On 31st March, 2013, Youth Ki Awaaz turned 5.

On 31st March, 2013, Youth Ki Awaaz turned 5.

May 1, 2013

 

I still remember walking into the office of a well reputed private college at the age of 18, to seek sponsorship for Youth Ki Awaaz, and being made fun of for starting something as stupid as a blog. That meeting was the first of hundreds I had over 3 years, from 2009 to 2011.

 

Why did I have this meeting? Because 5 years ago, on this very day, a decision changed my life. I founded Youth Ki Awaaz. I still remember the naive conversation I had with my mother, over the name. A decision made out of sheer frustration – that I as a young person did not have enough of a stake in my issues, could not speak up about them, and could not relate to the decision makers – led me to start youthkiawaaz.blogspot.com – as a personal blog.

 

My initial ideas for a career were to do a business undergrad and move to a plush corporate job, but sometimes the decisions you take and the sacrifices you make create something truly epic. I lost ‘friends’ and a flourishing social circle and was stereotyped as ‘boring’ because I chose to start a company when my peers were enjoying college. Why? Because my dreams were bigger. I was in love with an idea. I wanted to create new social tools for people to speak up against violations and problems, and for solutions and togetherness. I realized that my life’s passion lay in this – and not in the conventional. My short stints at Indian Express and Wall Street Journal India reinforced this belief.

 

While I was in college, there was no worry sustaining the platform, but once I took the plunge full time the valley of death grew deeper. I knew that I HAD to make this happen. It was either this, or being caught in the daily rut doing things that I could never fall in love with – and killing myself over it. Working 22 out of 24 hours, everyday, was the best kind of addiction I could experience, and still do.

 

I remember a time when virtually no one around me believed that Youth Ki Awaaz would ever make it. No one knew of an alternative media outlet that would be able to impact lives, stay independent, and stay here for long. While many were driven by the thought that I was doing the wrong thing by taking this step, I was driven more towards doing it, failing, learning, creating, failing again and creating again. I ignored the pessimists, I focused more on expanding my circle, understanding the depth of the issues and creating free spaces where any youngster could speak up. I became a networking monger, a social media geek, but above all, I became a completely different person. My view towards life, the intricacies of it, dealing with the best and worst of situations – it all changed.

 

It’s been 5 years since I founded Youth Ki Awaaz and I’ve never been happier. I got to meet and work with some of the most amazing people I know. I lead a 50 member strong team, and with them lead a program to mentor over 1500 trainees, and facilitate over 20,000 discussions on thousands of issues, delivering hard hitting opinions to an audience of millions every month. We have together created India’s largest platform for young people to express themselves on issues of importance – freely, fairly, fearlessly. The voice of the youth is why the Government took action on the issues we reported and opined on, their voice was the reason why young female students have freedom of mobility in IIT Madras, their voice was the reason why Irom Sharmila became a sensation on the Internet, and why the cops took suo motu action on crimes against women, and much much more! Moreover, we got some crucial recognition as well. From two prestigious United Nations awards, an award for being the Champion of Social Transformation by the Baha’i faith, and a steady audience of 5 million readers a month.

 

At Youth Ki Awaaz we’ve built a culture where there is minimal focus on doing things in a tried and tested format, and a maximum focus on experimenting, failing, and learning, and finally getting it right. We focus on building a business model that engages people in issues and solutions, and gets them acting – an ever evolving model that focuses on the growth of young people.

 

We are driven by the fact that come what may, we will keep building tools and technologies that empower the everyday youth making them a stakeholder in the country’s issues, and the wide world beyond.