It was almost daybreak when Raghav Bhutani, 23, set out from
his house in Pathankot, a garrison town about 100 kilometres from the
India-Pakistan border for the railway station. The only stirrings on the road
were army trucks and a few checkpoints. In a town of camouflage, Bhutani stood
out in a pink and white floral shirt. On the platform, he looked as though he
had walked out of a Pinterest board on fashion.
Indeed Bhutani has lived most of his life online, his iPhone more real than the sideward glances he got while waiting for his train to New Delhi. With his head buried in his smart phone, he watched the number of “likes” climb on his latest post, a 15-second clip of him reading a poem about unrequited love on TikTok, a social short-video app made in China, but headquartered in Los Angeles.
During the 10-hour journey to New Delhi, Bhutani planned to lose himself in sad Punjabi love songs, a source of inspiration. Occasionally, he jotted down words for a poem he had been working on for the larger part of a month. He planned to share it with his 495.7k followers on TikTok.
As the train closed on New Delhi, Bhutani watched old videos he had uploaded on the Chinese-owned platform. At the station, a burly man in a white shirt ushered him into a van. Inside was another TikTok star dabbing foundation on his face.
As the doors of the van opened at the Stardom Studio, a media company in Saket, Bhutani emerged transformed, the heartthrob on social media. About a hundred people had gathered for a MNG (meet and greet) session organised by his agency, and in the sea of faces he saw a poster with his name in pink surrounded by large red hearts. As he walked in flanked by two bouncers, he heard a girl’s yells: “Raghav. Raghav Sir. Raghav Bhutani.” Later when she approached him for a photograph—for which she had paid ₹5,000 to Stardom Studio—she handed over a sketch of his face copied from an image he had posted on Instagram. Touched, he leaned in to hug her and their closeness brought a torrent of tears that the girl couldn’t explain. In that moment, Bhutani too fought back tears. He wondered, how did he get so lucky?
How did he become a star?
ithin the complex world of social media exists a class system. Reigning at the top is YouTube, under which sits Instagram, and TikTok is merely the stepping stone to greater acclaim. Judging by the standards set by Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, Bhutani’s following isn’t too impressive. He isn’t quite Instagram-famous. These reigning deities of social media each have 127 million followers but for a small-town boy Bhutani is especially popular online. He is from Pathankot in Punjab, from where he presents his life as a brooding poet, basketball jock and hunk. Bhutani has 62.6K followers on Instagram and this represents an Insta-ideal, a promise that anybody can make it online. For this, Bhutani has Tik Tok to thank where he began his journey and has 492.4K followers.
Upon launching TikTok, the user is plunged into video, a vortex of lip-syncing, acting and dancing. With each swipe upwards, a new video fills up the screen, blocking the clock though the app alerts you when you’ve spent two hours on it.
TikTok is a social network that feels like the now-defunct Vine, Snapchat and a round of karaoke. The app comes with an impressive suite of video-editing tools, AR filters that can change your eye colour and features that allow you to sync your video to nearly any soundtrack you can think of, from Maine Pyar Kiya to Tupac Shakur.
Upon launching TikTok, the user is plunged into video, a vortex of lip-syncing, acting and dancing. With each swipe upwards, a new video fills up the screen, blocking the clock though the app alerts you when you’ve spent two hours on it. The videos are 15-to-60-second-long clips set to music and each has TikTok’s logo, the letter “b” styled to look like a music note overlaid on top.
TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese internet conglomerate that bought Musical.ly (a Chinese-owned teen karaoke app popular in the West) in November 2017 for $1 billion. In August 2018, the company merged Musical.ly with TikTok, a similar, existing product popular in South Asia. TikTok’s viral success has propelled ByteDance to a reported valuation of $75 billion. In November 2018, this little known Chinese player booted Uber from its long-held title of world’s most valuable tech start-up.
In September 2018, TikTok managed a spectacular feat; it surpassed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat in monthly installs on the Apple’s App Store for the first time. It continues to increase its market share and installs reached approximately 3.81 million on the US AppStore and Google Play combined while Facebook had 3.52 million first-time installs in September 2018 according to according to Sensor Tower, an app intelligence firm. Since then it has jockeyed with YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat for the number one spot. Though user engagement is substantially lower than the other apps, TikTok reached 500 million active users across 150 countries, compared to Instagram’s one billion monthly actives. India is TikTok’s biggest market, with 52 million monthly active users and nine million daily active users, accounting for 39 per cent of the app’s 500 million users.
