The Classic Question: “Malayali Aano?”

The everyday mystery that we unravel leaves us in a state of awe. For Malayalis around the globe, it might be discovering the tinge of Kerala accent in the way they talk or the flair in their name, which leads to the classic question “Malayali aano? Naattil evideya.”(Are you a Malayali? Where are you from in Kerala) Instances like these boost our belief that the world is actually a small place and that we can find a Malayali in whichever corner of the world we decide to spend our days in. Our culture speaks for the never-ending support that we extend for each other in times of distress, the unending support that we give for our stars, the witty and diligent social media presence, our love for movies, and how seamlessly we weave those subtle dialogues in our everyday conversations. 

Here are two creative minds who bond over this Malayali vibe, who introduced the audience to their board game “Malayali Aano”. With witty lines and excerpts from our celebrated movies, this game ensures that the corners of your lips rose their way to a smile as you lose yourself to the pages of nostalgia. In conversation with Rose and Sona from Lol Salam Entertainments- the founders of this ethnically intriguing board game.

Brief us about yourself, your background, and your previous ventures.

We are two Malayalis, Rose, and Sona who have a creative calling. We bond and ponder over all things that catch our eye. We preach slow living but in reality, we are always on the run. We bite more than we can chew!

Rose sees the world in colors, patterns, and contrasts. She has a degree in Mass Media (Advertising) from Sophia College, Mumbai, and Masters in Fashion Management from NIFT, Chennai and she has done her schooling in Kerala. She founded her company My Cup of Tea in 2017 where she curates and organizes niche pop-ups that provide a platform to brands that are handcrafted and promote sustainability and minimalistic design. She is currently the Founder & Curator at My Cup of Tea, & Co-founder of Lol Salam Entertainment.

Sona believes aesthetics play a key role in well-being both at the individual and organizational levels. Sona carried this philosophy with her through the decade she spent running the creative wing at an event company she co-founded. Though she studied design formally at Parsons New York, being mostly self-taught makes her unrestricted by conventional rules. She is currently the Founder & Creative Director at Backflip Design Studio, Bangalore & Co-founder of Lol Salam Entertainment.

How did you perceive the idea of starting your venture? What inspired you to start it?

Rose is an ardent fan of Cards Against Humanity, and when she found an Indian version, she was excited to play it. However, as the game progressed, she realized that the jokes were not relatable to everyone equally. The thought crossed her mind that a group of people who have so much in common like Malayalis would love something like this.

Sona had been dabbling with the idea of creating something that captures and celebrates how people use Malayalam dialogues as part of their everyday conversations. A coffee table book, merchandise were some ideas, but it didn’t seem exciting enough a medium to explore. 

We met during the lockdown (once restrictions were eased in June 2020) just to catch up and ended up having long funny conversations about us Malayalis and our love for movies, culture, food, politics, and its impact on our everyday life and conversations. One thing led to another and Rose mentioned her experience playing the Indian version of the game and how it was unsatisfactory as India is a super diverse country and how a Malayalam version with all the Malayali quirks would hit the sweet spot.

For Sona, a hilarious game that embraced our pop culture seemed like the best way to channel her desire to celebrate Kerala. And that’s how our “Light Bulb” moment happened.

How do you ideate a product? In your case a game set.

For us, it was our knowledge of Malayalam pop culture and love for all things Malayali. The product is a culmination of ideas & content that represents Malayalis from all corners of the world. Humour is an essential part of our life & culture, so while creating the game that was our main goal, to make sure it’s fun, funny, and absolutely relatable to every Malayali. Our game is developed keeping 2 things in mind – humor, and nostalgia. 

Every card should either make a person nostalgic about Kerala and think of it fondly or make them laugh their hearts out.

What are the different products and services that you deliver? 

Currently, we only have one product that is ‘Malayali Aano?’ game but we will soon be launching extension packs. We also have a few things in the works, hopefully, we’ll be able to share them with our Malayali world soon!

With a lot of options available in the market right now, what makes your products unique?

At the moment, we are the only regional/Malayalam pop-culture-based game available in the market. Our game is unique because of the content you will find in it. It’s hilarious and the best game you can play with your Malayali crew.

How do you reach out to your potential customers? Do you have an online as well as offline presence?

We created the game during the infamous lockdown of 2020. Being a lockdown creation, we completely relied on word-of-mouth publicity and used social media leverage, mainly Instagram to create our community of Malayali customers from across the world.

We are selling on our website and we ship worldwide. We also have support from a few offline stores where we stock like Crosswords and French Toast in Kochi, Simbly South in Dubai, U.A.E & DYU Art Cafe in Bangalore.

Could you brief us about the story of your venture so far, with the major milestones you have achieved?

We started with the conception of the game exactly a year ago. We worked for 3 months on building the content, creating our brand, designing the box, the cards, etc. We came up with a big bank of content that covers all things Malayali, but the most important thing was to bring it down to a carefully selected curation that appeals to every Malayali across different spectrums – age, gender, geography, background, etc. We wanted to make sure there is something for every kind of Malayali to relate to. 

We launched the game to a close set of people in October 2020 from our initial print-run of limited boxes. We received an overwhelming response where we sold 100 boxes in under 4 days. That was our first major milestone!

From there, there was no looking back! We geared up to go all out and went live with our website in November 2020. We launched international shipping by the end of November 2020 and we have delivered ‘Malayali Aano?’ game to people across the world – USA, Middle East, Canada, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, and more. We have even received orders from countries like Botswana and Cayman Islands.

But the best feedback was from the people who have played the game and told us how it has changed ‘game nights’ for them. We have also received some wonderful feedback from a lot of Malayalam celebrities.

Do you have a team? Tell us about your support system.

We started off with a team of two, that is us (Rose & Sona). But we did have a village to support us right from the start, our friends, who were part of creating the game content and helped us spread the word once we launched.

Now, we have some really talented designers and content creators on board who help us create cool social media content.

What are your plans for the venture? Where do you see yourself in five years? 

We want to be the game that makes every Malayali ‘woke’! We want ‘Malayali Aano?’ to be a household name in Malayali homes across the world. 

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