Hyderabad-based bike enthusiast and YouTuber Sriman Kotaru tried his hand at several jobs before deciding to give moto vlogging a shot. A moto vlog is a type of video log recorded by a person, usually with a camera mounted on the bike or on the helmet while riding a motorcycle. The videos are shot naturally, capturing conversations and giving the viewer the feeling of being a pillion rider while sitting in the comfort of their home.
Over the course of four years, Sriman has garnered around 320k subscribers on his YouTube channel, and all his videos are closely followed by his loyal audience. One of his most watched videos is his trip to Ladakh. He describes packing his luggage, loading it onto the bike, and also gives viewers an idea about the road, the weather, the number of days it would take etc. He then begins his ride and takes you along the long journey, covering more than 2,500 kms, and chatting with the viewers all through.
TNM caught up with the popular vlogger for a chat. Excerpts from the interview below:
You are today known to the world as Sriman Kotaru, the moto vlogger with thousands of followers and hundreds of videos out there. Tell us about your life before becoming a well-known figure.
Before I dove into the world of YouTube, I'd been after money and career for most of my life. I pursued a couple of businesses and jobs, really not knowing where my life was going. I didn't know what I was passionate about and what that one thing was that made my life worth it. Most of the things I did were to merely please the society and never myself. Be a businessman, society respects you. Take up a good job and tell your relatives that you are working at an MNC, you are good. It was always about pleasing someone else.
One day, I was working at a job (a typical startup) with a desktop in front of me and looked outside the window and realised that there's a whole world out there to be explored, there are so many things I could do instead of sitting here and working for someone for a salary that could hardly pay my bills. I was fed up with these businesses and jobs and one day, I decided to take the leap of faith.
I told myself that for the next one year, I will try out something that my heart really desires. I also told myself 'No society. No thinking what mom thinks. What dad thinks. What wife thinks. I'll risk it for a year and see where I stand'.
That was it. I left the job and decided to follow my passion. I have loved capturing videos on tape since my childhood. The second thing I have always loved doing is traveling on bikes. I simply combined these two interests and what it resulted in is the Sriman Kotaru that you know today.
How difficult is it to decide what content goes up on your channel and what shouldnâ€™t? Is there a criterion based on which you select your content?
This was a challenge in the beginning, but now it's become a natural instinct. Whatever I feel is right and connects with the audience, I go ahead and publish it. I try to mix moto vlogs with lifestyle. Basically, I like to share a part of my life, usually the happy part, because that's what the audience usually likes. No one wants to see you cribbing, down or sad. But unfortunately, like everyone else, I have my low days as well and the challenge is to keep a bright, happy and energetic face despite that. Fortunately, my subscribers are all extremely connected to me and they appreciate most of the content I put up. So yes, it is actually difficult to tell you if there is a certain criterion based on which I select my content. It's usually a gut feeling that I go with. It comes with experience.
A question that a lot of people would like to ask is how is it financially to be a vlogger? Is it a viable full-time profession? Many of your videos are monetized, they have ad content, you get sponsors etc., but how long did it take for you to get to where you are today?
This is 2020 and times have changed. A hundred years ago, being a blacksmith or a sculptor or something on those lines was considered a full-time, viable profession. Later, doctors and engineers became viable professions. Today, there are multiple professions that one can pursue and make a living out of. It all depends on how much you really want it. Turning anything into a profession is easy if you have the spark and the passion towards it.
YouTube is currently booming and making a living is not a big deal. Yes, it is definitely a viable full-time profession. But always remember, it is a tough and crowded space. If you really have something unique in you and if the audience connects to you, then you are sure to become successful. Not everyone here becomes successful like other professions.
About sponsorships: brands approach you when they feel that you can really influence people. There are channels with a million subscribers but brands often don't approach them. It's not always about views and the subscriber count. Brands look for quality and the power to influence. A channel with 50k subscribers gets a better sponsorship than a channel with 1 million subscribers if the former can help the brand get 40k signups/buys/conversions etc. It took me 2.5 years of hard work to be where I am today. And let me tell you, being a YouTuber isn't as easy as it looks. It's a freaking full-time job. In fact, most times even more than that. You can logout after 10 hours in a full-time job. There's no concept of logging out when you are a YouTuber. It is always work. In the beginning it's all fun, but later you realise you are ending up working all the time. For me, as I love making videos, it doesn't seem like work.
For those who are not aware of the bikes you own, tell us about them and also tell us about the ones you plan to have in your garage someday.
I first had a Karizma R and after a point, I wanted to upgrade to a bigger bike. I bought a Benelli 600i in 2016 and began doing long rides. But soon I realised that it's not the right bike for long distance rides. It was more of a street bike. I later researched and learnt that there are bikes specifically made for touring and that they can be taken on any kind of road. These are called adventure tourers. I sold the Benelli and got myself a Triumph Tiger. It's a wonderful machine that is super reliable. It has a triple cylinder 800cc engine and does long distances effortlessly. It has ample power and is low on maintenance. Recently, I bought another Triumph classic bike, just for the love of bikes. It's called the Street Twin. Itâ€™s a 900cc modern classic bike that's meant for the streets. In the future, I would love to have a good collection of bikes -- right from an adventure to a super sport and everything in between. For now, I'm happy with what I have.
We have seen you do a wide range of videos. Is there any role or career you would like to explore beyond YouTube? Like filmmaking?
The answer in short is 'No'. The longer answer to this would be, maybe if something really interesting comes up and there is an opportunity, then why not? Itâ€™s a small life and there are lots of things to do. I believe in going with the flow and hence I have not planned anything. I am not saying don't have goals. Have goals, and don't forget to pursue your goals even as you continue busily with life.
Did the extended lockdown and the travel limitations limit the number of experiences and videos you could put out during the pandemic? Did you feel the need to always have a bank of videos to ensure there is never a dry spell?
For a couple of months, yes. It did affect work. But now things are getting back to normal. People and governments have accepted to live with the pandemic and they have eased out the rules. There is still a little fear at the back of the mind about getting infected, but yes, it's definitely better than the initial months. I never felt the need to have a bank of videos or anything like that. When there is no content due to the lockdown, people understand. Still I tried making informative videos that didn't need me to go out and travel and the audience enjoyed that as well and it was well received.
Biking must mean you are away from your family for a very long time often. How do you strike a balance?
Not really. Usually, on an average, I'm away for 7 days a month. Not necessarily every month. Some trips are 25 days long. Some are only 5 days. Rest of the time I spend at home with family and friends. But yes, when I am away for more than 15 days, I slowly start missing family and just want to come back soon.
We have seen you experiment with multiple languages like Telugu, Hindi and English in your videos. Which of these languages helped you garner more followers?
I use a mix of all. 80% English, 20% Hindi and Telugu. That's how I generally speak to my friends as well. So, if someone were to meet me outside, a mix of all these three languages is what you would hear me converse in.
We have heard you speak about your plans for a world tour on your bike. Is this a long-term plan and have you set a target for yourself to achieve this?
A world tour is definitely something I want to do. But, a lot of plans change and it depends on circumstances at that particular moment. For now, I feel like doing it. But it may change later.
On a signing off note, what advice would you give young vloggers and bike enthusiasts?
Do it only because you love it. Not because others are doing it or because it sounds fancy. When I started on YouTube, it was not even a thing. I had to explain to people what I actually do for a living. Now, people know it's a thing so they understand. Forget all this, if you really feel that's what makes you happy, just do it. This need not be limited only to YouTube but with anything in your life. Do it for your satisfaction and not to please people.