“Every human being is born with an inherent desire to create,” says the Indian film director Shekhar Kapur.
With that in mind, Kapur, who directed Elizabeth: The Golden Age among other films, teamed up with Indian musician A. R. Rahman (best known in the West for his Academy Award-winning work on Slumdog Millionaire) to cofound Qyuki, a social network that fosters creativity.
Dubbed “a community of creative expression,” Qyuki launched late last year with an initial investment from Cisco Systems.
The site’s primary audience is Indians from 18-35 years of age (including the Indian diaspora in North America and the U.K.), according to Poonacha Machaiah, Qyuki’s chief executive officer. “There is an urge among Indians to explore their creative self,” says Kapur. “Qyuki is born to engage the Indian youth emotionally and offer them a platform to express themselves, exercise their imagination, build immersive creative communities, and through that have more productive lives.”
Qyuki (which means “because” in Hindi) is divided into three main sections: Creations, Community, and Inspirations.
“Creations” are pieces of original content that users upload to a Pinterest-like pinboard and share. They are filtered by categories, which include almost all creative endeavors you can imagine, including Stand Up Comedy, Food, and Home Décor, as well as standards like Photography, Stories, and Films.
“Community” is where users can see who else is on the site and sort profiles by location categories or other classifications.
“Inspirations” highlights specific creative challenges which an expert poses to the community, such as writing about an event that changed your life in 300 words or composing a song about “a season’s influence on our lives.”
Anyone can peruse existing content, but to share content (or in Qyuki lingo, “add new creation,”) you must become a member (which is free).
Instead of a Facebook “Like,” Qyuki has the “EmoGraf,” an emoticon that can express a variety of feelings in response to a creation: everything from love and joy to pride, anger, and boredom. There’s also the “EmoTag,” which is a way a creator can tag a creation with an emotion. A Qyuki member can also earn a blue, green, or orange badge to acknowledge their contribution to their community.
A team of “creative celebrities” from various fields, including writing, music, filmmaking, and photography, share their own inspirations and showcase selected users creations. “Creative celebrities” include the author Chetan Bhagat and film director, writer, and actor Imtiaz Ali.
The site also features Qyuki Premieres, exclusive creations produced by Qyuki, such as Kapur’s videos Warlord – Rise of a Messiah and a trailer for AnimalOcity, and Melange, presented by A. R. Rahman.
Qyuki’s cofounders encourage collaboration and foresee crowdsourced projects (which they call co-creations) emerging from the site. “The ability to co-create content with experts is an area which we believe will bring out talent in India,” says Kapur.
Rahman says that he and Kapur are “exploring some new forms of interactive and immersive new media projects.”
“The goal is to create a unique community where amateurs can interact and also a vibrant eco-system where semi-professionals can showcase and earn,” says Kapur. Eventually, brands will be able to “interact” with consumers, according to Kapur. There are also plans to earn revenue through advertising and a paid subscription.
Samsung Galaxy Note II is sponsoring a “Creation” called “The Incredible Art-Piece,” a Guinness World Records attempt for the most artists working on the same art installation. Dell also advertises on the site.
Since the platform is available on the web and mobile, audiences worldwide can join, but for the moment, the Qyuki team is focused on Indians. “The platform has been developed in keeping with insights based on Indian sensibility and our focus currently is to enhance features that are relevant to the Indian audience,” says Machaiah.
The founders have lofty goals for the new social network. The idea of Qyuki is to “empower people’s self-expression and help them build their creative identity,” says Kapur. “While the angst of the West is loneliness, the angst of the East is identity. Indian youth are in deep search for identity.”