There are over 1.9 billion monthly logged-in users and cumulatively, over a billion hours of video are generated every day on YouTube. India is a big chunk of it, with over 245 million unique users a month,” says Marc Lefkowitz, Head of YouTube Creator and Artist Development, Asia Pacific, at the recent PopUp conducted by the video-sharing service in the Capital.
“And you will be surprised to know that 95 per cent of videos are being created in regional languages, not English and Hindi”. At the Kingdom of Dreams, over a span of five days, older successful YouTubers would mingle, mentor and collaborate with the new ones, handpicked by YouTube for their Next Up initiative. The PopUp was headlined by young YouTubers — Vishal Langthasa from Guwahati, who runs the channel Chugli TV, and Indrani Biswas, whose channel Wonder Munna is a take on everything quirky about Bengalis.
Lefkowitz, who is currently based in Tokyo, and is six months old into this job profile, had worked with YouTube for six years, and previously with Google for eight. “When we started we had those traditional film/music related stuff. Then by 2014, we had some comedy and some diversification in music and a lot of content coming from Mumbai and Delhi. We ran campaigns to encourage people to watch diversified, different content. The southern regional languages, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, began shaping up. And the whole universe of DIY exploded, people wanted to be better, feel and look better. The next year is when Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi and even Gujarati registered their presence. What we see in India is unprecedented. Look at the whole phenomena of rural cooking channels like Grandpa’s Kitchen that has three million followers. We continue to be invested in India. I mean, there are 300 channels here with more than one million subscribers — it’s astounding,” says the University of California, Berkeley alumni.
YouTube and by proxy the internet are now being perceived as the last bastion for free speech and democracy, with many artists being very vocal about their ideas. Some have even chosen to stick to this medium deliberately, given the freedom the platform provides. And since it doesn’t have a pay wall, anyone with a cellphone camera can be a contributor. “We do have original content, but we are a platform for others to broadcast themselves. We would like to be as democratic as possible. Democratisation is what we — Google and YouTube — stand for,” he says.