Nirasha Jaganath is a Wilmington stay-at-home mother with an alter ego: In the blogosphere, she's known as Mommy Niri.
Nirasha Jaganath, known to readers as "Mommy Niri," began her blog www.mommyniri.com just over a year ago. It recently was nominated for a Nickelodeon Parents' Pick Award in the "Best Local Blog" category.
The 35-year-old mother of two was a software engineer for 12 years before giving birth to her two daughters, ages 2 and 4. After attempting to go back to work, Jaganath said she quickly realized how frustrating the limitations of the corporate world can be for a new mother.
"I had a different life. I didn't want all the pressure of worrying about work and when I could see my children," she said. "I would have to leave to go to another place throughout the day to breastfeed, and have to deal with the office stigma. I was trying to do too many things."
And so, Jaganath decided to tap into her more creative side. She started a blog in March 2008, and began writing a small number of articles just on topics that interested her. Most of these, she said, inevitably ended up on topics related to being a mother. The initial positive response from readers was enough to convince her to keep writing.
"I'd blogged before, but it really just started to take off," said Jaganath. "I started getting a lot of feedback not just from friends and family, but from people that regularly read my work and liked it and wanted me to write more. I first used a free [Web] address, and it's been an online journey."
Now the Web site, www.mommyniri.com ("I didn't think about the name so much -- my friends have always called me Niri, and it just stuck -- it felt right."), is a virtual hub for all things mother-related. With more than 100 different people browsing the site each day -- "unique visitors," in Web vernacular -- the site is also home to product reviews, event promotions, contests, interviews and articles by Jaganath.
Jaganath said when the site started gaining popularity at the end of last year, she became inundated with companies trying to get her to test out and review their new products. She's since worked with big names such as Stop & Shop, Disney and Hooked on Phonics. She has also written about and reviewed smaller local companies and products, such as My Little Pakora, an organic baby clothing line run by mom Sonia Gupta in Belmont (see "Home-Based Clothing Business Grew Organically" in the January 1-15, 2009, issue of INDIA New England). Dabbling in reviews doesn't just mean free sample products, event press passes: Jaganath said the niche demographic she serves gives her some surprising clout.
"What people don't understand is that Internet blogging is changing the face of advertising and communication," said Jaganath. "I have just been shocked by how popular it is and how fast it has grown. You don't even know the people reading your stuff -- and to hear that it made their day makes mine. Companies understand this. They're learning that all consumers -- in my case other mothers -- are more likely to trust other mothers who they relate to and read about that have tried their products when deciding if they should get something for their kids."
The Mommy Niri logo is featured prominently at www.mommyniri.com.
The accolades aren't just from family and friends. In May, Jaganath learned www.mommyniri.com has been nominated for a Parent's Pick Award by cable television network Nickelodeon in the "Best Local Blog" category.
Jaganath said she loves the freedom involved with her blogging, and wants to be careful to only endorse companies that she fully supports ideologically.
"It's difficult to try to keep my ethics and values -- I don't want to sell myself short. It's important for me as a mother to be an example and help create a [better] world for my two girls."
But the Durban, South Africa, native, whose husband is from Bombay, said her favorite part is connecting with other mothers. She is being sponsored this year to attend a blogging conference in July for the women's blogging giant BlogHer.com, and at the time of INE's interview with her, Jaganath was slated to speak on WGBH radio about mommy blogging. All of the attention, she said, is a nice change from the stigma that usually comes with being a stay-at-home mom.
"It's difficult being a stay-at-home mom -- you don't get a lot of respect when people ask [what you do]," said Jaganath. "Now I get approached all the time because of my blog. It feels great to get noticed, make money. It doesn't sound hip to do a mommy blog, but it is."
Jaganath says she envisions MommyNiri.com evolving into something of an online magazine, with products, reviews and editorials.
"I'd also like it to be a little bit of a community for moms -- I would like it to be a 'Sex and the City' for moms, where people can laugh at themselves and feel comfortable and get crazy," she said. "[MommyNiri.com is] organically growing -- I want to stay focused, get back to articles people enjoy -- articles about how it feels every day to be a mom."