A peep into the lives of the creators turned entrepreneurs: Divija Bhasin & Alicia Souza
Digital Content Creators | Online Celebrities | Social Media Influencers Whatever the name, everyone has come to know (and love) their game.
People love the authenticity they bring in today’s fast-paced world; it’s refreshing not just for the younger demographic but for others as well — and in sharp contrast to generic celebrity ads that look like they want to be poked fun at.
Right now our country happens to have more than 490 million people under the age of 23 — and unlike the ones before this digital-first generation has grown up wary of scripted movie stars’ personas, while rallying the charge for the new content rock stars to take centrestage. [Source] So it should come as no shock that an Omnicom report about
Gen Z consumer behaviour found that only 13% clicked the ‘Follow’ button for celebrities, while about 86% preferred Instagram influencers. [Source]
Social Media Influencers have gradually expanded their influence over both the worlds they inhabit — the digital one with 100k+ to 1m+ followers, and the real world where they remain a constant conundrum (or the next-best thing) in the heads of the biggest marketers of the world. [Source] Whether it’s beauty, fashion, lifestyle, or travel, content creators are enjoying much more bargaining power than before, and a sense of freedom that those before them never really had the tools for.
And yet the pie of those benefits is not divided equally among the massive creator ecosystem. As we mentioned in our earlier blog, reports suggest that
only 3% of the 50 million creators globally actually make more than minimum wage. [Source]
As major social media companies continue to tweak their platforms by rolling out new opportunities for monetization (loyalty badges, gifts, exclusive content) smaller creators suffer as they don’t get enough reach, and platform fees take a major chunk from their hard-earned income.
THE RISE OF CREATOR-PRENEURS
Sure, creators will pursue potential brand collaborations that their social media followers can get behind, but this status quo of influencer marketing relationships can’t remain as it is for a sustained period. Creators’ complete reliance on these social media behemoths is showing tell-tale signs of impending transformation.
“The Creator economy has realised that vague algorithm changes or loopholes can NOT derail years of their hard work.” [Source]
The real reason they invest all their efforts and energy is not really to be the highlight model of high-end brand collaborations. If being self-reliant is a lofty goal, getting the acknowledgment and (more importantly) the appreciation for their talents within their community remains at the core of what drives them onward. We’ll delve into this further below when we explore the journeys of two very established influencers who made an undeniable mark before starting brands themselves, and the new creator-preneurs who are navigating the influencer marketing landscape.
For them, nothing comes close to the creative pursuit of showcasing their unique talents on the global stage. And the growing creator community has learned to shift from investing solely in brands & social media apps and to focusing on cultivating their loyal community of followers. Most of all, they’re focussed on upskilling their own abilities to adapt to the latest trends.
We’re already witnessing social media influencers coming out with their own branded merchandise, with plenty of fans happy to aid them through crowdfunding platforms for extra perks. By using their years of experience, they are able to diversify and create new revenue streams as they understand the interests that their community would relate to better than anyone else. Their experience while executing brand campaigns actually helps them fine-tune their own marketing and promotion skills. [Source]
As new and better opportunities present themselves, they won’t have to rely only on social media platforms to dictate their next big idea. In this blog we present how Indian Creator-preneurs are pivoting into becoming brands themselves.
THE EMERGING CREATOR ECONOMY IN INDIA
‘Content Creator’ is quickly becoming an attractive proposition for the many creative individuals within the country. No specialized degree is needed, as long as one can bring their own unique take on any of the popular categories from entertainment, food, beauty, comedy, lifestyle, or technology.
From Bhuvan Bam to Technical Guruji, plenty of influencers have already become quite well known among the masses. Gaming in particular has seen amazing breakthroughs, with millions watching videos put out by Carry Minati, Dynamo Gaming and Mortal on YouTube and Twitch. [Source] The rise of video in India was also accelerated by the pandemic, as reported by media & analytics company Comscore’s report, which found YouTube watchtime was 45% higher (July 2020) compared with the same period last year. [Source]
As their popularity grows these creators gain greater bargaining power over their partner brands, along with a loyal fanbase that follows their journey irrespective of the platform. As they learn to monetise their social media influence, they become more than just influencers — they take the next step and become Creator-preneurs.
