TikTok, abuzz with the creativity of rising stars, has Indian youth enthralled
AKSHAY KAKKAR, a TikTok star from Delhi with around 3 million followers, has become a sensation on the video blogging platform. He dances to popular songs imitating the moves of female actors. His unique style has earned him opportunities to be featured in videos with famous personalities like Rakhi Sawant, Neha Kakkar, Urvashi Rautela and Sunny Leone.
His journey was not easy. He had insecurities about his body, as is often seen with people who do not fit into the established matrices of good looks. Born and brought up in Delhi, 24-year-old Akshay lives in Shahdra, East Delhi. He studied Hotel Management from IP University and briefly worked in a call centre.
“I am a fat boy and I was not comfortable with camera, I used to think, people would make fun of me and they still do; whenever I upload a video. I find comments like chhakka (derogatory term for transgenders), ‘elephant’ on my videos, but now, I don’t care about them.”
When he first started making videos, Akshay could not get much attention. His first video garnered around 7-8 likes, but he continued making videos, as his family wanted him to continue. Soon his light-hearted content gathered a fan following, his videos are now watched and shared by millions.
“Initially, I hated TikTok for its frivolous content. I thought it is a sheer time waste. But when I, myself started making videos, I realised, why people like them. TikTok gives a platform to all those people who love acting, and it does not matter even if the content is mediocre because people here prefer mediocre content only.”
Every Sunday, at H&M Street in Rajiv Chowk many youngsters come to make TikTok videos. When Patriot visited the street, a unique ecosystem could be seen. Many young boys and girls, coming in groups from nearby regions of Delhi, were recording videos. Though girls were fewer in number and most came with a group of boys, there were no all-girl groups. Some of them had coloured hair, styled to suit the requirements of the video. All their cheers and chuckles created an environment of jubilation on the street. The extremely talented groups were acting, copying scenes and dialogues from Bollywood movies.
A boy copying Rajnikant was mesmerising. He wore a typical south Indian lungi, holding goggles in one hand and wearing them in slow motion, imitating Rajnikant’s style.
Another group of young boys was struggling to find an appropriate angle to shot their video. Adil Diwan, leading the group turned out to be a student of class 11 and had come all the way from Seelampur. He along with his friends visit the street every Sunday. “We make all kinds of videos like emotional and funny but we do not get much likes, as of now.”
Adil and his friends have separate accounts on the application and they did use other video blogging platforms like “Likee” but are more comfortable with TikTok, as it is very easy to use. “TikTok has more features than Likee, we can easily edit our videos and record at our convenience”, Adil said.
A group of seven boys and girls standing in a corner clicking pictures. Upon enquiring, they said that they were waiting for the sunset to make a video. A girl in the group choosing to remain anonymous said, “I have 22,300 followers. I come here on a regular basis because I have followers who want me to regularly make videos. But my family does not know that I am a TikTok star.”
TikTok is very user-friendly. Its operation does not require technical proficiency. Anybody can use it. Videos made on the platform are now flooding Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They catch your attention and keep you hooked the app is also very democratic and unlike other social media platforms is not monopolised by Bollywood stars. It is designed in a way that through the use of algorithms and AI— everyone has space to flash their content. Music being a key component of the videos, videos can hook people across all age groups. Acting enthusiasts, those who could not make it to Bollywood are using the platform to realise their passion for acting.
Ghanshyam Sharma, who describes himself as a “competitive student” on his TikTok profile, makes videos using simple household tools, mimicking journalists and actors. In one of his videos, he can be seen lip-syncing Himesh Reshammiya’s song “Kitne Arman jage tere vaste” using a a bucket and a keyboard (computer) to sync music played in the video. He has more than 3 lakh followers. Many like him are using TikTok to gain followers and fame.
People often look down upon TikTokers as dumb or frivolous without ever watching their videos. These stars are challenging the stardom of Bollywood actors by creating an alternative space for themselves. TikTok users, like the content fellow users, are creative and there is no dearth of talent on the platform.
One of the recent example is Yuvraj Singh aka @babajackson2020, whose dance moves impressed many Bollywood stars, including Hrithik Roshan He tweeted the video saying, “Smoothest airwalker I have seen. Who is this man?”
TikTok similar to other social media apps feeds on user-generated content and does not pay its users. But Akshay gets invitations to perform in events and to promote products. It is because of his following on this platform. He says “TikTok pays only to a few users and most are either Bollywood stars or trusted users who are associated with it since the time of Musical.ly.”
Despite a brief ban by the Madras High Court in April, the popularity of TikTok is growing. Political parties and news media are also finding ways to utilise the platform for their benefit. TikTok engages consumers using various strategies; creating hashtag. challenges like #CricketWorldCup, #BottleCapChallenge, #MyTikTokStory, #ReturnOfTikTok to name a few.
In October, TikTok launched a #EduTok Mentorship programme in collaboration with social enterprises like Josh Talks and The/Nudge Foundation. Hashtag #EduTok has garnered over 50 billion views and has been shared 1.8 billion times on the platform. Spokespersons for the platform said that it is aimed at creating educational content for first-time internet users.
Mahendra Dogney, a motivational speaker from Indore was busy preparing content for YouTube when he received a mail from TikTok, asking him to make videos for the byte-size video-blogging platform. Curious and a little nervous about making motivational videos for a platform that only allows one minute of content, he started creating content for the app When he saw his videos being shared by lakhs it encouraged him.
“Youngsters put my videos as their WhatsApp status, which means they really feel motivated. I, therefore, never compromise on quality. I make videos on various topics using my DSLR and by putting appropriate music and then upload them” he said. TikTok has been approaching many YouTubers who were creating educational content.
Many agencies are hiring TikTok influencers for marketing. Agencies like Fanbytes, Obviously, and The Influencer Marketing Factory among others are globally hiring influencers on the platform for marketing purposes. In India, the micro vlogging market is booming and digital marketing agencies are latching onto it. These agencies use the stardom of influencers to reach potential customers for branding. Hitesh Khubchandani of HDK Digital, an influencer-marketing agency says, “We keep a close watch on TikTok and track most influential people as it’s a fast growing and most engaging platform.”
TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, claims to have 200 million users in India out of which 120 million are active every month. Premium brands like Pepsi, Snapdeal, Flipkart, Lay’s are now advertising on the platform. Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani led Pepsi’s videos for #SwagStepChallenge have over 23 billion views on the TikTok, while Lay’s India’s #Wavez4India has already crossed 9 billion views. These brands encourage users to partake in the social media marketing spree. As per reports, advertisement spending of TikTok, in India will reach, $6.5 billion in 2020 from $2.1 billion in 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.5% in the period.