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Facebook Got Competition? Check Out This Hindi Social Networking Site That’s Aiming Big

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By Komal Nathani:

amitesh mishra shabdanagari finalPossessing an idea of Hindi interface, IIT Mumbai Alumnus Amitesh Mishra entrenched a long-awaited platform in the world of web. The young engineering scholar gave up lucrative job offers and made way to an avenue where he could chase his dream. With his vigorous team-mates, Amitesh created one of India’s first Hindi social networking site – Shabdanagari.in, which in no time has garnered more than 5000 users.

With paramount passion and with a desire to create an innovative change in the arena of social networking, the young impassioned engineering scholars laid all their efforts to reach to their dream of connecting 65 crore people together on a Hindi interface.

Shabdanagari.in provides a platform which is extremely easy for anyone to use. “You type in English it’ll get translated into Hindi,” said Nitin Tripathi (Digital Marketing and Production head of Shabdanagari).

In an interview with Shabdanagari team, Amitesh Mishra (CEO and a social entrepreneur of Trident Analytical Solutions) sheds light on his entrepreneurial career and shares his wonderful experiences working with his team on his dream idea.

What went through your mind in 2011, when you left your job with a renowned I.T giant and came back to your hometown (Kanpur) to initiate Shabdanagari, an idea that you probably thought of during college?

A few of my friends and I once thought of programming a site while I was pursuing M.Tech in IIT-Bombay which should strictly be a Hindi interface. We always wanted to begin something new in the web world also which hasn’t been analyzed yet but has an exigency in today’s scenario. So, after intense research by joining SIIC (SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre) in 2011, we set off with an aim of creating a Hindi social networking interface and launched Shabdanagari.

What triggered you to programme a social networking site in Hindi despite the fact that today’s youth are more indulged in the hashtag trend in English?

Well, for that matter firstly, I would say Hindi is our national language and it shouldn’t be neglected. Secondly, what we primarily observed is, if people want to ask in Hindi “how are you?” they probably choose to write- “kaise ho?” This is of course because the keyboard is in English. So we thought why not change that completely. You type it in your own way and after pressing space bar, the word will be translated into Hindi.

How did you decide the site’s name? ‘Shabdanagari’ is very much akin to the word ‘devanagri’. Is that how you kept its name?

Yes, you can say that. At the time of the launch, we all were thinking that it’s a Hindi social networking site, thereby, the name should also be in Hindi and that too different. Then one of our team-mate Rajat suggested Shabdanagari. And it’s certainly simple and quite easy to learn and speak. So, this is how we got the name to our website.

Who supported you in making your small idea to a big national product in the market? Did you face any sort of obstructions in the avenue of meeting the people’s expectations?

Of course, Shabdanagari is not just my initiative, we have a team of around 10 members, who buckle down and put all their efforts for the organization’s work. Besides, SIIC (SIDBI Innovation and Incubation Centre) of IIT-Kanpur supported our initiative in financial terms. More so, IIT-Mumbai also appreciated our idea and supported us.

Well, obstructions are pretty apparent in an avenue when you’re leading your dream product. But I believe when you have the support and skills of people with you, it strengthens one in a very different way which is inexplicable.

Therefore, I would like to thank my team, who have been very supportive in each and every situation with me.

How is Shabdanagari different from other social networking sites? Can you briefly describe its special features?

Shabdanagari has got peculiar features which will fascinate young people. It offers blogging, share and search, making a website and other multiple options, but all strictly in Hindi. More so, it’s very easy to work on, there is no complex procedure or language issues which people might face in other sites. It, in a way, eases your communication.

Moreover, to work on Shabdanagari, one doesn’t have to learn Hindi typing to write on it.

How do you see your project from an investment perspective? I mean don’t you think that it fits into the ‘Make in India’ project of PM Narendra Modi?

Yes, surely why not. Shabdanagari has a distinct feel of ‘Make in India’, which can attract anyone, be it foreigners, NRIs, civilians. For us as I.T professionals, it’s more like ‘Make for India’. We, firmly believe that Shabdanagari will do well from the investment perspective as it has Hindi as its quintessential feature.

Does Shabdanagari have any advertisements so far on web, or on T.V or radio?

We launched our first advertisement on YouTube which is basically presenting a small and an easy process as to tell how one can connect with site. We have advertised on the web till now and will do in other mediums shortly.

We have heard that your team is running one more site which is a social media management site known as ‘SOCIOTA’. Would you mind explaining what it is all about?

It’s a social media management site by which you can deal your campaign in a better and in a more dynamic way. Sociota is a product which facilitates that, moreover, it’s more useful for advertisers, campaigners etc. We launched Sociota in 2012, before Shabdanagari.

Is there any advice that you would like to give to young engineering aspirants and young entrepreneurs?

I would just say, always step-up and try. If you have a small idea, don’t lose hope before trying it for once. You never know that someday your small idea might make billions and trillions out of it.

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  1. Raunak Hajela

    Just read few sections but its mind-blowing. Great fan of your work Komal. Keep it up. Love you. 🙂

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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