Mandate - - Front Page - By Nairita Mukher­jee & Vi­raj Sawant

The YouTube fan fest had the medium’s top at­trac­tions, all per­form­ing un­der one roof, in Mumbai. Need­less to say, it was a full house and a com­plete laugh riot. Which got us think­ing, how do th­ese widely dif­fer­ent con­tent cre­ators man­age to grab view­ers by the balls? To find out the an­swer, we spoke to a care­fully se­lected and var­ied list of four cre­ators.

You know you’re down with The Vi­ral Fever ( TVF) if words like ‘Qtiyapa’ are now a part of your daily con­ver­sa­tions. Well, we know we are. But the story be­hind TVF goes way be­yond their YouTube chan­nel. Arun­abh Ku­mar, Founder and CEO of TVF Group, landed in Mumbai in 2006, fresh out of IIT Kharag­pur, with a mil­lion dreams and zero means to achieve them. He started off as a re­search con­sul­tant with the US Air Force, but it didn’t take him long to re­alise that this wasn’t his call­ing. Af­ter an ini­tial strug­gle, he landed a ‘dream job’ at Red Chillies as an as­sis­tant direc­tor with Farah Khan. Then, in 2010, he started his own pro­duc­tion house—Out­siders Cre­ations—which was later re­named The Vi­ral Fever Me­dia Labs. “I just wanted to cre­ate a show that you and I would watch, and I re­alised that there were no shows like that on In­dian tele­vi­sion, and no mat­ter what chan­nel you were on, you were force-fed the typ­i­cal fam­ily drama,” said Arun­abh, mak­ing quo­ta­tion signs in the air. We sat across his desk, while he caught his breath be­tween cre­ative ses­sions. And, by cre­ative ses­sions, we mean a large room with a large white board on one side and sev­eral bean bags and mats sprawled across on the other, with him scrib­bling end­less abbreviations, while a bunch of guys who look like col­lege fresh­ers in­ter­ject with ideas—an or­di­nary brain­storm­ing ses­sion. “I de­cided to make cor­po­rate films and cre­ate branded con­tent and in­vest the money earned from it into TVF,” he con­tin­ued.

Since their first video in the sum­mer of 2011, The In­glo­ri­ous Se­niors, TVF’s pop­u­lar­ity has only sky­rock­eted. But the ini­tial idea, with which Ku­mar stepped into this space—the in­ten­tion of telling iden­ti­fi­able sto­ries with softer emo­tions—was yet to ma­te­ri­alise. “We had to stall it for a cou­ple of years just so that we could build a sta­ble au­di­ence base,” said Ku­mar. The strat­egy worked, and TVF fans lapped up their orig­i­nal drama se­ries— Per­ma­nent Room­mates, which be­came one of the most-watched branded prop­er­ties glob­ally—an ini­tia­tive com­pletely dif­fer­ent from TVF- Qtiyapa (com­edy) and TVF-Re­cy­cle Bin (non-fic­tion), called TVF-Drama. The show, con­ceived en­tirely for Com­mon­Floor, the brand part­ner, makes us won­der, how the view­ers stand to ben­e­fit in this brand­con­tent in­te­gra­tion. “The best part about the in­ter­net is that the power or the choice lies with the viewer. If there are mil­lions of view­ers vis­it­ing TVF ev­ery day, watch­ing the videos we’ve cre­ated, it means we’ve struck a chord. And they trust us,” clar­i­fied Ku­mar. TVF has since cre­ated videos for over 20 brands, in­clud­ing the likes of Flip­kart, Air­tel, Head & Shoul­ders, Shik­, etc., and have learnt to do it seam­lessly af­ter a lot of hard work.

Ku­mar fur­ther re­vealed how the idea of in­te­grat­ing film pro­mo­tions into dig­i­tal con­tent was pi­o­neered by them af­ter the suc­cess of one of their videos, Rowdies. “Some 25 brands ap­proached

us, of­fer­ing to fund our work in ex­change for brand in­te­gra­tion. But the idea of in­te­grat­ing film pro­mo­tions was a first for, I think, any­one, when we were ap­proached by Dharma Pro­duc­tions be­fore the re­lease of Stu­dent of the Year. That’s how Gaana wala Song hap­pened, which was later fol­lowed by The Gangs of So­cial Me­dia on Valen­tine’s Day of 2013,” said Ku­mar. This in­ad­ver­tently paved the path for par­o­dies get­ting main­stream ac­cep­tance, some­thing Bol­ly­wood in par­tic­u­lar, and so­ci­ety in gen­eral, have been averse to in the past. “Since then, we’ve worked with Nau­tanki Sala, Kill Dill, Shorts, Su­per Chor and Happy New Year, and many more are to come,” added Ku­mar.

