The story of Fuzia: a Paly junior’s path to a global social media platform
For Riya Sinha — now a Palo Alto High School junior — it all started with twins, a letter, and a little girl.
When Sinha was just 10 years old, she wrote a novel about twins Mallory and Mckenna, who found a suspicious letter in their attic and ran away from their babysitter to solve a fast-paced mystery.
After putting the book on display in her local Books Inc. store, Sinha was approached by a young girl who had been inspired by her work.
“She was like ‘Because of this, I want to write my own book too’ and I thought that was super sweet,” Sinha said. “I always wanted to help women and girls through creative work.”
Sinha’s passion for promoting female empowerment through the arts has since evolved to become Fuzia, an online platform and phone app that aims to help women worldwide share their art, writing and ideas with each other.
The site allows users to express their individuality and artistic skills by posting paintings, jewelry designs, blog posts, and more on the website. Some of that work is shared with Fuzia’s over three million social media followers, predominantly over Facebook and Instagram.
“We just want to be a community that’s safe for women and girls to express their thoughts and ideas and creative expressions,” Sinha said.
Girls can share their work by creating free Fuzia accounts, which allow them to post on the site in a variety of ways.
“You can add a photo, you can make a collage, or you can upload a video … and then you write the source and tag it,” Sinha said.
Users with accounts can also participate in group channels, which provide girls with a space to chat about their common interests. Currently, the Fuzia website has over one thousand users signed up, with more than half of them contributing actively. According to Sinha, those without accounts can still view posts, but are unable to post themselves or participate in online forums.
Throughout the process of creating Fuzia, Sinha’s parents have contributed ideas, resources, and financial support.
“My mom helps more informally, like suggesting ‘Maybe you should do this’ but I think my dad really helps me a lot more in PR or getting the word out, because he’s pretty well-connected and older than me.”
Sinha’s parents currently fund the website completely, but Sinha hopes that Fuzia will eventually become self-sustaining. Rather than having users pay to create accounts, Sinha aims to generate revenue through either allowing users to sell their work and keeping a share of the profits or encouraging girls to teach each other about different creative fields and charging money for lessons.
“That’s definitely something in the future because I feel like we need to establish a really strong base of users first before we make it self-sustaining.”
Sinha has had further help in the creation process of the website. Although she played a main role in the design aspect of the process, digitally drawing out the user interface, display and logo, the coding for the website was completed by various online coders, with the website 99designs creating the logo. The website has undergone two large redesign efforts, one in 2015, and the latest in 2017.
After the 2015 improvements, Fuzia grew rapidly through promotion over different social media sites, especially Facebook advertisements. The site, currently most popular in countries such as Indonesia, Egypt, the Philippines, India and Pakistan, now has a small group of interns from around the world who promote Fuzia in their local areas. Sinha attributes much of the site’s success to the work of her close family member Shraddha Varma and Fuzia’s four other core team members.
Fuzia’s international success has allowed Sinha to promote gender equality across the globe.
“In a lot of places, women’s voices are often quieted down or not valued as much as male voices in society, and they aren’t able to bring power to themselves,” Sinha said. “I feel like to become independent it would be [is] helpful to have a platform where you can show your work and your thoughts and your ideas and they’re valued by other people.”
Sinha herself is an active user on the site, which she uses as an outlet to write about concerts she’s been to and trips she has taken, as well as more serious topics such as campaigns she believes in and spreading love to counteract terrorism.
As a student, Sinha has had to take a backseat in some of the decision-making process, but she has considered taking on a bigger role once she graduates.
“My dad always jokes that I should just drop out of high school, but I think I definitely want to pursue and work on it,” Sinha said. “I would seriously consider taking a gap year before college and just working on it and traveling the world.”
In the meantime, Sinha hopes to help her team work on raising awareness about the site and improving its user experience.
“Now I use the website and write posts, and I interact with the users. This year especially I’m going to focus on doing more PR for the website … going to conferences and stuff like that.”
Sinha has already been honored for her work on Fuzia at the Women Economic Forum in November last year in Vancouver Canada. The conference was a more local event based on the larger Women Economic Forum in India and was designed to facilitate conversations about leadership and societal change. Sinha received the Iconic Teen Entrepreneurship Award at the convention and spoke as part of a panel of speakers who addressed the conference about promoting gender equality through media and education.
The website’s global success so far, has motivated the team to expand its reach through a phone app launched in early January this year.
“We’ve been working on that for a while, especially because we thought that a lot of people would really use it more if there was an app,” Sinha said. “I want to make it grow, obviously, as big as it can get.”
Sinha said that throughout her journey to create Fuzia, she has learned skills about business and user experience that she never expected to develop. She encourages high school students to follow their interests and learn something new along the way.
“If you do what you are passionate about, I think there is a lot you can learn from it,” Sinha said.