Meet CarryMinati, an Asian social media star with over 40 million followers

Dubai - The 22-year-old Indian digital content creator is making waves in the virtual space

By Nithin Belle

Published: Sun 24 Oct 2021, 12:23 PM

Yalgaar, a three-minute and 14-second video, has recorded 262 million views since June 5, 2020, on YouTube.

CarryMinati, whose original name is Ajey Nagar, is a musician – or digital content creator and rapper – and has emerged as the numero uno digital creator in Asia. Over 32.5 million follow him on YouTube.

The 22-year-old Delhi-based YouTuber — he posted his first video when he was only 10 years old — streamer, gamer and rapper is described as a key innovator in India’s emerging and vibrant digital community.

Nagar’s collective digital following adds up to a mind-boggling 40 million-plus.

He reigns supreme in the roasting and live gaming genre. He tops the 10 most-subscribed YouTube channels in India. And the restless rapper is foraying into Bollywood, with his popular rap single,

Yalgaar, being featured in Abhishek Bachchan’s Big Bull. He is also starring in Ajay Devgn’s MayDay, which features Amitabh Bachchan as well.

Khaleej Times caught up with Nagar, who has also been featured in Time magazine’s Next Generation Leaders (2019) and Forbes’ Under-30 Asia (2020).

Edited excerpts from the interview:

You have had a phenomenal career as a teenager. How do you look at life in your ‘20s, ‘30s and beyond?

Age is just a number for me. I feel younger with every passing year. Maybe my style of content creation will change when I’m 30-plus but I’ll continue pursuing it because that’s my first love. By the time I’m 40, I may turn into a serial entrepreneur in the gaming industry. You just never know where life takes you!

When you grew up in Faridabad, did you ever dream you would soon emerge as such a popular figure within a decade?

Faridabad is a peaceful town on the outskirts of Delhi. I wouldn’t say it’s a happening place, but growing up in Faridabad you observe a lot and you find small things to have fun with. It keeps you grounded and at the same time has the space for you to follow your passion and grow in a unique way. I didn’t really think my dream would come to fruition, but who really does? It’s all about having fun with what you’re doing; if you’re successful then it’s great, otherwise you just had a lot of fun.

Were any of your close relatives involved in showbiz, entertainment or the media?

My family has a political background. Most of them, including my father, are lawyers and are respected in the region. However, no one in my family has ever touched show biz, though they have been big fans of cinema. In the early days, our family used to go to watch movies and being a foodie, it was an excuse to eat popcorn, you get the gist of it.

Who were your heroes in those days?

My heroes have been pretty constant from day one. I always looked up to my parents and still continue to do so. Nothing can replace the unconditional love and support they have extended to me and how they have stood by me like a rock solid pillar through my best and worst times.

How did you react when Time magazine featured you and you got involved in brand engagement with some of the world’s top corporate entities?

It took me a while to digest the news. But when I came to terms with it, I felt really proud to be representing India on the world stage at such a young age. I’d say this feat never consumed me in a way where I got boastful about it but it was a yardstick that encouraged me to better myself as a creator and achieve similar landmark milestones in the future. I never view awards and accomplishments as a primary goal, it’s just a miniscule part of my existence.

Have you travelled extensively around the globe?

I have been fortunate enough to have opportunities to travel outside India a lot but the pandemic has been a major turn off. I wouldn’t say my travel slowed down during the pandemic but instead it came to a dead stop.

When did you first visit Dubai? Do you remember any interesting episodes that struck you in the city?

I first went to Dubai in 2019 to shoot a video for my Q&A series. I planned to record myself skydiving to celebrate the seven million milestone. Initially, I planned to stay there for two days but unfortunately the winds had other plans. I couldn’t skydive on the day I had planned. We tried for three days then finally on the fourth day I was able to skydive. I did what every traveller does when they first arrive in Dubai, which is shopping. But I’m not a big fan of high-end brands.

Looking back on your teenage years, any feelings of having missed out on things you would have loved doing?