It has a 10 per cent penetration rate among Indian Internet users. Seventy-eight per cent of the users are under 25 and the average time spent on the app is 29 minutes with 70 billion monthly video views.
s a member of the Instagram and Snapchat generation, Bhutani was accustomed to images of fabulousness. There were picture-perfect images of Deepika Padukone in glitzy golden dresses, updates from the French Riviera during the Cannes Film Festival and fast rides with Rich Kids of Instagram from Dubai to London. It was not uncommon to feel suffocated by excess, feeling a little left out as the world charged ahead.
This yen for a better life was more pronounced in Pathankot than elsewhere. A small town known for its army base, a 2016 terrorist attack and a highly-publicised rape trial, it offered little to fuel the imagination, let alone a lavish Instagram feed. Though it was a meeting point for three states—Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh—life was slow. More stores sold army fatigues than skinny jeans.
But a mere 15 minutes from his house was a Café Coffee Day, a sign of modernisation with a terrace that looked out to the majestic Pir Panjal range on the road to Dalhousie. Often, Bhutani would drive around the hills with Punjabi music blaring as he uploaded videos on Snapchat of snow-capped mountains that were viewed by his friends. In the evenings it had become the norm for Bhutani to spend several hours scrolling through his Instagram feed in a sort of social-media voyeurism despite his father’s displeasure with screen time.
Sometime in December 2017,
he noticed a dramatic change in his Instagram feed. Gone were the images
of the famous, rich and stylish and in its place was a barrage of compilations,
memes and short videos of normal teenagers, with puppy fat and acne,
lip-syncing as though they were auditioning for the next big Bollywood role.
Each video was as distant as possible from highly scripted reality productions,
a move away from still life and self-portraiture to a place where people acted
silly online much like the earlier days of the web, before the
commercialisation of Internet influence.
These posts were from “real” people made not with an entourage waiting on hand but in bedrooms from Albania to India. There were viral dance challenges uploaded by teenagers and those under 30. Kids doing the same stuff, the same move, in different bedrooms. Raghav Bhutani was particularly taken by duets made between people in India and Italy to songs from a bygone era. He called it the “power of digital media.”
In December 2017, he downloaded the TikTok app.
he groundwork for TikTok was laid in 2006, a time before “YouTuber” was even considered a thing, let alone a profession. Back then, an American rapper called Soulja Boy pioneered the concept of a digital dance craze with the “Superman” dance. Everybody did it, from nightclubs to classrooms. This was followed with the viral Whip and NaeNae dances by a hip-hop artiste called only Silento. He went a step further by accompanying the dance with a hashtag (#WatchMeDanceon). But the first video to go into a YouTube frenzy was the Harlem Shake uploaded by Filthy Frank, a Japanese songwriter and former YouTube comedian. It prompted legions of copycats, from pro-democracy protestors in Tahrir Square to cheerleaders in Atlanta and paved the way for the viral video content we see today.
TikTok went one step further. It inked licensing deals that allow major labels to profit directly from challenge-type videos. TikTok musers (the term for former musical.ly users carried forward to TikTok) want access to major hit songs, and the labels want a cut of the advertising money that chases user bases. While scrolling through the app—the slow-mo videos and hair flicks— might seem like frivolous fun but there exists a business strategy hinged on challenges.
TikTok’s team creates concepts which are mimicked religiously. Each popular song has several templates for users to follow. Though it is not mandatory to create the same concept, and users often contribute with their own quirks, the larger concept is decided by tech geeks in ByteDance’s offices. On the music page, TikTok aggregates all videos using the same song and promotes content more likely to go viral. The platform has an inbuilt mechanism that promotes videos that are easy to mimic thereby appearing on the top of the discovery feed. Each day, TikTok posts a list of terms and challenges fans can complete to potentially end up on the app’s trending page.
Crucial in TikTok’s massive reach has been the hashtag
challenge where the platform provides the initial demo video for users to mimic
and serve as a promotion for a concept. With India’s love for Bollywood, the
#weepeyechallange has been a real hit where people bawl their eyes out to
sentimental songs and depressing lines from sad movies after rubbing Vicks
under their eyes to get the desired effect. The challenge has 1.3 billion
TikTok appears to marketers as the newest shiniest object with the potential for virality and solid engagement. Amercian clothing line Guess is the first major global brand to experiment with a sponsored hashtag campaign.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Duncan Watts and Jonah Peretti claims that “challenges as a form of viral marketing seems like the ultimate free lunch: pick a small number of people to seek your idea, product or message; get it to go viral; and then watch while it spreads effortlessly to reach millions…The model for this is based on an analogy with the spread of infectious disease because purely viral campaigns, like disease outbreaks, typically start with a small number of seed cases.”
