Psychology undergraduate from Taylor’s University Janak Ashok Teckwani, 22, felt that he and his friends were not getting enough interaction during the pandemic, so he started a platform called TimeToTalk where they could interact online.
“I felt that everyone needed a ‘distraction’ from all the negativity during the pandemic, and we weren’t getting the interaction we needed during the MCOs,” he says.
Using Zoom as the platform, the project was aimed to encourage more online interactions and meaningful conversations during the pandemic.
“It all started with a face-to-face session with psychologist Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan, who is Taylor’s University Centre for Human Excellence and Development director,” says fellow psychology undergraduate Goh Ian Shen, 23.
“The topic was something that’s very relevant to the pandemic – mental health – and everyone could use voice notes to send questions about their issues for her to answer during the session,” says Goh.
Subsequently, they had an online session with a budding content creator as a guest. The students thought it would be just a one-off session, and did not except to receive such a good response.
“After the hearty reaction of our audience for our session with the content creator who shared about the experiences he went through on his journey towards becoming successful, I realised that people wanted more ... so we decided to continue the series,” says Janak.
They continued the series with a new guest each time. Usually, Janak and fellow student, Nicole Lee, 25, would host and co-host the sessions. The sessions would then be edited and compiled by Goh, and uploaded to YouTube and their website.
“All this was done without a budget and operated remotely during the pandemic,” says Goh.
“The concept was to be low-key and the emphasis was on real conversations. We managed to learn a lot and work as a team, even remotely,” he says.
The Zoom sessions were hosted by their platform provider Suraaj Ravi, 24, a chemical engineering student at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
“What’s unique about our project is that we had some celebrity guests who were willing to share openly about their lives, and we usually contacted them solely through unofficial channels like social media,” reveals Goh.
One of their notable guests is Tanvi Shah from India, who won a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or other Visual Media – Jai Ho, Slumdog Millionaire (2010). She is the first Indian woman to ever win a Grammy Award.
They have also had Bollywood movie director of popular Hindi movie 99 Songs (2021) Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy as a guest.
Besides international celebrities, they’ve also featured Malaysian artists, rappers and personalities such as Neha Verma, third runner up in Miss Universe Malaysia 2020.
“The sessions are ‘free and easy’ and we’ve managed to get a very down-to-earth and chill view of the celebrities. The informal atmosphere has made them comfortable and relaxed enough to share about their personal life and experiences with us,” says Goh.
Janak adds that the sessions enables everyone to learn in a fun way while networking with the invited guests.
“We hope to continue inviting skilled and knowledgeable guests to share during these sessions,” he says. “There is so much untapped talent out there, people who have achieved so much at a very young age, and we can all learn from them,” he concludes.