Meet Nikhil Taneja, a man dedicated to spreading mental health awareness in India, and someone who is responsible for lending a voice to the powerful Gen Z through his creative organisation, Yuvaa.
“If you’re a human being, you have a story. If you have a story, you must say it out”
I guess you could say that Nikhil is one of the very few millennials who are genuinely curious and non-discriminatory towards today’s youth and their ideologies. Nikhil Taneja is a Mumbai-based writer, entrepreneur, advisor and film producer who has worked for movies like Stupid Cupid, Man’s World, Ladies Room and Bang Baaja Baaraat, among many others. Out of all the things he does and is, he, most importantly, is a mental health advocate and storyteller at his heart’s core.
Nikhil Taneja is the co-founder and CEO Of Yuvaa, an entertainment platform devised to shine a light on the silenced, yet powerful voices of Gen Z. Generation Z, abbreviated as Gen Z, is a blossoming term used to classify people born anywhere from 1997 to 2012, aka the changemakers of the society today.
He has a B.Tech degree in Computer Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Kurukshetra. During his time in college, he won several awards for cultural and literary competitions and also created and edited the first in-house humour-driven campus magazine called ‘Graffiti’ where he led a team of 20 people.
The Impact of Gen Z in India
It’s safe to say that most of India’s population consists of Gen Z, with about 50% of India being saturated with people younger than the age of 25. This newer generation is expected to change the world in multifaceted ways to make it a better place for generations to come.
Today’s youth will look past the aggravating myths and assumptions and the wild superstitions to make sure we live in a society that is more inclusive than it has ever been. However, this generation can be overpowered quite easily as well, and even today, their voices continue to be shut down in an instant.
But, we need to make sure that Gen Z never refrains from voicing out the opinions that would represent the totality of our youth’s voices. After all, youngsters are the changemakers.
As part of Yuvaa, Nikhil has travelled to over 30 cities in India and 100 campuses to talk about gender, and mental health, and do what he’s amazingly talented at– storytelling. He believes in the impact of stories and how they have the absolute power to change the world for good.
What Nikhil wants to achieve through Yuvaa?
We’re all living in a digitally driven world and as Gen Z grew up, it did so along with its dearest counterpart– the internet. This indeed makes the generation notably more aware and accepting of the world around them.
In a TEDx talk, Nikhil said, “Many young people are not allowed to have the identities they want, they’re supposed to have the identity their parents and society want. Millennials were scared of ‘log kya kahenge’ whereas this generation is worried about ‘parents kya kahenge.’” And I’m pretty sure we all would unanimously agree with this statement.
“We’re trying to make young people less alone with our content,” he says. And I think there’s nothing better than a platform like this for today’s generation. Yuvaa cares about you. Yes, you. The future of our country. It cares about women and gender equality, self-expression, kindness, empathy, inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community, and so much more. Yuvaa feels like that warm cup of coffee after a painfully stormy day.
Nikhil calls it a purpose-driven youth media company and firmly believes in the extraordinary power of representation that digital media holds. Hence, Yuvaa was created in 2018 with one goal in mind– “to make every young Indian feel less alone by making them feel more heard, more seen and more represented through research, content, campus activations and purpose-led campaigns.”
Nikhil, with the help of Yuvaa, has reached out to over 200 colleges and campuses all over India to listen to the stories of more than 10,000 young people who were waiting to be heard, loud and clear; and their work is based on tens of thousands of such stories.
Their official website says, “As the years have gone by, Yuvaa has explored its potential in all forms possible. Whether it is collaborative projects with Meta, Amazon miniTV, UNICEF, YouTube, Spotify or purposeful initiatives like ‘The Therapy project’, or ‘Let’s Talk Consent’ with Tinder, we have grown in our reach and the impact we wish to create.”
Just recently, in December 2022 he hosted a Yuvaa panel called ‘YUVAA ALL STARS PANEL’ where guests like Prajakta Koli, Ahsaas Channa, and Gajraj Rao were invited over to talk have a chat about social media addiction, discipline, learnings, failures, and so much more.
Nikhil won the Goalkeepers Youth Action Accelerator Award in 2019 for his exceptional work on documenting the mental health and identity issues of Gen Z in India.
Importance of Mental Health Awareness in India
The interpretation of mental health in India couldn’t be far off from the original and most of the Indian population, especially the older generation, has got it all twisted.
In a country like India, it’s especially easy to feel alone even in the commotion of a billion people. Mental health issues being disregarded and labelling people who are going through them as “crazy and overreacting” couldn’t be more of a step down for our country. They just want somebody to listen to them. And it’s not hard to just listen, is it?
We’d just like to give massive props to Nikhil for dedicating his entire platform to the future voices of our country and for doing such a remarkable job of offering a creative stage for our youth to express themselves freely without the fear of being subjects of scrutiny; and also for them to have something so personal and lively to relate to. After all, what are we without powerful entertainment? Just blobs of lifelessness.