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Sahmi Chowdhury & Mashiat Mutamainnah: “Start building trust before thinking about money”

The big idea that we have is JORE! The idea is to create a publication and multimedia platform that can successfully improve the global South Asian representation in the media by showcasing stories and experiences across the diaspora. We believe that members of the global South Asian diaspora deserve an inclusive space to share and […]

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The big idea that we have is JORE! The idea is to create a publication and multimedia platform that can successfully improve the global South Asian representation in the media by showcasing stories and experiences across the diaspora. We believe that members of the global South Asian diaspora deserve an inclusive space to share and celebrate the diversity and legacy of their experiences. We are also focused on minority groups that do not get enough representation, such as Sri Lakan, Himalayan, Tibetan, Bhutanese, and those of South Asian descent living in areas of Africa, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. This platform allows all of the voices to come together and share their experiences as a way to bolster unity and understanding within the South Asian diaspora.


As part of my series about Big Ideas that May Change the World, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sahmi Chowdhury & Mashiat Mutmainnah.

Sahmi Chowdhury is a co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of JORE, a publication and multimedia platform that showcases and celebrates the unique culture of the South Asian diaspora. When his family moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Kuwait in 2001, Sahmi did not anticipate the complexities that would arise as he navigated his new home as a Bangladeshi American. Growing up in the Middle East, he witnessed that many South Asian people were usually placed in low level positions, primarily within the service industry. He was also privy to the fact that many were severely mistreated. When he had the opportunity to return to the United States for college, he was excited at the prospect of returning home. However, he quickly realized that he was too Bengali for the United States, though family trips to Bangladesh proved he was too American for Bangladesh. This sense of displacement, that many children of the South Asian diaspora share, led to the creation of JORE.

Currently, Sahmi works as a research analyst at a Fintech start-up in New York and focuses on running JORE with his co-founder Mashiat during his free time. Sahmi can be hard to locate as he travels frequently, with some of his favorite cities being Amman, Medellin, and San Diego. On the off chance that he is home, he can be found in the kitchen cooking chicken tikka mac and cheese or prepping a plate of fushka, with either NFL RedZone or NBA League Pass playing in the background.

Mashiat Mutmainnah is a co-founder and the Creative Director of JORE. Mashiat is a Bangladeshi global citizen, born in Dhaka and raised between Kuwait and Canada. True to her nomadic lifestyle, she studied in the US at UC Berkeley, majoring in Applied Maths and Economics. Being a third (possibly fourth) culture kid, her identity has always been a mystery. She is starting to rediscover herself by capturing the stories of South Asian diaspora history, entrepreneurship and immigrant experiences around the world. Currently, she is hibernating up in Toronto, works at a Silicon Valley startup by day and tries to write 2000 words by night. She is a Chloe Ting stan, an aspiring animator and a certified biryani enthusiast.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Sahmi Chowdhury: Absolutely! Growing up, I have always been interested in South Asian diaspora culture. I was born in the United States, grew up in Kuwait, with my cultural roots stemming from Bangladesh. Reflecting on it today, an identity crisis seems inevitable. Overtime, I realized that I am not alone and that these concerns are shared among many people within the South Asian diaspora. Around December 2020, I decided that I needed to do something that would help address this issue. I wanted to offer a resource that would have helped me feel a sense of community and belonging when I was younger. Mashiat and I grew up together and I knew that she had similar feelings, so we teamed up and tried out a few ideas before landing on JORE. Overall, I want this to be a platform that celebrates South Asians from all parts of the diaspora so that they can fully embrace their own unique, blended identities.

Mashiat Mutmainnah: I grew up across 4 countries: Bangladesh, Kuwait, Canada and the US. And with each move, I felt a little more displaced, a little more foreign and a lot of pressure to assimilate. By constantly changing my accent, my slang and my gestures, I became a chameleon, always showing the shade that would garner the most acceptance from my surroundings. But every time I changed myself, I also lost a part of my identity. By my senior year at UC Berkeley, I had zero idea of who I was, my values, and most importantly my story. I was so used to others telling me my story that I completely lost sight of what I accomplished, overcame and what I wanted out of life as a child of the diaspora. I reconnected with Sahmi in 2020 and we built DrapeTherapy, a South Asian fashion community page. But as much I loved fashion, it still didn’t align with what I was seeking — a space where I could have the freedom to explore who I was, create my own values and be my authentic self. And I knew that there were so many third culture kids like me who were being pulled in so many ways to appease their family, friends and society. So, after 3–4 months, we created something that would bring more value to our community. And that something is JORE.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Mashiat: The most amazing thing that happened to me while building JORE has been having Nadia Jaggessar from Netflix’s Indian Matchmaking respond to our content within our first month! It means a lot to us because we are sharing the experiences of the whole South Asian diaspora and to someone from the Indo-Guyanese diaspora recognize us is super special!