Many influencer marketing agencies and platforms have propped up to support this ecosystem and help brands to make the right decisions for their next influencer campaign. And not just the brands, the creators are supported to become more specialised in their creative skills, while they can get more free time from managing tedious tasks.
We at Socialkyte are part of that rising group.
Just ask our network of 100,000 creators and partners.
And.. cue the music for a little spot of self-promotion!
Socialkyte started out from an idea that developed into a truly collaborative, influencer-first SaaS platform, with a belief that effective content should be valued fairly and backed by laser-focused social media analytics.
We like keeping things simple, so please find below the potential gains from a collaboration. Also why you should definitely contact us after you’ve read the blog.
For the Brands:
- No matter how ambitious the idea, you’ll have the scalability to choose from thousands of creators
- Onboard category-specific influencers through our classification module with ease
- Statistical analysis that give real-time flexibility in campaign strategy and growth
- Deliverable tracking through in-house Campaign CRM
- Detailed & Cumulative Reporting of multiple campaigns
For the Creators:
- Targeted brand campaign recommendations based on your interests, audience & engagement
- A Dynamic Media Kit that automatically tracks your social channels’ success, along with a shareable Portfolio
- Content and analytics from past collaborations, all in one place
- Laser-focused analytics of your pages, updated in real time
So if you’re a marketer who is ‘not sure’ about your campaign’s execution, or an aspiring creator eager to take the next upward step, please know that simple message about your needs would be a great ice breaker.
We aim to exceed your expectations.
While everyone may take a different road to become a creator-preneur, their appeal within their fanbase stems from their unique expression and individuality. The last decade gave evidence of how the fast pace of innovation and technology adoption completely changed every facet of our life. Someone who started their journey in 2010 would have had a completely different environment than those who benefited from the digital revolution that was to come.
To help us paint a better picture, we asked two very talented creators about their experiences during their own transition into brands.
The Friendly Neighbourhood Therapist @awkwardgoat3
While the ease of communication has never been as good before, studies suggest that stress from long work hours, heavy social media usage, and smartphone addiction (just to name a few) have a direct correlation with depression and other mood disorders. This seems particularly strong in the case of teenagers and young adults, who are connected through the many apps and games online but feel socially isolated in real life which negatively affects their mental well-being.
Moreover, as a country, we’ve yet to learn how to perceive mental health issues with the right approach.
Here’s where Divija’s journey really comes to the fore. She successfully made @awkwardgoat3 a safe environment for people to discuss questions about mental illness and therapy with ease. As a professional counselling psychologist, her witty content on Instagram is helping create more awareness about mental health in a manner that’s simple yet relatable, and removes the stigma around therapy.
She started her content creator journey on TikTok, but when India banned the app she had to move to Instagram (where the ‘Reels’ feature would soon be arriving). And her novel way of translating complex situations and normalizing how people view their mental health and therapy like this:
@awkwardgoat3'Divija’s way of normalising therapy
Divija's novel way of translating complex situations and normalizing how people view their mental health and…
struck a chord with the community. Her follower base would rise quickly to 13,000 (from 300) in just 3 months. [Source]
Speaking to Socialkyte, she expands on her experiences during the start. And mind you, it was the unprecedented year of 2020 where the whole world would be shut down.
“I never took this work as a way to earn or make any business. I started it because I had fun making videos and it was a good creative outlet,”
says Divija, who has since amassed more than 155k followers on Instagram and worked closely with over 50 brands from the likes of Google India, Bumble, Zee5, Unibic, Tinder, Venus, etc. Her witty style infused in her professional expertise is one of the many reasons the younger generation find her much more approachable.
That strong bond with her audience is what made businesses want to engage with her for their brand collaborations too. Soon, along with her mother Meena Bhasin, the duo would start their new venture — This Is Kinda Lit.
“My family was going through a bad financial time during COVID and even before. We decided to start This is Kinda Lit because I saw that brands were paying me to market their products and we thought — why not give this a try” she told Socialkyte.
She was able to apply her learnings from being a creator to support her entrepreneurial venture.
