A few days ago the Geek In White and I were at the ICC surveying the scene at ranoadidas.coms' 8th year anniversary. It was a big production. Big name sponsors showcased their wares and put on games. High-powered guests mingled with ordinary folk. Plenty of pretty girls in Ranoadidas tee-shirts. The door gift outdid many corporate events I've been to this year. Truth be told, we were a little bit jealous. This was a guy who came from a similar online background and just look at how he is celebrating his blogs' 8th anniversary? With hundreds of his nearest and dearest and a great big corporate shindig putting on a big sponsored show. Yes you say he's connected but that's not what it's about, the big hoo-ha is because he's got marketing pull, because he's good for business. Everyone wants to be on the blog.
15 years ago if Rano Iskandar had told me that he will make his living out of posting pictures and commentaries on a website I would have looked at him askance. Come 2011, his website has flourished, the brand and the man Ranoadidas is famous. ranoadidas.com is just as valid a source of news and views as any other media outlet. This is translated into his readership, averaging 4000 to 5000 hits per day, further translating into advertising income. But it's not just the website, his brand has extended to cybergames, his foodie site Love Food Hate Waste and the Brunei restaurant listing app OhMyFood to name a few.
We sat down after the party and the first thing that he talked about was his first memory. "I remember when I was 2 years old, I was crying in a restaurant", he says, after swallowing a spoon of yellow rice courtesy of Pondok Sari Wangi. His first memory was the day that he was adopted.
I must say that it caught me off-guard because I was unsure whether it was appropriate to ask him questions about his upbringing knowing that his adoptive mother is after all, a Princess.
He added, "I remember I was playing with a toy airplane. We were in Singapore". We were interrupted at this point by an elderly Malay woman with her 3 small children in tow. "They would like to take a picture with you", she says rather shyly. Rano excuses himself and gamely poses.
When we continued a bit later, he tells me he studied at Geelong Grammar School in Melbourne.
Geelong is a famous boarding school. Prince Charles spent a year at Timbertop, a Geelong campus. Its that sort of place. The fact that Rano went to Geelong is something I have just learned about him. In truth I would not have guessed. But on reflection he shares characteristics with other Geelong alumni that I know, there is a certain amount of self possession, but also there is no snobbery and a major characteristic to me is their kindness.
Rano completed his degree against some pressure from home to return to help with the family business. He graduated in 2000 and finally returned to Brunei. He started a blog and worked hard at it. You don't get 5000 hits a day by not being prolific.
When we think Bruneian Blogger, we think Ranoadidas. And you'd be lying to yourself if you thought otherwise. Some of us may think we are far more intellectual, or have won awards, or write better, post better pictures, but there really is no one comparable to Rano Iskandar, the ubiquitous blogger.
In his off the cuff speech during the event he mentioned his mother, who at first didn't really know what her son was doing, except that he carried a notebook all the time. She learned of his website through others soon enough and is now one of his biggest fans. He tells us how he take pictures during family events and how his mother would remind him to only put up pictures of her looking her best. He dedicated his blog's anniversary to her.
I wrote this last paragraph in 2007: "Rano Iskandar is the brains behind Brunei's super famous 'alternative online newspaper' www.ranoadidas.com. A shy figure oft-seen hiding behind the camera, an intrepid social reporter, he is everywhere because everyone, and their grandmother, knows him".
And long may he continue.
Illustration by Cuboi Art.
For the edited online version click here.