Earlier this afternoon, YouTube celebrated the work of high-profile content makers from Tamil Nadu for their contribution to local language online content. The panelists at the event included Tamil Nadu’s top content makers – Chu Chu TV, Vikatan TV, SIMCA, C4ETech, Sreenath Recipes, Put Chutney, and producer Kalaipuli S Thanu. 

It was an unlikely troupe: a software engineer, a former radio writer, a producer, an editor, and an HR professional. All of them are now creating original content on YouTube channels. All have massive followings in Tamil Nadu.

Ajay Vidyasagar, Regional Director, APAC Partnerships at YouTube, talked about the wave of change he had witnessed over the years, since his days with Vijay TV. He said the growth in consumption of content in local native Indian languages was staggering.

“While there will always be television, the use of the mobile phone is accelerating the consumption of video content by 400 percent,” he said. 

Statistics show that users spend one billion hours a day on YouTube. The site has as many as 1.5 billion users a month. And 400 million of these users are from India alone. The advent of mobile phones and improved access has only accelerated this growth. 

“It’s more than just music videos and TV. Now you have technology-related videos. There’s content about food. And in all languages too. There’s a lot of investment in this, especially when there are close to 150 webseries from India and a third of that from the South alone,” he added. 

From their first tryst with YouTube to their approach to web-content, every panelists had a story to tell. 

Vinod Chandan said, “I have a baby girl and I wanted to entertain her with some fun videos. Since she’s a little chubby, I made her watch the video of the rhyme ‘Chubby Cheeks, Dimple Chins’, and she loved it! So I thought of drawing her as the chubby girl, and a made an animated video of the same.

“It worked. She was laughing, and she also learnt the rhyme. Next, I tried it with ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and that had a lot of views, with 5,000 people subscribing to us. We got a call from YouTube about this amazing feat within a week.

And here we are.”

Almost four years later, Chu Chu TV has 50 million subscribers. It is constantly making videos in different languages. It caters to children from all over the world. Their Tamil channel will be launched in January next year. 

The primarily news channel Vikatan TV’s journey began earlier than most. Hailing from the 91-year-old publication Ananda Vikatan, Srinivasan spoke about how they had almost shut shop in 2005. 

“Our digital journey essentially began in 1997 as Vikatan.com. People used to get the news late so we went online at that time, but it was mostly free. In 2005, we almost closed down but decided to give it another shot. I can proudly say we went full-pay before the New York Times. In 2011, we started the Vikatan TV channel and today, we have 7-8 channels and 2.2 million subscribers,” he said. 

Incidentally, most of Vikatan’s popularity on YouTube grew when former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalitha’s passed away, with many following the channel to track subsequent events in Chennai. 

Rajiv Rajaram of Put Chutney, however, had a different story to tell.

“Story goes back to 2009. I was writing for radio back then and was always on YouTube. In fact, they called me ‘YouTube Baby’ at office. So if I spoke about online videos and content, it appeared as though I was talking in a different language with them. I used to watch AIB and TVF’s videos and wondered how they managed to garner so much attention for their content. Subsequently, in 2011, ‘Why This Kolaveri’ went viral and we made a video on that. That got us attention, but what really put us in the map was the ‘ We are South of India’ video.”

The video paid tribute to South India, and was sung to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”. The video also took a dig at stereotypes about South Indians. It was made in collaboration with the YouTube channel Rascalas.

Former HR professional Satyanathan left his cushy job after seeing his wife Jayashree’s passion for cooking. He decided to go behind the camera and record his wife cooking scrumptious dishes, from chicken fried rice to South Indian breakfast items. The channel Sree Nath Recipe now has more than 350 recipe videos and over one lakh subscribers. 

Producer and former Tamil Nadu Film Producers’ Council president Kalaipuli S Thanu, shared a few marketing strategies he has employed in the past. Although, he said they weren’t necessary anymore, now that there’s YouTube. 

“Now YouTube makes photographs and videos go viral now, and gets the job done. Back in the days, sometimes we’d hire a few junior artists to dance at theatres to get the word around. Similarly, there was also this one time when a man stood on one leg, praying, right outside the theatre. When asked, he said that he was praying since he did not get a ticket to the particular film being shown right now,” said Thanu. 

In recent times, Thanu’s Kabali‘s teaser continues to be one of the most watched film teasers from South India. More than a year later, the teaser is still popular on YouTube, and has clocked in nearly 40 million views thus far.

As a part of the celebrations, Chu Chu TV was also awarded the Diamond Play Button by YouTube.