hat does it really take to be an Editor in
Chief? There many perceptions.
phone interview with the Editor in Chief of ELLE India, Nonita Kalra, I can definitely see the depth of
what it really takes to be an Editor in Chief of
substance and not being too superficial
ELLE India was founded in 1996 as one of the
first of India's fashion magazines. In its
14 years it has grown into a phenomenal force;
capturing the voice to the independent,
confident, and sophisticated woman. That
in itself describes ELLE India. It's not
just a fashion magazine it's a lifestyle.
ELLE India Editor in Chief Nonita was 31when she
took over; she has presided has the youngest
Editor in Chief for the past 10 years. Talking
to her, I immediately see why Nonita was
selected to be the Editor in Chief of ELLE
India. Nonita’s fashion career started
with working for ELLE India. She jokes,
“Nobody else gives me a job, so I just stay and
stay. I’m just joking, I love what I do.”
Nonita is not married nor has children, but she
lives with her devoted partner; she says that
ELLE is her baby.
Being ELLE India Editor in Chief, it never
crossed Nonita’s mind nor expectations; “It’s
something that just came about.” She says; “I
know that when the magazine launched, I was the
first freelance Copy Editor. I contributed
to the first issue. But, no I never
thought that they would ask me.”
background is business journalism, television
and working for various newspapers, running
their feature pages. Nonita says that when
she took over ELLE her first thought to herself
was, “I wanted to make it a really good magazine
more than I wanted to make it a fashion
magazine, because at that point the industry was
really nascent. Good reading is good
reading and under the guides of fashion you
can’t give people bad copy or bad content.
So I did what any good journalist would do, ‘I
said let’s make this a great product, then
we started to make the
focus on fashion’. As the Indian audience
got more and more ready to expect it; Ten years
ago was the first time Indian Fashion Week
started, before that ELLE is 13 ½ years old in
the country, before that there was no ‘real’
concept of fashion.”
Unlike some of the other fashion magazines ELLE
India has their own way of choosing the concept
and deciding who will be on its cover.
“The process is, we first decide the fashion
trend. Then we try to pick a model who’s a
fresh face or somebody who is the equivalent of
the Indian super model. She has to be
somebody who would suit the clothes. I
would prefer ‘Indian models’. Nonita states that
when ELLE came into the country14 years ago,
ELLE India launched with an Indian face.
“A lot of people were taken back because it’s an
international magazine ‘why are you not
capitalizing on the fact that you are
international’. We said that we would like
to bring international values to a local market.
And we always try to work with Indian models.”
ELLE India was founded in 1996, it's now 2010.
ELLE readership has increased in the past
“We have 85,000 readers.
Some people who know the magazine
business realize that those numbers are large.
Some people tell me, 'you have a population of a
billion people', and I always say that when you
sort of break it down not 2 percent of that
population speaks English.
Of that 2 percent it has to be interested
in fashion. When
you break it down, 85,000 is a good number.
We reached it slowly; we would never lie
and tell you that our circulation doubled over
night, because it cannot.”
Nonita adds; “It's difficult, you know
most of India, English isn't their first
Yes, we all speak English, but it isn't
their first language. We do print in English
because it's a premium magazine.”
Nonita says that ELLE
India has influenced fashion in India by
creating and showing people its well into the
practical and the inspirational.
“Practical will tell you then and there
on how to dress better and how to get the
But the inspirational inspires the dream,
it creates a certain environment, you create
And I think that's
how we work together with the fashion
I know that people want to think that
fashion should be really esoteric and about a
dream, but unless you create an appetizer for
retail and satisfy immediately; the industry is
not going to grow.
We work with the industry being practical
yet in an inspirational way.
I get a lot of young people who tell me
that, 'I want to only work in your shopping
Nonita says; “because if you open up ELLE
it will tell you what you need to be
fashionable, this is how much it will cost you
and this is where you can get it, and many young
people just tell me, ‘I really want to work on
I tell them you just can't work for that
page.” Nontia laughs.
“It makes me realize that in the
magazine, it's the most important part of what
we give you, 'How to get it, Where to get it'.”
