Sayali Goyal’s Cocoa and Jasmine found its conception in her travels and the subsequent musings they inspired. Two years on, it is now an independent culture travel magazine with one edition print magazine and a boutique agency that works across spaces like art, design, travel and fashion. Her online magazine has been creating a steady stream of diverse content from ‘The Craft Project’, a visual documentation of the crafts community, to the ‘Women Series’, an interview series about women founders in the creative industry, to several other special projects.
In the fifth edition of our ‘Magazine Workshop’, Cocoa and Jasmine’s founder, Sayali Goyal, speaks to TFM about her passion project that has turned into a publication.
Cocoa and Jasmine (C&J) is an interesting mix of a digital publication, one print issue, and a studio. Did you always envision it to be a universe or did it gradually evolve as you went along? And right now, what are you most focused on?
When I started C&J two years ago, I listed down all the skills and aspirations I had. I’d also made a note of the key categories that interested me in all my previous jobs like fashion, travel and communication – each involved design in its own way. I wanted to have my own shop and a travel company where I would organize and curate trips. I realized that storytelling was the one thing that would take all my skills into account, and that’s how it all came together.
I’ve been constantly structuring C&J since the beginning when it was just a travel journal, and eventually I started selling postcards. Since printing was already an option, it felt sensible to also start making art prints and magazines. I was always conducting art experiences in Delhi, which helped me build the travel experiences section organically. At the moment, my focus is the magazine and Instagram. The digital publication is easier to handle than print because the whole process of printing, creating, distributing and selling is just too much.
The creative agency is also important. The money needs to come from somewhere to keep the digital publication completely ad-free. The agency lets me work on a lot of different projects with brands in art, design, craft and travel industries.
What gave you the motivation/courage to go into print? What are the key issues you had to deal with?
I worked on the first issue entirely by myself, and it taught me a lot. A lot of things went wrong in the production process. Finding a printer to do a small order was a challenge, and I ended up going to a local printer. I didn’t want to compromise on the quality so I used 300 GSM matte-finish paper and chose the best colors with the highest print quality. Distribution was also a big problem.
However, I felt it was important to do print. As humans, we want to really connect with something. While digital has better reach and connect, print has a greater impact. You can’t really “keep” digital with you. Print may not sell as much but it gives me validation and lends some structure to my work. With the print magazine, it’s never going to be about making money as much as it is about getting some kind of validation or getting your foot in the door.
Be honest with yourself and don’t try to be someone else. It’s very important to stay inspired, read what other people are writing, and have an open mind.
How do you look at the distribution of your digital content? What are some of the things you are most conscious about?
My sole focus is on managing and creating content for Instagram. It’s a bit crazy to be on several platforms and my content is visual so people in that industry (art, design, craft) are the ones who consume it. Also, I look at Instagram analytics almost exclusively. Instagram is where all the engagement happens and is the most effective tool when it comes to distributing content. It’s also where I find the people I’d like to interview and collaborate with.
Has your vision or the reason for publishing C&J evolved in the last two years in any way?
All the research I’ve done in the last two years has made me realize that the very first version of C&J was definitely more of a blog about my personal travels than anything else. It didn’t represent any kind of society or community, which is a big part of what a magazine should do. I see C&J now as a platform that raises dialogue and represent communities, and not just report or give news.
We’ve also moved away from the travel content, diversifying into art, poetry, culture, food, and architecture. Interviews and documentation work really well for me. I’m not the kind to do brand stories or feature articles on hotels. After several trials and experiments, I finally managed to shortlist what I really want to go forward with.
Cocoa and Jasmine is developing the way I am, personally and spiritually. I don’t want to put myself in a box and dictate how a magazine should be. It’s constantly evolving.
Is there any particular story/experience since you started C&J that have inspired you to keep going?
Every person I have featured or interviewed has been someone I’ve followed or admired for a long time. When people talk about their creative process, they put my feelings into words. For me, it’s about creating a universe of people who inspire me. My recent trips to Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Jaipur have been particularly life-changing in that context. I met people in villages who’ve been making crafts for five generations.
For example, there’s an entire family of weavers in a village called Shantipur, outside Kolkata. I wanted to understand their lives and aspirations so I could contribute to them through my stories. In fact, I am now making a website for them. I can’t be selfish and just get my story out and leave. I have to give something back by facilitating collaboration in the real sense.
The vision behind C&J and its independent status have also inspired people. There’s always something to come out of each interview and it helps feed my energy. When you work alone, you’re in your own bubble. So it’s interesting for me to see how these interviews translate into real connections.
How has your attitude towards travel changed ever since you started C&J?
In the beginning, I wanted to have a magazine so I could travel more (laughs). Now I want to travel to places which have more depth and where I can really make an impact. I’m already thinking about new content and collaborations before I travel.
Also, I now prefer traveling with someone or meeting somebody along the way. This new kind of travel experience is really picking up and people are connecting with it. I look for writing or photography retreats or for places where I can volunteer or teach. My future travel plans are very different from what I’ve done in the past.
Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start a new independent magazine?
Be honest with yourself and don’t try to be someone else. It’s very important to stay inspired, read what other people are writing, and have an open mind. You need to self-reflect, find out what you’d really like to do with your magazine. Evolution matters a lot; it’s how you stay authentic.
New-wave independent magazines are doing wonders for our culture, giving homegrown artists and designers a voice and providing them with a much-needed platform. These magazines are also putting India on the global map. My readers are from different parts of the world, and the idea behind ‘The Craft Project’ was to represent Indian arts and crafts on a big scale.
All Images are courtesy of Cocoa and Jasmine