Penumbra, brainchild of Vignesh Ramaswamy, is an online platform for youth to express themselves

At an age when he is expected to be buried in his books or while away his time on the Internet or hang out with his friends, 21-year-old Vignesh Ramaswamy has spearheaded an initiative – putting together a common platform for youngsters to express themselves. Penumbra, a monthly online magazine, Vignesh’s brainchild, is a “one-stop destination for everything that concerns the youth in India, be it their possibilities, fears, perspective on issues and solutions.”

Vignesh, a native of the capital city and a final year engineering student of Sastra University, Thanjavur, has made this possible with the help of a wide network of students all over India. “We give a platform for youngsters who love to write. They can send in short stories, photos, cartoons, reviews (music, books, events…), or express their views on anything happening in India,” says Vignesh. It is done through Penumbra’s campus ambassadors in around 70 colleges across the country.

For somebody brimming with ideas, Vignesh got the right kind of motivation to start an initiative from Badri Seshadri, co-founder of Cricinfo. “I happened to sit through his lecture and his journey sounded interesting. I wanted to know more about start-ups and how to go about it. But when I went up to him, he asked me to implement my ideas first and then approach him if any guidance was needed. A year later we launched Penumbra and I did turn to him for advice as and when needed. In fact, we are proud that he was one of the speakers at our campaign, ‘Let’s light the way for our youth’, which we had hosted in Chennai,” says Vignesh. Other speakers at the event were Vipul Goyal, founder, Humourously Yours, Pavan Kumar, founder, Skyfi labs, Durjoy Datta, author, and Kumar Vembu, CEO, GoFrugal Technologies.

It was not an easy journey, he stresses, especially finding people who believe in the idea of Penumbra and are willing to spread the word about the magazine. His wide network of friends came in handy. “First I contacted my friends from school, that is Arya Central School, who, in turn, put me in touch with their friends in various colleges,” he adds.

Charul Pant and Sumeet Chawla, are the co-founders of Penumbra. Charul, a student of VIT University, Vellore, is one of the editors, Sumeet, pursuing his second year in pharmacy in BITS Pilani, Hyderabad campus, is in the design team. “We were initially sceptical about reaching out to the campuses. But we were confident that team building among the youth is comparatively easy and we came upon a dedicated bunch of writers,” says Charul.

Sumeet adds: “We interact via web chat and meet up once in a while to discuss the contents and plans.”

Students can send articles on any current issue and they can discuss, debate and deliberate on different topics. Then, there are interviews, creative writing, travelogues and so on. “Our photography and short story sections are very popular. Very soon we will be uploading campus short films,” Vignesh adds.

Moving away from the concept of an e-magazine, Penumbra also held a walk in Mumbai in June to create awareness about youngsters being forced to take up conventional career options because of societal and parental pressure. Also, if things pan out well, they might bring out the print editions to be circulated in colleges.

Contact Penumbra at contact@penumbramag.com.

The team

Vignesh Ramaswamy is the CEO of Penumbra. The editorial team consists of Charul Pant and Sai Sharad Raj (Sastra University). The design team has Sumeet Chawla, Anagha Bansod (NIFT, Mumbai), Surya Ravindram Pillai (NIFT, Mumbai) and Aayush (Delhi University). Website design is handled by Sai Kishore.