Since ELLE India launched in 1996 it has become
the number one fashion read in India.
actually,” she says; “there are several other
has been clarified, we have certified figures).
“If someone says that their circulation
is greater than ours, we don't argue, we've been
in the business for 14 years.”
Nonita laughs and says, 'we just don't
get into that'.
“But you will find some people who
exclusively advertise with us and understand
that we are the largest fashion magazine in the
She continues; “Globally if you look at
the 41 editions and the number of pages and the
advertising that we get, we do use top line, the
world’s biggest selling fashion magazine, and it
has been verified.”
ELLE India is one of the first fashion magazines
I asked Nonita if she thinks that ELLE
India has to stay on top of fashion trends and
“Cosmopolitan and ELLE India launched the
same year. We all know that Cosmopolitan is a
woman's magazine with the focus on
relationships. We are a fashion magazine.
You know I don't want anybody to be a victim.
I like to give them a choice, so I don't
feel that we have to stay on top of the trend.
We have to understand that a lot of the
trends don’t make it into ELLE, because they
don’t make any sense to us, so we give you the
trends that we feel works best for India, in the
most contemporary scenario.
We feel that it's very, very fashionable
to be intelligent.
I trust that my reader wants the same
discernment from me.
I will never tell them to be head-to-toe
in a brand or wear a trend because the rest of
the world is wearing it.
I will give them the option to choose and
to look their best.”
Being an Editor in Chief
you will always have some sort of pressure to
stay on top and current. I would imagine that
ELLE India experience the same pressure of being
the number one magazine in India.
“We all do.
Of course in some degree you have the
“pressure” of being number one.
That's what pays your bills. Let’s not be
unrealistic about it on how important the
commercial aspect on running a magazine can be,
You need the advertising to keep you
So far we have been lucky because we
understood that you don't conquer an Indian
market in one day.
So we're very, very slow in our growth.
also been lucky that almost 25 percent of our
circulation comes from our subscriptions, so
that gives us a huge reach.
We don't have to fight month to month on
Nonita also mentions; that ELLE is
world-wide and they never see themselves as a
luxury brand, but see ELLE India as a premium
“Premium brand is still growing, we've
been very lucky to maintain our number one
circulation, because ELLE has been a mix of
high, low, affordable fashion and I think that
has worked for us.”
Nonita says; “You can't be exclusive, you
need to be inclusive.”
ELLE India fashion
message to their readers; “It's the young,
really smart girl.
We actually do a feature in ELLE called
'My wonderful life' where we feature young women
who run their own businesses, or have their own
It could be from someone who makes just
sushi and delivers it around the city of Bombay,
or it's a woman who's a Dog Psychologist,
Kite Maker or a
the ELLE Motto. Women who I feel lives a
Indian women are in an extraordinary
place right now; we have independence, financial
freedom, we're doing what our hearts wants us to
do, ELLE readers are every one of these women.”
I could have given you an answer and tell
you that it's 18 to 35, but I don't want to talk
in demographics because I feel very emotionally
involved with the women who I bring the magazine
out for and for me every issue is a celebration
Fashion magazine sites are expanding and
excelling. ELLE India plans to make more changes
by stating; “We cannot ignore it anymore, with
it just being supplement to the magazine.
We're getting about 200,000 hits a month,
so we will be working on it.
First, we will be focusing on the online
presence and we are redesigning the magazine to
be as contemporary as the internet.
Because I think for a fashion format you
still love the magazine, looking at the pictures
and enjoy. While we don't plan to ignore the
net, we do plan to look at it as a magazine
group as a whole.
There are many things that we do in the
magazine, which we would like to take into the
ELLE has been doing a lot of stuff to
promote young writers in India. We also do a lot
of work on breast cancer.
I would like to help people deal with
cancer on the internet because it's an easier
way to do it. Things that are smaller in the
magazine, I like to take it to the internet to
We will possibly do it next year. We
never lose focus on the fact that the heart of
our job is the magazine.
Our focus is still the magazine, the
product that you hold in your hand.”
She says to me; “Rochell, there are
people like you who do all of this fabulous
stuff on the net, you make us relevant.”