Karikku with 2.6 million (26 lakh) subscribers leads the list of top Malayalam content creators on YouTube. When Nikhil Prasad launched the digital platform , in 2017, his target was modest. He envisaged a million subscribers by the year 2020. But Karikku has 2.6 million subscribers, a year earlier. Nikhil, however, refuses to get carried away by its “exponential growth.”
“We are still in our infancy. A lot more expansion is required in the digital space, once we achieve that only then will I say that this is what I want. For me Karikku has just started,” says the 34 year-old. He is referring to the tech, film and music space on the digital platform. His interest, right now, is in building the brand.
The subscription figure is huge, given that the others, with higher numbers, are major television (Malayalam) networks.
For all the madcap fun and laughter in its web series’, its office, on MG Road, is surprisingly quiet. Minimal and painted black with 'Karikku' emblazoned on the walls, its employees work away on computers in one section of the office. When initially it was only him, today he has 12 employees, of whom 10 are actors. Nikhil’s no frills office space, which looks more like a conference hall, is dominated by a large television. Not quite the place one imagined the laugh riot Thera Para , the channel’s hugely popular mini web series, was made.
This series turned the fortunes of Karikku says Nikhil. The fan following is astounding, especially among the school and college going crowd of Malayalis. It follows the life of four youngsters and their capers. The four main actors – Anu K Aniyan (George), Sabareesh Sajjin (Lolan and his father), Anand Mathews (Shambhu) and Binoy John (Shibu) – have an enviable fan following. It will now be made into a feature film, scheduled for next year. Nikhil will direct and it will have the primary characters.
The pattern of content creation is what sets it apart. “It works because the story telling is raw – there is no ‘artistic’ or artificial background, no make-up, the dialogues and the delivery are realistic. Any youngster can relate to it. What works is also that there is no double entendre or black humour, it appeals to every section of people.” Humour is not easy and with each episode, he feels, expectations rise. Apart from the web series, Karikku makes individual videos. The concept is Nikhil’s, he tells the team what they need to do or say and then it is all spontaneous. “My technical background helps, and the creative aspect is inherent, it can’t be taught,” he says of wielding the camera and ideating.
Nikhil chose humour intentionally. “It helps growth in the digital space, humour can be conveyed in minimum time.” Initially he started with short videos of barely a minute and built on that. Thera Para grew out these that he made during the FIFA season, FIFA World Cup 2018 , last year. The characters were created then, after, the World Cup, gauging their popularity Nikhil created the series with these characters. Karikku has two more entertainment platforms —Karikku Fliqd (for films) and Karikku Tuned (for music). It has also collaborated with films, as promotions but he isn’t keen on getting too involved. “It is not that we don’t want to, but the presence of a celebrity is distracting and takes away attention from our content.” He doesn’t rule out collaborations, differently, in the future.
He is no newcomer to the entertainment business, only that he was on the technical side of the television industry as project manager. For 10 years, the engineer, who hails from Thiruvananthapuram, was involved in the setting up of television networks, looking after the technical aspects. His last job was with Flowers channel, as the tech head. He quit and invested his savings into Karikku.
“The digital space has a lot of scope, in fact in these spaces most traffic is from Kerala. And even the talent, in terms of content creation is from here. Kerala has lot of talent which is scattered. Apart from the main television spaces, the digital space was vacant and I thought why not try something here,” says Nikhil of the beginnings. He wants to explore the “360 degree potential of the digital space.”
Even though content creators from Kerala use the digital space, not many have considered its marketing potential, says Nikhil. Subtle in-video integration of a brand isn’t tried very often. Their first client was a mobile phone store, to whom they pitched the idea. “They were interested and we did an episode on the types of mobile phone buyers. That was the only pitch we had to make, after that clients started approaching us.” After that Karikku also started doing individual episodes incorporating brands.
Nikhil was confident that the short videos would click only that he didn’t anticipate how much. He breaks down why the digital platform works – “Kerala has the most number of smart-phone users, of which 95 % is active across social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram (Karikku_Fresh) and YouTube. So, even if one misses a hit film, the chances of missing digital content are slim.”