“Yuvaa was envisioned as a safe space for all genders and young people from all backgrounds” Yuvaa’s Nikhil Taneja

“Yuvaa was envisioned as a safe space for all genders and young people from all backgrounds” Yuvaa’s Nikhil Taneja

Yuvaa facilitates initiatives through their work in digital content .

Yuvaa’s Nikhil Taneja

Mumbai: Yuvaa is India’s leading Gen Z-driven youth media, research and impact organisation. With the mission of empowering the youth by ‘making important things interesting’ for them by 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 celebrated its fifth year anniversary by hosting its first business of Gen Z event, The Collab, that brought  together industry experts, change makers, influencers and key opinion leaders like Guneet Monga, Rohini Nilekani, Sameer Nair (Applause Entertainment), Divya Reddy Shah (L'Oreal India), Chandrasekhar Samiappan (YouTube India), S Venkatesh (RPG), Navya Naveli Nanda, Niharika NM, among others, to participate in conversations around Gen-Z issues. At the event, Yuvaa also gave its audience a sneak peek into their upcoming properties like India’s first chat series on masculinity ‘Be A Man, Yaar’ (feat. Vicky Kaushal, Nakuul Mehta, Naseeruddin Shah, Zakir Khan, among others); The ‘You Grow Girl’ Yuvaa Roadshow with Navya Nanda and L'Oreal Paris India, and Yuvaa’s flagship LGBTQ+ event, The Pride Class 2023.

The organisation envisions facilitating meaningful conversations and impactful initiatives through their work in digital content and campus spaces. For the same, prominent youth icon and entrepreneur Navya Naveli Nanda and L'Oréal Paris have collaborated for an exciting pan India roadshow - You Grow, Girl. The roadshow, which aims at empowering and engaging the youth, will traverse 25 prestigious colleges across 8 cities, leaving an indelible impact on the lives of thousands of young individuals.

They also released a first-of-its kind Gen Z insights report- ‘Not All Gen Z’, that provides insights based on responses from over 900 Gen Z participants, spanning over 20+ cities across T1, T2 and T3 India. This #NotAllGenZ report is an attempt to comprehend this misunderstood but distinctive group of individuals and to understand the Gen Z trends brands, organisations and parents need to pay more attention to.

Indiantelevision.com caught up with Yuvaa co-founder & chief Nikhil Taneja, where he discusses some key issues which Gen Z faces and also some trending topics like internet safety, depression, mental health etc…

Edited excerpts

On what is Yuvaa all about and its main USP

We like to call Yuvaa India’s first (and arguably most loved) Gen Z-driven youth media organisation. We work at the intersection of what is ‘important’ and what is ‘interesting’ to create impact in the lives of young people. In India, where over 65% of the population is under 35, which forms the world’s largest youth workforce, and where 1 in every 5 young people is affected by mental health issues, there was hardly any meaningful youth representation in politics, in policy-making or decision-making, or even in content and entertainment around urgent youth issues. Yuvaa has today become the rare organisation uses the power of mass and social media to work on social good, social justice and social impact.Today, it gives me great pride to say that we are a unique company that’s managed to do that through our work in content, campuses, events, research and social impact, and count among our partners, some of India’s biggest brands and non profits including Amazon Prime, Instagram, YouTube, Spotify, Tinder, IBM, L’oreal Paris, Rohini Nilekani Foundation, UNICEF India, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Save the Children and many more.

As for our USP, in a world where every young person has something to say, Yuvaa was founded to be a platform that listens. Over the last five years, Yuvaa has visited over 150 campuses across India offline, and made over 10,000 pieces of content online, to create safe spaces where Young Indians could express without judgement. India has the largest youth workforce in the world, so it was a natural progression of our mission to also create safe, inclusive, empathetic and happy spaces at the workplace.

On Yuvaa managing to resonate with Gen Z and effectively connect with them on various important subjects like mental health

It again comes back to the idea of ‘listening’  to young people. We don’t talk down to young people, we don’t look down on them, we don’t treat them as a ‘demographic’ or an ‘audience’, but we treat them as equals, and as our partners in everything we are doing. We create content and communication through community engagement. The Gen Z are active participants in our decision making process, and the listening - and sharing - loop that we create with them is the reason they think they have a stake in Yuvaa too.