Ku­mar feels that movie in­te­gra­tions work in two ways, “While we get to col­lab­o­rate with peo­ple like SRK and Anurag Kashyap, many small bud­get films get a lot of mileage be­cause of us, some­thing they couldn’t have achieved oth­er­wise,” he ex­plained. Case in point, Suleimani Keeda, which was re­leased by TVF on­line, got a mas­sive viewer re­sponse.

Ask him about TVF’s plans and Ku­mar will throw a mil­lion ideas at you. It might even seem a bit too am­bi­tious— Per­ma­nent Room­mates Sea­son 2 and a new show called Pitch­ers, both by this year, the idea of ven­tur­ing into full fledged movie-mak­ing, with, of course, the ul­ti­mate aim of be­com­ing a me­dia con­glom­er­ate that cu­rates, cre­ates and dis­sem­i­nates con­tent—and judg­ing by their graph so far, you know they will get there. Ask him how in­stru­men­tal YouTube has been in chalk­ing out the path, and he glee­fully re­sponds, “It’s been cru­cial. I al­ways wanted to make shows but I couldn’t do so for In­dian tele­vi­sion. YouTube worked like ca­ble TV for us, mak­ing our con­tent avail­able to mil­lions, and for free!” So, while TVF cel­e­brates reach­ing one mil­lion sub­scribers this year, mak­ing them one of the most sub­scribed chan­nels in Asia, all we can say is, keep the videos com­ing!

and other cre­ative pro­cesses, SDE’s USP is the an­i­ma­tion, which is the most time-con­sum­ing and ex­pen­sive side of it, and of course, the most at­ten­tion-grab­bing too. “Our fo­cus from the start has been not to copy any­one, we wanted to cre­ate orig­i­nal con­tent that would stand out from the rest and carve a niche of its own and we knew that op­por­tu­nity was avail­able in the an­i­ma­tion space,” said Anand, and it is safe to say, they have achieved that. “When we re­alised our videos were be­ing ap­pre­ci­ated, we de­cided to pump in more cash from other chan­nels.”

The self-funded com­pany, a brain­child of Co-Founders Sud­hir Bagul, (Chief Strat­egy Of­fi­cer) and Jagdish Thakkar (Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer) along with Anand, started off with just a cou­ple of chan­nels—a tech show and a dat­ing show—on YouTube, where th­ese guys put in their own money to set the ball rolling. “When we started, YouTube had helped us a lot with the mar­ket­ing and that gave us the ini­tial push. In those days, the poli­cies were very dif­fer­ent, wherein they used to en­cour­age and back orig­i­nal con­tent in ev­ery way. YouTube ads were our sole in­come source and we al­ways made sure that the re­turn on in­vest­ment was high. Luck­ily, so far we’ve not had to go for ex­ter­nal fund­ing, but this year on­wards, we will be rais­ing funds through ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists,” Anand added. At the mo­ment, apart from YouTube ads, the com­pany’s rev­enue comes from in­video-brand­ing and part­ner­ships, like their re­cent tie-up with IIT-B’s Mood-Indigo as hu­mour part­ner.

The stu­dio cur­rently has a team of around 35 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 15 an­i­ma­tors, but they are look­ing to ex­pand not just the team, but their con­tent spec­trum and au­di­ence de­mo­graphic as well. “We are open to col­lab­o­rat­ing with film pro­duc­tion houses and work­ing to­wards pro­mot­ing movies through our videos,” Anand said of the re­cent trend of Bol­ly­wood in­te­grat­ing its pro­mo­tions with popular YouTube chan­nels. “It’s an in­ter­est­ing thought, who knows maybe we can have the stars do the voice-overs for our videos too! The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less and we are ready,” he con­cluded. Let’s face it, we’ve all at some point in our life watched a movie and won­dered if it should have ended dif­fer­ently. Or, had an opin­ion about how a par­tic­u­lar scene turned out or a char­ac­ter shaped up. In a na­tion that feeds on Bol­ly­wood, ev­ery soul with a so­cial me­dia pres­ence is a movie re­viewer. And thus, Shudh Desi End­ings (SDE), a dig­i­tal chan­nel from CDS (Click Dig­i­tal Stu­dios), with its quirky spoof videos, im­me­di­ately struck a chord with the Bol­ly­wood-minded desi au­di­ence. Re­sult? Over 2,00,000 sub­scribers and ap­prox­i­mately seven mil­lion views on a monthly ba­sis for SDE alone. Though Mumbai-based CDS, the par­ent com­pany that owns SDE, has a port­fo­lio of 70odd chan­nels and a 1.5 mil­lion strong sub­scriber base and pro­duces con­tent in cat­e­gories as var­ied as mu­sic, Bol­ly­wood and Hol­ly­wood gos­sip, kids en­ter­tain­ment, food, fit­ness, tech­nol­ogy, de­vo­tional and many oth­ers, SDE re­mains its prin­ci­pal rev­enue gen­er­a­tor.

