According to a benchmark report by Influencer Marketing Hub (2021), the total Creator Economy market is estimated to be around $104.2 Billion, a figure which is only set to increase exponentially in the coming years. Now, if that doesn’t give you perspective. Logic is simple, content creators thrive on social platforms most of the internet-using population has willingly surrendered their attention spans to. Each time an employer switches off from their day job, they switch on to the creator economy, consuming content that feeds millions of creators from across the globe, as their primary source of income.
It just takes a quick browse, Googling some of your favourite creators’ net worth, and you can estimate that an industry, which was once considered ‘less-than’, is now making millionaires out of millennials and Gen Z alike. Money and popularity, earlier reserved for entertainment industries associated with films and television, is now easily accessible for creators thriving on platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. In another interview, India’s leading YouTuber and content creator, Bhuvan Bam, retorted, “YouTube will give Bollywood tough competition” and has since put his money where his mouth is, pioneering the YouTube movement in India.
Though the cashflow has increased tremendously now, money isn’t what attracted the early adopters of the creator economy — because there was none. Creating content stemmed more from a place of passion, of there finally being an avenue without stringent gatekeepers, to express one’s creative ideas unabashedly. “My head is constantly filled with ideas. So, I had to put it somewhere. If YouTube wasn’t there, I would’ve posted on another platform,” says Bam, 28, who currently enjoys a subscriber community of over 25 million on his YouTube channel BB Ki Vines.
TOP 10 QUESTIONS WITH BHUVAM BAM
One night in Dubai
Initially, Bam thought YouTube was a platform only reserved for Bollywood. “I always thought it was used for releasing movie trailers and songs. I didn’t know a normal boy like me could post my ideas on a platform free of cost, and it would actually reach people,” says Bam. “I discovered YouTube pretty late in my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. YouTube has changed so many lives, including mine,” adds the YouTuber, who was recently in Dubai to promote tourism in the city, in collaboration with Dubai Tourism. The power of sponsorships is also something that cannot be underestimated in the creator economy. According to the same report by Influencer Marketing Hub (2021), 77 percent of creators depend on brand deals through paid partnerships.
“I’m here with Dubai tourism, so I can go back home and tell my people ‘If you have three to four days in Dubai, these are the things you should do,” says Bam. While these sponsorships boost brand KPIs for organisations, they also help creators expand their subscriber base and tend to audiences in different countries, garnering new experiences, which then feed back into their content. “I’ve done almost everything, desert safari, skiing in Ski Dubai. We also walked on the edge and went zip lining. It’s been a full-on adventurous trip,” he adds.
A brand of its own
A YouTube channel through which Bam has been creating videos ranging from 2-10 minutes, BB Ki Vines showcases life of an urban teenager and his conversations with his friends and family — all portrayed by Bam himself — with a whimsical sense of humour. He started off uploading his videos to Facebook, filming them using the front camera of his phone and then moved onto YouTube. “My first ever video was on Facebook. From there, I transitioned to YouTube,” says Bam. “There was a silly news reporter back then, during the time of Kashmir floods in 2014, who was asking this lady, “Kaisa lag raha hai aap ka bachcha baad mein gaayab ho gaya hai?” (Your son has gone missing due to the flood; how does it make you feel?) which really made me question the future of media in the country. So, I made a parody out of it and posted a 20 second video,” he adds.
However, it wasn’t his first video that went viral. “My ninth or tenth video went viral. I had no concept of how virality works at the time. I never posted the videos anywhere or asked anyone to reshare. My videos went viral on WhatsApp,” says Bam. BB Ki Vines is now a full-fledged production company helming Bam’s big-budget projects.
Honesty over consistency
On social media, consistency is king. So is content, but consistency tops that as well, to some extent. In the game of algorithms designed to keep you relevant based on the recency of your next video, the pressure to keep going and creating can be immense. Agrees Bam, “It’s a lot of pressure. For instance, I haven’t uploaded anything on my channel for almost seven months now because I’m writing something big.” The YouTuber, was last active on the channel with the premiere of Dhindora, a web series created and produced by BB Ki Vines Production, which became the only Indian YouTube original to garner half a billion views. “I didn’t want to clutter my feed after we released Dhindora,” says Bam.
“I’m really lucky that my audience is understanding.” But it’s a two-way streak. “You need to have an open dialogue with them. I literally went on my Instagram and told them I will not be able to create something new right now. If I’m not in the right headspace for it, I cannot create simply for the sake of it. And my audience needs to know that,” says the YouTuber, who lost both his parents to Covid-19 in 2021. Life for Bam, has since, never been the same. Still adapting to his new realities, Bam has made a conscious effort to let the audiences in on his journey of coming to terms with his loss, having heart-to-heart conversations on his social media. “I don’t think people care so much about what I’m eating, what I’m wearing, or where I’m partying. It’s these honest conversations that they truly want to be a part of,” says the YouTuber.
