‘Unboxing’ YouTube

Debarati Palit
Monday, 8 January 2018

Debarati Palit Singh chats up Satya Raghavan, entertainment head, YouTube India, and YouTube stars about the emergence of original content and how the hugely popular video-sharing website is creating its own community and connecting people from across the world

Till a few years ago, YouTube was considered a medium to experiment. Today, it is recognised as the fastest growing online creator in India. From recipes, to movie trailers, funny videos, hit music tracks, fashion tips, quick fixes for interiors and so on, YouTube offers everything to viewers.

India alone has over 200 channels that have hit more than one million subscribers last year. According to data (App Annie), over 225 million Indian smartphone users have access to YouTube and YouTube watch-time has grown over 400 per cent on mobile devices.

Satya Raghavan, entertainment head, YouTube India, says that before 2014, they witnessed traditional media content. “But around 2014, we saw the emergence of ordinary people, who were talented in a particular art form like music or cooking,” he says.

YouTube sensations are large in number today and their tribe is growing along with their dedicated followers.      

Emerging trends  
Since 2015, regional languages have been attracting a large number of audience. “In 2015, we saw South Indian comedy channels emerging. By 2016, other languages like Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, etc emerged. There are a few verticals that came across and grew at great speed,” says Raghavan adding that within the verticals, several sub verticals emerged. “Like in the movie vertical, we have full-length movies, trailers, songs, behind-the-scenes. But something that’s emerging is movie reviews. Also, dance. If you search Swag Se Swagat, you will find a number of dance videos around the song. Similarly in food, we are seeing village food creators who are showing how food is cooked in villages. In the last few years, content has evolved,” he says.
YouTube’s biggest draw is that it’s an easy-to-use platform where you can put out your content at the click of a button. “You can use a phone to create content so technological barriers don’t exist. You just need good content with best practises,” says Raghavan adding that some of the creators have seen a four-digit growth in the last couple of years. BB Ki Vines had 3,000-4,000 subscribers initially, now it has crossed five million.

Turn into a YouTuber pro  
To enhance your talent and create better content, YouTube also offers assistance and training. “We give them insight, knowledge, training and a chance to interact with other creators. Recently, we had a workshop on production fundamentals. We also have sound and production workshops regularly,” says Raghavan.

It is usually believed that Indian content creators create content which is an extension of what they see internationally but Raghavan doesn’t agree. “When it comes to technology,  you will see creators in the West either doing unboxing or reviews but creators here do one or two videos a day. They regularly have Q and A sessions and even go live because they want to keep interacting with their viewers,” he explains.  
And they also make money. Raghavan says that YouTube has become the central part of their business. “Music bands like Sanam get a lot of concerts and gigs because of their popularity on YouTube. And so do comedians,” he adds.  

So as long as you can get creative and come up with original content, you can hope to be a YouTube sensation too. 

‘I try to go out and enjoy my work’
Channel: BB Ki Vines
Genre: Comedy
Subscribers: 5,589,419

Bhuvan Bam is a YouTube celebrity and why not? Each of his BB Ki Vines videos, inspired by the problems that middle-class families face, gets more than 10 lakh or more hits. He believes that the digital medium, especially in India, has opened doors for all kinds of art forms.
“Earlier, Bollywood and reality shows were the only ways to showcase your talent, but now online platforms have given great opportunities to talented people with dreams. The future of online content is definitely a vertical graph with new web series and short movies/ sketches in the making,” he says.  

But creating videos that connect with the audience and make people laugh isn’t easy. Bam believes that observation is the key to every humorous act. “I observe a lot. People around me help me build new characters, their problems give me ideas about situations, and adding humour to such situations is my craziness,” he says.

Living up to the expectations of viewers is a big task and Bam says that he definitely feels the pressure. “I’ve learnt that it is impossible to please everyone. Putting up an episode in front of such a massive audience always gives me anxiety and headache and I keep forgetting that I started doing all this because I loved it. But no point in getting stressed, I try to go out and enjoy my work,” says the Delhi boy.

Along with praise, content creators have to face criticism too. “But criticism is great. It keeps you sane and real. That said, one should learn to differentiate between healthy criticism and blatant abuse/ trolling. The best way to deal with such trolls is to ignore and keep doing your thing,” he says.   

Ask him about the future of content and he replies, “It’s all mixed up on YouTube nowadays. You see all kinds of content floating on the platform. There’s a constant battle between the actual content creators and the fake channels who just thrive on clickbaits and fake attractive thumbnails.”

‘Most people in our country do not follow international content’

Channel: Sharmaji Technical
Genre: Technology
Subscribers: 812,457

If you watch Praval Sharma’s videos, it’s evident that he makes technology simple for his Hindi-speaking viewers. One of the most popular videos is technology news, where he talks about new phones and news related to them.

“The reason the section works is because people want to know what’s happening in digital India. There’s a section of people who buy smartphones every few months and there’s another section, who despite buying a new phone every now and then, still want to know what’s happening in the technology world,” he says.

