It was around two years ago that Supriya Paul and Shobhit Banga first thought of setting up a platform to inspire youngsters. The result was Josh Talks, a platform that showcases stories of remarkable people—from diverse fields like entrepreneurship, social activism, stand-up comedy, sports, business, performing arts, etc—and projects in the form of short high-impact talks. “When Shobhit and I started discussing the idea of Josh Talks, I wanted to make it a platform that showcases a variety of career options for someone who is unsure of what to do in life. They can get inspired by people who have made something of themselves by choosing unconventional ideas and paths,” says 23-year-old Paul, a commerce graduate from the University of Delhi, who co-founded Josh Talks in 2014 with Banga, a 22-year-old business management graduate from Lancaster University. Their aim, Paul says, is to inspire young audiences to follow their passion.
Today, Josh Talks has held more than 15 events across the country and will hold its biggest conference so far—Josh Talks LEAP 2016—in the national capital on October 22-23. The line-up of speakers includes film-maker Anurag Kashyap, railway minister Suresh Prabhu, stand-up comedian Papa CJ, Olympian wrestler Babita Kumari, social entrepreneur Arunachalam Muruganantham and cyber security expert Saket Modi, among others. In all, the event will see more than 25 speakers and close to 5,000 attendees. This is in stark contrast to their first event in 2014 when they had just 12 speakers and 300 attendees.
The target audience—usually in the age group of 16-25 years—is always kept in mind while selecting speakers, says Paul. They focus on trending topics—artificial intelligence, education, music, stand-up comedy, arts, etc, currently—and compile a list of 100-200 speakers for every event with the help of about 50 interns from across India. After this, Paul, Banga and the Josh Talks team figure out that ‘one message’ that the audience can take back from the talk. Once they have finalised the message, they get in touch with the chosen speakers. “We ensure that all the talks are rehearsed properly beforehand,” says Paul.
Interestingly, not all speakers chosen are famous personalities. For a recent event in Bengaluru, Josh Talks invited R Umadevi Nagaraj, a world women’s billiards champion and three-time Indian national billiards champion. Despite her achievements, hardly anybody knew about her, says Paul. “She works as a typist in a press agency in Bangalore and practises billiards in the evenings… We try and get such stories (for the audience),” she adds.
Over the past six months, Josh Talks has also been working extensively with enthusiasts in tier II cities and has organised eight events in Jaipur, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Indore till now. While their primary focus is offline events, they are also working to ensure that their online content is promoted and gets more visibility. The ultimate goal, Paul says, is to reach the farthest corners of India. “Our long-term goal is to reach out to audiences in tier II and III cities where exposure is needed badly. Eventually, we want to reach government schools and start inspiring the young at an early age. If we are able to impact them in the right way, we would consider ourselves successful.”