Do you remember an Indian Army recruitment campaign that went along the lines of “Do you have it in you”? Then, during the Kargil War of 1999, the late Captain Vikram Batra raised this to a new peak with his oft-repeated quote: “Yeh dil maange more”.
In a world filled with cynicism, few stand tall to carve their own path to success with courage, determination, and grit. In the case of Supriya Paul, 26, the CEO and co-founder of the hugely successful “Josh Talks” show on YouTube, her father’s dictum when she was 13 that there is no place for mediocrity in this world has kept her going and overcoming disappointments like not being able to enter a Delhi University college of choice.
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“He told me irrespective of whatever I choose to do in life, if I am not the best person to do it, then I will be replaced. After hearing those words, my life’s mission was to become irreplaceable. My father’s advice stayed with me throughout my entrepreneurial journey as well. Every time we pilot a new project or build a new product, that is the spirit that I approach it with. Even though it took me some time to convince my parents that I wanted to work on building ‘Josh Talks’ full-time, I am grateful to have such a strong support system in them who always have my back,” Paul told IANS in an interview.
She has more than justified the faith reposed in her.
“While we started with one YouTube Hindi channel in October 2017, we have expanded to 10 languages including Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi, Punjabi, Odia, Kannada, and English. We recently crossed one billion total views across all our channels and have a dedicated community of 11.5-plus million subscribers. In the last six years, we have released over 2,500 Talks online and conducted 1,500-plus events (including workshops) offline,” Paul said.
She has now taken the show to the next level with “All You Need Is Josh” (Bloomsbury), a book that relates the stories of 30 unique individuals across India who have it in them: the aspiring astrophysicist who wanted to walk on the moon; the first person with a disability to top the civil services examinations; the domestic help who is now a published author; the army officer who amputated his own leg; the transgender woman who was expelled from her house; the Dalit child bride who now runs a business worth Rs1,000 crores, and many more.
Filled with anecdotes and life-changing missives, these stories are a reminder that it does not matter the circumstances into which one is born – what matters most is having the josh to overcome all odds and chase your dreams.
Little wonder then that Paul has been named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Asia in 2018, and “Josh Talks” has been awarded the National Media Award by President Ramnath Kovind along with being named one of 2018’s Top 100 startups by Economic Times and Sutra HR.
How did she select the 30 individuals whose stories have been featured in the book?
“We (Paul and co-founder Shobit Banga) have been bringing inspiring stories to our audience for the past six years. So far, we have recorded over 4,000 stories from across India. Our in-house research team picks individuals whose life journeys are extraordinary and can offer impactful takeaways to our audience so that they can become do and be more in their lives as well. The book contains stories that stood out the most amongst them. These individuals come from diverse backgrounds, and their Talks are some of the highest viewed on our channels. We wanted these stories to reach every household in India and decided to curate them in this book,” Paul explained.
Following the dictum that stories “have the power to create phenomenal social change”, Paul said the “Josh” stories “are different from the usual inspiring stories that are online because we make an effort to identify speakers that our audience can relate to. More importantly, we don’t just focus on their achievements but also their failures. We also try to include actionable tips and clear pathways for our audience to adapt and learn from”.
The common theme of the individuals in the book is that they have overcome incredible failures to make something of their lives. Does she remember her first failure? What role does she think failures play in life?
“I remember my first failure; it was when I was 17 years old. I couldn’t make the cut for my dream college, Shri Ram College of Commerce. In my desperate attempt to be the best at everything, this is the place where I thought I had lost. Even though I did get into Sri Venkateswara College, which was also among the top colleges, I couldn’t help but be thoroughly immersed in what I thought was my failure.
“However, after several months of feeling sorry for myself, I realized that fixating on my failure was the worst thing I could ever do to myself. So, I pushed hard towards what I wanted to achieve. I don’t believe that failures are the opposite of success; they are just a part of it. And, in order to fully appreciate your success, it is important to have the same attitude towards your struggles as well,” Paul elaborated.
“Josh Talks” has also expanded from being a content-first platform to a product-focused organization with the Josh Skills app. How did this happen?
“As the viewership for our Talks grew, we realized it was important for us to build more tools and products that would create not only social but also economic value for our audience. We wanted to address the more pressing challenges faced by the youth in India today, such as limited access to career information, lack of relevant skill sets, and unemployability.
“In 2020, we launched the Josh Skills app, which offers short-term and affordable technical courses and important soft skills to upskill the youth in Tier II and III cities in India. Keeping our mission of unlocking human potential as the guiding light, we are committed to developing more such tools and products to serve Bharat. Through Josh Skills we want to be the bade bhaiya (elder brother) that our audience needs and help people improve their lives by building an ecosystem that stays with them through the entire journey from inspiration to action,” Paul said.
The Josh Skills app has 1.5 million downloads and over 150,000. paid users learning critical soft skills from Tier-II cities and beyond.
The timing of the book’s release – in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic – couldn’t be more appropriate.
“When we decided on the launch date of our book, we had, of course, never anticipated the crisis that we as a country would be grappling with today. However, we decided not to push (back) the release date because we believe that in current times, the need for us to have faith and josh is crucial. I would also like to share that ‘Josh’ Talks will be donating the royalty that it receives from the book towards COVID relief efforts in India. So I would like to urge all readers to go and order their copy of the book right away and help us spread some josh when India really needs it the most,” Paul concluded. (IANS/KB)