had always been her passion, so she turned it into her full time profession!
Be it her book 'Almost Whole' (Inspired by her internship experience in an Indian Women's Jail) that came out in 2014 when she was 22 years old, or be it her 2016 initiative 'Wall for Wall' (a public art project), her knack for seeking stories and sharing them with the world is something that seems to have always been her calling. Meet Kopal Khanna, founder of Tape A Tale, a digital crowdsourced story sharing platform. Her brainchild startup is one year old and already has 50 Million views across the internet and 630000 subscribers on Youtube.
In today's exclusive interview, we dissect 'storytelling' and discuss her journey so far as a startup entrepreneur.
Are you better storyteller or a better story seeker?
I feel being a story seeker has in some ways made me a better storyteller. So, both are codependent. The way people express emotions, write about things that matter to them, structure their stories, perform on stage has definitely inspired me to tell my stories. I guess that’s why my story came out only after a full year of me curating stories. It was a huge learning process for me as well.
Which do you think is more important for your job?
If you ask me which one is more important for my job, I’d say being a better story seeker is more crucial but being a performer really helps me understand that process better. For instance, when I wrote and performed my first story, I finally realized what it feels like when someone gives you feedback on your personal stories, what a performer feels moments before his/her performance or when a video is put on in public. It made me grow as a story seeker too.
Do you think storytelling has evolved over the years? How so?
For sure, I think storytelling has evolved in beautiful ways and is now re-evolving. Stories are timeless. If I put out a story today on my channel, it will still be relevant 20 years later for a group of people but what’s magical is the way people are accepting various forms of storytelling in the digital space too now. That age old traditional style of storytelling has been repackaged to fit the requirements of the current digital savvy world.
Why do you think people want to share their stories with strangers?
I think there are three real reasons, one is that sharing a story is a beautiful process of course. You put your feelings out there and you feel relieved - less burdened in some ways. Also, a sense of I am not alone. Second, is the sheer fun of it. Getting on stage and performing in the front of an audience. Third, my least favorite but true nevertheless, to get recognized and to go “viral”...I do get a lot of stories from people who want to put out their stories on YT because of those reasons. I think this should always be a byproduct of your story - not the main reason why you tell it to the world.
What’s the best & worst part of being an entrepreneur?
There are a lot of pros and cons, honestly and the best and worst keep changing from time to time. Right now, the best part for me is just that I absolutely love what I do. Despite the crazy amount of work, uncertainties about the future, I know that right now, I am exactly where I want to be. The worst part for me right now is the waiting period. There are long, long periods where you are just pumping in your energy and efforts and you don’t get anything in return. It really teaches you patience but there are days that can get really frustrating too.
A common misconception people have about startups?
I think it’s the idea that people who start up are their own bosses and have so much freedom. I say this because I thought so too before I actually got into it. To a certain degree and in a certain way, it’s true but honestly, if you are fully responsible for a company's well being, you can’t do a lot of things you’d want to do and you are more “Tied down” than “free”. For instance, I love travelling to remote locations without connectivity, I used to do that almost every weekend before Tape A Tale happened, this past one year, I haven’t done it even once. It’s the same for getting weekends off - you just have to be doing what you need to be doing because no one will be there to do it for you.
Your highest high & lowest low so far?
My lowest low has definitely been the first 3-4 months of my journey with TAT. I feel you suddenly lose sense of what you are doing - and if what you are doing, is the right thing for you to do. You know there is no regular salary coming in for a long time, you believe in the idea but you really don’t know if others will believe in it too, you question a lot of things and decisions - I remember feeling so anxious and unsure. That takes a toll over a lot of things because there aren’t many people around you who get this. Usually, I am a very confident person but that phase was something else. Slowly, you start focussing on the positive things though so that brings me to the highest high, which are plenty and they always come in the smallest of moments - like when someone tells you how a story impacted them positively how or telling their story healed them or those nights when I go to bed thinking, "ah, I found the thing I absolutely love doing".
Be honest to your writing and your narration, and you’ll never go wrong.
- Kopal Khanna
Tips on not letting either of the above get to your head?
It’s the idea that everything is temporary. In Shakespeare’s words, ‘this too shall pass’. If you understand that, nothing will ever feel like the lowest or the highest high because there will always be a lower and higher waiting to hit you.
Guessing you’ve experienced ageism, how do you handle it?
All the time, but the idea is that people will always have opinions about you - some are valuable and you must accept them and work on them, whereas, some just come from a place of ignorance and lack of understanding. You need to learn to differentiate between the two. I genuinely think “Age doesn’t matter” - if you are 18 or 80, just follow your heart. Also, always remember you are here because you worked your ass off to be here. Don’t let anyone make you question yourself.
Any suggestions to tackle stage fright?
Spend time on stage. I feel the only way to deal with any fear is to face it. I’ve goofed up on stage so many times - I’ve been made fun of, scolded by teachers in school, forgotten lines, frozen, got the jitters - but the idea is you just gotta keep doing it and it gets better. I remember being so nervous before narrating chase your dreams even though I am so comfortable being on TAT’s stage. I felt like I had a lot of pressure on me. If I screwed up, it would be so awkward because I am usually the person guiding people - I remember, one of our storytellers walked up to me 30 seconds before I went on stage and told me, “You look so nervous, just feel the moment when the story happened and you’ll be just fine.” And I was!
The key to being a good storyteller?
Honesty. Be honest to your writing and your narration and you’ll never go wrong.
What does the word Badass mean to you?
Being comfortable in your own skin.
Some Badass women who inspire you?
Ellen Degeneres, Meena Soni (worked with her long time back - she is an acid attack survivor and one of the most badass people I know).
You turned your passion into a successful business. How can others make a living out of their dreams?
Hehe, not sure if my business is successful yet but sure, it’s a relative term. I think it’s the way you approach things - if in your head, you think you like doing something and there is a way to earn out of it - there must be. But you need to learn how to look at things in the long term - if you want immediate results, very rarely will you get them. There was a point where I was working two part time jobs and doing TAT work - it seemed like I was a mess. There was never a moment in my day when I did not have work - but that was important for me to pay my bills and live in a city like Mumbai. I am also very very lucky to have always found jobs that matched my schedule, people who were willing to come on board and believe in the idea, have decent savings from my previous job, an understanding family and so on - so a lot of credit goes to those things but the idea here is to be consistent with what you are doing and practice patience.