In three years, the Village Cooking Channel has achieved the phenomenal feat of being the first Tamil channel on YouTube to secure a diamond button.

Team of Village Cooking channel displaying diamond button from YouTube while sitting on the groundYouTube/My Village Cooking Channel
Features Interview Wednesday, July 07, 2021 - 11:51

At Chinna Veeramangalam, a village about 12 kilometres away from Aranthangi in Pudukottai district, men were almost always sent abroad after a certain age in search of greener pastures. After all, farming was no longer lucrative and, in this village, much depended on rains. “Ours is rainfed agriculture, and we could cultivate only for six months a year. The remaining six months, our village adults went looking for jobs wherever they were available. At one point, the village made it a habit to send all its young men abroad after they reached a certain age. Life was difficult otherwise,” explains 32-year-old V Subramanian.

Like many of his peers, Subramanian and his cousins too would have landed in different countries but fate had other plans. “We are still going to the United States, our passports are ready,” Subramanian smiles broadly. But this time, it would be to showcase their talent for cooking that has garnered one crore subscribers on YouTube. In three years, the Village Cooking Channel – launched by Subramanian, his cousins V Murugesan, V Ayyanar, G Tamilselvan and T Muthumanickam and their grandfather M Periyathambi – has achieved the phenomenal feat of being the first Tamil channel on YouTube to secure a diamond button.

“But before its launch, all of us were readying to leave for abroad. I was running a website that showcased designs of freelancers for sale. In 2016, I sold it off. For two years, I was jobless and did not know what to do. My brother had done his B.Com and was preparing to fly abroad. Another one had a degree in Hotel Management. We were all set to fly. It was by sheer chance that we decided to try our luck with a YouTube channel," says Subramaniam. 

The first eight months were a struggle, he adds. “We uploaded very regular, very professional cooking videos. These videos did not cross a few hundred views.” The first breakthrough came in 2018, after Cyclone Gaja struck the coast. “For 12 years, we were hit by drought. In 2018, for the first time in many years, we saw many winged termites in our village. Our childhood was all about catching them and eating them, about traditional fish catching etc. So, when we saw the winged termites, we decided to do a video onthat. It was our way of reliving the memories and telling the world the kind of life we had as kids.”

Watch the cooking termites video

It became the first video to garner a large number of views. Since then, there has been no turning back. “We really didn't have great expectations from our YouTube channel. Of course, we wanted to earn from it, but didn't fancy ourselves as the best. We still can’t believe that our channel has become such a huge hit. To be fair, we expected about a lakh views. That was our biggest dream. Today, our videos have crossed several million views,” Subramanian says.

When they decided to start a YouTube channel, there was one thing all the cousins agreed on – that it would be on cooking. “All of us know cooking well. I think every child raised in an agrarian family would know how to cook. My parents would leave for farm work early in the morning and would come back around seven in the night. So, we would prepare the meals. When I grew up, vegetables were available in the backyard. Or we could just catch some fish in the tank and finish our meal. We had to learn how to cook, all of us.”

Watch a video on how fish fry is made

Periyathambi, the grandfather, has also been a professional cook since he was 25. He cooked for all kinds of functions, including Moi Virundhu, a concept famous in some southern and central parts of Tamil Nadu. “Mutton Kuzhambu was particularly famous in all these events, and thaatha is an expert," says Subramaniam.

Once the channel started picking momentum, the team decided to make themselves more useful. “When we started earning from YouTube, we decided to spend some of it on the people who gave us so much love.” So, the cooking became bigger. The food was served to elders at a local old-age home. “When we crossed one million subscribers, we did the same. We made biriyani and gave it to the elders at the old age home, along with some essentials for them.” Soon, they started to serve the villagers too on the days they were shooting videos for YouTube.

Watch: How Arabian Mutton Biryani with two full goats is made

“More than one crore subscribers, we are happy that we have got people who consider our victory as theirs. It's something. That a team like us from a little-known village could achieve this," says Subramaniam. When they reached one crore subscribers, the team met Chief Minister MK Stalin and donated Rs 10 lakhs from their earnings towards the CM Relief Fund. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the team during his election campaign gave the channel another push. “He is a very good cook and when I told him about this channel, it seemed like he was already aware of it. He was keen to visit them,” says Congress MP from Karur, Jothimani who had organised the visit. “It was difficult though. At that point of time, the local administration was very hostile and tried to thwart all our programmes. We literally had to sneak him to the place," she adds.

Watch: Village Cooking Channel team unboxing the diamond button given by YouTube

The team was excited. “We had a steady inflow of about 10,000 subscribers every day before his visit. After he visited us, it increased to 30,000 to 40,000 every day," says Subramaniam. In the video, Rahul Gandhi is seen enquiring about the team’s interest, and when he learns that they want to travel abroad to demonstrate their cooking, he mentions his ‘friend’ Sam Pitroda and tells them that he will help them. In two days after the video was released, Jothimani got Sam Pitroda to do a conference call with the team. “He made enquiries on what they would require, the countries they plan to visit etc. When the pandemic situation is over, the tour will happen. The team has got their passports ready,” she says. “Rahulji even asked me about the progress when I met him in the Parliament.”

“We do not want to do this tour in haste. We are willing to wait, but it needs to be done properly,” says Subramanian. “Sam Pitroda sir and Jothimani akka are willing to do all the help. For now, we are waiting for our next adventure.”

Also read: The much-loved Village Cooking Channel now has 1 crore YouTube subscribers

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