Nivedha Kannan is an economics graduate of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai who has been continuously involved in beyond the classroom activities.
Here, Nivedha is sharing her experience being the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an online platform called ‘The Defence Archive’ (TDA). Her hard work has the potential to propel her ahead of the curve.
Go ahead and know what her story has to offer so that you can easily find a path of self-growth.
What is your role? Briefly list the responsibilities associated with it.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of an online platform called ‘The Defence Archive’ (TDA). TDA is a platform solely dedicated to covering and documenting the work of the Indian Armed Forces.
For a really long time, I’d seen that people around me knew little or nothing about the Indian Armed Forces. Our knowledge of the Forces mostly comes from what mainstream media tells us or what we see of the Military in popular culture.
But that picture captures less than the tip of the vast iceberg that the Indian Armed Forces actually is. So what my team and I wanted to do was simple – make a one-stop platform to cover all aspects of India’s Defence. We wanted to create a space where an Indian civilian can read about an important part of Military history in simple language, under five minutes, on an easily accessible website.
Today, The Defence Archive is 10 months old with a team of 14, with 58 articles, 26 writers and close to 4500 unique readers. On our website, we pen down articles about Military Operations, battles, India’s wars, the speciality of each regiment in the Army, the spectacular fighter jets of the Indian Air Force, the daunting rescue missions of the Indian Navy and several other topics.
On our social media, we curate videos, quiz trivia, news bytes and live interviews and panel discussions with Military veterans who share their experiences with us. Currently, we’re ideating on how we can start off with a TDA webinar series and an exclusive TDA podcast as well.
The idea for creating something like TDA cropped up in early June 2020. I spoke to a web-developer friend to discuss the logistics of setting up a site one day and since then, TDA has found a daily presence in all my conversations and interactions.
I supervise the three sub-teams in TDA- Content, Networking, and Design and Social Media. Each team has a head whom I work closely with regularly. On the Content side, I ideate on potential topics we could cover, induct new writers into the team, and review each article’s final look and feel.
We ideate on video, reel, and graphic ideas on the Social Media end to keep our digital engagement on. With the Networking team, I interact with veterans, occasionally sit in on interviews with them and transcribe the interviews thereafter. Largely, I oversee the work of each department to ensure that the final product that comes out with every TDA issue is unquestionably good.
What’s it like to juggle between leadership roles and academics? Pen down the challenges you faced.
As a student, we’re always taught to put academics first and it was the same in my case as well. The idea of curating The Defence Archive came up in June 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were all working virtually and every day in the months of June, July and August was filled with endless Google Meet sessions about everything from TDA’s core vision to the colour of the border text on the website!
I’d like to mention something about my team here. I was preparing for my MBA entrance examinations all through last year. There were some days, especially ones closer to my exam date, that demanded full academic attention from me leaving no time for TDA. During these times, there was always someone from my team who stepped up to fill in for me.
Sometimes, I even had my team members scolding me for doing something for TDA without preparing for my exam. Knowing that one of them was always handling the work when I was gone helped me focus on my academics in a much better manner and also made me appreciate my team’s strong work ethic.
That being said, there were some situations that demanded my absolute presence and I’ll be lying if I said I didn’t let my academics get affected at all. I managed to sail through but, in all honesty, I always preferred working for The Defence Archive more than studying!
Did you also get a chance to connect with any other activity while working on this role?
As I mentioned earlier, TDA has a segment called ‘Veterans’ Speak’ which documents the lived experiences of Military veterans through live and transcribed interviews. This particular aspect of my work has been my favourite since Day 1. We’ve spoken to about 20 veterans till now. Each one of them was tremendously different in their ways, mannerisms and thoughts, but there was a common thread amongst all of them – they were full of heart, they knew the meaning of hard work and perseverance and they had an unparalleled love for their country. Each interaction, albeit virtual, taught us several lessons – big and small.
