Explosive growth in just a few months, billions of views, and millions of new followers: That’s how YouTube Shorts has changed life for Indian creators. As YouTube hosts its annual ‘FanFest’ this year for India, it will also acknowledge many creators who have decided to focus just on the new short video platform with its TikTok-style 60-second videos.
“The growth I have seen on YouTube Shorts, I have not seen that in the last eight years. I crossed one million in just a month, and then 10 million in six months,” Arvind Arora (36) tells indianexpress.com. Bengaluru-based Arora, who runs A2 Motivation, is an experienced YouTuber and his earlier Chemistry lectures channel was acquired by ed-tech company Vedantu.
However, by 2019, he realised that the future lay with ‘shorter’ videos, especially once TikTok came into the picture. He decided to study how these short videos worked before he posted them on TikTok. Success soon followed, and he crossed over 7 million TikTok followers. But when TikTok got banned in 2020, people told him he was unlucky.
“It was a setback, but I still understood the power of micro-videos. Luckily, Shorts launched in India in September 2020. I was one of the first to upload short videos to YouTube,” says Arora, who now has over 13 million subscribers on his A2 Motivation channel.
According to SocialBlade– a site that tracks the views, and follower count of popular YouTube accounts–, the average views on short videos reach 100s of millions per month and have even reached as high as 750 million per month at one point.
Arora’s experience of ‘explosive growth’ on Shorts is echoed by other creators, such as Hisar resident Dushyant Kukreja (23). Kukreja initially posted his comedy-style videos mimicking Jethalal, a character from the popular TV serial Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, on TikTok. “After TikTok got banned, I saw my videos being used on some YouTube channels. Seeing the views, I knew there was potential. I started reworking my original YouTube channel. After Shorts launched, I saw millions of views on some videos,” Kukreja says. He’s also focused on new original content from themes of Mom vs Dads to America vs India and currently has over 14.3 million subscribers on his channel.
Kolkata-based Sanjoy Das (22) has a similar story. Before focusing on Shorts, he barely had 50,000 subscribers. But as the numbers show, by July, he added more than one million per month, and currently, has a 9.5 million base.
Das, who primarily posts Shorts of his gaming sessions from Garena Free Fire, Minecraft and others, says the engagement he gets on Shorts is much higher compared to his longer videos. But the competition is also intense, he admits. He’s posting on average three Shorts a day to the platform, in an effort to keep his audience engaged.
According to Fatehabad-resident Chahat Anand (24), posting short videos was the perfect way to showcase one-minute recipes and new ideas when she was stuck at home during the pandemic. And this is what helped her YouTube channel grow. “I was uploading these quick snack recipes, like what can you cook when hungry at night, and how to make something with just ingredients at home. I even did this whole series where I posted 365 recipes each day of the year,” says Anand on how she acquired her 1.46 million subscribers.
The ‘one-minute’ hook
But while short videos get a big push from YouTube, creators also have this pressure to feed the funnel constantly. And Shorts has other challenges as well. For one, there are no notification alerts when one posts–unlike for the main longer videos. According to Arora, the pressure of new ideas is constant. “You only have 60 seconds to say your piece. If your script is longer than six to seven lines, then it won’t be possible. And you need that hook as well,” he said. Or else the viewer will keep swiping up on the Shorts feed.
Arora stresses that while it might look easy on the outside, scripting, editing and shooting these videos takes time. In his view, success on YouTube is not an overnight phenomenon, and there’s a lot of hard work behind it. “It might not take people so much time when they are making videos of lip sync or dancing, but I’m giving motivation in a minute here, which is tougher,” he said. Like Das, he also posts close to three videos each day, each of which takes him over three hours to produce.
Anand too realises the need to widen her repertoire as others posted similar recipe videos as hers and has now expanded to covering food from all states in India. She also goes out to record her content. Anand has also added more lifestyle-related content, and even street foods, but with a twist. For instance, one of her Short videos looks at an 8kg samosa. “I was worried about switching content and expanding my genre. And yes, it did impact the views. But I think it has been accepted now,” she says.
Then there’s the problem that others quickly copy a style that’s gone viral. “For instance, I started this “What are celebs eating” style videos where I would create their recipes based on photos, etc. But then I noticed other channels copied my content and made longer videos on the same idea,” Anand says, though she admitted this kind of ‘inspiration’ is a common part of social media.
There’s also the lack of monetisation on Shorts, which can be a problem — though the company has begun testing ads on the same. “Of course, long videos get better money. But YouTube has a fund for Shorts creators where you can get from $100 to $10000 depending on performance. So far, I’ve been getting $2000 to $3000 from YouTube’s fund on average,” Kukreja says.
And while the format might be shorter, all YouTuber creators agree it is imperative to connect with one’s audience and their needs. Kukreja, for instance, says during exam season he adjusts the time to 8 pm for video posting. The reason, students would be free around this time and likely to turn to YouTube for unwinding. According to Anand, being oneself is equally important. “You need to bring your personality to the channel.”