Everything begins with an idea. Or let’s just say over a casual phone conversation, like it did with the founders of The Review Monk - a platform for movie buffs. Founded by Los Angeles based husband wife duo, Rohith Ravindranath and Ruhi Sinha, The Review Monk aggregates film critic reviews for Indian movies and also serves as a platform for discovery, reviews, and sharing for fans of Indian cinema.
One weekend after moving to Los Angeles, the couple was deciding whether they could watch an Indian film in the theater as that meant braving the city’s infamous traffic for two hours and then sitting through 3 hour long movies that were just not worth the time and effort. There came a point when they simply stopped doing it, but realized the need for a tasteful movie appreciation and critique website for cinema lovers - similar to having conversations in a great cafe or browsing in a bookstore. The need led to the duo getting started the very next morning with The Review Monk.
Having reviewed The Review Monk recently, we found the currently in beta platform quite promising with a good foundation in place. While it’s single score critic rating can help you quickly decide if a movie is worth your while, the platform needed more ways of social discovery.
We caught up with the founders of The Review Monk to understand their startup journey so far, the challenges they face and what more can we expect in the journey ahead. Here are the edited excerpts from the email interview:
Vinaya Naidu: How has the journey been so far?
Rohith Ravindranath: We really didn’t know how far we could go when we first started. We were working in the video game and animation movie industry and had no experience with web development. But being programmers with creative art skills really helped - in that we did not have to depend on anyone to start working. Pretty much what you see on the website is made at home and in coffee shops that don’t mind you occupying a corner all day. We’ve learned a lot - especially from our mistakes, and honestly we are surprised that we finished what we started. Since we went live, we have gotten a lot of positive feedback as well as some great input from new users and that keeps driving us to improve.
VN: What new features do you plan to bring in the future. How do you plan to integrate the social layer at The Review Monk?
RR: One of our main focuses in the near future is to release a mobile app, so people have quick access to the reviews and scores on-the-go. For the social layer, we plan to have notifications for reviews and ratings by your friends, whenever you log in. Users can already share movie pages and their (or any other user’s) reviews on social media. We will be working on features like finding users with similar tastes and enabling users to make movie suggestions to their friends. We’ve recently added the ability to create movie lists for any topic of your choice and that can be shared publicly as well.
VN: How has the response been so far from users, considering the space you are in is getting crowded?
RR: The response has been very encouraging so far. A lot of people have expressed that there was a need for a website like ours in India and the visitor traffic is increasing gradually. You’re right about the domain. When we started, there really was nothing similar out there. Most websites were catering to page 3 readership. There was no talk about the art of filmmaking or our place in world cinema. Now, there are at least a few websites that are no-nonsense and clean and while some of our features overlap with theirs, we still believe that our end goals are quite different.
[pullquote id=”lhipull” class=”center_lhi”]We would like The Review Monk to be a place where you can not only decide what’s the best bet for your money this weekend, but also examine Indian cinema from a global perspective and express your opinion about the popular medium.[/pullquote]
Because not only do our films play a role in shaping our culture, they are also a reflection of it.
VN: Can you share the challenges you are facing right now?
RR: There are several challenges ahead of us. The greatest one is getting the word out. We need to rank higher on search engines and that needs a lot of work and patience. Developing a mobile app that integrates simplicity and usability is one of our priorities. We haven’t ventured into Regional films yet, but we intend to do that in the future. Expanding ourselves into a business model is not an immediate plan and it’s open-ended for us right now - only time will tell.
Apparently, The Review Monk has a broader vision than just serving as a platform to help you decide your weekend watch. And with the mobile app, Regional films and a deeper social layer, that does not look far. We are thankful to the team for sharing their story with us and wish them all the best for the future.