glares at Swagam). I can give more time to the Bastion because my academics in the 4th year aren’t as demanding, but for Swagam and Chirag, it has to be 60% academics and 40% Bastion. It’s important to remember that as long as you prioritize, it’s not a problem, because you consciously put that pressure on yourself to meet your deadlines.

The Bastion team. Tanvi Mehta, Ayush Kathuria and Samanvith Inkollu, also part of the team, are not seen in this picture.

The Bastion has a significant number of contributors from Ashoka, right from writers to researchers. What would you say is Ashoka’s place in the journey of The Bastion?

Sourya: Ashoka’s contribution to the Bastion is big. While most of our readership is from outside Ashoka, Ashoka is an extremely talented place and it’s a great pool just in terms of people, ideas, and networks; all of it. How do we see ourselves giving back to this place? The running joke was that one day I’ll come back during placement season to take interviews for The Bastion. Hopefully we can give back in a way that makes Ashoka seem like more than an “academic place”, a place of real change-makers, because that’s what this place wants to do right? To make a positive change in society? The hope is that we do that by ourselves to start with, and give a direction for future Ashokans to follow, because going out and doing something by yourself is scary, and if there is a first or a second person to do it, it just becomes a whole-lot easier.

Swagam: We have also had quite a few mentors, because each person we interacted with had something to contribute. Dr Shanta Sinha is one such mentor.

Sourya: She is a child rights activist and Padma Shri awardee. She has a network of schools called the MV Foundation, and helped us a lot in understanding the field of education and the ins-and-outs of researching. The media studies department has also been fantastic; I think they just loved the idea that there’s somebody on campus who’s trying something in the media field, and they’ve been extremely supportive. Professor Vaiju, Sid Dubey, Josy Joseph, even though he’s visiting faculty, Prof. Hariharan, ex-studio manager Varun, current Studio manager Ranjit; the entire media studies department has helped a lot.

Swagam: And it’s not just limited to the professors, because I remember when Mr Jairam Ramesh came to the campus and we went to speak to him, we forgot to ask him for his Email ID because I was starstruck. Someone from the administration recognized that we were from The Bastion and gave us his (Mr Ramesh’s) personal ID — everybody is willing to help you here.

Sourya: A conversation with the Center for Entrepreneurship (CfE) has been one of the most fruitful conversations we’ve had. Now that we look at it, the support we’ve received has been massive; Everyone has always said, “This is wrong, This is right — but keep trying” — they’re always pushing for you to succeed.

Logo of The Bastion. Source:

Since you mentioned your interaction with the CfE, have you considered the Entrepreneur in Residence program? Do you think that is something that aligns with your vision?

Sourya: I have applied for the program, but there is an option of staying off campus. I want to be in Delhi for 2 reasons: almost our entire core-team will be on campus; in Delhi I can go around, talk and network. The EiR will be a great 5 months for us because it’ll be the first time anybody on this team will get to work on this project full-time. The last really good few months for us were the 2 months in the summer before our website was launched. My friends Athreya and Aakanksha from the Undergraduate Batch of 2018 were staying in my house for a month and a half, and that was very productive — we got 10 stories done, created some organisational structure, and got legalities done; all in a month-and-a-half. Having 5 more months of just doing that will help, especially given that we want to apply for full-time funding sometime next year. These 5 months will be our platform to push the project in the right direction.

What do you think are the biggest takeaways from your journey so far?

Sourya: The biggest thing would be understanding the importance of patience — because we now have more belief in this project when we look back and realize how far we’ve come from a ‘cup of chai.’ Today, it’s a registered company with regular readers, without any kind of marketing. We have a good network, a good starting base and good relations with a possible investor: all from a ‘cup of chai’!

Swagam: The number of places where we’ve failed is huge, and I believe it’s important to surround yourselves with people who will support you, in terms of your team, and otherwise, because the number of people who weren’t part of The Bastion but still supported it was very heartening.

Sourya: And not just supporting it in the sense of “Yes, you can do it”, but supporting you in the sense of pointing out your mistakes and telling you where you need to improve.

Swagam: You have to be prepared to venture into areas you have no clue about, but you have to get into it, and you have nobody to teach you.

Sourya: Failure doesn’t mean the big things like “ Man, this entire project is falling apart”. It can even be small things like the font isn’t good or the website isn’t fast enough. So we still fail every day, but once you fail, the patience to pick-up and keep going is what matters the most.

Swagam: Remember to have a fun working environment, just to reduce the stress.

How would you describe your team members?

Sourya: Swagam is the go-to-guy. If he says that he will do something, he will actually do it. If I see the big picture, he sees 20 big pictures, and it’s always nice to see what that view can be. Chirag is extremely diligent; at one point Chirag was the only one editing five 1000-word articles every week, making sure the facts and grammar are right, the arguments make sense, and ensuring that The Bastion agrees with the standpoint of the writer. Managing The Bastion along with football and academics isn’t easy, and he has a great work ethic.

Swagam: I like to call him (Sourya) the diligent one in collating all the ideas, seeing what aligns with a particular goal, and how to get to that level. That sort of direction is extremely important, and I think Sourya and Chirag are a great combination, because where Sourya dreams, Chirag comes and lays the foundation. Chirag often says “I will not move forward from this until I have everything in place”, and this is a really good combo to witness.

Sourya: That way all three of us are big picture thinkers, with Chirag looking at the finer details of the picture, Swagam looking at the outer details, and me somewhere in the middle.

And lastly, how did you come up with the name ‘The Bastion’? What was the inspiration?

Sourya: We were talking about changing the name because The Ripple Effect felt too much like an NGO. We wanted a name that stood for something, and when Tanya Rohatgi from the Undergraduate Batch of 2018 came up with Bastion, we refused it immediately, but when we thought about it again, we liked it.

Swagam: More importantly, the domain name was available!

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Sourya Reddy (Founding Undergraduate Batch), Swagam Dasgupta and Chirag Chinnappa (Undergraduate Batch of 2018) are co-founders of Bastion Media LLP.

Ashokan Entrepreneurs is an initiative to put under the spotlight budding entrepreneurs among the existing students and alumni of Ashoka University.

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