Akancha Srivastava launched a brand strategy startup 18 years ago, when she was a fresh graduate with almost no work experience. Although she was initially dismissed by many, with hard work and persistence, she got to work with many global brands like Deloitte, Red Hat, Accenture, Mumbai Angels, National Stock Exchange, and even the Australian cricket team. Today, she is on a mission to fight cybercrime – a decision she took after a traumatizing experience.
About five years ago, Akancha experienced a case of cyberstalking. She recollects, “It went on for almost a year and it was such a well-laid out trap that none of us could see through it. I was really fortunate that I didn't die.”
Once she came out of the trauma, Akancha started studying the subject and understood what a deep problem cyber crimes were in India. “My friends encouraged me to write about it. I was very skeptical because I had built a legacy of 15 years with my brand strategy forum. I was consulting with CEOs and venture capitalists; I was worried what they would think about it. But good sense prevailed and I published a blog.”
Within a week or two, Akancha’s blog had around a million reads from across the world. “People started writing into me. Every single client, vendor, and partner, whom I was skeptical about, called me and said, “At least somebody spoke about this topic.” Now I think that everything we go through in our life is leading us to something larger,” she adds.
Since launching the Akancha Srivastava Foundation four years ago, Akancha has been on a mission to educate the masses and the police about cyber crime and how to deal with it. The initiative, named Akancha Against Harassment, aims to spread awareness on the laws and procedures for victims of cybercrimes to seek help from the police, as well as ways of prevention of such crimes.
Akancha claims that her experience in brand communication came in handy for the foundation’s activities. “Today we are the highest watched podcast and safety content on Youtube in India. Every Thursday we release a video, and in four years, we have conducted more than 100 offline workshops as well as more than 160 online workshops too,” she tells MAKERS India. Akancha Against Harassment has also worked with AI platform Haptik to offer AI-enabled helpline on the former’s website, which saves time and provides reliable information to anyone in need.
Prevention is better than cure
Akancha strongly believes that educating parents, teachers, as well as children, is the only way to prevent cybercrime. She works with the police and conducts training workshops for them too. Praising them for the efficiency in nagging culprits of cybercrimes – most of which goes unreported in the media – she explains, “If you abuse or you stalk someone, or if you say nasty things to someone online, it's exactly the same crime as you would have done offline. And people are being arrested (for such crimes). We have enough laws. But the police and law works on evidence. So if you are abused, if you're trolled or if you feel you're being stalked, you have to provide proper evidence to the police.”
However, she adds that we need more and better-equipped cyber cells, forensic labs, as well a fast track courts to fight cybercrimes. “We also need to train more cops – especially junior cops who are the first responders.” The team has planned more digital training workshops this year.
Akancha Against Harassment is supported by 52 senior IPS officers from across the country, as well as educators, entertainers, authors, and prominent entrepreneurs like Vijay Shekar Sharma (founder and CEO of Paytm) and serial entrepreneur Ritesh Malik.
Watch the video to find out more.
(Interviewed and produced by Athira Nair)