An invited delegate at Global Startup Youth, Climate Leader at Climate Reality and International Delegate (2012 & 2013) at World Business Dialogue all at the young age of 22, the story of Ankur Thkuria is a great example of the modern Indian youth. A student of NIFT, Bangalore, Ankur started up CapmusWriting, a platform for youth to share emotions and thoughts without having to share their identity. Ankur is also a passionate traveler and has traveled to 34 countries so far at such an early stage of his life.
In his exclusive conversation with LifeBeyondNumbers, Ankur Thakuria shares his journey, accomplishments, about CampusWriting and lots more…
The Story of Ankur Thakuria
I grew up in a small township of Oil India Limited in upper reaches of Assam; growing up with only engineers and doctors around, I soon realized that I wanted to do something different than the general career options people take up. As the years passed by I got interested in community work. A break-through came in the form of being a finalist at Tera Quiz 2008 (telecast on Discovery Channel; shortlisted among 64 from over 7 lac students across India and Middle East that year), and I began actively participating to spread awareness among the masses about Climate Change. It was back in the 10th grade itself that I also started volunteering for ‘Foundation for a Drug-Free World’ and later became an educator for the campaign and till date have addressed over 3-4 thousand youth across India about the ‘Truth about Drugs’ and helped them decide to stay off it.
In the quest of wanting to be different from the children around me I began my first start-up (here4teens.webs.com) based around teenage years back in 8th grade. Well, it was unsuccessful but it taught me a great deal of lesson and gave me the perseverance and patience to wait for the results of my efforts in my present StartUp (CampusWriting).
I also have been a government youth diplomat at the G20 Summit 2011, Cannes. I was among the 8 shortlisted youth from across the globe picked by the French Presidency to present the youth perspective to the 25 participating World Leaders including President Obama, Manmohan Singh as well as Nicholas Sarkozi among others, during the 2 days and numerous rounds of conferences at the Summit.
And finally I have been a delegate/speaker at some of the most renowned youth conventions like the Harvard Conference, World Business Dialogue and Education without Borders. I was also trained by Al Gore in June 2013 in Istanbul as the youngest Climate Leader in India. To summarize, I have been to 36 countries till date and I want to visit every single country in the World in 10-15 years down the line; I believe in the fact that my father always stressed upon, the practical knowledge that we gain while on the road is worth much more than the scores of books that we browse through. Exploring cultures and learning from people from different parts of the globe inspires me and that helps me give back to the society.
Inception of CampusWriting
I registered the domain back in July 2011, not to build a start-up but as a personal blog and I was looking forward to it; but was like only a month when I realized that I cannot really keep writing every day. But what if I want to post something every day? That’s when the idea popped up. How about we give others a platform to write upon? Why would they write for us? And that is when I defined the USP for CampusWriting.com; we will allow them to pour their hearts out without having to tell the world who they are and we will take their stories to millions of youth across the nation.
We launched this model of CampusWriting.com after a shot beta version in January 2012 and we got a response that we had never even thought about. Although being a new kind of service in the market, it did take some time to seep into the crowd; but once people came to know of the website, posts started pouring in and so did the comments of people connecting with similar experiences. We got our first million hit in one single month in the August of 2012 and since then the monthly hits has been about 1.2-1.7 million. Today we have seen over 5 million unique IPs registered on the site since its inception.
Coming onto the personal stats, we are present in over 1000 institutions across the country and have over 300 ambassadors actively taking the word forward. We have also been into tie-ups and collaborations with BITS Goa, NLUI Bhopal, MNIT Bhopal and SPSU Udaipur among several others.
CampusWriting – The Concept
The simplest words to describe CampusWriting would be, ‘the tool to give voice to one’s emotions’. In the ever increasing stress of human lives, it is necessary that we give vent to the experiences and the emotions that affect us from within; be it love, sex or even drugs; there are topics that are considered a taboo in most parts of Indian society. As such most of it is left unsaid. And that is where we come in; we give the platform for youth to speak out without having to share their identity and for them to connect with shared experiences to gain motivation from others’ lives.
Besides me as the founder, the team of CampusWriting consists of Daniya Faisal from NIFT Bangalore who is our design head, looks after the UI/UX of the website and also the social media outreach. We have a small team of regional heads who take care of the 9 outreach centers of CampusWriting (these are standalone centers who have the same motive as CampusWriting and have been set-up to cater to the increased demand in 9 cities as a pilot project in early 2012). And finally we have our team of the editors and checkers who make sure that true and deep expressions hit the site every time (we prefer to keep their identities behind the scenes).
Read Ankur’s experience of meeting the Nobel Peace Prize winner
Meeting Malala: An Experience I Will Cherish Forever
CampusWriting.com today has seen millions of youth across the country pour their hearts out and connect with experiences to gain motivation in their lives. With the ambassadors spreading the messages and alliances with more and more colleges, CampusWriting.com has been seen as chief literary sponsors/partners at some of the biggest college fests in the country; Antaragni (IIT Kanpur), Panache (SPSU Udaipur).
In just over a year and a half, CampusWriting has seen 1000+ posts from lives of youth across the nation and some of the most hushed up topics in the society. It has given the platform of free speech of emotions to the country’s youth.
Our immediate next step in the journey is to compile a book with some of the most pressing and well-portrayed experiences to reach out to more people and to share the expressions so that it affects more and more people and that it helps more and more youth connect and ‘Give voice to their Emotions’.
When something born out of your interest turns into a company, it is not really easy to say where we see it 5-10 years down the line; it’s because we try to improve the company and its offerings every day. How we can reach more people and how we can make the experience better is our word of thought every single day.
Just about a month away from our second anniversary and we have the task of compiling some of the most influential works that were submitted to the site in the last 18-20 months. And we look forward to having the book published by the first half of the coming year. Our goal would always be to reach every single youth in the country and make them aware of the platform as we believe that in today’s times, it is necessary to vent out our emotions and give voice to them to combat the resulting stress and other problems.
The Challenges and Learning
One of my biggest hurdles was to get people on board who believed in the cause as I did. And yes team building is one of the most common hurdles in the startup journey. Next was acquiring the minimum funds required to get the idea on stage; approaching people and crowdsourcing, with utter determination and patience, this hurdle was crossed. And finally, after a bit of growth, the biggest challenge I faced was to have the stability; how to maintain the web traffic month after month; how to get the posts continually each month.
One thing which it taught me was; if we want to change something in the world, we need to be ready to struggle all along the journey. I wanted to change the way emotions are bottled up in our society; and for that I have to struggle in getting the people to believe in the idea, getting the idea out to the people and to continually improve the service.