TikTok appears to marketers as the newest shiniest object with the potential for virality and solid engagement. Amercian clothing line Guess is the first major global brand to experiment with a sponsored hashtag campaign. It launched the #inmydenim campaign including a skit of a transformation from “mess to best-dressed.” Users immediately mimicked the official videos while Bebe Rexha’s “I’m a mess,” played in the background. In another professionally-produced short film, Michael Kors, the luxury fashion house collaborated with TikTok for an event called “The Walk” that featured a prominent muser with four million followers. When they ran the video, it was shared by over 40,000 users. This is promising for companies as it is possible to link with online stores through the app.
Combine this with TikTok’s aggressive marketing campaign by ByteDance and you have a winner. ByteDance has advertised the app everywhere young people hang out: TikTok ads are all over SnapChat and YouTube. Indeed TikTok videos first began to go viral beyond the platform, racking up millions of views on Instagram and YouTube. The Facebook account “Boys who Cry passionately on Musically India” has over 50,000 likes while there are endless TikTok compilations on YouTube, many with millions of views with Indian netizens crying to Bollywood skits and songs.
hen Raghav Bhutani was about 13, he stood on stage at an auditorium next to his grandfather who had written a novel called Siskiyan. As he heard his grandfather talk about the whimper of a lover as he loses his beloved, Bhutani fell in love with the idea of love.
The book, its launch and the audience were to have a life-long impact. From that day on, he would spend his weekends with his grandfather hearing tales about love, longing and loss. “It was as though something inside me was waiting to break and I always felt that,” he says.
That little boy grew up to be a sensitive young man, emotionally detached from the world around him, looking for something more. Bhutani is tall and handsome, with angular features and a small frame in clothes he has to travel to Amritsar to buy. He has a fuzzy beard and deep hazel eyes. In TikTok, as in real life, he is a young man obsessed by love.
But love is not a full-time occupation and Bhutani was never
academic, the only thing he excelled at in school was basketball and was elected
team captain. “I wasn’t good at studies,
I dropped out of college and I didn’t want to follow into my dad’s business. I
wanted to get out of the small town mentality,” he says. With `20,000 for
college fees he ran to Chandigarh, the nearest big city and bought a mobile. He
returned the following morning but with a smart phone and a bigger world on his
hands. He first downloaded Orkut. Then Facebook. Instagram and Snapchat
followed but it was TikTok that took him places. Soon after he downloaded TikTok
he grudgingly began working at his
father’s spare-parts business.
It was as though something inside me was waiting to break and I always felt that.
“Itni jaldi, ab to maine start kiya hai.” (So soon, I’ve just started.”) This Tiger Shroff line is Bhutani’s first TikTok video uploaded when the app was known as Musical.ly. It was followed by 10-second skits on comedy, a showcase of his editing skills at the barber to the tune of Luis Fonsi, his top two buttons open revealing a tattoo on his chest. Not too late in his feed, the videos transform into a meticulously cultivated feed of a die-hard romantic.
It was only natural Bhutani would take to #weepeyechallenge in a big way. While some musers would rub Vicks under their eyes, he would get into character by listening to sad Punjabi love songs. With no formal acting training he would douse his eyes with saline solution enacting skit after skit, from Bollywood to Hollywood, his eyes wet with sorrow and pain that also provided an outlet for his own roiling emotions. The closer he got to the characters, he says, the closer he came to a truth and he began to write poetry. “That’s what my heart told me to do,” he says.
But his audience was limited.
Late one night, on a whim he created a video to the lines of a Pakistani serial. He hashtagged it #actingwars #pakistani #dinokidulahania and struck gold. The following morning, his phone is went on overdrive with notifications. His few hundred followers multiplied into thousands. Over the next few days, Bhutani became the recipient of an unceasing cascade of hearts, comments and messages. He got an endless stream of invitations to Lahore and Karachi from Pakistani fans. “I realised something unique was happening that day,” he says.
hile the traditional television industry attempts to find ways to draw younger eyes, viewers under 18 are resistant, identifying instead with digital stars who inhabit their mobile phones. Awez Darbar. Aashika Bhatia. Nagma Mirajkar. Heer Naik. Upasana Nath. Manjul Khattar. These names may mean nothing to mainstreamers but these are India’s TikTok’s stars, talking to the cameras and amassing followings among the teen and tween set that often run into the millions.