To offend or not to offend
While most of his fanbase has been accepting of his absences from social media, the YouTuber also gets the occasional trolls who threaten to ‘unsubscribe’ to him if he doesn’t post more regularly. “Every troll is a lesson for me,” says Bam. “If someone is writing something bad about me, I don’t think it’s their fault. I just think they’re misguided,” he adds. The notion of hating someone you’ve never met is baffling to Bam. “How can you hate a person you’ve never met? If you hate me, you should come and chill with me, have a cup of chai. Then we’ll figure out if it’s really hate. What I do on the internet is something I love doing. It’s a different part of me. But this conversation, it will be a different part of me.”
Post-pandemic, we have also seen a rise in people getting outraged more easily. As a creator, especially doing comedy sketches, does Bam make a conscious effort to not offend people? “It is a conscious effort,” he replies. “I make sure I don’t write anything that will offend people. I don’t do communal comedy or insult comedy. I don’t target anyone in the name of comedy. I have the 19 characters I have created. I can make fun of them and I can make fun of myself. It’s a conscious decision,” Bam reveals. When asked why the YouTuber treads carefully, he responds, “Due to a single joke, people will think your narrative is different and will judge you on the basis of that. So, you don’t want to put any message out, which signals that you think in a particular way. People need to look at a joke as a joke but that’s not always the case.”
A secret to keep
While the content creator has been attracting new audiences with his recent web series and the buzz of his upcoming series Taaza Khabar, Bam enjoys a rock-solid fanbase of the OG subscribers, ones who started subscribing to his comedy channel from its nascent stages. And they must wonder when they’d get to see Bam in the BB Ki Vines avatar again, doing front-camera comedy sketches, a style Bam has popularised.
“They do miss those videos for sure,” adds Bam. And how does he know? “I actually speak to them on a daily basis. We are a secret group,” he reveals. “It’s a top secret. I gathered all of them in a group and texted them saying, ‘Hi, this is Bhuvan. I know that you’ve been there with me since 2015’. I requested them to keep anything I say on that group limited to that space. And nothing has ever gone out,” mentions Bam. “Even when someone is saying something negative about me, I tell them not to reply with the same attitude. As a group, we shouldn’t sound arrogant,” he adds.
Community-building is a facet that content creators have brought to the forefront of the creator economy, making it the norm for most celebrities in today’s day and age. Entertainment industries, such as Bollywood, would earlier thrive on creating superstar images of actors, portraying them with a certain mystique and enigma. Now, thanks to the age of social media and influencers, actors are following suit and trying to build a community of their own, to establish a personal connection with their audiences. “Earlier, this was the thin line between social media and the movie industry. We always dreamed of being able to catch a glimpse of these superstars,” says Bam. “Today, it’s all jumbled up. You can be on anyone’s Instagram. You can DM (direct message) them, you can comment on their photos. Social media has made that possible for everyone,” he adds. “Rather than fighting it, you can choose to embrace it.”
Welcome to the Bam-verse!
The YouTuber has created somewhat of a parallel universe with his own range of unique characters, including Sameer, Titu Mama, Banchoddas, Bablu and many others that are also seen on his latest show Dhindora. The inspiration of creating this new world came through observations from his real world, growing up in Delhi, says Bam. “I used to travel a lot in the metro, on my scooty. Every nook and corner, every traffic signal had so much content. There are so many stories in the metro, in trains, on flights. Every person is different. They have a different trait. And you pick up a trait from each person and combine it to make a character. Some of them are inspired from my own relationships. Titu Mama is exactly like my uncle.”
According to the YouTuber, such is the nature of comedy. “Comedy can come to you at the strangest of places. I remember I had gone to someone’s funeral and I started giggling because I had a joke in my head,” he adds. “Comedy is a very dangerous thing, it can strike you at anytime.” It’s the ability to take on life light-footed, which has enabled Bam to march forward, from the confines of his bedroom being the content factory to leading a 200-people set for Dhindora. “Nobody in India had done something like this before except Kamal Haasan sir for Dasavatharam, where he played 10 characters himself,” says Bam, who plays multiple characters himself in Dhindora.
The YouTuber will soon be seen in Disney+ Hotstar’s next Taaza Khabar set to release around November this year. “BB Ki Vines Production has produced the show. It’s a fantasy drama with a little bit of humour. It’s the first time I’m playing a role that isn’t centered around comedy,” he adds. “It’s about a sanitation worker, who lives in Mumbai chawl (a large tenement house) and how his life changes when he gets a magic power. It gets wild.”
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