Illustration: Shreyas Bedare
If Parth Bajaj had taken a job after completing his engineering studies, he would have been an employee with a modest to good salary in a technology company. But just two years into college, he knew coding wasn’t his calling. “I was discovering unusual places in Nagpur and posting photos on Snapchat,” Parth explains.
It was in 2016. Two years later, after graduating as an engineer, he started his own page on Instagram named “Nagpur Ka Tadka” where he posted pictures of different restaurants and the food they were serving.
Over the past four years, Parth has transitioned from food blogger to baker and started posting recipes on Instagram. “I taught myself how to cook and make artisan macroons, breads and cakes and was featured in the cooking section of Femina,” says Parth, who now has 2.5 lakh subscribers on Instagram and a handful that bears his name.
His macroon refrigerator post has reached 50 million views. Without formal training in cooking skills, Parth went from being a food blogger to someone who runs baking workshops. “I hosted a show ‘Nagpur Ka Zayka’ on YouTube, but I didn’t get much viewing,” he says and adds that it was only when he did segments on top five places. for biryani, the best places for poha and a vlog on the best samosas and matka roti in Nagpur that it started to gain traction.
“These vlogs garnered over a million views and attracted bloggers from across the country,” he says.
Ruchika Asatkar, went on Instagram with a page named “Nagpur Chowpati” in 2018 right after finishing her engineering. “My friends and I were posting photos of restaurants until I saw food pages on Instagram covering restaurants. That’s when I decided to post about Nagpur’s street food,” says Ruchika whose posts focus on food, fashion and humor. His first post on a popular samosa shop in Dharampeth earned him 100 views. Today, she has more than 1.5 lakh subscribers. “Most of what I do is impromptu. My pizza post in which I showed how long cheese on a pizza can stretch got five million views,” she says and adds that today, more than subscribers, social media is a matter of views. “Since the reels were introduced on Instagram, I’ve also been doing funny and comedic posts,” says Ruchika, who has since named her handle after herself.
Anandya Ray, a nutritionist, took to YouTube in 2017 with a segment on nutrition. “It got seven views of which four were my family members. It made me decide that I had to post good content to get attention.
Ray has set up a studio and purchased sophisticated equipment to shoot his fitness, nutrition and grooming vlogs. “Indian men don’t pay much attention to their personal grooming. My vlogs were about taking care of the beard, dressing in style and choosing the right shoes or the right perfumes,” he says.
Today, he has 2.8 million subscribers, but that only happened after his videos on using wax for hairstyling and the side effects of steroids went viral.
The city has over 200 content creators all doing their own thing and garnering views all over the world. “Although the space may seem crowded, it’s never too late to join,” says Parth.
“The idea is to keep evolving and move on to the next thing,” says Ruchika, who during lockdown started with cooking videos using simple recipes, the first being besan chila and then ten kinds of Maggie.
Parth transformed into a full-fledged baker during the lockdown and baked artisan breads to order.
The new entrants also garnered over 10,000 subscribers in a short span of a year. “It’s a very competitive space and a blogger has to constantly improve her action to find new followers,” says Varsha Bhojwani, whose content focuses on food and lifestyle.
The popularity of these vloggers has earned them collaborations with international brands. Fearing being called influencers, they prefer to call themselves content creators. “The content can be a blog, an image or a video. The idea is to be original, engaging and of high quality and not just to earn money by collecting views. There are so many niches still waiting to be tapped,” says Parth.
“The money comes as we are asked to endorse products, review restaurants and run workshops,” Ruchika adds. For Anandya, this has taken the form of sponsorships from sportswear brands, watch companies and personal care products.
There is no shortage of pitfalls either, as sometimes unknowingly they end up endorsing brands or places that are well below the mark. “Now we are careful and do due diligence before entering into a collaboration,” says Ananda.
The pressure to keep posting content every day and multiple times can be overwhelming, but they don’t feel it. “To get more subscribers, you have to be consistent,” says Varsha. Millions of content consumers who continue to scroll even on the go ensure a stable audience for all kinds of content.
Vloggers with more than a lakh following now have their own teams of cinematographers and editors. Food vloggers shoot their content in their own studios.
For Sanskar Dewani, 19, with 7,000 followers, it’s still a one man show. “I vlog about my life and how my day goes, so I shoot with my DSLR, edit it and post it every day,” says Sanskar, who also posts travel vlogs on YouTube and has 7,000. subscribers. “In Nagpur, the culture of watching local content is not yet widespread,” says Sanskar, who has since stopped posting vlogs about himself.
Still in their early twenties, these content creators bask in self-created glory. They bought their first vehicle and their first apartment with the money earned on social media platforms. All agree that more than money, the power they wield is what they cherish and respect most.