“Bollywood is taking notice. The big artists are macro artists and TikTok stars are micro artists, they are easier to relate, smaller players and Bollywood casting agents have started looking online for the next big star,” Raj Dev, a social media artist coordinator said in Mumbai.
TikTok’s homegrown stars are self-starters and they value the intimacy of the platform in a way most Bollywood stars don’t. Though Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez amongst others have TikTok accounts they lack the intimacy digital stars provide. Digital stars are always available for sharing because the viewing experience is so personal, so handheld. The relationship between a star and the audience is bilateral as digital heroes interact with their fans and hold live sessions. Their connect is predicated on the promise: we are just like you. Stardom which was once wrapped in enigma, now thrives in the garb of familiarity. We know where Priyanka Chopra holidayed, the last wedding Alia Bhatt went to and Malaika Arora’s pilates moves as actors attempt to deepen their relationship with the audience but TikTok stars take it further.
Old lingering ideas and faces of fame are slowly making way for a parallel universe that is constantly redefining what celebrity is and the vast opportunities online to reach and connect with an audience. Stars don’t begin online, they live there documenting their bath, breakfast and bedtime. It is a total rethinking of how to be a celebrity, a world without Page 3, for today’s internet stars are their own paparazzi.
But just because anyone can post a video doesn’t mean that anyone can become famous. For if fame is fickle, internet fame is even more so. A video can go viral in a few hours and be viewed a million times but its afterlife is destined to be lost in the digital deluge. The quest of fame, though, is addictive. TikTok capitalises on that with the “trending hashtag”. It is this lure of internet fame that has people posting several times a day, in the hope that TikTok will propel them to the trending page and their 30-seconds could begin its viral take-off anytime.
n the beginning there was a fear of writing. Poor in studies, fluent in Hindi, Bhutani had a head full of thoughts and a notebook with stray phrases he was tired of repeating. After a tense altercation with his father and a meditative discussion with his grandfather, those stray phrases became a poem. His appeal lay in the unpolished flavour of his verses, delivered in short and terse breaks on TikTok.
“Lip-syncing isn’t a talent,” Bhutani says.
There is no grand curtain, there is no crew. It’s just him in his bedroom and a backdrop he bought from Amazon that is kept in the store room. As soon as his family went to bed, Bhutani would erect the silver frame over which he would drape a black cloth, concealing his bed and the messy red duvet. In front of him on a thin desk was an intricate set up. Two LED bulbs lit his face. Behind them was an empty Adidas trainers box resting on which was his father’s old radio with his iPhone balancing on top of it. With the camera at eye level, he would read poems to his followers. On a site known for making knock-offs he began championing original content.
As the number of followers continued to climb, he began splitting his content, posting a curated, more selective feed on to Instagram. A more mature Bhutani was taking form on Instagram, the next step in the ladder of fame. Bhutani soon began to turn everything in his life into material for social media. A drive to the mountains would be posted on Snapchat, a selfie against the radiator’s red light would be posted on Instagram and basketball games with his friends would be uploaded on TikTok with the #1millionaudition hashtag. Videos of him shooting hoops made it to the For You and trending page as TikTok took notice of him.
By March 2018, he was posting one video a day on TikTok, two selfies a day and near constant stream of stories on Snapchat, to create a wholesome 360-degree view of Raghav Bhutani. Every day became a challenge to do something, to be someone, to stay relevant. But he never found it distracting, he was affected more by the sound of frequent fighter jet sorties from the Pathankot air base than the notifications on his mobile.
Bhutani is a member of the do-it-yourself entertainment revolution. His efforts bore fruit: the number of followers doubled and then tripled and kept rising. When he went to PVR cinema on the road to Jammu with his father, two girls recognised him and walked over giggling and asked him for a selfie. His father, confused about his son’s profession, watched in silence. When it was all done, he asked, “Kya aisa bhi hota hai? (Is it even possible?)” With the increase in fans, he created his own hashtag, #RaghavFam. It has five million posts. With a growing fanbase, media agencies reached out looking to manage him online.
y mid-2018, TikTok meme compilations began going viral on Twitter and YouTube. Though viewers from the metros laughed and dismissed these as “cringe-worthy” as is seen in the comments, small-town India, the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities were hooked. Its popularity wasn’t limited to English and Hindi, with increasing regional content. This was being produced furiously. Contrast this with Douyin (TikTok’s name in China) and data shows that users live in first and second-tier cities and the developed metropolitan areas.
