In 2018, when Yuvaa joined the crowd with subjects like women’s rights, and mental wellness, people didn’t seem to connect with them. Things might not have seen much daylight since the time and there’s still a long way to go, but Yuvaa has surely made a strong impact by making important things interesting for the youth.
Yuvaa has always believed in talking about urgent issues like youth empowerment, mental health, gender, sexuality, internet safety, misinformation, climate change and many more, and have found great success in creating impact-driven content and entertainment.
This year, Yuvaa celebrates its 5 years of creating awareness across the nation. Nikhil Taneja, Co-Founder of Yuvaa speaks with MI in a one on one interaction. In the article, you will read about the journey, shows, and future plans of the brand. As Nikhil delves deeper into reaching out to Tier 2 and 3 cities, he says, smaller cities lack proper vocabulary for speaking about the important topics. There’s no proper colloquial way to express them.
Q) As you wear many hats from writer, producer, storyteller, public speaker, mental health advocate. Which role resonates the best with you?
Nikhil: I am a writer and storyteller in each core that I do from writing script to everything else. The compelling work in Yuvaa is also a form of storytelling, where we try to tell the stories of a generation. As a mental health advocate, I try to talk about life experiences. While being a professor at a Mumbai college, I bring up many things related to storytelling. So I would say the role that resonates with me the most is being a storyteller.
Q) How was the journey so far for Yuvaa? What all you learned and unlearned?
Nikhil: I am very grateful for these 5 years of my life. When we started in 2018, the word GenZ wasn’t a popular term to be used. People knew about millennials and all young people were known as millennials. So back then when we started the conversations with GenZs about mental wellness and gender, people didn’t react at all. They didn’t know how to talk and react to these topics. But after the pandemic, these subjects became worth talking about.
I feel the pandemic changed people and their perspective on life. During the COVID period, people themselves understood such issues, as mental wellbeing and anxiety. Now, there are issues that are still neglected by society like gender equalization, etc. People are angry and unhappy about so many things happening in society today across classes, communities, and cross-section of the society.
At that time, it was tough for us to help people recognize these urgent subjects. But we kept pushing the important issues to the forefront. Now things have changed with a lot of effort from my team, who speaks out on these important subjects. And we believe Yuvaa is the intersection of what is important and what is interesting to make an impact. Because we believe, that unless we make the important things interesting, people won’t care about them. So, it’s been tough and interesting to cater to something that is important to create an impact.
Q) What kind of changes are you seeing in the Tier 2 and 3 cities?
Nikhil: There is a recognition of these issues, and a lot of people are speaking about them, but it’s still not enough even in metro cities. In Tier 1 cities, we are surrounded by influencers and organizations that have liberal values while talking about these important topics. But if we consider our surroundings, colleges, societies, and workplaces, these conversations are not happening a lot. This is the scenario of tier 1 cities where at least these vocabularies exist but beyond that perimeter, people don’t even know about the meaning of terms like mental health, LGBT rights, Queer, and gender topics. It’s because there is no proper colloquial way to express these subjects.
Things are changing gradually even in the smaller cities. Young people are very aware today because of the great internet penetration and lower consumption prices across the nation. There are things that people residing in these places care about and speak loudly. Also, I would say that institutions are not doing enough to make a deeper impact in the country.
Q) From Yuvaa’s perspective, how are you reaching out to people locally?
Nikhil: We are doing roadshows. During this time, we visited different campuses across the country. In our last roadshow, we visited not only tier 1 colleges but also small ones. So we went to IIMs, Symbiosis, Hansraj, etc. but at the same time visited smaller colleges such as Aryabhatta in Delhi and Maharani in Jaipur. The young people of these institutions have so much to offer with a lot more curiosity.
We also do awareness campaigns in smaller places. We did a menstruation campign in Dahsra in Jharkhand. We have been working on menstruation campaigns. Last year, we associated with UNICEF and went to Tier 2 and 3 cities in Gujarat to teach how to use social media responsively. We are associating a lot with nonprofit organizations, brands, and social media platforms. We also work a lot on women’s rights. Presently, there are many brands that believe in these important conversations. So we make sure that we give them social reach both online and offline.
Q) Social media is a great part of your company. Do you think too many social platforms can confuse people?