We also ensure that everything we do is in a language accessible to young people - we are not trying to preach to them, we are talking as friends to them in a relatable vocabulary they speak as well. Young people, who do not get safe spaces in their homes or communities, find that in us, and that’s why we have managed to resonate with them. And we are so grateful about this.

On sharing insights on the significance of Yuvaa's fifth-year anniversary celebration

When you are building your first ever startup, every day you have not failed feels like a milestone :). So I’ve been proud of each and every single day the team worked together to create impact with what we do at Yuvaa. From our first viral video to our first chat show to our first Spotify Original Podcast (Dear Teenage Me) to our first two Yuvaa Original Short Films with Amazon Mini TV (Gray and Tasalli Se) to our multiple roadshows, open mics, offline events, researches, content pieces, dev sector and brand partnerships, to reaching half a million followers on Instagram to giving students free therapy through The Yuvaa Therapy Project, it’s been such a gratifying journey. But if I had to pick two key moments that were personally significant I’d say:

The Yuvaa Volunteers Programme: During the devastating second wave in India, we started a volunteer programme called Yuvaa Volunteers, where he led a rotating team of over 500 volunteers in over 40 Indian cities. Over 3 months, the team worked 24/7 to help connect people to available hospitals, oxygen cylinders, medical support, mental health counseling, and ended by helping over 2500 families in 8 regions of India. During the time, Yuvaa also partnered with Inner Hour to hold Twitter spaces to talk about grief and mental health, with Dharma Productions to scale our reach, and also held sharing circles for young Indians to express themselves. Yuvaa Volunteers led to the formation of the UNICEF-Yuwaah Content Creator Coalition, through which 110 content creators created 1650 pieces of content on COVID misinformation awareness and vaccine awareness, to a cumulative reach of 150 million+. To be able to actually help people during a tough time as a country, was one of the reasons Yuvaa was founded, and I feel so proud that we could step up when it mattered.

The Leadership Transition: In June, I officially transitioned out of the CEO role to take on a ‘Chief’ role, moving from captain to coach, to appoint a young team to lead the company into the future. When I started Yuvaa, I had always believed that if 5 years down the line, Yuvaa was successful in what it did, a ‘Yuvaa’ should be leading it. So it was one of my life's proudest moments that I could hand over the reigns of the company to our new CEO, Yuvaa, who has helped make Yuvaa what it is over the last 4 years in an Editor-in-Chief capacity. The other two members of the leadership team include Anusha Shetty and Yash Pise, both of whom, like Kevin, have shown up every day to build Yuvaa as their own company. I truly believe, in the hands of these young leaders, Yuvaa will be able to be one of the most significant youth media companies in the country over the next 5 years.

On 'The Pride Class 2023', organised by Yuvaa, its objectives and outcomes

Yuvaa was envisioned as a safe space for all genders and young people from all backgrounds. I have always noticed that content or conversations that cater to progressive audiences, or that talks about progressive issues, has a sassiness to it that comes in the way of including people who are ignorant bout these conversations. There have also been some very popular channels or content pieces that choose to ‘clap back’ or ‘shut down’ people who aren’t progressive enough. But at Yuvaa, we’ve felt that the only way we can make a real difference is by bringing in people, versus shutting them out. By being empathetic and ‘wholesome’, we have a much greater chance of getting folks who may be a bit more conservative, to be a part of the conversation.

We have been a LGBTQIA+ positive company and space online and offline from the very beginning, and have been creating content around it since we started in 2018. In fact, our first chat show was called Edugaytion, and its intent was to have conversations with well known folks from the LGBTQIA+ community to ‘edu-gay-te’ people who were interested in knowing more about queer issues. We also did a 26 part reel series called the A to Z of LGBTQIA+, where we explained every term associated with queer inclusivity. In 2022, we first launched The Pride Class, as a way of carrying the empathetic and wholesome vibe of our queer conversations into an offline space and event, with the intent being not just felicitation but celebration.

