[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Why this 18-year old built Varnan, a virtual storytelling platform comprising grandma's tales

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Priyal Jain built her website Varnan with a focus on folklore of India. She describes Varnan as your favourite story-telling grandmother.
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For 18-year-old Priyal Jain, studying from home in the pandemic year for class 12 just wasn’t fun. “It feels like I have been in the same class for 1.5 years now!” exclaims Priyal. And much to her disappointment, she and her 10-year-old sister haven’t been able to meet their grandparents in Rajasthan for a long while now.

“Even before the pandemic, being a science student from class 10, I’ve always had exams, so visits have been few and far between,” says Priyal. 

The reduced visits meant that her sister missed out on listening to all the bedtime stories and tales that Priyal grew up listening to. 

“I felt a lot of young children miss out on meeting their grandparents for various reasons, and simply miss out on centuries of compounded wisdom within these stories. And I didn’t want these stories to get lost, which is why I started working on Varnan,” says Priyal. 

The teenager built Varnan, a storytelling platform, once she graduated from high school, and had some time on hand. She describes Varnan as your favourite story-telling grandmother

Priyal Jain

Writing the stories 

Subscribers to the platform are sent a new story every day ranging in different genres - history, culture, mythology etc. Priyal’s father helped her with the website, and she also roped in Pichkari Design Studios for the design. 

“We have a small team of writers, who are my friends and family. We research topics, and we write these stories ourselves. All of us are passionate about spreading Indian history and culture across the world,” says Priyal. She explains the topics are simply endless, as India has a vast history. 

Currently, the team is looking at historical stories that aren’t too well-known yet. The stories are edited by Priyal, and then published on the Varnan website. “I currently do all the fact checking and ensure that everything is simple to read, our motto is that even a six-year-old should be able to read and understand these stories,” says Priyal. 

There are three subscription plans on offer - a free month, where people get one story every week for the month; a monthly subscription of $2 which gets you five stories every week for a month; and the third is a yearly subscription of $20, where you get one story every day for the entire year. 

A great learning experience 

Priyal plans to pursue engineering in computer science, and aims to work on Varnan even whilst pursuing her degree. 

“This year has been stressful. Time will pass on, and there are many things you can do like watching TV shows, but if you have an idea, work on it. Do not worry if the idea is good, or if anyone will say anything. You may want to start a YouTube channel, but are worried what your friends will say, just don’t think of any of that. Even if you don’t succeed, it will be fun, and a great learning experience,” says Priyal. 

The team is now working on audio versions of each story so people can listen to it as bedtime stories. Priyal is recording the stories. They are also ideating about short animation videos, as there are many stories on battles. 

“I want to take this to the other cultures of the world, as I am sure children around the world feel the same way about stories,” says Priyal.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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