Because TikTok doesn’t work like TV or cinema with big promotions and posters plastered over town, creators work their way up from small audiences with whom they have interacted through messages. Their followers play a crucial role in their promotion—the audience makes the star. Advertisers are keen to understand this relationship.
Brands and advertisers, looking for new ways to reach audiences beyond television screens and magazine pages, are turning to people with many followers on social media and paying them to pitch products online. The social media stars, in turn, are finding that working as a conduit for a brand can be quite lucrative—sometimes generating more than enough money to live on.
Idiotic Media represents Raghav Bhutani and many of the new faces in entertainment as it scouts talent and serves as an advertising agency. It was unavailable for comment on the story. Many of these new stars make content that looks and feels like their usual content with a small nod to their advertisers. On December 15, 2018, Bhutani wore a t-shirt by TeeStory. That picture was regrammed by the brand on December 17, 2018. On June 27, 2018, he posted about an endorsement for Boat Bluetooth speakers. Bhutani also advertises for several other brands.These agencies connect advertisers with social media stars who have access to the young users who inhabit these platforms. Through them Raghav was invited to places he had never heard of. In December 2018 he travelled to Dantewada, Chhattigarh to judge the finale of the Mr and Miss Dantewada context. A certificate proudly hangs on his wall in Pathankot.
he air had turned crisp with the arrival of autumn and Raghav stood over the warmth of a large cauldron of tea. While he waited for kulcha at his local tea-shop in the market he scanned his email and paused at one from ByteDance, a company he had never heard of. The sender identified herself as employee of TikTok and invited Bhutani to a premium creative programme in Mumbai. The aim of the workshop was to accelerate the growth of the emerging star while explaining concepts such as algorithms and their manipulation with tips and training from Chinese experts.
Even though he didn’t know what an algorithm was, Bhutani was excited. The prospect of travelling to Mumbai was a dream. Appearances mattered and so he went to the front rows of fashion shows on Instagram, learnt about new brands by bloggers and added to his mood board on Pinterest. With an image in mind, he travelled to Amritsar and brought a brown jacket and distressed jeans from a fast fashion store called Emerge.
In September 2018, he took a train to Amritsar and a flight to Mumbai. He had arranged his stay with another content creator on TikTok in Andheri East. The following morning a group of TikTok’s rising stars met in a conference room in the Bandra Kiral complex where experts revealed what worked and what didn’t. Analytics showed that viewers have a preference for videos shot outdoors. Lighting can make or break a video. Videos with more than one person tend to do better. The TikTok representatives had a list of do’s and don’ts as they explained how to use the platform to build a bigger career and brand.
A viral video in TikTok has many lives to survive before it reaches the top of the app. First is viewed by TikTok’s creative team in stages. “A For You” video didn’t end up there by chance but after it was vetted in three stages, by a group of 200 people, then 500 and once it was liked by 1,000 viewers, it would be promoted.
Later in the evening, Bhutani took pictures with some of the most famous names on TikTok and uploaded the boomerang video to his Instagram and Snapchat stories with the TikTok logo in the backdrop. Once a long day was wrapped the group of 50 musers were taken to an afterparty. The next morning while Bhutani strolled along Marine Drive, he couldn’t believe his luck.
He had arrived.
One of the coordinators from TikTok urged Bhutani to focus on basketball.
“That’s what they wanted from me,” he says. They had an image that they wanted him to develop. He signed an agreement that guaranteed ByteDance twenty videos over a one-month period with three original videos. Soon after that he began receiving a regular pay cheque from the Chinese internet conglomerate.
here are two Internets. There is the Internet the world uses and then there is the Internet of China. In a country governed by the Communist party’s stringent rules on cyberspace, armies of censors vet content before publication. They toe the line of the Politburo. This is an ecosystem where an image of an empty chair, or a TikTok to Peppa Pig, can be seen as a challenge to the regime and result in suspension. Chinese media companies operate in a supervised Internet where there is only one rule: don’t mess with the leadership. Everything else is fair game.
Existing in the most sophisticated online censorship system is ByeDance, a unicorn in the Chinese tech scene that now stands alongside China’s tech giants, Tencent and Alibaba. It has managed to win users outside the home market and Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of Bytedance has said that “internationalisation” will be the major strategy in the years to come as it faces increased scrutiny and the ire of censors at home. ByteDance specialises in Artifical Intelligence and big data analysis.