Understanding that today’s e-commerce has made it easier for smaller businesses to sell online, Divija knew that the right social media approach could make the whole thing materialise the way that they wanted it. In time, her parents would understand why she chose to sell their products on Instagram.
Her mother had already worked with prestigious fashion houses as a designer and found that she was able to manage their team quite efficiently — from finding the right products to their sourcing and more. Her father took care of the bills and logistics side of the operation. More than anything, Divija says that her proudest moment was being able to realise her mother’s dream of having her own store. [Source]
But a lot of work was needed for it to take hold.
“From finding reliable shipping companies to sourcing good quality products that would exceed expectations, we faced many challenges along the way. The businesses needed capital to back it up and a low reach on Instagram posts had a big effect on our sales,” she said.
At the time of writing this, their page has been followed by ~44k people, and has successfully delivered more than 10,000 orders pan-India — on the back of talent, smarts, and an immense amount of hard work from the whole family working together behind the scenes.
May 2022 would see her launch The Friendly Couch — bringing back her focus to her passions and helping people find reliable therapists that were professional and empathetic.
“The Friendly Couch came about more naturally to me as I was already connecting my followers to therapists. I just made it more official by launching the page,” she adds. “It was a challenge for me to even start it since I was doing it all alone and had never done it before. It took me a good 4–5 months to finally push myself to take this step as it is quite intimidating.”
THE FRIENDLY COUCH — Providing mental health services to people with a team of trusted counselling and clinical psychologists.
Divija was able to successfully combine her vocation with her love to make engaging content, help support her family business, all while creating awareness about mental health issues and benefits of therapy. “I want to be able to keep growing both the businesses as it provides me and my family financial stability and also makes us very happy. It is important to do work that makes you feel good about yourself and gives your life meaning.”
No wonder she’s been featured by Hindustan Times, The Hindu, The Times of India, Economic Times and Vice among others. Divija is a brilliant Creator and change-maker of her own making.
‘The Happiness Illustrator’
- Illustrative Designer
- Chips Connoisseur
If we tried our hardest, we’d still fall short in portraying the depth of work Alicia Souza has been able to create across platforms, mediums, categories, and more. Add the fact that she’s been drawing professionally for over a decade and it quickly becomes overwhelming — so we won’t even try.
We’re happy enough that she could make time for us, and help us draw (not as well as her) a fair picture of her journey.
To show some of her achievements & works, Alicia has
- Created wonderful illustrations that are popular globally, in children’s books, magazines, newspapers & products; many companies have licensed her work
- Illustrated 5 published picture books (some regional too), and debuted as a solo author-artist with Penguin (‘Dearest George’)
- Spoken at a number of TED-x’s about visualising ideas and the creative process, as well as numerous college fest talks
- Been chosen as an INK fellow (global community of young & innovative change-makers)
- Become a successful entrepreneur through online stores of her two labels — Alicia Souza (for gifting and artist merchandise) & Auntie Alie (kids merchandise)
- Recently came out with her second Skillshare class “eCommerce for Creatives”
- Done freelance work for big brands and corporates like Penguin, Google, Adobe, Apple, Yahoo, The Mint, Yahoo, AOL, 3M, Wipro, Cadbury/Mondelez, INK, Time Out, Cornetto, Air Asia, Kyoorius, Amazon, The Hindu, Champak and Tinkle (to name a few)
[From press articles & social profiles]
What excites nearly everyone (especially her 400k+ followers on Instagram) about her art style is the simple yet whimsical manner in which she draws everyday occurrences. They’re hopefully optimistic and with the power to make you reminisce about joyful memories of a pleasant day. She absolutely loves illustrating, stating that it’s peaceful and almost therapeutic for her.
Are you a Creator who is struggling with ideas?
You should take notes
Even after a decade since she started freelancing, Alicia seems to be busier than ever — makes you wonder if there is a team of Alicias working in the background. We asked her the same (she chuckled) and if she has really cracked the method to the madness of being a creator-preneur.
“I’m really scheduled, and I cannot sit still and do nothing for very long. But also I am very driven to make things happen.
Firstly it’s practice — I’ve been doing it for ages now, it’s been about ten years! Initially what drove me was that I needed to make this a career and make it work for me because I kind of fell into the deep end of freelancing.
