Internet stars Prajakta Koli and Kabita Singh show how to make money and build a career on YouTube
YouTubers Prajakta Koli and Kabita Singh
Technology has transformed the lives of people in many ways, and has also provided them an opportunity to make a career out if it. Despite this, the number of women in the workforce continues to be a cause for concern. But, many women in India have managed to start a career of their own using popular online platforms such as YouTube. From makeup tutorials to cooking, travel, fashion, and education women are ruling the roost when it comes to digital content.
HerStory caught up with creator Prajakta Koli and chef Kabita Singh, who are among India’s top five women YouTube influencers, to get a deeper understanding of what it really means to be an Indian YouTuber.
Twenty-five-year-old Prajakta has managed to get 3.4 million subscribers for her YouTube channel, MostlySane, which mostly revolves around clever comedy sketches, interviews with famous personalities, and a little bit of music. Pune-based Kabita Singh, 38, has over 4.7 million subscribers for her channel, Kabita’s Kitchen, where she uploads recipe videos for a variety of dishes.
The YouTube stars make us understand what it takes to build a brand on the platform and make a career that provides not just a revenue stream but also allows them to be famous.
Mumbai-based Prajakta had a simple dream – to become a radio jockey. And to fulfil this, she started interning at a radio station. But when she finally managed to get her own late-night radio show a year later, she realised this was not what she envisioned it to be. As she had always been a natural performer, a dancer, and theatre actor, a closed-off environment at the radio station, where she could not connect with her audience, put her off.
It was then that she met Sudeep Lahiri, VP, Content and Strategies, One Digital Entertainment, by chance. Little did she know that this would be one of the biggest turning points of her life. Sudeep convinced her to start a YouTube channel, and join the digital content platform One Digital Entertainment as a creator. From here, there was no looking back for Prajakta.
Prajakta says she posted her first YouTube video on February 12, 2015. Looking at the response, she still remembers going, “Wow, this is magic! Why didn’t I know about this earlier?” A month later, she gave up her radio job and decided to pursue this full-time.
Prajakta Koli | Image credit: Instagram
However, Kabita’s case was a little different. Born and raised in Kolkata, Kabita always enjoyed cooking with her mother. But with a banking job, she could not pursue it further, and left it in the backburner.
After Kabita got married in 2009, she was constantly shuttling between India and the UK for a few years. She says, while in the UK, she wasn’t very happy with the Indian food available, and hence she started following recipes on YouTube. Later, she had a baby, and gave up her banking career to devote more time to him. Once her son started going to school, Kabita had a lot of time on hand, and this is when she decided to pursue her passion for cooking.
She says her channel’s mantra is to showcase recipes that are 'so simple that viewers should believe that everyone can cook.’
Kabita posted her first YouTube video on November 2, 2014, and her channel has grown rapidly over the years. Apart from this, Kabita has two side channels, one for quick snack recipes, and the other for vlogs that give us a peek into her life outside cooking.
Consistency is key
Prajakta says, “One thing I swear by is consistency.” “I put out three videos every week, and all of them are very different from each other. Prajakta has a dedicated team that helps her through everything - from writing, shooting, and editing, to publishing, marketing, sales, PR, and more.
“As much as I would have loved to have a bank of videos ready, I don’t. I prefer shooting each video the week it’s supposed to go out, unless I have a hectic schedule,” says Prajakta.
However, Kabita’s video production process is a little different. She does not have a team, and takes her husband’s help. Juggling her family responsibilities, as well as producing three videos a week, she tries to shoot all of them at once.
A full-time profession
“My US visa reads ‘Occupation: YouTuber’. With the whole digital wave that has been happening in our country, thinking YouTube can’t be a real career is just not sensible,” says Prajakta.
“Being a YouTuber is like any other job. It takes up all your time and only works when you work,” Prajakta adds.
“Any creative field, including being a YouTuber, can be a profession, provided it is fuelled by passion,” says Kabita.
“As long as you follow your passion, recognise your niche, take criticism constructively, and connect with your viewers, you're set,” Kabita adds.
Money, money, money
Speaking about making money on YouTube, Prajakta says, “Google Adsense is the first way every YouTuber can start earning money. It counts every time an ad plays, and YouTube pays us accordingly.”
“It took me three months to earn my first dollar, but I consistently started getting paid after around five months of starting my channel. As per YouTube’s policy, I can’t disclose the income, but I earn enough to lead a comfortable life,” says Kabita.
Prajakta says brands have huge revenue shares to spend on digital marketing. By paying YouTubers to centre their videos around the brand’s product or service, all the writing, shooting, editing, and pushing is done by one person. “It’s a win-win situation,” she adds.
So, does the number of subscribers for a YouTuber directly influence how much they get paid?
“The number of subscribers you have doesn’t directly help you earn, but it does give you a lot of credibility,” says Prajakta.
The recipe for success
Prajakta says there is no set formula to scale heights. The only way to really go places is to create impactful content and grab opportunities as they come your way.
“This isn’t something I can make happen or instrument. None of this was attempted. All of this has happened very organically,” Prajakta explains.
“On YouTube, I connect with a lot of people, and I receive their love and respect - something I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve if I were still a banker,” Kabita adds.
What keeps them going
“Not one day is like the other. Every day is new. I get to meet incredibly creative and inspiring creators. I am now in a place where I can say the YouTubers that I was such a huge fan of are now my friends. It’s great to hang out with them. I get to travel and meet new people. It makes me very happy,” says Prajakta.
Kabita says, “Reaching my first million subscribers gave me a feeling, which is difficult to express through words. I started my channel just to follow my passion, and reaching that milestone made me realise that my passion is useful to millions. The love of my viewers motivates me to work even harder and live up to their expectations. Deciding to become a YouTuber is the best thing that has happened to me.”
Prajakta and Kabita have some advice for the many aspiring digital creators around the world, who are confused or lost in the process.
Prajakta says: "The one thing that I’ve learnt and heard loud and clear in my four years on YouTube is ‘content’. No fancy cameras, sound and light equipment, or promotional money that you pump into your videos is going to get you anywhere. If you have 100 percent confidence in your content, everything else will fall into place. And if that gets appreciated and is well-received, then it’s all going to be a smooth ride."
Kabita agrees. "Making a YouTube video doesn’t need fancy equipment or a lot of money. You can just use your phone to shoot videos. YouTube is the best platform for you if you’re sitting at home and getting bored, because you can earn a good amount of money with a YouTube channel. You won’t feel like you’re wasting your time, no matter what you do - be it cooking, art, or anything else. There is always an audience for everything," she adds.