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TNM caught up with Abishek Kumar, Sharan Hegde, Satshya and Shyamolie Parikh to discuss their journey into Insta stardom.

Collage of Shyamolie, Satshyaa, Sharan Hegde and Abishek Kumar
Features Social Monday, July 26, 2021 - 14:48

Danish Sait might have started it but the years 2020 and 2021 have given us dozens of young Instagram stars who have broken into the influencer space by going viral and gaining thousands of followers. TNM spoke to four such upcoming influencers from the South – Abishek Kumar (Mrs Janaki), Sharan Hegde (Finance with Sharan), Satshya (chumma cooking food) and Shyamolie Parikh – to discuss their journey into Instagram stardom. From comedy to finance, each of them have picked a niche for content creation. In this interview, they talk about the first time they went viral, how they strategise their content now and make money from their handles.

Abishek Kumar (Mrs Janaki)

Until June 2020, Abishek’s was dream was to hit 10K followers on Instagram to get the ‘swipe up’ option on Stories. “I started off like everybody else, with a private profile. But a little after graduating, when I entered the stand-up comedy scene, I made my page public to promote my shows,” he explains.

All of that changed in 2020 when the lockdown prevented shows and stand-up gigs. “I was at home in Chennai with no shows and a lot of time at hand. I was playing around with my Instagram when all of a sudden, the idea of Mrs Janaki hit me. I made the first video on June 9, after hearing that board exams were cancelled due to coronavirus,” he says. That was Abishek’s first viral hit. Within 3 hours of posting the video, he received 11K views. He hasn’t turned back since and now has 141K followers on Instagram.

Mrs Janaki, Abishek’s Animoji alter ego, is a stereotypical Chennai school teacher who uses English and Tamil to vent about her students, their parents, and sometimes even her husband. Though it was Mrs Janaki who turned Abishek into an overnight Insta star, the 25-year-old has now moved on to create more content on Instagram. To his credit, he has been able to maintain audience engagement by putting out one viral reel after another.

“The key is to be consistent. Although Instagram is not my mainstay – I work in films, on TV shows, and as a stand-up comic – I make sure I post at least 2-3 videos per week,” Abishek explains. He is currently riding high on the success of his ‘Sounds of cities’ series. In this, he has partnered with stand-up comic Nirmal Kumar of ‘Mah lyf Mah rulz’, to recreate the most relatable sounds of Chennai, Bengaluru and other cities.

“I connected with Nirmal via Instagram and realised that we go back a long way. I have judged shows in which he participated. Nirmal’s sense of humour is very different. That’s why I knew we had to team up when I saw his content. The ‘Sounds of’ series came to us the first time we met, very spontaneously and we’re glad it’s a success,” Abishek says. He has now done six videos for Netflix apart from partnering with multiple other brands.

Abishek also says that although his content posting frequency is not high, he tries to make more reels. Why?
“In 2021, Instagram announced that it was no longer a photo-sharing app but was leaning towards entertainment and video like TikTok and YouTube. Insta started promoting reels and that changed the game for content creators. Now most creators focus on reels, as the platform pushes these 30-second videos and makes handles go viral,” Abishek says.

Sharan Hegde (Finance with Sharan)

Finance is Sharan Hegde’s first love and this is what got him viral on Instagram early this year. The 26-year-old Bengaluru resident is among the very few ‘finance influencers’ on Instagram. In his own words, he simplifies complex financial concepts into easier formats like 30-second reels that go viral on Instagram. His handle ‘Finance With Sharan’ now has 187K followers.

Narrating his journey, Sharan says that within a month of starting to actively post content in January 2021, he had 900 followers. “But once I started posting reels, within a week I had 10K followers, and it has grown and stagnated and then grown again ever since,” he says.

Sharan believes that everybody has to be financially literate. “I’ve always loved educating people about how to manage their finances. With this in mind, I started off on YouTube in early 2021, with long form content. But this didn’t go viral as people had to search to get such content on YouTube. So I shifted to Instagram,” he says.