I had to pay bills because I basically was supporting myself for a while by then,” says Alicia.
But things are different now that she has become a mother and she takes the help of a nanny when she needs it. And she’s grateful to her storefront team because there’s “no way I’d be able to pack orders as well as work as a freelancer — we only have 24 hours in a day and two hands!”
But it was a long journey nonetheless. Alicia was born and brought up in the Middle East and moved to Melbourne to study communication design. She could have been a banker, but instead it rekindled her love for illustration.
In 2011 she took a leap of faith and moved to India to launch her brand, a completely new country and culture for her. She chose to split from the brand and started freelancing, but maintains she didn’t want to start her own brand after that.
“I started posting my drawings online on Facebook and saw a lot of people had asked me for products. After I displayed them at a flea market it did really well. I was honestly surprised at people asking me for products and their appreciation.
I think that’s what convinced me to start my own brand”
But the choice didn’t make the journey easier, as starting a business 10 years ago was really hard. “I couldn’t go online and print a t-shirt, unlike today where there are brands who print customised t-shirts,” she said. But seeing how much people liked her works was what pushed her to pursue it.
She started building her own brand while working full-time as a freelancer and, like every early entrepreneur, had products all around her room. Learning to sell online, managing the web store, packing the orders, all while managing freelance work (brand collaborations) — it would get overwhelming.
But she soon found another set of helping hands. “So then I found my partner just in the nick of time, honestly, and he handles the logistics part of the store and that helps at this point,” she says, thinking back amusingly.
While getting used to the culture and finding her way in illustrations, there were many challenges that she’d still face along the way. And unlike the Alie in her illustrations, she had usually been a quiet person.
“I was extremely shy when I started freelancing actually. I think that was harder and there were a lot of pep talks to myself (self-belief) about how I have to make this work.
When you’re a freelancer, you have to talk about money, you have to pitch your work and yourself, even if it’s something via call or on mail. And when I started putting my work on Facebook it felt really awkward and that took me a bit to get used to as well,” she explained.
A lot of aspiring content creators can take some inspiration and, with some effort, can get over such personal challenges themselves too. And while for Alicia it was much harder (a make-or-break choice) as she had to support herself and pay bills, her love for her art always pulled her through.
She was pregnant when she launched Auntie Alie, still had to work with the samples plus do other things, and the year 2020 was about to end. Her efforts would pay her back as even during the height of the pandemic, her products sold amazingly well.
“The biggest challenge now at this point is time — trying to figure out how am I going to manage everything that I want to do in this very small set of time,” she says. Unlike before, she cannot do overtime as Auntie Alie has become a mom now.
Other obstacles listed were getting capital for her venture, finding the right people she could work with, searching for vendors, bad samples, returns, logistics, and more. It all took time and some things did hurt, but with every drawback, she learned more, and she was able to do things better.
On being known as the ‘Happiness Illustrator’, she agrees with us that it’s the coolest title and she’s very happy to have it.
“But…there’s no but actually, it’s just the sweetest thing. It’s the biggest compliment because, honestly, I know at the end of the day, everyone wants to be ‘happy’ kind of thing, but it’s something I always think about when I make big decisions.
It may sound simple, but when so many big things hang on, it really can direct your life. And I always think on a positive front,” she says, affirming her attitude towards art and life, and we see where her diligence stems from.
With her illustrations now being recognised the world over, even more projects coming up, brands lining up to work for her, and her own products getting the love they deserve, we asked her if the whole journey of more than a decade as the ‘Happiness Illustrator’ has been a surreal one for her. She laughs and says she agrees that it truly has been.
“You know what feels surreal? It’s that I can see there’s a decade of work that I have at hand. Because I remember starting out that I used to read the ‘About’ pages of illustrators having a decade worth of experience.
And I feel like that’s MADNESS! I’m never going to get there.
And now I’m just like, there. That’s insane.
I have a billion folders and I look at the number of items — 10,000 drawings! And while being absolutely crazy, it’s also really nice. I’m one of those people who absolutely love age because they are years you can talk and remember — they’re memories. And I think it’s amazing.
I have zero regrets and everything’s an experience, including the bad things and even including hard times. It’s amazing, honestly.”
