“I am a very big believer of personal stories and how they can change your life”

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22 year old Divyanshu Damani from Kolkata is a social media influencer and an inspiration to the youth. His engaging video blogs on YouTube have gained him a massive 10 million views, and a 200,000-strong subscriber base. An entrepreneur, ardent traveler and adventure junkie, Damani has been a TedX speaker, and experience which he says, made him see the impact of his work. But, being an influencer wasn’t always a part of his plan. It was a ‘spur of the moment’ decision. The goal was always to share thoughts, and bring different perspectives to people of his age group primarily. In a candid conversation with Damani, he tells us about the change he would like to bring to society, the reason behind his strong following, and his message for aspiring influencers –

1. Your vlogs deviate from the norms that we’ve observed from other influencers, why is that?

Whatever content I release, happens to be very personal and a lot of thought process is attached to it. There is a lot of fresh and new perspectives that I bring out through my content in whatever topic I choose. I was never intentionally looking to become a fashion influencer or a travel influencer – there was no specific genre. What I wanted to do was to share my thoughts onto a much wider platform. Therefore, I read a lot, which made me build content with different perspectives of looking and experiencing life differently. This is the reason why I believe my content is deviated from the norms per se and that’s how the content grew and slowly and surely I started creating more content and it evolved in itself, but the core influence behind creating content was me sharing my thoughts on a much wider platform and never did I look at any norms per se.

2. What inspired you to become a youth influencer?

There was no plan as such that I had to become a youth influencer and ‘this and this’ are the steps and processes I need to follow. It was a very spur of the moment decision where I started creating content. I was always a leader while in school or in college and I use to share my ideas and thoughts on those platforms. But, now I wanted to take it to the next level. SO, I started creating vlogs and posted my first video, which got a lot of appreciation and engagement from different kinds of people. After that one thing led to the other and eventually I started creating more and more content and as a result different universities and schools, various platforms started to invite me to share my thoughts on their platform and it was a journey that turned me into a youth influencer, so to speak. The plan or the goal was never to become a youth influencer. In fact the goal was always to share thoughts and bring different perspectives to people of my age group primarily and that’s how I started to push inspiration further as I saw the result and the impact. That’s it how it was an Action-Inspiration-Action loop that led to what I am today.

3. What is your experience like being on huge platforms such as TedX?

I still remember going for my first TedX, my first speaking engagement on such a massive platform. I was travelling in the car with Guru Gurangadasji from ISKON and it was a two hour drive from the Airport to the accommodation. On reaching there, I happened to tell Guruji that, exactly six months back I was in an organisation where I was at the other end of the spectrum -I was inviting speakers to come to my college and give lectures and share their experiences and thoughts. But, now I’m on the other side of the table where they are calling me and I can see my face on a billboard and all over the college. So, it was a very surreal moment and Guruji happened to tell a particular line that stuck in my head, he said, “Divyanshu, welcome to the celebrity life!” and the car entered the hotel and everyone was standing with a garland to welcome us. It was all very surreal that way and it definitely did impact me strongly. When people came and told me that they’ve been watching my content and were so closely associated with it, that’s when I could feel the real impact happening and I could interact with people face to face, because on social media you can only see numbers and you can’t see the impact. Overall, it was a surreal experience.

4. If you could change one thing about society, what would it be and why?

One thing that I would like to change is mindlessness, that is, people not thinking about what their actions are or what they wish to do. For example, Plato had said, one of the things that we really need to do to actually lead a very fulfilled life is – THINK. We as human beings, we don’t think. We take decisions based on, whether or not we should go with the flow, while we don’t really put our heads to it. Most people won’t think about their interests because that requires effort and also because they are lazy enough to not actually put the effort in to think. That’s the thing that really needs to be done if we want to change in the society.

5. You were very vocal about the response towards the ‘Kamlesh’ video. What do you think must be done to filter out such insensitive content?

Like I have said earlier, every single person has a responsibility and whether you have 50 or 5000 friends on Facebook, you have a responsibility as to whatever you are sharing. No one shares an insensitive video where a kid is indulging in drugs. Instead they share memes on that. Therefore, the real problem doesn’t make it into the limelight and doesn’t go viral. Thus, people are misinformed and the true essence of the documentary is lost. That is why it is imperative that people take responsibility when it comes to the content that they are sharing. That’s how I think that filtering out comes from you and me. You need to go and see what exactly is being shared on your newsfeed and if that content is really changing the mindset of the people in your friend group, or whether it’s leading them to think about something in a very different way. You are the best decision maker and that’s how we can filter out the irrelevant content.

6. To what do you credit such a strong subscriber base?

The content is there but I particularly credit my subscriber base to the unique personal touch that I can get through in my content. It’s about the uniqueness, the personal perspective that I can bring with the different kinds of experiences. Something that people can relate to a lot and that readability creates that sense of trust, that sense of “Yes!” We felt that way and had that experience and this is the best way to look at that experience. For example, overcoming the fear of public speaking, where for me standing on the stage at the finals of the debate and I was talking about the Bhopal Gas tragedy. It being a serious issue, I made a mistake – I stammered and said “Gopal” instead of “Bhopal.” Naturally, when I said something like that people started laughing. What I mean to say is, things like these happen to everyone. Everyone who goes up on the stage can make a mistake like this. Once I say something like that, people can relate with that too. But how you actually take that as an experience and use it to your best extent to improve whatever skill sets you have as an individual. That’s where I feel I can really relate with people and I can really connect with them on a personal level.

7. Tell us a little about your talk show and what do you hope to achieve from it.

I am a very big believer of personal stories and how stories can actually change your life. If you listen to the right story, it can absolutely change your life and perspective on how you look at things. But, to get those stories from all these inspiring individuals around us and to a much wider audience base that I have – means  that people get to know them more personally, instead of watching or listening in from social media. They connect on a personal level with the individuals on the show – who in turn showcase a diverse profession set. So, I just don’t want people to get stuck with the cliché things, coming back once again to – mindlessness. You could be more mindful if you are more aware of the things happening around you – and just like that, you can pursue the options that you want! For example, I got India’s youngest mountaineer and talked about her journey. Now, if someone is an aspiring mountaineer or even if they have the slightest hunch that they can become a mountaineer and they go and watch that particular episode, they will have a good understanding about the kind of effort that needs to go into and the kind of training, experience that their aspirations will need. So, it’s not just dependant whether the person has got a monetary backing, but it also has a unique reason. Personally, I really like to talk to people and that makes my flow in the Talk Show, much smoother.

8. What is your message to someone aspiring to an influencer such as yourself.

My message would be really simple – You should become an “influencer.” Then, you’ve got to start sharing your thoughts and ideas. If you’ve got 500 friends, then, using “live” feature on your social media handles, you should share your thoughts on whatever topic is trending across the country, whatever you feel strongly about. Once you start doing that, then slowly and surely, people will start connecting with you and you will get the right kind of audience for your content. Even from a personal branding point of view, everyone has got an opportunity to do at it with the tools that they need – right at their fingertips! Finally, it all boils down to this – Start using all these tools and it will absolutely change the kind of opportunities you get and how you approach life.