Initially, Sharan posted longer videos explaining concepts. However, he quickly realised that finance takes time to explain and people’s attention spans are short. “So I had to figure out a way to talk about the subject in a simple way,” he says. The solution to this turned out to be reels.

“I started putting out short skits with a conversation in which I explained a concept. It started with something simple like an expense ratio in a mutual fund and then moved on to tax harvesting and other tougher concepts,” he explains. What helped him, he says, is sticking to his niche – finance, but clubbing it with comedy and acting to create fun videos.

Sharan has a day job as a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and operates Finance with Sharan as a side gig. But with the handle growing massively, Sharan and his sister Shreya actively strategise what to post on the page, what brands to partner with and how to take the momentum forward.

Satshya (chumma cooking food)

Satshya, who hit 100K followers on Saturday, July 24, says that the journey for her has been slow-paced and organic. The 27-year-old tried a bunch of things on platforms including YouTube and Facebook before she tasted success on Instagram.

“I tried my hand at becoming a food blogger on Instagram, but for some reason it didn’t take off. In July-August 2020, I started making reels and that is how the ‘Hacks to learn’ series was born. It became an instant hit and I expanded it to include different subjects,” she says.

Satshya says with the rise in popularity, she also had to learn a whole lot of things about the platform, especially about monetising content. “The thing is there are no guidelines or information on how to monetise your Insta page, i.e., what your price points are and how much to quote to brands for ads, or how to approach brands for partnerships. Everyone is still figuring it out. So I had to learn from a few older, more successful content creators which helped,” she says.

A former broadcast journalist, Satshya now works with an ed-tech start-up, in their strategy team. In her free hours, she also strategises for her social media handle, devising plans on new content, monetising reels, collaborating with other content creators, etc. As somebody who has tested the social media waters for years together and tasted success recently, Satshya says that the key is to “remain consistent in putting out videos, keep up with trends, and read up about all aspects of the platform.” Analysing audience insights and using that to increase your engagement is also important.

Satshya adds that content creation has helped her pick up other social media skills, which in turn helps in her day job.

Shyamolie Parikh

Last year, Shyamolie Parikh moved back to her parents’ house in Kochi from Mumbai, where she works as a corporate lawyer. “I had no plans to become a content creator. But I had my friends here in Kochi who already had a lot of followers and they would feature me in their videos,” Shyamolie tells TNM.

One of Shyamolie’s friends is Sharan Nair, who got a big break when he and his grandmother were featured in a Netflix show, “Indian Grandma Reacts To”.
“Sharan is one of my oldest friends here in Kochi and all of us constantly put out videos together or feature in each other’s reels/posts. I think this works to our advantage as people always want to know what your life is like, especially if there are lots of people in it,” she says.

Shyamolie, who has 31.7k followers, adds that featuring in each other’s videos helps increase follower count. “For example, when Sharan tags me in a video, traffic from his account gets redirected to mine and my followers increase. Same with Gayu (another of their friends who is a beauty and fashion blogger on Instagram).”

Unlike her friends, Shyamolie has not fixed on a niche. “I want to play around a bit and not close in on a category so early on in my journey,” she says.

She says that she was able to make money from her handle early on in her career as a content creator. “Some brands would approach me after seeing my content or seeing me on friends’ handles,” she says. She has also approached brands that she loved to feature her for collaboration. “I approached a curly hair care product brand that I loved and pitched a video idea to them. They came on board. But in such cases, where I desire to collaborate, I’m open to negotiating my price points so that we’d be able to work together,” she says.

While Insta has moved towards reels, Shyamolie regularly posts static photos. “This is a good way to exit the algorithm and gauge how much organic engagement you’re getting. With reels, Instagram’s algorithm pushes it and you don’t know what goes viral,” she say

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