The one discussion that has personally been my favourite was a recent panel discussion we conducted on Women’s Day 2021. It was called ‘Sisters-in-Arms’ and featured 4 Women Veterans from the Indian Armed Forces. I moderated the session and we discussed glass ceilings, gender roles, the perception of women in uniform and the way forward for all women Defence aspirants. Through the 60-minute discussion, I sat in awe of all four of them. It was a delight to watch such accomplished women speak about their time in uniform and it definitely acted as a huge source of inspiration for all of us. I might moderate more panel discussions in the future, but this particular one will always be my favourite.
What are the top learnings, skills and values that you acquired here?
- The first and probably the most important lesson was that your team works with you and not for you.
- Everybody in your team won’t work the same way. What works for you may not always work for someone else. Let them do it their way. A little freedom can go a long way in delivering a lot of value.
- You can plan all you want but if there’s a last-minute contingency, it’s your ability to think on your feet and your presence of mind that help you through. Never disregard that.
Do you feel your current role fills you with pride and gratitude? Illustrate how the experience gained will help you going forward?
Definitely. We can never thank the Forces for their work but what we can do is know, acknowledge and recognise them for their work. When someone tells me they learnt something new about a Kargil War hero from one of our articles, there’s a feeling of satisfaction and pride that comes along with it. It shows that our work has finally made an impact, no matter how small it may be.
Currently, we’re growing steadily in the online media space. But eventually, we would like to diversify into impact investing by collaborating with NGOs and Veteran organizations that work for the welfare and care of Military Veterans and Veer Naaris (War Widows). If I can use this platform to help someone who has worn the prestigious uniform and served our country, I will consider our job successful!
As when we talk about leadership we have a whole team with us. How do you persuade others to accept your ideas/ways?
I believe that not a lot of persuasion is required when your idea actually holds value and will be beneficial for your team. Naturally, we have had differences in opinions through the course of our work. But everybody in my team has handled it in a mature and respectful manner while keeping The Defence Archive’s larger goal in mind. Sometimes, when two ideas are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, we try to come to a middle-ground consensus that will satisfy all parties involved.
What is your message to students, aspiring the same or a similar role to do?
Before you start off, have a clear vision of what you want for your project/venture to look like. When you start preparing to that end from Day 1, the process becomes faster and more fruitful. While it’s important to stick to your vision, it’s also really important to be open to constructive criticism. Your audience will always have valuable feedback about your work because they’re the ones consuming it. Be open to their comments and look for ways to work on them and grow.
How can we (Friends, Family, YI Fraternity) encourage young students such as yourself to engage with co-curricular or extra-curricular activities?
The first step to encouragement is being responsive to someone’s work. If you have young creators around you, no matter what their work form might be, reach out to them and support them.
Read their articles. Buy their artwork. Share their videos.
When they see that their work is being valued, they’re pushed to do more and do better. A lot of us work organically, we don’t have the means to rope in mass audiences just yet. In such a case, it is the response provided by the team’s immediate circles that can set their work in motion.
At The Defence Archive: TDA, we do have some down days when articles have lesser views or posts have lesser likes. But all it takes to swing back into action is one word of appreciation, one new subscriber or even just a post share!
Anything else would you like to say to the YI learners who’ll be reading your experience?
Of late, there’s a lot of India-bashing amongst our age group. Youngsters, like us, are angry, disappointed and disillusioned with the state of affairs in the nation. But don’t give up on your country just yet. There are negatives, but there’s still a ray of hope somewhere.
Make informed opinions, support the right things and do your bit in being a good Indian; the rest will follow suit. As R. Madhavan’s character from the film Rang De Basanti said, “Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, usse behtar banana padta hai”.
We at Young Influx would take this opportunity to thank Nivedha for taking a leap of faith and sharing her impeccable story. We are humbled and grateful, your efforts mean a lot for the youth seeking growth and development.
And hello, dear readers, we welcome you to explore the platform with an open mind. Help yourself gain the most out of the experiences and opportunities listed here.
And before you bid us adieu, we would like you to know that you can read more such student stories here.