He took the road less-travelled and that seems to have made all the difference. With his sheer diligence and perseverance, a young entrepreneur Anshul Tewari, the founder of Youth Ki Awaaz, has proved that success comes naturally to someone who seeks it. Anshul belongs to a new generation that entered the workforce with a different outlook and a commitment to change the country for better.
At the age of 18, when Anshul had a lot of questions and opinions, he found that there were not many platforms for him to speak up. Everyone told him that is how things were meant to be, but, it was impossible for him to accept it and he started YouthKiAwaaz.com (YKA), in March 2008
Originally, it wasn’t a platform for everyone. Anshul had started it as blog. He later realised it was not only he who wanted to voice his opinions but there were thousands like him. It was decision time. He turned YKA into a public platform to allow anyone and everyone to speak up, and once the contributions started coming in, initially from friends, he could visualise the future. He knocked on countless doors of sponsors, but was not taken seriously. Nobody believed in his idea.
The journalism graduate from Delhi University says, “I remember walking into offices of potential sponsors and being mocked at for running something on “the internet”, or talking highly about the potential of “a blog”. Back then in 2008, social media was not as big as it is today. There was also a constant struggle against time management. As I was pursuing my degree and other activities at the time, it was difficult for me to manage everything. Another difficulty, was not being taken seriously by the older people in the industry, considering their patronising manner.”
Anshul also started a work-from-home training programme for YKA to empower young writers to address the most pressing issues of our times. The training programme grew fast into an award-winning and India’s largest programme of its kind. This training contributed majorly towards building the YKA brand. This also led YKA to win the World Summit Youth Award run by ICNM (International Center for New Media) and UN GAID (Global Alliance for Information and Communication Development), for innovation in crowd-sourcing.
Anshul believes the real struggle began once his college days were over. He was not a student entrepreneur anymore. Pressures like revenue generation or cash flow were hovering over his mind, which was earlier taken care of by his parents. The fight was on. “I remember convincing my parents to let me work on YKA for at least a year, from 2011 to 2012, and giving a shot at sustaining it. And they supported me,” he says gratefully.
Talking about the challenges, he says, “Independent media outlets face a number of challenges as the media is not an ideal space for investors owing to delayed returns. However, while at one end there was the struggle to sustain the venture, on the other, YKA was building a strong community of volunteer writers and journalists from across the country.”
Things turned better when in 2012, the United Nations agency, International Telecom Union, provided a $10,000 grant which helped Anshul hire full-time staff to run editorial operations and he then began concentrating on building the business. At present, YKA serves over 1.5 million readers a month.
Interestingly, over 25,000 people have already contributed to YKA and 2,000 are actively doing so at present — all of them volunteers. At present, YKA is a self-sustaining business that has seven full-time staff members. Cash-flow is fairly high, however, the blog is yet to register heavy profits. “I think we have pivoted from the challenging phase to the exciting phase. Even as sustainability still remains the biggest struggle, editorial operations have picked up smoothly, and YKA is adding almost 1,00,000 new readers every month,” claims the 24-year-old who has worked with a number of Indian and international news media organisations like The Indian Express, Financial Express and The Wall Street Journal.
On how YKA is different from any other news portal, Anshul says, “We focus on the issues which do not find their way into the mainstream media. In a country which is plagued by issues, only debate and discussion can help change the scenario. We have carved out a niche for a new kind of youth journalism in the country,” he says adding that “the future of YKA is bright.”
Anshul who holds the position of Editor-in-Chief of YKA is currently leading its strategic vision and their most recent initiative is a social campaigning platform for non-profits, causes and mission driven movements to run conversational youth outreach campaigns to make causes go viral online.
Some of the issues they have worked on include seeking government action on getting Indian citizens stuck in the Libyan Civil War (2011) safely back to the country and building pressure on the Metro Rail corporation to take suo-motu action on a gender-based crime committed inside a moving metro. Mostly college students contribute to the blog. You too can do so by logging on to the website or dropping in a mail at email@example.com.