We know that a good story can have a big impact on someone’s life. Stories inspire us in many ways and a great storyteller can play a big part in how the story resonates with the audience.
Tape A Tale believes that everyone in this world has a story and this business is providing a platform for everyone who wants to share their story with others. At Tape A Tale you are not alone, people find a sense of belonging in this community. Founded in 2017, it has worked with a number of brands like Zomato, Tinder, Bumble, etc.
Team Sociobits had a chance to connect with Mr. Ali Hussen, co-founder of Tape A Tale to know the story of the storytelling platform they formed in India.
Team Sociobits: Would you share a little about all the co-founders and tell us how did you become a part of Tape A Tale?
Co-Founder: We are three co-founders, Kopal Khanna, Ali Hussen, and Utkarsh Mehrotra. Kopal was working for an NGO in the United States and that is where she got the idea from. She felt that this was something worth pursuing so she came back to India and started working on it in 2016. Tape A Tale was officially launched in 2017.
How I decided to join the journey of Tape A Tale is funny and also cinematic. Tape A Tale was Kopal’s idea and Utkarsh was my best friend. Before I started with Tape A Tale, I had another startup called Rentpitara and after three years, I had to shut that down. After some time of shutting down my company, I felt that I need a purpose to move forward in my life. So, one day I was sitting with Utkarsh in front of Shahrukh Khan’s house and I shared with him, “yaar, aisa lagraha hai ki kahi atak gaye hai. Kuch ho nahi raha zindagi mei.” (I feel like we are stuck somewhere and nothing is going right in my life). This was when Utkarsh shared that he and his cousin were working on something similar to an audio library. I found this idea extremely fascinating and was sure that I want to be a part of this.
Utkarsh told me he wanted to consult with his cousin once and they also sent me a story of an Alzheimer’s patient. This story was about the patient realizing for the first time that he was diagnosed with the disease and it was very powerful. I strongly felt that this story should reach as many people as possible. This is when we started our journey with Tape A Tale.
Speaking of what I do personally, you can consider me as someone who has learnt from whatever ‘the-need-of-the-moment’ demands. So, when we started with Tape A Tale, we needed an editor and a designer but we didn’t have the bandwidth to onboard someone professional. So, I started learning these skillsets; I shot our videos, edited them, made creatives, and a lot more. Apart from Tape A Tale, I am also passionate about shooting, directing, and editing music videos and short films.
Team Sociobits: What does Tape A Tale exactly do?
Co-Founder: The idea of Tape A Tale is simple; we believe that everybody in this world has a story to tell and we are trying to provide a platform for those who want to share it with everyone. Anyone who wants to share their story at Tape A Tale doesn’t have to be a professional or someone who is an expert at storytelling.
If you send us a story about anything, maybe your pain, sorrow, a fun incident, or an inspirational story, and we feel that this is something that the world should hear about we will post it on our channel.
There are two ways we generate revenue, one is brand collaboration and the other is from the audience. We get some amount from our sponsors and some amount from our ticket sales. WE DO NOT CHARGE OUR PERFORMERS A PENNY.
We basically share the details about our next event and ask people to send us their stories. From the hundreds of emails that we receive, we choose eight to nine stories and these people get to perform in that event. We also publish these on our YouTube channel, depending on the impact the recorded version will have on the audience. This is because the vibe of a story being performed live and a story in the video format has a different impact on the audience.
There are two ways we generate revenue, one is brand collaboration and the other is from the audience. We get some amount from our sponsors and some amount from our ticket sales.
Originally, we started our website as an audio library where people can listen to stories about how they are feeling. Consequently, we also went on to perform live and adapt the video format. Before starting our live events, we were unsure whether people will pay for attending a storytelling session like ours. We were very scared and imagined the worst thing that could happen but to our surprise the event was houseful and we also got Kunal Kamra to host this event. During our first event, we realized that there is a space or a community who were keen on this.
We also organize a storytelling competition known as ‘Steller’, where we give college students around India a chance to send their stories and we select one storyteller of the year. We would really love to scale this up in the future.
Team Sociobits: How do you choose the storytellers that you want to feature on your platform?
Co-Founder: The choosing process is also simple. After we receive emails from over a hundred storytellers, the first selection round is taken care of by our team members. You don’t have to be an amazing writer or a professional storyteller to send us your story. We feature a lot of first-timers who are trying their hand at storytelling or only have one story that they want to share with the world.
The selected storytellers are then forwarded to Kopal and she does some of the selection and consults with me on ones she is slightly unsure about.
We also make sure that we reply to everyone’s email. We give basic feedback and also suggest where can he/she improve. The number of stories we get on a weekly basis is really unpredictable. Sometimes we are bombarded with many stories and others we are not.
Team Sociobits: How has your journey been so far and how did you feel when your first video went viral?
Co-Founder: When we think about how much we have achieved and there is still so much more, it feels surreal. It is extremely surreal to describe our journey. Before we started Tape A Tale, there was no profession as a storyteller and it was almost a dead art form. Now, it has become a big thing. We see people who have been featured on our channel and are now big names and feel immense pride in it.
During COVID-19, we did a lot of online events and live streams but we don’t think that you get the feel of a live event on a Zoom call. We still conduct Monday Open Mics on Instagram so maximum people get a chance to tell their stories and we randomly select people for this.
Since we were also conducting live events, we thought we should record this and post it on YouTube so that it reaches the maximum audience and YouTube was very big at that time. I remember after three videos, the next video was from Mohammed Sadriwala- Proud to be born in India which went viral. I remember we were thinking what if the video reaches 5,000 people and the next day, it crossed 10k views. It went crazy! After three weeks of releasing this video, my dad sent me a link on WhatsApp saying ‘look at this video. It’s amazing.’ and it was our video.
Team Sociobits: What are the challenges that you have faced while building Tape A Tale? Does Tape A Tale have any competitors?
Co-Founder: There were a lot of challenges. Once we started, businesses similar to Tape A Tale popped up and used to make money from performers. This way it becomes very easy for them to conduct events but we have never charged our performers a penny. The only thing that matters is their story.
During the COVID-19 phase, we faced a huge crisis that we cannot conduct live events. It has been almost five years and we have hardly had a weekend go by without releasing a new story. So to get that content for every week was a big challenge. We tried home shoots, zoom shoots, and a lot of other things. Eventually, we figured out a way to give a fresh story every week.
TAPE A TALE IS ALSO PLANNING TO HOST A 250 seater SHOW AT national centre for the performing arts (ncpa)- mumbai soon.
There are other platforms like Tape A Tale but I wouldn’t call them our competitors. As we only do real-life first-person stories and we are the only platform that does that in India as per my knowledge. This sets us apart from others.
Tape A Tale has built a community for storytelling enthusiasts and people who love listening to stories. They have formed a connection between these two and one can say that it has saved the art of storytelling from dying.