Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Tape A Tale: How Kopal Khanna's platform is enabling creative storytellers

Kopal Khanna's platform Tape A Tale provides a space for creative storytellers to tell their stories, while also offering brand collaborations and artist management

Published: Jul 3, 2024 10:47:47 AM IST
Updated: Jul 3, 2024 12:10:16 PM IST

Kopal Khanna, Co-founder, Tape A Tale
Image: Madhu Kapparath Kopal Khanna, Co-founder, Tape A Tale Image: Madhu Kapparath
It all started as a passion project. Kopal Khanna, who worked as communications head at a company, had always been interested in storytelling, In 2017, she started an audio story website Tape A Tale, a platform for crowd sourced stories. To increase its reach, she decided to organise an offline event, a curated show of eight storytelling performances by artists with two open mics for anyone from the audience who wanted to perform. The show, in Mumbai, was also meant to give a platform to creative storytellers, from poets to performing artists.

The show was a success, and she organised more shows and events, including Open Mic events. “It was not only a challenge to find storytellers to perform, but the concept of storytelling and Open Mic itself was a foreign concept that took some time for Indians to adapt to and enjoy,” says Khanna. But as more and more people stepped up to perform their writings, the audience too has grown, and seven years later, Khanna’s Tape A Tale, which she co-founded with Ali Hussen, has evolved and grown into a full-fledged business with artist management, brand collaborations and an online audience of 2.47M YouTube subscribers.

Under its umbrella, the company has spoken word artists like Amandeep Singh, Yahya Bootwala and Priya Malik, covering stories about everything from sex education and feminism to love stories and slice of life tales. Spoken poetry artists Amandeep Singh and Nayab Midha recently concluded a tour across Australia. The tour was under the event IP Manch, which is a space of fusion between storytelling and poetry. While artist Nidhi Narwal, poet, storyteller and podcaster, recently did an India tour with Tape A Tale.
Starting a new venture in a new niche is not easy. “Now, when I talk about Kommune or Tape A Tale, you can understand how it works and that it is an existing industry but back then, in 2017, there were hardly any platforms,” says Khanna adding that though storytelling and spoken word performances are now popular in India the lack of such platforms or spaces back then meant that even explaining the idea of a business around stories to people was difficult. “Even to my family, it was a bizarre idea that you're going to run a company that is going to be all around stories,” says Khanna.

But in about a year and a half, they started generating an income, and in 2019, they even signed up artists Amandeep Singh and Mehak Mirza Prabhu though they only started doing complete artist management in 2022. Until they started generating revenue, Khanna, a post-graduate in global communications, continued editing articles for the crowdsourced storytelling website AkkarBakkar, as well as being a communication consultant for NGO Vidya.

As a performer's audience grew, so did the platform’s, leading to the realisation that Tape a Tale could be more than just a platform for artists to be storytellers. Avenues for income generation opened up for creative storytelling performers—including brands seeking to run campaigns that soon began to express preferences for specific performers to represent their products. This made the platform a medium and a gateway for artists to collaborate with brands. It slowly became apparent that storytelling could be a viable full-time career for the storytelling artists. Khanna also realised Tape A Tale could bridge brand and artist by handling artists and doing a 360-degree management of their shows, places, venues, tickets, etc.

Also read: Storytelling in business: How to tell engaging stories

Then the pandemic struck, and the artists had to pivot from long-form events ranging from 80-100 minute shows to uploading 1-minute reels online. But what helped was how storytelling got a central spot digitally as more and more people consumed content online. It was also when TikTok got banned, and Instagram and YouTube introduced reels and Shorts, respectively, which gave a further boost to short-form content.

Post lockdown, as people get back to live events with a vengeance, the audience has only expanded and there has been an increase in the number of shows as well as geographies, from just Mumbai, Bangalore, and Delhi to Kolkata, Siliguri, Surat, Pune, and more. Also, Tape a Tale now has its own IP shows like Manch–a curated show of artists where there is a fusion of poetry and storytelling, and Ghar, a series of open mic events and more, which has helped it increase ticketing revenue.

Khanna also turned to storytelling artist management after the lockdown. Though she already worked with Amandeep Singh and Mehak Mirza Prabhu, they manage several artists today. 

Currently, Tape a Tale has three verticals that it works under: Branded content, Phygital experiences and corporate workshops. Branded content includes collaborations with brands, where the Tape A Tale team and artist will do the ideation, writing, and delivery of the brief that a brand gives. Artists also do corporate gigs and workshops, along with tour shows.

“It is a lot about seeking opportunities and opportunities coming your way. Both those things have to align for anything to happen,” says Khanna. Advertisement collaborations include their McD collaboration with Sainee Raj, where McCafe performances were centered around stories that involved taking elements of coffee and place, etc.

Tape a Tale is not the only player in this industry. Though it’s a small sector, there are others like Kommune and UnErase Poetry. However, their IP shows, adaptation to the ever-changing content industry, and artist management are some of the things that set Tape A Tale apart. Besides, Khanna welcomes the competition. “When an industry is tiny, everybody has to put in a collaborative effort to make it grow. It has to be viewed less as competition and more as a collaboration,” says Khanna. Regarding the trend of storytelling, for Khanna, “the fun has just begun.”