ByteDance is a shrewd company that started off with news
site JinriToutiao but a series of smart acquisitions and strategic
expansions—from jokes, to celebrity gossip to TikTok—that have propelled it
into mobile video internationally. It has nurtured a variety of apps and with
hundreds of millions of users across platforms it now poses a threat to
Internet companies across the world. TikTok has been its secret weapon.
While censors vet materials for China, a team vets material for the international market. Their aim is not simply to check for material that could violate community standards but also to identify creative content that has the potential to go viral.
Beyond the flowery press around TikTok, that it is “free of algorithms” and is an “unguarded corner of the internet” lies a murkier reality. The Chinese government supports Artificial Intelligence companies both financially and politically with the aim of being the world leader in AI by 2030, for data is not the new oil but artificial intelligence is. TikTok (or Duoyin as it is known in China) uses a fast-learning advanced AI algorithm to keep users hooked to TikTok, fuelling addiction. ByteDance mines data for analysing user behaviour in order to connect to its customers and AI in its content-creation tools as well. TikTok makes editing easier by suggesting cuts and AI-generated special effects improve production value.
While censors vet materials for China, a team vets material for the international market. Their aim is not simply to check for material that could violate community standards but also to identify creative content that has the potential to go viral. Should a TikTok pass this test, the platform promotes it while machine learning determines whether it should go further by checking performance metrics. TikTok is not free from controversy. A South China Morning Post investigation found that “children, some as young as nine , are exposing their identities, innermost thoughts and even flesh to millions of strangers,” on TikTok. It has also identified suspicious adults using the platform to stalk and court teenage girls. TikTok recently found itself the subject of scrutiny in India as an RSS affiliate, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, has written to the PM asking him to create hurdles for Chinese companies doing business in India. There are reports that teenage girls have been exposed to inappropriate comments and right-wing activity on the app is rampant. The RSS hashtag has 64.5 million views.
hutani still doesn’t understand what an algorithm is, nor does he care. When TikTok contacted him to make more basketball videos, he took a gamble and said no outright. His passion was poetry and he had already amassed a following without the guidance of writers or producers.
His success online brought him in contact with others. Gatsby, a hair wax company sent him samples and urged him to endorse the product online. He received free t-shirts from TeeStory, and would get a modest fee for wearing it and promoting it. As he became more and more famous on Instagram, Facebook fan pages were created where he shared his house address with a gaggle of adoring teenage girls. On his birthday, he received sketches, framed pictures and love letters from as far as West Bengal.
As Indian tech companies took note of TikTok’s popularity local spinoffs were created such as the Like and Vigoapp. They reached out with promises of a big pay cheque if he migrated to their app. He rejected them. New social videos apps such as Like and Vigo (another Byetdance product) thrive on suggestive content. Many Like videos feature teenage girls gyrating in butt shorts. Like’s Instagram page features Sonakshi Sinha, Nora Fatehi and Sunny Leone.
Media houses chased after him and soon Bhutani began to charge ₹20,000 for simply showing up to an event and later Idiotic Media wouldn’t let him step out for less than ₹50,000.
We are entering a new phase in celebrity culture, as
evidenced by the picture of a freckled egg posted on Instagram on January 4 by
the Egg Gang. The post on social media had one explicit goal: dethrone Kylie
Jenner’s picture of her birth announcement as the most liked picture.
Incidentally that post booted the previous holder who was Jenner’s half-sister,
Kim Kardashian. That a picture of an egg has become the most-liked Instagram
post is an indicator that the influencer market is changing.
The original starlets of this market, the famous for being famous Kardashian-Jenner sisters, are bona fide celebrities, gracing the covers of Vogue and Forbes, the youngest of whom is on her way to become “the youngest ever self-made billionaire,” beating Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s record.
With the Kardashian-Jenner universe saturated, there is a new dawn of micro-influencers. They are local, have followers in hundreds and thousands not millions. Their appeal arises from their commonness yet immaculate feeds. They are more approachable, almost like friends who recommend a product rather than titans to endorse for thousands of dollars per post.
hutani is living a life that seems like a dream. This January he was invited to the Social House in Delhi, a collective of poets. This was the moment where he would step out from behind his bedroom setup, the first time he would bring the Internet to life. Would his talent on TikTok and Instagram translate on the stage?
When he took a seat in front of a room full of people, his voice faltered in the first few verses but by the third he was rolling, the wah-wah of the audience so much greater than any number of likes. When he returned home, he set himself a goal. Once he reached 100,000 followers on Instagram, he would activate his now dormant YouTube page and from there scriptwriting for Bollywood was just a few steps away.