One woman is raped every 30 minutes in India, a women dies every hour due to dowry demands, thousands get killed in the name of religion and 50,000 youngsters commit suicide every year. But we still take pride in our culture where we raise slogans on women empowerment and then rape them, watch porn in the Parliament but ban it on the Internet, believe in secularism but demolish our own mosques and temples. We are Indians, a bunch of unpolished hypocrites living on false ideologies.
If we Indians were not hypocrites, we could have been living in a society which was more transparent, adaptive, inclusive and open towards societal issues. There has been a staggering rise in the number of teenage pregnancies due to lack of sex education in the country. Youngsters are committing suicide because of problems related to failed relationships, deception, betrayal, social and sexual exploitation, education, jobs and health. But are we taking preventive actions? Can we tell our parents not to impose their choice of career upon us? Can we discuss masturbation in public? Will we refuse to getting married to a stranger? This answer is a ‘No’ for most of us.
Vivek Satya Mitram has decided to change this status quo through his startup AdviceAdda — an online advice portal which offers free expert advice to youth and teenagers on everything through a panel of experts, which includes doctors, psychologists, gynaecologists, career counsellors, sexologists, beauty experts and many more. The identities of people seeking advice are always kept anonymous. Hence, one can boldly come forward and fearlessly share the troubles.
The readers are provided with an expert’s advice within a time frame of 24 hours, wherein they can also read about the background of the expert who has given advice on a particular question.
Is sex taboo?
“I was always told to get a glass of water every time there was a condom or contraceptive pill ad on television because sex has always been a taboo in India. I was curious to know but never had the courage to ask anyone because of the fear of being judged. Hence, I went through a lot of issues being a teenager myself,” shares Mitram, the Founder Editor of AdviceAdda.
In his initial years, he was the editor of his college magazine and used to write under a ghost name because his father never wanted him to become a writer. Instead, he dreamt of Mitram being an Indian Administrative Service Officer (IAS). “I had age on my side; hence, I gave the journalism test for Indian Institute of Mass Communication and got through the premier college. I started working with Sahara Samay and within a month I was appearing on TV. All my relatives liked it, along with my father,” he adds.
After working with news organisations such as PTI, Sahara Samay, Star News, India News and NWS in various capacities including Output Head, Assignment Editor and Channel Head, Mitram started realising that he wanted to do something that would impact the lives of millions.
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After much research, he realised that the country hasn’t got a single platform where the youth can visit and discuss his/her dilemmas, confusions, curiosities and problems and get advice. This gave rise to AdviceAdda, which is the first step towards solving the problems of the Indian youth and teenagers and making their lives better.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of suicides, depression, teenage pregnancies, and porn addiction amongst Indian youngsters and teenagers which has brought a major void in their lives. Most of their time is spent in the pretentious world of the Internet and they have no one they can talk to when they are in trouble and seek help from them. In such situations these youngsters tend to take wrong decisions and ruin their lives. AdviceAdda works as a trusted friend where you can share all major or minor problems that you cannot share with anybody else,” he says.
The website gets 1,50,000 hits per month with active users in the age group 16 to 28 years. The maximum number of queries come for education and career followed by relationships and sex. The startup gets 90 per cent of its traffic from India and the rest 10 per cent from Spain, US, Canada and other countries.
On being asked about the competition, Priyanka Tiwari, the Content Developer of AdviceAdda, says that the platform offers unique content across categories. “There are websites offering counselling on particular issues, but AdviceAdda is the only platform offering a one-stop solution for all the problems. Apart from that, we do not charge the users and preserve their anonymity, which is a differentiating factor,” she explains.
Can we stop being a hypocrite?
Mitram states that the entire idea of AdviceAdda revolves around dealing with every thing that creates curiosity, dilemma and problem in the minds of youth and teens, and obviously sex is a big part of it. “But when we started responding to our reader’s queries around sexual health, puberty, masturbation, teenage pregnancies, there were a lot of people who started opposing our content. It was surprising because we got more hits on the stories related to such so called ‘indecent content’. Then we realised, it’s nothing but ‘hypocrisy’ that prevails in our society,” he said.
Hence, the campaign #NotAHypocrite on social media was the first step towards making people realise that if they stop being hypocrites, they can easily handle the problems that they hide behind their hypocrisy. Devendra Gore, the Social Media Executive and the flag-bearer of the campaign shares that within a few days of the launch, the campaign became a huge hit and was shared by millions on social media.
Is it a bumpy ride?
The startup has its own set of challenges. Bringing experts on the panel has been difficult for the company. “We are bootstrapped and cannot afford to hire more people, hence the lack of funds is also a challenge for us,” Mitram explains.
Plans for expansion
The startup is going to launch an app soon to expand its reach. “We will be launching in other vernacular languages with a major focus on Hindi. We want to create a video-advice platform on YouTube and engage with more and more experts. In future, we will also launch a print version,” Mitram concludes.