Sharma says that YouTube is also providing a healthy atmosphere and motivating creators to come up with a variety of content.

“There’s a lady in Pubjab who makes videos of her cooking at home. She has got more than five lakh views,” says Sharma.

Sharma further adds that most people in our country do not follow international content. “Which is why creators are now conceptualising content according to Indian audience,” says Sharma whose viewers range from 13-to 35-year-olds. He also runs other channels like Sharmaji Infinity and Varchasvi Sharma.

‘The pressure is good’

Channel: Harsh Beniwal
Genre: Comedy
Subscribers: 1,728,847

When Harsh Beniwal started his career as a YouTube content creator, his family wasn’t aware of YouTube. “My mother thought I was doing time-pass but as I started earning, they realised that I am doing something worthwhile and positive,” he says.   

Beniwal says that he started creating videos because of his passion for acting. “I am passionate about acting and wanted to act in videos. But more than money, the praise that I get is important. I get messages from people saying, ‘I was depressed for a couple of months and after watching your videos I am feeling better’. When people appreciate my work, it makes me think that I have done something good in life,” he says.

He makes five-to seven-minute funny videos on issues that youngsters face, like what a guy goes through when he has to choose between girlfriend and friends. “I think the reason my content works is because it is relatable. The bhai-behen video got the maximum hits because people could connect to it. Not everyone watches films, so when we give them a five-minute funny video, they enjoy it.”   

As a content creator, he feels the pressure but says, “The pressure is good because it pushes me to create better content.”

Beniwal wants to do rapping in the future.

‘One can get an array of recipes’

Channel: Nisha Madhulika
Genre: Food
Subscribers: 3,253, 302

Nisha Madhulika comes up with dishes which can be made with easily available ingredients and are easy to prepare. “My intention was to do good work,” she says.

Madhulika, who joined YouTube in 2009, says that she reads each and every comment and gives answers, and this has worked in her favour. Over the years, she has made several changes in her content. “A lot of my viewers have said that I speak slowly. Now I try to speak faster. They have also pointed out that my videos are long, so I have shortened them. I only given information that’s necessary for the recipe,” she says.

 She is happy that her channel has become a library for recipes. “Sometimes when I am making a dish after several months, I watch my own videos. But it’s nice that one can get an array of recipes on my channel,” she says adding that Kachori and Gulab Jamun are her favourites.

You have to maintain quality’

Channel: Sejal Kumar
Genre: Fashion and Lifestyle
Subscribers: 475,442

B y now, I know the demographics of my audience, who are mostly 18-to 24-year-olds, predominately female. So, I am focused on what I am creating,” says Sejal Kumar, founder of a fashion and lifestyle YouTube channel.  

She says that editing and producing a video was a challenge for her. “Also, when you are making a certain kind of content for sometime, you have to maintain quality and see that the content is relevant. This becomes a little bit hard,” she says.

Sejal also takes requests from subscribers. “If in doubt, I ask my friends, people whom I trust. But there is immense competition with several channels focusing on fashion and lifestyle but competition is good. It’s not like television, where you have one show at 9 pm. It’s good that there are other channels and people will watch them. But I also collaborate with other bloggers which is kind of exciting for my viewers,” she says.

‘Kids relate to content better in their mother tongue’

Channel: Chu Chu TV
Genre: Children
Subscribers: 14,086,526

The brainchild of Vinoth Chandar, Chu Chu TV was designed to engage children through a series of nursery rhymes and educational songs with colourful animation. Chandar, founder, CEO and creative director, Chu Chu TV, says, “Our motto has been to provide content that is not just entertaining or educational, but also nurtures a more gentle world that cares about the values of love, respect, sharing, friendship and teamwork. In our videos, we are careful about gender sensitisation, and make sure that they are culturally relevant and racially inclusive, and do not show violence.”  

Chu Chu TV is now creating more content in international and also Indian regional languages. “That’s because we feel that kids relate to content better in their mother tongue. ChuChu TV’s ‘Learning English is Fun’ is another series (it has received around 40 million views for its first 10 episodes) that helps pre-schoolers across the world learn English, shapes, colours and actions in a fun, engaging and effective way. We think parents appreciate and value our intent which makes ChuChu TV a globally popular brand with 15.3 billion views and 20 million subscribers, and places us at number 22 in the top 100 channels across the world.”

The growth in the number of devices, internet penetration and falling data prices have ensured that millions of people across the world are connected. “We see this trend continuing and becoming stronger in the coming years as more people join in — both in providing targeted content as well as consuming it,” Chandar adds.  

Another trend is age compression, whereby kids are coming to the internet at earlier years. “There is a certain ease of familiarity we are noticing  in younger kids and therefore more reason for content providers to be sensitive about the kind of content they are generating for the young ones and parents to be involved in co-viewing or monitoring the content that kids are watching,” he says.

The channel creates about 15 new videos every month, but they always put quality before quantity. “It is a time-taking process, but every aspect involving the narrative, storyboard, music, direction is looked at closely and tested before going live,” Chandar shares.

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