As my pho­tog­ra­pher and I step into CDS’s colour­ful and fun of­fice in sub­ur­ban Mumbai, we’re greeted by this mas­sively tall man, all of 27, who hap­pens to be the Co-Founder and Chief Cre­ative Of­fi­cer, Anand Doshi. One look around and you wouldn’t miss the familiar faces from their an­i­mated on­line videos—the life-size standees of Shah Rukh Khan from the Ra.One spoof, a rather happy Ka­mal Khan and an un­usu­ally hairy Sunny Deol from the Ragini MMS spoof, among oth­ers. Af­ter a brief in­tro­duc­tion to the com­pany, I asked Anand what in­spired SDE. “The idea for SDE came from the Hol­ly­wood YouTube chan­nel How it should have ended. We thought this space was open in Bol­ly­wood and it would be fun to ex­per­i­ment. It all started with a sim­ple idea of play­ing around with the end­ings of movies,” started Anand, as we sat across a con­fer­ence ta­ble. Be­hind him was the an­i­ma­tion team’s cabin which would sud­denly come alive with the sound of laugh­ter mid con­ver­sa­tion, and above our heads, the first floor was ded­i­cated to the cre­ative team.

Of all the orig­i­nal hu­mor­ous con­tent avail­able on YouTube, SDE stands out sim­ply be­cause of the sheer amount of hard work that goes into pro­duc­ing a sin­gle video. Along with the script­ing

With over 1,42,983 sub­scribers and cu­mu­la­tive views of 18,798,284, this boy band is the next big thing in In­dian mu­sic. The lead vo­cal­ist, Sanam Puri, the lyri­cist and gui­tarist, Sa­mar Puri, the lead gui­tarist Venky S and drum­mer, Ke­shav Dhan­raj, started the band Sanam for the love of mu­sic. From there on­wards, per­form­ing at con­certs, pro­duc­ing orig­i­nal songs and up­load­ing them with a video on YouTube has been a part of their ex­er­cise for gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity on the web.

Had their fans known that the band was at Hard Rock Cafe Worli, it would have been a riot sit­u­a­tion for us. Early in the morn­ing, Sanam, the band, clearly wasn’t here for a gig, they were here for a tête-à-tête with Man­date. Talk­ing about their growth as a band on YouTube, Sanam Puri says, “It’s not the only op­tion that we have but it’s the best op­tion, so we chose YouTube for our song re­lease. Ob­vi­ously, you can­not re­lease one song in an al­bum. Once peo­ple see our videos on the in­ter­net, they get to know the qual­ity of our work.” On sim­i­lar lines, Venky makes a point or two about us­ing YouTube for in­de­pen­dent mu­sic. He says, “Mu­sic chan­nels show­case more of Bol­ly­wood and re­al­ity shows. Tele­vi­sion is not a buyer for in­de­pen­dent mu­sic. Se­condly, it’s a re­sult of the chang­ing trend. Ear­lier, re­leas­ing an al­bum was the thing, nowa­days no­body buys an al­bum or a CD. This way, you have a bet­ter connect with your fol­low­ers be­cause peo­ple get to see you through videos, which cre­ates a bridge.” Tun­ing his gui­tar chords for a jamming ses­sion, Sa­mar sec­onds, “Ab­so­lutely true, YouTube is the best plat­form to pro­mote tal­ent, es­pe­cially for in­de­pen­dent mu­sic. Peo­ple don’t meet us in real life but they fol­low us on Twit­ter, like our Face­book page and they are well- con­nected to us. Ev­ery­one out there is us­ing so­cial me­dia on a daily ba­sis. We are just mak­ing use of it.”

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