This Article is From Feb 13, 2014

Indian students at Columbia University launch website on Lok Sabha election

The team says it is overwhelmed by the response

New York: Six Indian students at the Columbia School of Journalism in New York have launched a website to track the general elections due by May. They promise comprehensive and "no high-brow and jargon-led" reportage of the event.

The website,, derives its name from the number of seats in India's lower House of Parliament, the Lok Sabha. "Some might say 543, but the President can nominate two members," the website qualifies.

Launched this week, the website's sole focus is the Indian elections, but the sampling is diverse - from Rahul Gandhi's crumpled kurtas to statistics going back to 1952. Inspired by the popular US political analyst Nate Silver's and the hot social website Buzzfeed, it delivers tightly edited and innovative content.

The idea was born while discussing gaps in Indian media in class, says Anand Katakam, who has launched the website along with his classmates Devjyot Ghoshal, Iva Dixit, Indrani Basu, Rishi Iyengar and Aparna Alluri.

"No one is doing single news websites, and we were exposed to lots of ideas during the course of the year. We were also inspired by 'Syria Deeply' and Nate Silver's incredible work," Mr Katakam said.

A key mentor was Emily Bell, former Director of Digital at Guardian, now heading Columbia's Digital Center for Journalism. "She was taken aback to hear that no one is doing data in India, or stuff that is specifically built for the Web. Though she did question how we have the time to do this, and whether we are working hard enough at Journalism School," said Mr Ghoshal, with a grin.

For a new generation that consumes news through Facebook and Twitter, and the team has built a platform that can be shared in multiple ways. The initial response has been "incredible," they say.

"We thought we might get 100 followers on Twitter and would be asking our parents to check the website, but this has been fantastic. Our request to all readers is please take a look and contribute, though unfortunately we can't pay you right now," said Mr Katakam.

That could change soon. At last count the website had close to 550 followers on Twitter, considerably more than 100.