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BW Businessworld

Influencers Speak

Apps like TikTok changed the game in the social media space with short -video content. The platform made easy to create contents for the tier II,III and IV people with smartphones and earn money easily.

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When comedian Jerry Seinfeld used mundane occurrences to evoke laughter, who knew he would become a global image one day? The fact is, you never know from where and when a star is born. The burgeoning platforms in the short video content space are leading to the emergence of a global human brand from India. It cannot be dismissed that the virtuous cycle of content creation and consumption is creating a distinct scene, allowing the common man to live uncommon dreams through the digital world. Creating content heroes, marketers say, should be a long-term goal for the new and emerging platforms in the domain. And that would lend a hard push to India’s soft power. But for that to happen, the platforms need to have the right mix of ingredients to appeal a userbase — from a creator, audience and advertiser perspective — with tastes as diverse as India itself.  Apps like TikTok changed the game  in the social media space with short -video content. The platform made easy to create contents for the tier II,III and IV people with smartphones and earn money easily.

Sameeksha Sud
With over 24 million fans on TikTok, Sameeksha Sud is counted among one of the top 10 influencers on the currently banned platform in India. Her popularity as a social media influencer was preceded by a career as a Hindi television actor. But a shot at lip-sync apps and a chance to make original short-form content via a challenge, gave her a taste of being able to do something new. With TikTok gone since June 29, Sud’s earnings, like many others, who were on the platform, have been affected. But she has put her energy into posting more content than she used to earlier, on her Instagram and YouTube pages. Her YouTube presence is through TeenTigada, which she created with Bhavin Bhanushali and Vishal Pandey. “I was shocked about the ban initially, but obviously, no app and nothing else is bigger than our nation. I support it, and I am confident that what will happen, will happen for good. Whatever the final decision may be, I stand by India,” she added, who wants to wait and watch before taking the plunge into a new platform. Pointing at the USP of TikTok Sud said, “The fame that I got from the platform is one thing. But it gave an opportunity for talents in smaller towns to have a shot at a quick rise to fame. People from smaller towns got a bigger stage through this unbiased platform, where good talent could emerge out of anywhere.” She is sampling Instagram Reels nowadays, and also getting some television show offers once again.

Mohak Narang
He’s just 19 and raring to go. The past six to seven months, much of which went by in the lockdown, proved to be a boon for Narang, who was able to notch up a fan following of 14.3 million on TikTok. The youngster from Hisar is known to India’s TikTok fans for his romantic, comedy and fun videos. When he started his journeys, social media craze was not at its peak. But he was intrigued by the game of fame. TikTok was musical back then. People mocked him. But he ignored that. “I started slow, but in the past five to six months, I got a tremendous spike in the following. I was trending each day. I ensured to take part in challenges and increasing my presence. On an average, I was getting 2-3 million likes on each video,” he said, who is now busy building his visibility on Instagram and YouTube. With his TikTok presence, he was being able to earn a “good amount” every month. According to industry experts, a talent with the following Narang can earn up to Rs 200,000-250,000 every month through song promotions, jingles, official challenges, et al. Since the lockdown, Narang said his income was down a straight 50 per cent. Not choosing to follow other influencers, who are running helter skelter to newer apps, he wanted to wait till the “time is right”. He’s up for supporting a ‘Made in India’ product. He added, “I would love and prefer to promote an Indian platform. I will shift my presence to an Indian platform, and it will give me a good feeling too, doing something for the country.”

Shivani Kapila
How did @littlegloves take birth? Through Mother TikTok! It was her base. She grew with Mother TikTok well. She worked hard. She knew how to cater to her audience. But now it’s gone. Now everything that I had planned for the next five years has gone,” rued Shivani Kapila, who left a cushy job in the human resource to pursue a newfound passion of content creation two years ago. The interim ban on TikTok, where she grew her presence to 10.6 million followers with quirky videos featuring her mother-in-law as well as “partner ccccin crime” Umesh Saini, has come hard on her. “I had a well-settled profile, which was growing. I had a lot of brand collaborations. And suddenly everything went to nothing. Within a minute, I lost two years of my life. I left my job, changed my city, I grew my account... All that was gone,” said Surat-based Kapila, who is now making strides to grow her presence on Instagram and YouTube. On TikTok, her popularity led to interesting collaborations and opportunities to monetise. “I was happy to earn through my creativity,” she added, whose Instagram presence currently stands at 171,000 followers. Her earnings, she shared, are currently down by 100 per cent. “I used to get 2-3 collaborations per week, which is now stopped. I am sure any platform, which will give us the right recognition, will attract creators,” she added, who is yet to try out any of the Indian origin apps in the short video sharing platform space. Sentimental about losing the connection she had built with her fans, she said, “It’s like losing a well-built family.”

For Geet, a former lawyer, her presence in the TikTok world — spread across three channels @TheOfficialGeet (4.6 million followers), @ EnglishWithGeet (6.3 million followers) and @OfficialGuruG (550,000) — was an extension of her life as a social worker looking to make a difference in the society. Hopeful that the ban on the short video sharing platform is not permanent, she felt there is currently no platform to “match the organic reach” that influencers were getting through the easy-to-share, bite-sized and inclusive format of TikTok. “It was allowing me to have such an amazing impact,” said Geet, who as a child harboured a dream to be an actor, until a car accident left her wheelchair-bound. It didn’t, however, dampen her spirit. “The reason why I gave up acting was because my teacher told me that I was on a wheelchair, I could not be an actress. TikTok was an equaliser. It was allowing people to be on the same footing. People felt accepted, and they could have dreams for a better life,” she added, one of the early motivational and educational content creators. “In a slum, I can reach from 20 to 100 people with a particular message. And here, with a short video, I could reach hundreds and thousands of people. I realised through TikTok that 15 seconds is all it takes to change a life, a heart and a mind,” she said, adding, “People are using other apps, but I hear that during peak hour surge, these platforms are unstable as they weren’t prepared for so many users so fast.”

Abheshek Garg
Abheshek Garg, who calls himself a ‘lifestyle advisor’, started his journey as a digital influencer with Instagram. He perceived TikTok as a medium aimed at India’s tier-II and III markets. But over the past six months, driven by his own experience, he felt the perception was changing. “My growth on Instagram increased 10-fold after I joined TikTok,” he said, a plywood manufacturer who was raised in Yamuna Nagar, Haryana. His presence on the platform won him the Karamveer Chakra award for raising awareness on social causes. He believed expansion is a necessity for content creators, but there’s a lack of a “good and stable” alternative to TikTok, except Instagram Reels from the international market, and India’s Roposo. “It is a chaos with numerous options right now, but Roposo is the closest substitute and user-friendly. A lot of things are similar, and it’s also an Indian app,” he said, noting the wave of the ‘atmanirbharta’ sentiment. He added that before the ban, TikTok was aggressively testing a ‘TikTok Creator Monetisation’ module, which would help connect creators with brands directly on the platform. India, he believed, is fully capable of coming up with its own app, but it has to build an unmatched ecosystem and user engagement rate. “If one has to speak about the big players, lets understand that they are big because of the Indian audiences on their platform. The number of Internet users here is high”.

This article was first published in the print issue of (10 July - 25 July) BW Businessworld. Click Here to Subscribe to BW Businessworld magazine.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Radhika Bhirani

The author is a Senior Writer at BW Businessworld.

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