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How Small-town content creators in India are gaining YouTube fame

Youtube fame for small town content creators

Deepanshi Jain, a young woman in her early 20s, has built a YouTube channel with over 100,000 subscribers. The channel’s success began during the Covid-19 lockdown when Jain found herself with plenty of time on her hands. Recognizing that others might be in the same situation, she decided to create a YouTube channel focused on activities and ideas for people stuck at home. Her content quickly gained popularity, and within two months. She gained 6,000 subscribers and monetised her channel. Impressed by her channel’s growth, Jain quit her job to focus on content creation full-time.

Jain’s success story reflects a larger trend identified in a 2022 study by Oxford Economics. The study revealed that creative entrepreneurs on YouTube contributed over Rs 10,000 crore to India’s Gross Domestic Product in 2021. The research, conducted in eight Indian languages, also highlighted that YouTube supported the equivalent of 750,000 full-time jobs.

Contrary to the perception that internet-based startups originate mostly in metropolitan areas, the study showed that content creators are emerging from various parts of the country. Jain, for instance, hails from the tier-2 city of Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh. And her YouTube channel, Chillbee, has enabled her to tap into her creativity and achieve financial independence.

How the trend started

During the lockdown, social media became a go-to destination for many people seeking alternative forms of interaction. The numbers reflect the scale of this shift, with India having nearly 840 million internet subscribers. Including wired and mobile phone users, as of February 2023, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. The increasing affordability of smartphones has also fuelled the growth of the content creation economy.

YouTube stands out as an enticing platform for content creators like Jain due to its numerous monetisation opportunities and massive audience base. Kiruba Shankar, a digital entrepreneur, explains that monetisation is a major motivator for young creators. And platforms like YouTube have revolutionised the industry by offering opportunities to a broader range of individuals. Content creators can generate revenue through barter collaborations with brands, sponsored videos, YouTube memberships, private classes, and features like “Super Chat.” Additionally, creators can sell branded merchandise, earn from Adsense, or even sell their YouTube channels to companies.

While content creators can find success across various genres, including beauty, lifestyle, technology, and education. The competition is fierce, especially in popular categories. Early adopters who established their channels in these genres enjoy the advantages of a loyal and growing audience base. However, creators like Devesh Mishra emphasize the importance of offering unique content from a fresh perspective to stand out from the crowd.

The Challenges

Despite the opportunities available for content creators, there are challenges that hinder widespread success. The digital divide and lack of digital literacy prevent a significant portion of the population from consuming or creating content. According to the National Family Health Survey, between 2019 and 2021, only one-third of women and 57.1% of men in India had ever used the internet. This digital divide reflects socio-economic disparities, impacting the most marginalised groups. Who often struggle to find regular employment and miss out on these content creation opportunities.

Suruwinder Singh, a lower-middle-class YouTuber, highlights the difficulty of growing a channel while working a full-time job to support his family. Monetisation eligibility requires a minimum of 1,000 followers and 4,000 watch hours. Making it challenging for aspiring creators to quickly gain traction. While success stories like Jain’s are exciting, they are balanced by the thousands who fail to make their content financially viable.

The new revenue streams

Creators from remote corners of the country are discovering new avenues as traditional employment opportunities dry up. However, for every success story, there are thousands who fail to monetize their content. In response to the popularity of short-form video content on platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels, YouTube launched YouTube Shorts in 2020. This format appeals to younger audiences who prefer shorter videos lasting a minute or less. Bain & Company, a global consultancy firm, predicts promising engagement for short-form videos in the future, estimating that by 2025, approximately 650 million users in India will consume such content. Despite their popularity, monetising these short videos proves challenging as it is difficult to incorporate sponsorship messages within a 60-second video. According to Kiruba Shankar, the next driver of the content economy will be regional language content, offering significant opportunities for creators from smaller towns and villages. Additionally, creating content that appeals to audiences outside local geographies by using subtitles in different languages can broaden the reach.

The show must go on

The content creation ecosystem in India provides viable alternatives to regular employment, but it also creates a competitive treadmill for creators to constantly stay ahead. Nonetheless, it has opened up potential avenues for young creators beyond major metros and big cities who were previously starved for employment opportunities.

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