Sahmi: The most interesting story for JORE has to be the development of our Club on Clubhouse! We started running rooms when the app opened up and only had 5–10 people join for the first week. However, as news spread about who we were and what we represented, our rooms would have as many as 30 listeners in at a time. We formed a club just 2 weeks ago and we already have over 120 members from across the globe. Initially, we just started this to be able to connect informally with folks and now it’s blooming into this incredible, designated space where folks can discuss everything from creative goals to social issues. In our two most recent rooms, we had a dialogue about the model minority myth and Hollywood’s depiction of South Asian masculinity.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Sahmi: There are two specific principles that serve as my compass through life. First, always be willing to adapt and shift your attitude as often as you need to. Many things in life do not go the way that we initially planned or envisioned. However, that ultimately doesn’t matter as long as you are able to see the learning and growth opportunity within the experience.

My second guiding principle is to dream for yourself but be in the service for others. As I continue to navigate through life, I am starting to realize that there is nothing wrong with dreaming for yourself and wanting to be successful. It is not selfish to want to achieve your dreams. However, it is critical that you always reach back and pull others up along the way. This is a crucial aspect of the vision for JORE; we dream big as a platform but are in service of our community.

Mashiat: Always be aligned in everything that you do and try to be flexible. I know that I have limitations and that once I start, the initial motivation and excitement can quickly dissipate. That is why it’s really essential to me that the most important things are aligned with how I want to serve myself and serve the world. This way, when things get tough, I am still motivated to keep going. At the same time, how you want to leave your legacy is allowed to evolve. We are all malleable and ever changing, and it’s important that we honor that. If what we are doing is no longer aligned with our goals, it’s okay to let that go and do something that fulfills us.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

The big idea that we have is JORE! The idea is to create a publication and multimedia platform that can successfully improve the global South Asian representation in the media by showcasing stories and experiences across the diaspora. We believe that members of the global South Asian diaspora deserve an inclusive space to share and celebrate the diversity and legacy of their experiences. We are also focused on minority groups that do not get enough representation, such as Sri Lakan, Himalayan, Tibetan, Bhutanese, and those of South Asian descent living in areas of Africa, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. This platform allows all of the voices to come together and share their experiences as a way to bolster unity and understanding within the South Asian diaspora.

How do you think this will change the world?

This will be an idea that changes the world for one primary reason: everybody needs support. People will always require support systems within their community, and we will be there as hopefully one of many. As social media and publications grow, it is imperative for readers to have a source of news and entertainment that relates to them and their experience. We are providing a voice to millions of people who have had to hide their diasporic side.

We want to do this with complete exposure and cultural representation. For many of our readers, we are trying to forge our own paths whilst coming from family systems and communities that only know one kind of success (i.e., becoming a lawyer, doctor, or engineer). This journey can be extremely isolating and difficult. Not only are we pursuing careers and dreams that do not fit the South Asian norm and propel the model minority myth, but we are also breaking dysfunctional conditioning. Being able to see a community of individuals go through this and find success will help elevate our readers as they pave their own way.

Finally, we simply need more South Asian diaspora representation in the media. Throughout our lives, we have seen extremely limiting, stereotypical narratives regarding South Asian individuals, which is dehumanizing and damaging to the community. At JORE, we are here to show the multifaceted, nuanced perspectives of the South Asian community while centering authenticity and diversity.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Potential drawbacks that we may face with this idea is a lack of representation. One thing we are concerned about is whether we cater to one group over another or just fail to successfully cover all of the diaspora groups that pertain to South Asia. With that in mind, we are vigilant and do what we can with our team to cover the diaspora successfully. We are still in our early stages but are currently growing our team and designating members and writers to specific groups.

Misrepresentation may also be a drawback. To address this, we aim to hire writers that are part of the diaspora. For instance, or writer for Indo-Caribbean related articles is Christine Amrita Ramkarran (Instagram: @christineamrita), a Guyanese American residing in New York. By diversifying our team, we’re hoping to decrease the chances of misrepresentation. If we do have an article or post that fails to represent a group successfully, we fully encourage our readers to reach out to let us know our error so that we may correct it.

Another thing that we also often think about is the fact that, even though we’re both proud of our Bangladeshi heritage, we want to ensure that our publication does not become misunderstood as a space only for Bengalis. In addition to hiring writers who are from different parts of the diaspora, we also highlight and feature creatives, entrepreneurs and activists who are from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal etc. and share their stories and experiences. This way, we are ensuring that we’re building a community that exemplifies our mission.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

Sahmi: Although I have had a fair share of identity displacement issues growing up, a tipping point that led me to this idea was when I was at Northeastern University and I had trouble relating to many of the South Asian students from the subcontinent. My friends were very diverse, and I found that I related to the international students similarly. I did not feel particularly close to most South Asian students compared to other international students. However, after meeting South Asian students that grew up in the United States, United Kingdom, Kenya, etc. I felt more at home.

This was because our experiences were that of a South Asian, but also blended with “the outside.” We were often made fun of for being “outsiders” with many South Asians calling us A.B.C. D’s — American Born Confused Desi. The crazy part about this is that they weren’t wrong at all! Many of us are somewhat confused, because we continue chasing a community that does not fully understand the nuances of our experiences. We are not South Asian; we are a mixture of all of our experiences and our “South Asianness” exists on a spectrum. That is what led to my push to begin JORE.