YouTube Shorts has partnered with us on Pride Class in both 2022 and 2023, and the event has now become a flagship for Yuvaa every year, in which we identify queer young folks who use their voices for expression, advocacy or awareness. We do a ‘graduation ceremony’ for these creators, where they get masterclasses from queer icons, certificates and gifts from Yuvaa and its partners, and an evening of joy, along with queer comedians and musicians. It’s one of the happiest days of the year for everyone at Yuvaa, and we hope that in supporting young queer voices, we are making them feel seen, so that they may feel empowered to continue using them to normalize queer conversations.

On the “Not All Gen Z” report seeking to address the common misunderstandings surrounding Gen Z

At Yuvaa, we've championed Gen Z for 5 years now, and it's great to see more brands and industries taking note of this generation as they enter the workforce and become more significant spenders and consumers. One thing that we've noticed, however, is that in the attempt to understand Gen Z better, society at large tends to try to put them in boxes or assign labels to them based on a few interactions or experiences. Our #NotAllGenZ Report is an attempt to correct some of these misconceptions, or at least explain where certain misconceptions come from.

The report looks at Gen Z's relationships with five themes - parenting, gender, sex, brands and content consumption - to try to help brands and organisations better understand Gen Z. While it is often assumed that women tend to prefer watching romcoms and 'soft' content, we actually found that Gen Z women are 10 per cent more interested in thrillers rather than romcoms. While Gen Z is seen as a 'woke' generation and women are accused of having a 'feminist agenda', out study shows that 74 per cent of Gen Z women think that men actually have it harder than they do - and by the way, nearly 70 per cent of Gen Z men believe that women have it harder than they do. While influencer marketing is all the rage and the creator economy is booming, our study shows that Gen Z consumers are 50 per cent more likely to buy something on the recommendation of a friend, rather than the recommendation of an influencer or content creator.

Hence, the report lays out some surprising findings on Gen Z's behaviour, consumption patterns and thinking - we at Yuvaa have always strived to make young people feel less alone, and we feel like helping brands and organisations better understand Gen Z is a big step to making them feel more heard, seen and represented.

On Yuvaa's role in promoting internet safety and combating misinformation among the youth

Yuvaa has always been committed to creating safe spaces for young people, and since the internet is a space that so many young people spend so much time in, that commitment is as much to online spaces as it is to offline ones.

Over the last three years, we've worked on multiple campaigns to do with online safety and combating misinformation - during the peak of the first wave of Covid, we tied up with UNICEF YuWaah and trained 110 creators to create over 1500 pieces of content around Covid misinformation, reaching 200 million people across Instagram and Takatak (now Moj). We also worked on the UN Verified campaign and created a music video talking about Covid misinformation featuring celebrities like Nakuul Mehta, Saba Azad, Akash Bannerjee and journalists like Raghu Karnad, Shereen Bhan and Meghnad S. We consulted with Dharma Productions to fact check and create content around awareness of misinformation at this time as well.

We have a long-term association with Meta wherein we've spoken about the different facets of internet safety over the last 4 years - including content pieces that have amassed millions of views, conversations with prominent content creators and actors like Prajakta Koli, Rohit Saraf, Ahsaas Channa, Navya Nanda, Dolly Singh, Sejal Kumar and more, and workshops and trainings for cohorts of young creators under the #366DaysOfKindness and #YuvaaKindnessChampions campaigns aimed at making the internet a kinder place.

Yuvaa is also a founding member of the Misinformation Combat Alliance, India's first collection of media organisations and independent experts founded specifically to fight misinformation. We're currently working with the US Consulate on a campaign to train a cohort of young aspiring misinformation warriors from Western India in the run-up to the elections.

On plans to continue researching and releasing more insights about Gen Z or other important youth-related topics in the future

Yes, absolutely. Listening to, caring about and deeply, and authentically understanding what the Gen Z think, feel, hope for, aspire to, need, want, is all at the very core of what makes Yuvaa what it is today. As an election year approaches, we are excited about putting together a plan about voting awareness, and hope to be fundamental in helping young people be more aware about their rights in our thriving democracy. We will also certainly keep publishing our flagship #NotAllGenZ report at The Collab each year, and hope to put out specific reports on binge-ing habits of young people, on gender, on mental health and more, periodically too.