RONB's media model, decade in the making

A Facebook page started by a student to inform citizens about power cuts and political shutdowns has in 11 short years grown into Nepal’s most popular media enterprise.

At a time when the mainstream press and digital portals struggle to survive, Routine of Nepal Banda (RONB) is not only a vital source of information for millions of Nepalis in the country and the diaspora but even makes money while doing so.

Victor Paudel had just finished his SLC exam in 2011 at a time of unstable coalition politics and when parties would routinely enforce nationwide shutdowns. So, he opened the RONB Facebook page to provide the public information about the strikes, and its effect on ordinary citizens. 

It was an instant hit, and the bilingual page became a go-to source of information not just on  shutdowns, but also loadshedding timetables, resource for patients seeking blood donors, and even an effective lost-and-found platform for missing passports and other valuables. 

RONB’s followers grew exponentially in 2015 after the earthquake, when hundreds of thousands of families spent months in tents and found the Facebook site a prompt and credible resource readily available on their mobiles. It got another boost in the past two years of lockdowns, when home-bound Nepalis gravitated by the thousands to its Facebook page for the latest information on the pandemic. 

Today, RONB has 3.4 million followers on Facebook1.1 million on Instagram, nearly 475k followers on Twitter, and his TikTok posts regularly get half a million views. It also has a YouTube channel and a homepage that looks more like a regular media portal. RONB is now registered as a private limited media company, and has spawned many imitators. 

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RONB perfected a formula of targeting Nepali youth with mostly user-generated content that is relevant and reliable, and complementing the reach of the mainstream press with photo, video and text submissions by thousands of citizen journalists all over the country. 

The brand’s rapid rise was possible because of the spread of mobile data connectivity in Nepal. The number of Facebook users in Nepal has expanded from barely 1.2 million in 2011 to nearly 13 million today, although growth has slowed as users migrate to TikTok and YouTube. More than 90% of Nepalis today own mobiles, and 67% smartphones.

RONB was not an overnight phenomenon: it has taken a decade of curating the content for positivity, relevance and credibility. Users prefer its snapshots of Nepali life and its interactive nature. Most posts have thousands of comments, and the sites look like a constant conversation in the Nepali public sphere. 

The RONB sites are especially popular among overseas Nepalis, who do not want to be overwhelmed with information overload, and prefer the news in easy-to-digest snippets. Feedback in the comments section often addresses Victor Paudel with the intimate “रुटिने दाइ”.

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“For the past ten years, I have associated Routine of Nepal Banda with factual news,” says Avishek Bist, an engineering student in the UAE. “I know that this page takes its content seriously.”

Users also seem to like its positive take on happenings in Nepal, at a time when much of the mainstream press is filled with news of corruption in high places, political intrigue and cynical op-eds. While the legacy media’s social media posts with links to stories may get a few hundred likes if they are lucky, RONB’s uploads regularly hit tens of thousands of likes and shares. 

RONB has seen a steady increase in its following ever since it started, and it does not show any signs of stopping, according to After ignoring it for a decade, Nepal’s business community, advertisers and politicians finally appear to be taking notice of its reach. RONB is now monetising its content, and accepts product placements through native advertising, although Victor Paudel has said in interviews that he is selective about brands that he promotes to ensure quality and reliability. The language also avoids hard sell, and most paid posts are subtle and read like regular content.

Politicians also appear to have taken notice. Much of the success in mobilising young voters in Kathmandu to elect rapper-engineer Balen Shah as mayor has been attributed to video posts from his campaign trail. Past RONB posts on its Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube accounts show that the site actively promotes independent mayoral candidates like Balen Shah and Harka Sampang in Dharan.

Nepal’s mainstream parties appear worried about the rise of the independents in local elections, and the impact this is having on provincial and federal elections in November. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s wife Arzu last month accused RONB of being in Balen Shah’s payroll.

“How much did Balen Shah pay RONB for publicity on Facebook?” she asked at a rally of the youth wing of her ruling Nepali Congress party.

Read also: Protecting free speech on Nepal’s cybersphere, Sabina Devkota

Nepali Times tried to reach out to Victor Paudel about these allegations, but he has not yet responded to our request for comment. A review of RONB posts in the past weeks have scant mention of some of the blowback that Mayor Shah has been getting for the eviction of sidewalk vendors, a video clip of his slurred speech at a recent function, and his controversial announcement to erect a statue of fellow rapper, the late Yama Buddha.

RONB appears to be doing a delicate balancing act to ensure revenue without sacrificing the credibility that has given it enormous following. Now that RONB is a media company, critics say, it would be advisable to stick to the strict separation of paid content and news.

In a country with low media literacy like Nepal, paid content on Facebook can easily be mistaken for news, like a recent sponsored post on RONB promoting a local college for its outstanding results

However, it is a case of letting those without sin cast the first stone. Nepal’s legacy press often mixes advertising with news, and there have been complaints of extortion by mainstream journalists threatening public figures with damaging content.  

There are also positive outcomes from RONB posts. Avinash Gyawali’s career took off when he was barely 18 after his photo appeared on a congratulatory post in 2018. “Suddenly, my friends and family treated me like a celebrity, I was getting calls from distant relatives congratulating me for simply appearing on the Facebook page,” he said in an interview.

Read also: Media as the custodian of people, Nepali Times 

As part of its positive news slant, RONB regularly features inspirational people like NEA’s Kulman Ghising, or posts heart-warming profiles of local tea-sellers. However, questions arise when it carries upbeat posts like a recent one about about Gopal Hamal being an ‘inspirational businessman in politics’.

Victor Paudel has said in interviews that he “triple-checks facts”, and it is indeed this careful fact-checking of user-generated content that has earned RONB its loyal following for accuracy. It will be interesting to see how RONB’s need to monetise will sit with its emphasis on credible information. 

RONB has a successful business model because of extremely low overheads, with Paudel reportedly still doing most of the uploading himself with a small team, while revenue from paid posts, sponsored content, Google Adsense and other social media income keep rising. So much so that Routine of Nepal Banda now regularly sponsors IT events, provides scholarships to students and donates to a charity for treatment of burn patients.

We may have to go no further than the way legacy media has tried to balance sponsored content with news to find out how RONB will handle its future role in Nepal’s cybersphere.  

Read also: Press for people, Sahina Shrestha