Nikhil: I think it has empowered everybody. Every individual has a voice today, which is provided by these social media platforms. This is a good thing. Currently, the world is becoming a community of communities. People are seeking out a community that they could belong to and if they don’t fit into, they find it elsewhere. For example, Prajakta Koli has her own community that cares about what she does. Yuvaa too has a community just like every other influencer and brand that cares about the things done. We as a platform, want young people to find the communities that they belong to, but if not they can find a place in Yuvaa. Therefore, people have lots of social media options that feel right for them.
Q) How do you choose the right micro-influencers or influencers for your platform?
Nikhil: For us, it’s important that there is a certain sense of information that the influencer or creator carries. We work with influencers who take exclusivity over inclusiveness. Creators who engage with people and talk about everything. We don’t necessarily work with people who only talks about social impact but they are also on their journey of using their voices around in a better way. Most recently, we worked with Agasthya Shah and Tanisha, who are really doing well online. We saw Agasthya talking about masculinity and Tanisha about mental health. These topics are so relatable to young people to bring small ways to make a big impact. We are always looking at people who would care a bit.
Q) Coming back to your show ‘Be A Man Yaar’. Tell us more about it.
Nikhil: It is a passionate project for me. Something that I was willing to do for a long time. Unfortunately in our society, men don’t have a language to express their feelings. Unless it is a heartbreak, which brings 100 film songs. Besides this, when a man is hurt, in pain, anxious, failed, or just sad, there is no way that he can express himself. From the birth itself, men are told to be strong, and they are not expected to show these kind of expressions out loud. I faced a lot of challenges too and didn’t know where to seek support from. After starting Yuvaa, I kept hearing about these issues and met people who have faced such things in their lives too. So I feel these conversations are very important and hence I started this initiative that I am proud of. It’s called ‘Be A Man Yaar’. We had such incredible guests including India’s well known and loved people on the couch. We shared some very interesting and honest conversations with them.
Q) Do you think regional language plays a good part in these chat shows?
Nikhil: Absolutely. I have tried to keep the conversation as simple as possible. But not everyone is comfortable having a Hindi conversation, so I might switch a bit. I believe the biggest challenge in our country for now is vocabulary around important conversations. In that sense, even English can be made a simple language for everyone to understand. But we need to make important topics accessible and interesting for everyone. And that’s what we are trying to do with Yuvaa as a whole.
Q) Your report Not All GenZ, reveals many interesting details about GenZ men and women. Work life balance is one of the concerns these days. Do you want to share some pro tips to balance work life and personal life better?
Nikhil: People don’t realize the importance of balance in their life which is needed for both personal and professional. Another important aspect is expectation mismatch among people. We hover over the social networks, and what we see is the surplus amount of great food, scenery, places, life, etc. Now the generation has a condition to believe that life is all about the great things. And if these great things don’t happen around people they must be missing something. A lot of this is being carried into the workplace and people expect it to be great. But in reality, not every workplace is great everyday. There are challenges and bad days also. So having patience is the key.
One more thing is to help each other at the workplace, either by raising a voice or having important conversations. Talking to people around the workplace can help everyone. It is also important to have a life outside of the workplace. And that’s the challenge for the older generation to understand. My advice would be to create a bridge that is handled by both heads, the younger and older generations in the workplace. Protect everyone and protect your energy. Be kind to everyone but don’t forget to be kind to yourself too.
Q) Do you think having a soul mate or listener can impact for good?
Nikhil: We all need more listeners than speakers. There are a lot of young people who have so much to say but very few to listen to. If you become a good listener there is a good chance that you will also get heard. As Gandhiji said, be the change you want to see in the world.
Q) What are the other shows and future plans?
Nikhil: We are expecting to create IPs this year across a variety of different platforms. Not just online but offline as well. We already brought The Collab this year, which was the first GenZ event in the country. We had some of the biggest youth brand associations such as YouTube, Spotify, and Tinder, and non-profit organizations like UNICEF. We just finished our 4th roadshow. We want to do more roadshows. We are also looking forward to doing an awards ceremony for the young people. We want to do a festival for young people, though there are a lot of thoughts yet to be put on this. We want to make ‘Be A Man Yaar’ a big IP. We are also doing something unstereotype, where we will have conversations with incredible women regarding different topics. There is a property we have that we will bring at the end of this year, called All Stars, which witnesses a long list of lovable personalities on the internet of that year.