Tamseel Hussain | How to Start a Movement (with a smartphone) - The Art of Art

Tamseel Hussain | How to Start a Movement (with a smartphone)

Everyone has a story. Some jot them down in their most prized diaries to be never heard by anyone ever, others bring the best out of them by putting them out into the world. The timeless global tradition of storytelling has been with us for longer than is imaginable. People make movies, TV shows, books, songs and even video games in a modest attempt to make their voices heard with the hope that their stories might enrich someone else’s life. The era of the internet saw the dawn of a new domain of storytelling, and no, you wouldn’t need much talent to tell your stories to people around the world. All you’d need is a phone and a passion for storytelling. Even after the rise of various storytelling platforms emerged throughout the World Wide Web, people with the desire to tell stories were having a difficult time figuring out where to start. That is where PLUC swooped in and paved the way for the passionate to share their light with the world.


RED: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work? 
Tamseel: I am a mobile storyteller and the CEO & Co-Founder of People Like Us Create (PLUC). And what is PLUC? It’s a platform that gives power back to the 99% people in India and beyond. The unlikeliest people, misfits expressing themselves. Sharing positive stories on life, challenges, fun and change in a post-truth world. We are a community of technology, public engagement, and storytelling experts building tools and platforms for the next generation of creators (the 99%) across the globe. We have partnered with platforms such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Tiktok. I love doing this because this is how I have always worked on giving people the power to create positive change and challenge existing norms while doing something that they love – tell stories.

In the past, I have worked with organizations Change.org, Oxfam, Greenpeace, civil society groups, media houses, and tech-startups in India, South East Asia and Egypt. Now PLUC has two platforms that it runs – pluc.tv and letmebreathe.in

People Like Us Create (PLUC) follows a movement-building approach to business. As an ecosystem can give birth to issue-focused platforms and digital communities, for eg. http://www.letmebreathe.in is now India’s largest storytelling platform for climate change and sustainability issues, with 300+ storytellers and 41 policymakers who solve complex environmental solutions through online tools and pluc.tv which is on its way to becoming a new kind of OTT platform prioritizing the 99% voices.

We have enabled more than 30,000 people through our platform that include farmers, scientists, students, activists, policy-makers, experts, self-help groups, entrepreneurs, creatives, journalists, filmmakers and anyone with a phone and passion to tell a story can access it, learn, create and influence through storytelling.

RED: What is your favourite documentary or a movie?
Tamseel: My favourite docu-series is Ugly Delicious on Netflix and documentary is Airpocalypse on  Channel News Asia 

RED: Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?
Tamseel: Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. – Albert Camus.
These days I stick by Jack Ma’s legendary quote during COVID ‘Any business which can survive in 2020 is making a profit’.

RED: What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift? And why?
Tamseel: This book by Jen Dunski called Purposefully, I had the privilege of working with Jen during my stint with change.org and the way this book tells budding entrepreneurs on how to build movement driven organizations is very easy to adapt. It helped me a lot during the initial months of PLUC.

RED: What do the first 60 minutes of your morning look like?
Tamseel: I get up, make an amazing cup of coffee in my bilette, and spend 30 mins listening to birds and watching trees, then take a shower with my speaker blasting the tune of the day.

RED: How do you stay productive on lazy days?
Tamseel: I think every human being has slack days. But the real idea of inspiration comes when you are close to understanding your purpose. There are so many things to do and life is amazing when there’s a larger goal. I switch to tasks that are pending and creative in nature to keep myself motivated. Oh, and music plays a vital role. I take a spiritual approach when it comes to productivity and trust me Deepak Chopra meditations before sleeping are very powerful.

RED: How has your culture affected your art and vice versa?
Tamseel: I have always considered the work I do art. The art of building movements. I was inspired by Andy Warhol, Salvatore Dali and Albert Camus. I am a true believer of underground communities taking over the world. We saw Allen Ginsberg leading the beat movement through poetry, electronic music dominating Bollywood and oh let’s not forget youtube DJs taking over rural Uttar Pradesh to Farida Khanum inspiring a revolution through a Faiz Ahmed Faiz ghazal.

Most of my college days were spent tracking how smaller communities and colonies welcome strangers in various parts of the world. Be it a street art community in Malaysia to School students in Egypt to Protestors in Hong Kong to Nightlife in India. We can all do it. One story at a time.

