Delhi-based lawyer Gunmeher Juneja (32) was always passionate about singing. But like in many Indian middle-class homes, it was not considered an acceptable career choice. So Juneja chose a career as a lawyer, always wondering where a career in singing would have taken her. Now, thanks to Unlu – a platform which offers live classes and fellowships with industry stalwarts across fields like acting, music and writing – she has got a taste of it over the last few months. “I got to know about Unlu from a friend. I saw they have a paid fellowship for singers too, and that clicked with me,” Juneja said.
Unlu aims to help those who want to perhaps pursue a professional career in the media and entertainment industry. It also wants to spawn a community of creators who can collaborate on projects, and help them monetise their content. “We are trying to create a community of skilled creators, who can collaborate on producing high-value monetisable content. Only 6% of creators are professionally skilled. There is a market opportunity,” Himanshu Periwal, one of the co-founders of Unlu, said.
Unlu doesn’t just offer classes. While classes are the first step, and are mostly pre-recorded, it also provides a more dedicated ‘fellowship’, which is cohort-based. The fellowship too has live classes and pre-recorded content, but the idea is to go deeper and learn about the nuances of a field. While the basic classes can be completed in just two to four weeks, the fellowship is longer, extending up to months, and, of course, more expensive, averaging Rs 20,000 or so.
Unlu claims more than one million registered creators have taken a class on the platform since it started in May 2020. Overall, there are three aspects or layers to Unlu’s operations. There’s the Unlu Class at the base level, followed by the Fellowship, and then there’s the Community, which brings with it “distribution and monetisation” for content created by its students. According to Periwal, about 10 to 20% of creators qualify for the fellowship. “They get trained to understand the functional and technical skills required from them in the industry. We handhold the creators to help them realise their full potential,” he added.
Singing and music production are the areas the company has focused on the most. The experts who take classes include Zaman Khan, Geetika Varde Qureshi, Shibani Kashyap, and Monali Thakur. Juneja pointed out, “the experts have given us critical, practical points on how we can take our singing to the next level.” There are also acting classes by Manoj Bajpayee, a course on writing taught by Ruskin Bond, etc.
Bengaluru-based Kohinoor Batra (20) started the singing fellowship in January. “I might not be looking at a career opportunity, but it has helped me improve, like on how to practise better and express feelings while singing. The teachers also taught us how to present our music professionally,” she said.
Mannik (21), a Chandigarh-based rapper and songwriter, said Unlu allowed him to find an audience, helping him in the release of his music video titled 21. Thanks to the platform’s reach, he has gained 200,000 views on YouTube. “I was already doing music, but was not able to reach a wider audience. Unlu helped me with the production of one of my songs, 21, and promotion, etc,” he said. What he liked most about the platform was the ability to collaborate with others and get “honest feedback from peers”.
Unlu’s founders consider the ‘community’ aspect key to their growth strategy. “Once the creators join the community, it’s more like a LinkedIn equivalent. They get many opportunities to understand what’s happening in the industry. The creator can assess what’s working, and collaborate with others,” Periwal explained. Unlu claims that some of its students have also got opportunities in the film industry, including with Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions.