A community of optimists hosted by Melinda French Gates

Nikhil Taneja is a Mumbai-based writer, producer, storyteller, entrepreneur, and youth mental health advocate. He's currently the co-founder and CEO of a youth media organization called Yuvaa, a platform that creates purpose-driven entertainment to empower young Indians.

Nikhil has been responsible for some of the biggest hits in the digital space at Y-Films, the youth wing of India's biggest movie studio, Yash Raj Films, where he headed content & development. Most of his work has been in and around urgent issues like youth empowerment, sex education, and gender equality, including the 6 Pack Band, India's first transgender pop group, which won the Cannes Grand Prix Glass Lion Award. He has also previously worked at Viacom18 Digital, MTV India, and Hindustan Times, but has found the most joy as a professor, teaching journalism students at Jai Hind College, Mumbai.

With Yuvaa, Nikhil recently travelled across 25+ cities and 70+ colleges in India to document mental health and identity issues faced by India's Gen Z through a docu-series, and to create safe spaces for young people to express themselves in person and online.


What are you most proud of?

Teaching. A large part of the empathy I have for young people and the mental health and identity issues they face came from my seven years teaching college students in Mumbai, where I would listen as much as I would speak. Teaching helped me learn so much from my students, and I’m a better person today because of it.

If you could go on a long walk with anyone, who would it be?

Barack Obama, undoubtedly. I am a huge admirer of Barack Obama’s grace and compassion, and his focused effort on making the world a better place, one day, one moment at a time. His hopefulness has been contagious, and I’d love nothing more than to listen to him one-on-one.

On Sunday afternoons, you can find me...

Spending time with my lovely wife, Daisy, irrespective of any work I may have. Sunday is family time for me, and the only thing that can change that is if Daisy wants it otherwise!

Tell us about someone you admire.

It is the love, resilience, and compassion with which my mother and my aunt brought me up that put me on the path to working on socially conscious content. They are the women I look up to, whole-heartedly admire, and am everything because of, and perhaps even everything for.