YouTuber and social media influencer Niharika’s speedy road to a million followers

The past year has been tumultuous to YouTuber and content creator Niharika NM in a good way. Her journey to amassing one million followers is now a case study at Chapman University, California, where she is pursuing her MBA.
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The internet took over India’s entertainment scene during the pandemic. And at the centre of this phenomenon is YouTuber and content creator Niharika NM (23), whose Instagram reels have paved the fastest way to one million-followers. 

Presently pursuing her MBA at Chapman University in California, these crisp 30-second videos are a comedic and relatable take on everyday life events peppered with macha, da, and other expressions and accents that serve as a fun reflection on the South Indian way of life. 

She cannot quite grapple with the fact that she is seen as a representation of South Indians.

“The best compliment I’ve gotten to date has to be when people tell me that I make them feel at home and very connected to their South Indian roots,” she says.

When asked online if she is a Tamil ponnu, Telugu ammai, or Kannada hudugi, Niharika says she is all three, and proudly so.

One of her reels titled Road Rage shows the usual chaotic word war in traffic and more than 8,000 miles away in India, children are recreating them.

The volume of engagement is a testament to her comedic and acting prowess.

Interestingly, her journey of amassing huge followers in a short time has become a topic of case study in social media and marketing class as part of the MBA programme. 

A digital icon

Growing up in Bengaluru, Niharika recalls having her mother record videos as she re-enacted scenes from movies and dance performances.

A screenshot of Niharika's Instagram story

She performed the famed Bollywood song Aati kya Khandala repeatedly about a hundred times in front of her relatives, but movies and theatre were not something she wanted to pursue. 

She says, “My mom often says I just grew into what I loved doing as a child and picked up the comedy aspect along the way.” This includes watching and admiring comedians like Jim Carrey, Rowan Atkinson, and Terry Crews, and eventually picking up extremely animated expressions as a child. Niharika was naturally “the clown of her group” and YouTube and Instagram came across as the right place with a bigger audience. 

“I just talk and act online as I would offline with my friends and make sure to be my authentic self, because it’s way easier than pretending and I’m incredibly amazed at how many people resonate with my content and personality.”

There is immense appreciation and love for her work online for easing rough days and getting through the pandemic. Having moved to LA in August 2019, only a few months before COVID-19 struck, the first few months of the pandemic-induced lockdown have been stressful and difficult, she says.

“It wasn’t the best feeling in the world to be all by myself in a foreign country during the pandemic. I did take time off from any type of content creation until I realised that content creation as my creative outlet is what would help me cope with everything and got started,” she says. 

Juggling between two worlds

Being a content creator also gets challenging to produce quality content consistently. As being relevant with online trends to make relatable content can often be stressful, Niharika insists on producing videos that she would enjoy watching rather than trying to follow a trend.

A YouTube video she released in 2017 titled YOU’RE UGLY throws light on the ease of spewing hatred online and its impact. 

“Being a content creator also comes with having to hear people’s opinion about you all the time, which can sometimes get exhausting. But that’s when it’s sort of crucial to be able to distinguish between opinions and facts and not let the line between the two blur,” she says. 

Niharika makes sure not to let other people’s opinions or validation get in the way of her self-worth and confidence. For her, digital kindness begins with being a good role model and she lives by Dwayne Johnson’s quote, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s way more important to be nice.”

On juggling life as a content creator and her studies, she says, “It definitely gets extremely challenging sometimes because I’m trying to balance two completely different things that require me to function in two different time zones. I don’t think I’ve slept for more than 4 hours a day in the last two months, but that’s only because I’m so excited to be up and working that I can’t even complain about it.”

Surely, 2020 has been a pivotal year for the content creator. She says she is taking things one day at a time and has a lot to figure out. “I have no idea what’s in store next,” she quips.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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