For influencer Bhuvan Bam, 2021 started on a strong note when his YouTube channel, BB Ki Vines, crossed a record 3 billion collective views, making him India's first digital content creator to achieve this milestone.
A YouTube view is counted when a viewer watches a video on the platform for at least 30 seconds. If time spent is less than 30 seconds, the view probably won't count.
Bam, who creates comedy content and music videos on YouTube, is the fifth biggest individual creator in India, with over 20 million subscribers.
Bam's content is also a hit with brands, making him one of the few influencers in India to have associated with big names like Tissot, Pizza Hut, among others.
Behind his success, there is a lesser-known man called Rohit Raj, who has not only turned Bam’s content into business but also made Bam himself a brand.
Talking to Moneycontrol, Bam said that he gives all credit to Raj when it comes to monetising his creativity.
“Rohit and I have been working together since our college times. He is my right-hand man. If I produce the content, he gets our business going.”
Raj, who started his career in 2013 as an event manager when he was just 19 years old, met Bam during a college festival in Delhi University in 2015-16. Raj was the organiser and Bam was the performer. Back then, Bam was associated with a Delhi-based band called Astitva. Raj had seen Bam perform and contacted him to perform at the Delhi University. That's how the two met and since then there has been no looking back.
“We have had all our firsts together from starting a career off YouTube to producing our long-format project, Dhindora. He is a friend, manager, and entrepreneur. And if not for him, we wouldn’t have been able to get the business to where it is now,” said Bam.
The 27-year-old Delhi boys together have not only cracked many brand deals in the last few years, but have also launched a merchandising brand and a production company called BB Ki Vines Productions, which was started in 2018.
The making of brand Bhuvan Bam
“The entire brand work (associations) started when Bhuvan and I started working together. Since beginning till now, we have done close to 50 brands (collaborations). And he has been the brand ambassador for eight different products,” Rohit Raj, co-founder of Artist Aadmi – a boutique talent management agency, told Moneycontrol.
Though Artist Aadmi organises shows for artistes like Delhi-based music band Agastya, Dubai-based Knox Artiste (singer and rapper) and India’s only folk beatboxer Divyansh Kacholia, for Raj, currently Bam is the biggest contributor to his overall business.
Raj, who since 2013, has organised more than 100 shows and even organised early events for rapper and music composer Yo Yo Honey Singh and singer Neha Kakkar, currently is focusing on BB Ki Vines Productions.
Sharing more about the early days, Raj said: “While Bhuvan was creating content, I was closing in on a few deals. He became the face of an app (TapZo) in 2017 and he was put on TV commercial and radio ads. That's how brand associations started for both Bhuvan and BB Ki Vines. After a few months, we looked at phase II, which was about adding different content on Bhuvan's channel. We started creating YouTube videos and did short films.”
This helped Bam get brands beyond the digital space. “We started getting FMCG brands, and, that time, such brands were rarely associating with digital content. We had partnered Bajaj Avenger and Boat Speakers. For Skybags, we made a music video called Safar, which got 20 million views. In the past two-three years, I got Bhuvan brands like Pizza Hut, Lenskart, Weirdo,” said Raj.
Creating a lot more content
But brand associations are just one part of the business. Bam who rose to fame by creating characters like Titu Mama, which have become iconic on the digital medium, is now creating a web series called Dhindora, based on these characters. The project will be made under the banner BB Ki Vines Production.
“In 2017, Bhuvan created a song and we wanted to produce it and that is how we started BB Ki Vines Production. We have made seven to eight music videos since then. Also, Guneet Monga of Sikhya Entertainment had narrated a script to us for a short film and we made the film, Plus Minus. We won the Filmfare in 2019 for the best short film. Since then, we had in mind that whenever we do a long format show, we will work on the 18 characters that Bhuvan has,” Raj said.
To help the two in making Dhindora, YouTube stepped in. While writing and development started in 2019, shooting was halted last year due to the Coronavirus-led lockdown. Shooting restarted in November last year and the show this year will be releasing in the coming few months.
After Dhindora, Raj said that the production company will be offering four more long format projects for over-the-top (OTT) platforms. However, he did not share the names of the platform for which they are creating content.Making merchandise
Along with content creation, both Bam and Raj are betting big on their merchandising platform Youthiapa 2.0, which, so far, was only an e-commerce platform. But Raj has plans to enter the physical retail space.
"We launched our own merchandise (brand) three years back and were selling via our own e-commerce platform Youthiapa.com. Now in the coming quarter, we will be launching 500 brick-and-mortar stores, pan-India, which will be the first for a digital creator," he said.
The brand has its own in-house design team and they make products under the apparel, shoes and accessories category.
"We have more than 5,000 SKUs (stock-keeping units) but the most that sell is apparels and mobile cases and accessories like key chains and calendar. During COVID, we launched face masks (which has become the third-most selling category on the platform). And the fourth highest selling category is canvas shoes," said Raj.
He added that revenue for Youthiapa “has grown by a double year-on-year. And we have made Rs 10 crore revenue in the last three years and the actual value of the company would be beyond Rs 50 crore. Now, we want to be in every mall and outlet."
Along with launching new stores, Raj plans to turn the entire model into a licensing model “where we have partnered with producers in the apparel, home linen and mobile cases category. So, for different categories, there will be a different partner to scale Youthiapa. The plan has been deferred by a year due to COVID but it will start in the coming season (year)."
The two Delhi boys are all geared up for this year. While Bam will entertain the audience with more content, Raj is all set to take care of behind-the-scene action.