From startups to COVID-19 relief work, how standup comedian Appurv Gupta is finding a niche in every space

In a conversation with YSWeekender, comedian Appurv Gupta talks about his show on financial literacy, his role as an investor in startups, and the relief work he has been doing during COVID-19.
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An engineer by education, standup comedian Appurv Gupta, aka Guptaji, has done over 1500 shows so far. 

The New Delhi-based comedian, who has nearly 22,000 followers on Twitter, started his journey in 2013 when one of his videos went viral. By 2014, he had his first solo show - AppurVIew-Laugh. He was listed in Forbes India Celebrity 100 Nominees List for 2015. 

Today, apart from his solo shows, he is an investor in startups and has a show on finance and financial literacy. 

However, when the second wave of COVID-19 hit India in April this year, he started working towards relief efforts.

In a conversation with YSWeekender, Appurv Gupta, one of the most successful stand-up comedians in the country, talks about his journey, how he is helping startups, and the relief work he has been doing during COVID-19.

Appurv Gupta

Edited excerpts from the interview: 

YourStory Weekender (YSW): How did you start working with startups?

Appurv Gupta (AG): I have been working with startups since 2015. I used to run an agency called The Stupid Design, which helped in creating viral image content for startups. 

In 2019, I wanted to diversify my portfolio and I began thinking of investing in startups. I got to know about this smart glass company called Nimo, I liked the concept, and invested in them. I am one of the angel investors in the company along with serial entrepreneurs. I also backed Hypd, a content plus commerce platform, which was started by Ex Innov8 and Zostel founders.

I prefer to invest at a significantly early stage when the founders are working on the concept or at the product development stages.

At present, I am working on a platform that will help people to boost their confidence. I feel it will be quite beneficial for everyone, especially those who are unable to gather the confidence to present their skills in front of everyone.

YSW: Tell us about your show on money and finance.

AG: The show is called Funny Money With GuptaJi. I feel financial literacy is the need of the hour. Today, we are among the emerging economies of the world, and not having financial literacy can prove difficult. 

Most of us still find it safe to put our savings in fixed deposits or work paycheck to paycheck and not have much for emergency funds. The core problem is that there are very few platforms that can explain the financial terms in easy and understandable language. So I came up with the idea of utilising my fan base to reach as many people as possible and make them aware of financial terminologies like equity, debt, share market, cryptocurrencies as well as startup-related concepts.

We have already started creating content in the form of memes as I feel memes are the best and fastest way to convey the message and connect with the audience. 

I personally like to work with founders and startups very much, and so I have added startup and related concepts within the show, which I feel will make everyone aware of new startups and help founders to reach out to more people.

YS: How did you start the COVID relief work?

AG: I was back to my shows once the first COVID wave came to an end. But by April, my shows started getting cancelled one after the other. That is when I realised the gravity of the situation. 

Around mid-April, I came across a tweet from one of my friends saying, ‘What’s the point of so many followers if we are not able to use them in the right direction? So let me know if you have any SOS tweet and I’ll try to amplify’. 

This struck me hard. I thought my fan base is good, and if I did the same, I might be able to help. So I copy-pasted this tweet, and all of a sudden, messages started pouring in. 

I understood that the situation at the ground level was bad. There were so many messages/emails/ comments that it was impossible for me to reply to all of them and post them for amplifying, all by myself. This is when I realised that for the next few days, I need to focus all my energy on trying to make the situation better for those who were suffering from this deadly virus. I just had one thing in mind that I had to do whatever I could to save as many lives as possible.

YSW: How are you using your followers and reach to bring awareness and help those in need? 

AG: It started amplifying the SOS requests and spread the word so that those who can help will contact the needy. In the next few days, I also started posting verified information about supplies and the availability of essential items through the help of my team. We were also sharing links that could be directly accessed by those in need. 

One thing I realised was that most of us were listening to everyone except the doctors about Covid measures to be taken and the line of treatment to be followed. So, I tried streaming live interviews with doctors, namely Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi and Dr Aviral Vatsa, and then created short videos from these interviews and uploaded it to social media handles to create awareness.

YSW: What are the core challenges you faced, and how did you overcome them? 

AG: The main challenge was verifying the information. There is so much fake information circulating over the internet every second that it is tough to verify. At times, the information might be true, but we need to confirm before posting. And by the time we verify the details, the supplies are finished, the number is switched off, and there is literally no need to circulate it ahead. 

Besides, there are so many scammers who are trying to use the panic in their favour. Such people take calls, claim to have supplies, take orders, and even the advance money for the same, and later they just stop picking calls. 

Though I try my best to verify the contacts that I post, sometimes it is impossible to track the details due to the sheer number of queries we get. One has to be sure that the information being sent to the person who needs it is genuine. One can’t lose a single second — each life is precious. 

YSW: Tell us all about the groundwork done and how have you built the team to aid in this?

AG: As the number of queries and emails piled up, I realised I won’t be able to do it alone. So, I created a separate email ID. Next, I asked for help from my fans and like-minded people who could devote at least six hours per day to volunteer for the cause. Once I received emails from people who were interested to join, I took help from one of my team members and scheduled a call with the volunteers and divided them into two teams – Team Green and Team Blue. 

While Team Green was managing emails (24x7), checking social media messages, Facebook and Twitter comments, DMs, etc., Team Blue had volunteers who have good connections and knowledge of what to find where around their cities. 

Secondly, we created a telegram group as many people wanted to help, but couldn’t commit time to volunteering daily. In this group, anyone can post their queries and whoever was free and had leads could extend their help.

As I got more volunteers from this telegram group, we created another team – Team Red, which had to verify information received on a daily basis. 

As far as the groundwork is concerned, we had people who were helping with various supplies in different cities. There were also teams that were providing food to Covid patients and we shared their details with those in need. But we did not create any on-ground team as we felt that in the process of supplying essentials, we might lose our main focus – saving lives by providing verified information.

YSW: Who all are working with you on this? 

AG: In my team, we have students, working employees, businessmen, homemakers, and my employees. Many Indian citizens who are stationed abroad wanted to support the cause. So they started working with us, and that way we could pull off a 24*7 helpline. 

For now, the important thing is to keep safe and follow the protocol — wear a mask and maintain social distancing. 

If there is one thing that the present pandemic has taught us, it is that there is no point in planning ahead. You never know when things will get worse again. 

However, I am working on a couple of things like a Comedy Special, A Finance Show, and A Personality Development and Confidence Boosting startup called The Confidento. These will definitely be seen by my fans and friends in the course of the next few months.

Edited by Megha Reddy