RED: What is the story behind PLUC and LMB?
Tamseel: About two years and 8 months ago I had called upon Instagram, Hindustan Times, and a nonprofit – Chintan that works with waste pickers to do live training on Instagram stories with waste-pickers on a landfill. The idea was to see how a community can use its mobile phone and tell stories about waste consumption. Thanks to Chintan’s work they were able to use these stories to reduce GST on e-waste. This gave us an idea to build communities like this across India and help the 99% change the world through storytelling.

RED: PLUC and LMB host stories from creators from all over India. What is the secret to such effective collaboration?
Tamseel: I think it’s trust and making sure the creators get their due in the form of opportunities to influence and through revenue for every story that creates impact.

RED: What is integral to being an artist (or content creator)?
Tamseel: You need a device (a mobile phone), you need to be passionate about something and you need to be persistent. Listen to your community.

RED: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self? And please place where you were at the time, and what you were doing.
Tamseel: Don’t get carried away, be aware of your mental health. There’s a world beyond your personal bubble and pain, reach out.

RED: What is the worst advice you see or hear being dispensed in your field?
Tamseel: Ground-up stories will never compete with mainstream stories.

RED: What advice would you give to someone venturing into creative businesses before she gives up?
Tamseel: If you have an idea, make sure you know you can implement it. Then, find that one person who believes in it. Together you can figure out how self-reliant the idea is so that it becomes business, and this gives you room to experiment longer.

RED: What have you become better at saying no to, in recent years?
Tamseel: Carbs. Negative energy and enemies disguised as friends.

RED: What is your favourite failure? How has failure set you up for later success?
Tamseel: I had hired a team that I thought would be ideal for PLUC, I gave them way too much importance than the product. Them quitting was the best thing that ever happened to PLUC.

RED: What investment of the past still positively impacts your day? It could be an investment of money, time, energy, or other resources. How did you decide to make the investment?
Tamseel: I invested a lot of time in finding the right mentors. I have always believed that learning through people is the best experience. I was fortunate to find mentors who care about me as a leader and the product.

RED: What keeps you ticking the difficult times?
Tamseel: The belief that I can make the world a better place, sounds cliche, but I stick to it.

RED: What is the importance of mobile storytelling in the present scenario?
Tamseel: This is an exceptional time for the world. We are all locked in our houses. And mobile storytelling has always made creating content simpler and using less resources. Our Storytelling Head always says that you don’t need the best gadgets or software – you need a strong story.

From going live to recording activities and posting them, people are using their phones to generate content. What we do is to connect it with a purpose and subsequent impact. Take stories from the 99% Indian population to the rest of the world. Some of our best stories in this time have been about frontline workers and how they’re managing this crisis. They have been some of our most enthusiastic creators even while fighting the virus. These are some of the most important stories that we haven’t looked at from a human lens. So you really just need a phone and a passion to create. 

We’ve seen young people fighting internet issues in Uttar Pradesh, frontline workers fighting to save our lives in Karnataka, women trying their best to reduce family violence in and around Bihar, doctors in Delhi fighting to reduce fake news, migrant workers trying to move out out Maharashtra and get home through a PLUC lens, but we know there’s so much more.
You just need to pick up the phone and tell your story. Who knows what impact it might have?

RED: Any ask or request from our readers? Last parting words?
Tamseel: We’re in constant conversation with people who want to create impact through stories. On our platforms, you will hear voices that you might never have heard from in the mainstream sense. That’s also something that makes us cut through the noise and drive behavioural as well as policy impact. So if you are curious, and you are interested in creating stories about the issues that shape the world we live in, do get in touch! Always tell your story – it has a place in the world. 


Mr Tamseel highlights how everyone’s stories deserve to be told and heard and getting started on expressing oneself and telling your story in whatever way possible is what it takes to kindle the passion for effective storytelling. Thereafter, one can start focusing on the beauty aspect of things.

We thank Mr. Tamseel for taking the time to answer the questions for this interview despite his rigorous schedule. We can’t begin on how honoured we are to have had this stimulating conversation with a visionary leader, who also had been in Gangtok for the Let Me Breathe Twitter City Sessions where Redendron and LMB had collaborated to highlight issues on topics like pollution and climate change.

Stay tuned for more interviews with experts, visionaries, creators, entrepreneurs and change makers.

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