Most of Archana Hebbar’s videos begin with a top-angle shot of a pair of hands pouring oil into a kadai, adding mustard seeds, urad dal and chana dal into it. As the seasoning splutters in the hot oil, her hands move deftly over a series of ingredients, until they almost magically transform into a delicious dish. But the miracle lies in her ability to perform this task in under two minutes. It seems so simple, as if you could do it yourself just as easily.
Hebbar’s Kitchen started in 2016 as a blog in which Archana Hebbar, an engineering grad-turned-home maker, posted her recipes with pictures that showed every step of making the dish. However, according to Archana, it didn’t garner as many eyeballs as she had initially expected. Around the same time, BuzzFeed’s quick and highly watchinable recipe videos were gaining popularity. Archana wanted to do something similar that would work for Indian vegetarian cuisine.
“There weren’t any [popular] Indian channels showcasing Indian recipes with shorter videos on Facebook. I thought I would try,” Archana told TNM.
Those videos ultimately received an amazing response from her audience, and shot her to internet fame.
Hebbar’s Kitchen now has 8.9 million page likes on Facebook and 2 million followers on Instagram. As per Vidooly, a video analytics platform, Hebbar’s Kitchen was the fourth most-viewed channel in April 2020 under the ‘Food’ category for Indian channels, just behind Hungry Birds, Cook with Parul and BharatzKitchen.
The channel, which has over 3.8 million subscribers as of writing, is a veritable one-stop shop for a variety of cuisines -- from traditional Kannadiga to Italian, from simple chutneys and raitas to the more complicated cakes and cookies. Making a creamy white sauce pasta can seem like a time-consuming process for someone who is relatively new to cooking. But Archana, in under four minutes, makes it seem like anyone can nail it on their first attempt.
True to her words, most of the videos (with single-dish recipes) are roughly two-minutes long. The most popular video uploaded till date — Mumbai street-style pav bhaji — has over 11 million views.
Archana makes sure she posts a video every day to keep her audience engaged and interested. For newer fans who visit her channel, she categorises her videos into numerous playlists, such as pickles, snacks, Indian chaats, masala powders, and more.
Originally from Udupi, Karnataka, Archana lives with her husband Sudarshan Hebbar and their daughter Avni in Canberra, Australia. She moved to the country after her wedding and was hoping to work in the software industry. But life had other plans for her, and what started as a hobby in the kitchen turned into a full-time job.
“As of now, Hebbar’s Kitchen is managed by our family. My husband takes care of the content creation and the technical side of it, my mother takes care of the Facebook page and my mother-in-law handles the Kannada translation of the content. My cousin sister translates the content into Hindi,” she explained. She and her husband plan their entire week in advance, deciding the recipes she will be shooting as well as brand promotions that Hebbar’s Kitchen will engage in.
One of the best features of her recipe videos is the absence of a narrator explaining each step of the process — only a delicate background track accompanies the visuals. Archana started shooting her videos with an iPhone and a selfie stick, and slowly switched to using professional equipment to film the process.
Moving forward, Archana hopes to diversify her channel to include merchandising and other activities that will allow her to monetise her efforts. “There are a number of future plans for us, including merchandising our brand, tieing up with ecommerce to deliver recipe ingredients, creating sister channels, including review channels and baby rhymes animation. In addition, we do have plans for opening food outlets and creating food chains with franchise options too,” she said.