Abhiraj started making online content full time in May 2019 with the series '100 Reasons to Love India' for his Facebook page 'Following Love' which has more than one million followers. The idea behind starting the page was to "make India cool again". Abhiraj also touches upon important topics on serious matters including practical patriotism.
We spoke to him to know more about his work, his journey and how does he deal with the trolling and negative comments that come in. Excerpts:
Q: What was your inspiration to start your journey in this field?
A: India is such a diverse country and there are so many things that make India special. And yet, when someone asks us what's so unique about India, we can't find a specific answer. India is more than cricket and Bollywood. And we wanted to show people at least 100 things that make India extraordinary. That was the core idea.
We noticed that people abroad find little things to be proud of, in their country and show that pride off to tourists and locals alike. That sort of pride, documentation, and marketing is somehow missing in India. There is no pride about Nalanda being the centre of education and Buddhism for centuries, or the impossibly vast varieties and diversity of food in the country. If the West equates Indian food with "curry", I think we are going wrong somewhere. We wanted to change that. We wanted to make India cool again.
Q: What are some of the challenges that a content creator has to face when starting?
A: The biggest challenge is consistency. When starting from 0 followers and 0 likes, it is always an uphill road. It is very easy to be overwhelmed from the start and fall into the trap of constant comparison and validation. But we learnt it over time that the Internet is so big that everyone can get a piece of the pie. It does take a while to establish yourself and find a loyal audience. And even after you do so, the challenges only change form. They don't get any easier. We feel it's best to maintain a healthy balance between consistency and our own well-being for a long career as a creator.
Q: Touching upon important topics on serious matters, including practical patriotism must invite trolling and criticism. How do you deal with it?
A: Great question. We believe in practical patriotism because we need to participate in a democracy for it to function properly. The first step to do so is to educate ourselves about the things happening around us. We try our level best to be objective in our approach. Yet sometimes a message might have an unintended impact on certain audiences. Constructive criticism is welcome, and we often talk to people who criticize us to make our content better and not to pull us down. Most of the trolls exist only to seek some validation and we don't wish to encourage them by responding. We would rather focus on the 99% good comments rather than the 1% bad ones. We must keep the Internet as free and welcoming as possible. And that's not going to happen if we encourage those who promote hate.
Q: Any tip for creators who want to grow their community?
A: For someone who is just starting out, the best lesson is to put out at least 50 to 100 pieces of content because the journey itself teaches you so much about yourself, your content style, your thought process -- you can't help but improve as you keep creating. Our minds push us to be perfect from the get go, but it is a marathon. So, keep going.
Be patient. Everything takes time. Focus on building meaningful connections rather than meaningless numbers. That will help you in the long run. And remember, collaboration over competition.
Q; What do you think is the future of short format content?
A: People are naturally drawn towards shorter content where they don't have to invest too much time and move on. Snackable content is slowly shaping up to be a big part of our lives.
As it turns out, our attention span is getting shorter and shorter every day. It's going to be a challenge for creators like us who make infotainment videos to provide value in 30 seconds or less. But we are trying our best. We have a series called ABCs of Bharat where we talk about interesting places, people, and things about our country in 30 seconds or less. And it has a great response online.
Q: How did the pandemic affect content curation?
A: We could not leave our homes. As our content before the pandemic was mostly travel-based and on-ground, we had to modify our approach. But we kept our minds open and tested other possibilities. Tried some different things, failed, and tried something more. It is always trial and error and what we have learnt is that there are no absolutes on the Internet. Anything can work and nothing can work. For us, our content had to strip down to the most basic form. And yet people loved it, watched it, and shared it as well. Ultimately it is the content and not the cosmetics that win the Internet.
The pandemic has been challenging and mind-bending in terms of creating content. But, it has also been a time for experimentation, for trying something new, and for new creators to find an audience.
Q: You are also a part of Facebook's ongoing 'More Together' campaign which focuses on the power of connections, how do you relate to it?
A: We think none of us is as strong as all of us. Together humankind has been able to achieve some great things and the best is yet to come. Collaboration and co-operation can go a long way. We always look forward to connecting with like-minded people, leaders and people who can bring a change. And through our videos if we can empower them and tell their stories to our audience, we get a chance to amplify the right message. That is where we feel, lies the true power of connections.
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