Unni George’s journey from a person who desperately sought help from people for his own treatment to someone who now help people struggling with their lives, is quite an inspiring one.

Meet Unni George the Kerala food vlogger bringing fishing and cooking together
news Human Interest Sunday, June 30, 2019 - 11:22

A few years ago, Kumbalangi native Unni George made headlines in the local news after his kidneys began to deteriorate in function. His family tried desperately to raise funds for a kidney transplant for him, and they finally succeeded. Now, almost two years after his transplant, Unni is back in the media again, but this time as a successful YouTube vlogger. 

Unni’s YouTube channel on fishing has grabbed the attention from Keralites across the world, with his signature style of presentation. Within just a year, his channel, ‘OMKV Fishing and Cooking,’ has garndered over 1.7 lakh subscribers.

The 32-year-old food vlogger sets himself apart by travelling across the backwaters and coastal regions of Kochi and surrounding areas. He catches his own fish, which he then cooks in the local style. 

The vlogger appropriated the popular Malayalam slang expression 'OMKV' for the name of his show. He modified the acronym for the name of his show as, ‘Oodu Meene Kandam Vazhi,’ which means telling a fish to run across the backwater.

Unni's journey to local fame is inspiring, as he recalls his own health struggles.  

“After the kidney transplant in 2017, I was directed not to do any physically strenuous activities in future. This meant I couldn’t return to what I was doing before, which was tiling work. I did not continue my studies after school, so other job opportunities were bleak. I remembered hearing that YouTube videos could produce a profit, but I wasn't certain about it and I didn't know anyone who did it,” Unni said.  

Though the family was able to raise about Rs 7 lakh through multiple donors for the kidney transplant, which his mother donated, the treatments following the surgery required almost an equal amount of money.

“For about two months I sat and researched how to earn money through YouTube videos. By the end of it, I was sure this was real and people really made a living out of it and decided to venture into it,” he said.

Kumbalangi and fishing

Hailing from Kumbalangi, a village surrounded by the backwater stretches of the Vembanad Lake, Unni was not unfamiliar with fishing. “I was really passionate about fishing, despite the fact that I was not an expert. But it was one of the first ideas that struck me after I decided to start a YouTube channel." 

Amidst the number of fishing vlogs that already existed, Unni searched for something that could make his program stand out. He noticed that while there were vloggers who cooked and others who fished, "there were not many who fished and cooked together," he said.  

In May 2018, he launched the channel and within six months, he had thousands of followers who were interested in his natural style of presenting: As if he was a friendly next-door neighbour. “Most of them appreciate the way I present the program, but for me, I never really present it. I just behave as I normally do,” Unni said.  

Unni has thousands of ardent fans in Kerala and internationally, many of whom send him gifts, including a camera that Unni now uses to shoot his program. 

‘I want no sympathy’

Most of Unni's original followers likely did not know his story before the vlog or his fight for survival. But two months, he finally shared his story with the world after crossing one lakh subscribers. 

“If I had shared this story initially I would have gotten more followers more quickly out of sympathy from people. But I never wanted it. I want people to like what I do and then follow. But then many kept asking about my family and background, so I thought I’d share the story when I got one lakh subscribers,” tells Unni.

The father of two is still amazed how the YouTube program has changed his life. “Many were skeptical of whether I could make a living out of this, but I showed them that I could and now they're happy. I've even paid my debts, amounting to lakhs, taken for my treatment,” Unni said. 

But Unni says he has not forgotten about his struggles in the past and seeks to help the needy.  He said people often ask if they can help him financially, but he tells them he is stable at present. 

“I take this opportunity to help others who need money. Apart from helping them myself, I share their contact with these people who contacted me. Because of me, if any person gets their life back to normal, it would be my biggest achievement,” he said.

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