I did miss the regular college life and hanging out with friends on campus but this is all compensated by the love and support earned by me over the years. As a teenager you want to live a carefree life, which I missed out on because I was so engrossed pursuing my passion but the hustle was real.

Tell us about your foray into animation?

I have always toyed with the idea of experimenting with animation since I’ve childhood memories associated with cartoons and my style of roast comedy is better leveraged with animation which breaks away from the limitations that comes along with live action.

In 2017, I came in contact with illustrators and they helped create animated posters, which I used as my profile picture. I realised that I needed to hone my assimilation skills to attain that sense of presentational faultlessness.  In October 2020, after a pretty upsetting week I decided I’d finally work towards compiling a top-notch animated video. The initial title that came to my mind in that bleak state then was A Meeting with the Devil but then of course we improvised it to Uncanny Roaches?.

I began scripting for the animated video around November but was occupied with Mayday and Vardaan over the next few months. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away in February. I still tried working late nights on the animation scripting but was not able to focus due to the personal loss; by the first week of March the first draft of the animation was scripted. I also binge-watched the entire season of for the roast video. It took me close to two months to perfect this series.

I have also returned to my older methodology as I feel my creative evolution has taken a full circle. It’s an upgraded version of CarryMinati and the goal was to present the best video. At the start of my career, it was pure passion play for me, quality over quantity, and I have adapted to that mindset with this video. Being true to my art, circumventing the pressure to deliver and letting the magic happen organically and authentically. I’m working on an animated web series along with my business partner Deepak Char. At present, we are in the trial phase. We created a brief segment to gauge audience feedback and it’s well received so we will pursue it in a more structured manner.

Tell us about your foray into Bollywood? Busy as you were in your younger days with YouTube and the digital media, you might not have been a great fan of Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn, or have the time to watch their films?

MayDay isn’t my full-fledged debut. It’s more like an extension of what I do. I dedicate 10 hours in a day for content creation, which I hope never takes a back seat. I’d like to consider that as my passion and calling; acting and music for me is a medium where I can showcase my art to a more varied audience. My acting innings will happen when I secure an opportunity to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to the art unflinchingly, everything else I do right now I consider as a special appearance.

What made it really interesting for me to align forces on MayDay was when I heard I am supposed to be essaying my own character (CarryMinati). I eat, breathe, sleep and live my character every single day. It has been quite a novel experience.

Who isn’t a fan of Amitabh Bachchan and Ajay Devgn? I feel they are legends in their own right and we all have grown up watching their movies. I learnt a thing or two about acting from Devgn. YouTube is my first love and that will never be compromised on. I was working 48 hours in a day with minimal sleep whilst preparing for my debut film as I was also simultaneously working on my YouTube content. My business partner and manager Char has multiple acting offers on the table but I am selective of what and who I associate with since I’m in no hurry to get rich and famous and be known as the next Bollywood star to watch out for. I want to focus on quality over quantity. Isolation and the Covid-19 pandemic somewhere affected me at a subconscious level. The film shoot was therapeutic and gave me perspective.

Tell us about your foray into music

Music helps me express myself better since I’m an introvert and aids me to speak my soul language. The response to my music releases has always been encouraging and motivates me to work harder. I’m gaining a lot of interest towards music, which is now part of my primary passion along with gaming and content creation. I’m taking my time in harnessing skills in a more disciplined fashion so that I can drop songs more frequently.

Your advice for children and teenagers, especially from smaller towns and even semi-rural areas?

My advice would be to not fall prey to the rat race of likes and followers and be unique in the content you create. Decide on a differentiating vantage point in terms of your content selection, something that you are passionate and confident about and will give you an edge over your peers.

Good content is the only way to build an organic and authentic subscriber base. Please don’t allow the concept of followers or likes influence your commitment to the art. Create content because you’re passionate about it and see merit in what you have to offer to the world. Even in my recent YouTube video I talked about social media culture and touched on topics such as social comparison and trolls. I also released my second video to make viewers aware about the cancellation culture in our society in an unorthodox way. I feel as an influencer it’s your duty to make your audience aware of such practices that are common on social media and we often believe such trends online, which may not be 100 per cent true.

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