I have zero regrets and everything’s an experience, including the bad things and even including hard times. It’s amazing, honestly.
That’s really what we should be saying. Her unique style of art and her humorous yet optimistic take on life, her challenges, and her learnings, they’ve all made her the Creator-preneur that she is now.
She confesses that there are always >1000 things on her mind and she tries to do more (also wishes she could do them all), so it doesn’t seem like she’s stopping any time soon. And we are just one among the thousands who are glad for that.
So we’ve seen the similar, yet different paths our two creators had to take to get where they are now. They both have a deep love for their craft (that fuels them), an adoring and loyal fanbase (whatever the social media platform be), and have successfully become creative entrepreneurs through their hard work and dedication.
On the basis of this, can we project that the Creators in India will follow suit and be taking the entrepreneurial leap, perhaps as part of a major trend across the global creator economy?
We’re already witnessing new brands like HYPD, Zaamo and Taggd coming up with creator-owned marketplace models that let influencers make their own store on their platform, market it using their social media following and user analytics and get paid each time someone buys from their store.
So what do our creators have to say about creators taking the entrepreneurial journey?
Divija shared a balanced opinion and said that every person would have a different reason if they choose to take it. “For some, it may be that they understand what their audience wants and think they can provide real value to the people who follow them by making appropriate products for them”. For others it may come naturally from engaging with other brands for sponsorships and using that learning (and a favourable environment) to take the first step in their own venture.
But overall, she claims that the aspiring creator-preneurs see this as an opportunity to make their ‘content creator’ move more stable financially and make their passion project a long-term one.
Alicia confirms that the environment right now is much better to start your own venture as we are hyper-connected now, and the digital ease of being able to start your company while sitting at your desk is amazing.
“You don’t really need to go to a government office and sign a paper. And you can order pretty much anything on the internet. You can even have a brand that literally makes different types of handmade buttons and make it self-sustaining, or even a booming venture. It’s truly amazing how streamlined things have become now.”
The current digital-native generation is more confident and is given more freedom to explore their interests. Giving her own example, she says that seeing other people doing what they love definitely helped her as it gave her the motivation to keep going.
“In Bengaluru, you meet a ton of entrepreneurs and it feels like that entrepreneurial spirit is a bit contagious in a way that if you have an idea, you feel like taking it ahead.”
The trend of influencers pivoting into brands themselves may grow further in the years to come if social media platforms are still unable to heed to any feedback from creators globally. Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and others are trying hard to retain influencers as they rely on their activity to drive user engagement and traffic. The $100 million Shorts Fund from YouTube to incentivize innovative creators is proof of that and would take more freedom from the creator. Moreover, smaller creators may still be getting paid in pennies.[Source]
If they were not constricted to keep creating for the sake of reaching their minimum requirement, they could have expressed their thoughts in their own unique way.
But like we discussed here, that can never be a sustainable model.
Creators are not just realising but flexing their new bargaining power, whether it’s knowing their worth and asking for paid (rather than barter) collaborations, or being more particular about which brands to work with. Or even the platform that they choose for their content.
Thousands of Etsy sellers protested raising the selling fees for every sale to 6.5% (from 3.5 in 2018) by simply shutting shop. Many prominent creators came out to blast TikTok for promising fair returns but paying peanuts instead. Twitch streamers have used content blackouts to speak up against the lethargy of the video streaming platform in tackling the abuse of its users. [Source]
This creator economy is able to see through the empty promises being delivered every year and is deciding to be the change themselves. And it has been the change-makers like Divija Bhasin and Alicia Souza who are helping the evolution through their own ventures.
They both emphasise the importance of being diligent and professional in your work ethic. But at the same time realise that in today’s world, one should be flexible enough to not always follow the platforms’ popular trends but find their own niche that gives their life meaning.
Their words, like their success, are not to be scoffed at and we are sure to see many aspiring creators taking in their footsteps soon enough.
Whether you’re a seasoned collaborator or have just started your creator’s journey, our aim is to help your creative juices get the recognition they deserve.
Joining us will help you set up a dynamic media kit and align your interests with suitable collaborators.
Sign up here: https://socialkyte.com/get_started