As on date, Youth Ki Awaaz has over 3 million readers every month, a 17 member strong editorial board and strategic team, 60 interns at any point in the year and has trained over 1000 youngsters in online journalism and new media skills. It has won the coveted World Summit Youth Award and was also awarded the Best Blog on social causes in April 2010 by Indiblogger.in. The founder and editor of Youth Ki Awaaz, Anshul Tewari shares his journey with us.
How did you start out and what was the inspiration behind Youth Ki Awaaz?
It started out in 2008. I was preparing for my entrance examinations after my board results were out. While the preparations were on, I came across an array of issues and realizing that the mainline media did not really pick them up, I wanted to voice myself. On approaching established media houses, I was dejected when my opinionated letters to the editor were not published. I knew I had to chose an alternative path to voice myself and thus I took to blogging. I started blogging at youthkiawaaz.blogspot.com. After about an year of blogging and getting a small but loyal audience, Youth Ki Awaaz got its very own domain: youthkiawaaz.com and I opened up the blog for readers to join in and pitch in their views on critical issues. The main inspiration has been the very problem that India and other developing nations face. The problem of inability to express oneself freely at a large scale – reaching out to a mass audience. There is an information overload and an attention deficit, but the populace that matters is the most neglected one.
How do you plan to take YKA forward? Are you also working on other enterpreneural projects?
Personally, I see myself sticking on not just to one start up. I am already working on my second start up, which again is a social enterprise solving the problem of credible research in the social, educational and health sector. I want to identify problems in the society and build innovative products and companies with the sole aim of solving these problems. Youth Research India, my next start up, being co-Founded with Youth Ki Awaaz’s Vice President, Mridang Lodha, will be India’s first and largest platform for young people to collaborate and conduct organized researches with the help and support of expert organizations and industry veterans – with the aim of creating credible information availability in the domain of social issues, educational problems, environmental issues and the health care sector in India.
Reporting about a problem and directly impacting change have often proved to be a dichotomy. How do you plan to bridge the gap?
Youth Ki Awaaz is the first step towards change. To work towards any problem, you need to first understand it and get the right kind of knowledge – that is awareness and this is where Youth Ki Awaaz comes in. Our impact is the change in the mindset of our readers and writers. Almost 60% of our interns join the social sector after our internship – and that in itself is a big impact on their lives, thus changing the lives of many others connected to them. I have a strong alignment towards the power of journalism. We combine that with the power of the youth and technology. Talking about some measurable impact, I must mention a recent case. When Libya was under turmoil (it still is) we heard that a lot of Indian nationals were stuck there. The Government was not sending ships to get them back on time and lives were being lost. The mainline media faced a problem of reaching out to these Indians in Libya or even their families. At the same time, one of our readers’ father was stuck in Tripoli and was suffering at the hands of the violence. The reader wrote a very emotional story about his father being stuck their, asking for help. Within seconds, the story went viral on twitter and Facebook with thousands tweeting about it and sharing it. We got a flood of emails from media outlets like CNN IBN, asking us to connect them to the writer. We even got an email from the Govt department asking us to not spread panic – which was actually the truth. A lot of media outlets picked the story, quoting us, and pushed the Government to send ships to get the Indians back, and in the next 24 hours, the ships were sent. We might have played a minor role in all this, but just the fact that the writer’s voice was picked up and spread by the mainline media was enough of an impact. His father is back in India and safe.
And finally do you have any message for the aspiring social enterpreneurs out there?
The best thing about being an entrepreneur who solves problems is that you get to change lives. I would like to push young people to pick up that one passion and go out of their way to make it big – to make it happen. That is how change is done!