Mashiat: Similarly, for me, I always felt like an “outsider” even when I hung out with people who were South Asian. Growing up in Kuwait, I didn’t have a strong idea of how Bengali I was, but I also didn’t know what it felt like to have roots in a specific place. In the Middle East, most of us are expats and we have to leave the country if our parents lose their jobs. So, I was growing up in a country that didn’t accept us as citizens. So mentally, I was in this transient state of mind, always feeling like I didn’t belong.

Also, growing up in a conservative country with a conservative family, there were more than enough times where I got shut down simply because of my opinions. That definitely “tipped” me over. I feel like the world still has a long way to go to recognize that a woman is also a human being, with the right to have her own opinions, thoughts and feelings. But I’m not waiting for that world to come. I am creating that world through JORE.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

In order to achieve widespread adoption, we need to have more conversations on the difficult topics that matter. We need to discuss topics like South Asian unity and why we fail to come together, anti-Blackness in our communities and how to combat it, generational trauma and what it takes to eradicate toxicity, and how we can correct and elevate representation in the media. We cannot wait for these answers or solutions to find us. We have to do our part as members of the South Asian diaspora to find the best solutions. We need to create spaces that are emotionally safe for the diaspora generation to come into, share their experiences, and connect with others who are in similar situations. This also means making sure we don’t censor people, no matter what their opinions are. Differing views and opinions are welcomed as long as discourse is done respectfully. We are already doing this through our JORE Club on Clubhouse, where we host rooms on South Asian culture, creativity and society twice a week!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Create systems to develop habits: As an entrepreneur, you need to wear multiple hats consistently. At JORE, we approach content creation, outreach and writer management in a systematic way. We batch ideas for the month and spend one day of the week creating content. We also have themes for each day of the week when it comes to outreach. This way we hit our goals whilst building consistency.

Start building trust before thinking about money: In the beginning, we were very focused on getting followers and building our audience. As a result, we started to post 2–3 times a day, desperate to get 1 follower to join our band. After consulting with a mentor, we realized how important it is to build trust and community first. In this era, there is so much information for the individual to consume, so making sure that we are relatable and authentic is more important than creating a mass volume of content.

Mentorship is key: It’s very easy for us to get stuck in our own thought bubbles. Third party perspective is very important. We share our ideas with trusted friends, mentors, and even consultants to make sure we are getting diverse input and are aligned on the same path.

Stop overthinking and start gathering data: Good strategy is key, but execution and data helps you adapt accordingly. In the early months of JORE, we were very careful with outreach to brands, scared of the rejection that we could face. But without data of that rejection, we wouldn’t know how to improve our pitch and value proposition. In other words, learn to make failure your best friend, start executing your strategy and learn from the data on how to refine and pivot.

Innovation and creativity do not have to be original: You are the niche. Your story is the niche. We wanted to expand to YouTube and did not see many South Asians of the diaspora doing reaction videos or mukbangs. So, we decided to put our spin on it. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to offer value to your audience.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Start seeing your competitors as collaborators: Constantly comparing yourself to your competition is tiring and just fuels the scarcity mindset. Start seeing your competition as opportunities for collaborations. Building is more fun when you know that there are people involved who share your values and are open to expanding their network with you as well.

Don’t share your vision with the wrong people: Be protective of who you share your dreams with. Make sure they are people who will support you, validate you and give you constructive feedback without breaking you down and shaming you. You cannot afford to let toxic energy disrupt your flow.

Question everything you do: One thing that makes us work as a dynamic duo is the perspectives that we bring to the table. As co-founders, we have many shared values, but the beauty of our collaboration lies in our difference in perspectives. We consistently question each other’s ideas, allowing us to either throw away an idea that may not work, or determine solutions to improve the initial concept.

Change your self-image: Most times, you are the biggest obstacle standing in your way. That is why it’s important to start challenging the limitations that you believe about yourself. Mindfulness practices, positive beliefs and positive self-talk are all important to make sure you execute instead of wallowing in self-doubt.

Pace yourself: If you want longevity in your industry, pace yourself and take lots of breaks so that you don’t burn out. You need yourself to be healthy and present to achieve your goals. Rest is necessary, not a reward. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Have you ever experienced FOMO? So have we. As two South Asian diaspora kids growing up in the Middle East, we have felt completely lost, unheard and at times, even unwanted. On top of that, seeing only one type of representation of our story in the media made our experiences even more dehumanizing. As a part of 16.65M South Asians living outside of the subcontinent, we knew that we weren’t alone. So, we built JORE, a multimedia company that strives to improve global South Asian representation by showcasing stories and experiences of all diaspora groups. We believe that presence is simply not enough. In 2020, South Asians occupied only 2.4% of screen time across cable and streaming services relative to their representation in the US Population. Most importantly, 82% of Asian Americans subscribe to a streaming service. There is a huge disconnect between the demand and the supply of authentic narratives in the media. We are here to bridge that gap by creating long and short form multimedia content highlighting the incredibly colorful, complex and powerful stories of the diaspora.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We can be found on Instagram and Twitter at @joremagazine and our website with all the articles at joremagazine.com

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