Wondering what to do with your salary? These Indian financial influencers can help you save money

Given that Income Tax season is upon us, watch out for the growing crop of young financial influencers doling out advice with skits, reels and buttered parathas

June 23, 2022 12:09 pm | Updated June 30, 2022 10:35 pm IST

Shreyaa Kapoor in one of her videos

Shreyaa Kapoor in one of her videos | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A decade ago, financial advice meant visiting a primly dressed, mostly middle-aged CA’s office and trying to make sense of mundane jargon, percentages, figures, benefits, and risks... 

Cut to the present: A brigade of 20 and 30-somethings, in far from formal attire, have taken over social media to dole out financial know-how from the comforts of their homes — their backgrounds, however, keep changing from nightclubs to parking lots, office cubicles to automobile showrooms and so on.

Say hello to finfluencers or financial influencers, sporting mock moustaches, dramatic expressions, and exaggerated accents, in a bid to simplify finance. They creatively use everyday concepts such as shoe sales, vacations, and buttered parathas even, to draw comparisons with financial terms and explain them through short fun Reels, posts or YouTube videos. 

Given that Income Tax season is upon us. You might just want to pay attention.

The rise of finfluencers first started with the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. A number of people used this time to understand their finances and find ways to make money work for them. The added stress of salary cuts and job losses further propelled them to look for new avenues to invest in savings and make their income grow. Finfluencers like Rachana Ranade, Anushka Rathod, AssetYogi, Pranjal Kamra and a host of others became the go-to for financial gyaan given their easy accessibility on social media.

Shreyaa started her Instagram page in April 2021 and has 332k followers.

Shreyaa started her Instagram page in April 2021 and has 332k followers. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Shreyaa Kapoor, a former management consultant with an MNC, saw an overnight spike of 2,000 followers on her Instagram page when she dropped a post explaining Index Funds while comparing them to candy bars. “That’s when my perspective towards my page shifted,” says Shreyaa, whose page @shreyaakapoor_, which started in April 2021, has 332k followers and growing. From posting just three times a week she became more prolific with her posts.

A camera shy person, Shreyaa eventually realised that to grow on the platform she had to jump onto the Reels bandwagon. Her followers are mostly in the 25 to 34 age group but she also gets queries from 17-year-olds who want to know how to start their investment journey. “A trend I have definitely seen is that those in the 18 to 22 age group are a lot more aware about personal finance than we were at that age,” adds the 26-year-old.

A screenshot from one of Sharan Hegde’s many entertaining reels

A screenshot from one of Sharan Hegde’s many entertaining reels | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Finance, perhaps, is not that niche a subject anymore, as opposed to what Sharan Hegde had thought when he started his YouTube channel and Instagram page @financewithsharan in December 2020 and January 2021 respectively. One of the finfluencers to start out early, he was not expecting more than 30,000 followers. But today he has 1.6 M followers, as much as some of the travel, food and fashion bloggers, if not more.

Interestingly, Sharan does not come from a finance background. He studied Mechanical Engineering. “People are surprised that I am not a CA or an investment banker. It’s a pre conceived notion that I want to burst. 90% is understanding the foundation,” says the 26-year-old from Bengaluru.

Sharan has 1.6M followers

Sharan has 1.6M followers | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Now, this “understanding” is the tricky part. While the Internet is overflowing with information about a variety of finance-related topics, both Sharan and Shreyaa are of the opinion that long form content, brimming with technical terms, is time-consuming, overwhelming, and can be difficult for laymen to grasp. “Content creators are bridging that gap by making these topics fun and engaging,” says Sharan who has been reading journals and publications, out of interest, for years to educate himself and his followers.

Finding a way to make money while sleeping

“I get several DMs from people who work in the finance sector telling me that they are not able to handle their own finances. Formal education mostly teaches you how you can help a company and not yourself. Personal finance should have been taught in school,” opines Sharan.

Sharan Hegde

Sharan Hegde | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Shreyaa, who comes from a Commerce background, says studying the stock market and making money out of it is two different things. She admits she has been lucky to have her father, a CA, educate her on this topic. She started investing at the age of 18, burnt her fingers and in the process learnt the tricks of the trade.

“Infotainment goes a long way in teaching people important things such as finances and what to do with them,” says Chandralekha MR of @financewizcl who joined the finfluencer party in September last year. Till then, she says she was clueless about Instagram and only used it to look at her friend’s photographs.

“During COVID-19, I was home pursuing certification in finance and I started getting into financial markets. It’s something I am passionate about. I saw explainer videos by Ankur Warikoo. Eventually, I started a YouTube channel to explain these concepts to an online audience,” says Chandralekha who since her college days has been good at teaching and explaining complex things like derivatives in a simplified manner.

The most common topics people have questions about are: how and where to invest, how to save for a particular goal and cryptocurrency. “For a majority of people, when they think of investing, they think about the stock market. They miss out on other important things like emergency fund, insurance or budgeting,” says Shreyaa. Most of them are only interested in how they can exponentially grow their money overnight. They have unrealistic expectations of the market, she adds.

Chandralekha MR says research is important to create these reels and it takes up to 70% of her time

Chandralekha MR says research is important to create these reels and it takes up to 70% of her time | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Many of them do not know how to save taxes, says Chandralekha. Sharan recently ran a poll on what percentage of salary people are able to save at the end of a month. “Of the 80,000 people who took the poll, I was shocked to see 60% say they couldn’t save. They are not budgeting,” says Sharan, adding that investing is what you do with the money. “Holding money might entice you to spend it. There is a gap in the psychological understanding of money,” he adds. And these are topics he addresses in-depth on his page.

Reached 50k followers or more? Go full time

Shreyaa and Sharan have both quit their full-time jobs with MNCs and become content creators. It is a lucrative profession if done right. “Anybody who reaches 50-60k followers can make enough money to do this full time. We are getting into television ads now,” says Sharan who gets “100-200 mails a day”, from brands for collaborations and product placements.

“I do only four in a month. I am very particular. If it’s a new product, I meet the founder, we talk for three to four hours and understand the vision, the product, etc. I need to show them by virtue of me promoting their brand how many apps have been installed etc.”

But there might be some months that may not be as great in terms of growth, says Shreyaa. “Even then there are a few brands that decide to stick with us because they like the content we create,” she says.

Giving a ballpark figure, she explains, “If an influencer has about 100K followers they can earn around [₹]70,000 to [₹]90,000 bucks [sic] for an Instagram Reel or Story.”

Chandralekha switched from YouTube to Instagram reels

Chandralekha has 123k followers

Chandralekha has 123k followers | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Chandralekha meanwhile continues to juggle her job at KPMG, along with content creation. The micro-influencer with over 1 lakh (123K) followers, says that she let go of her YouTube channel as it required long-form content, and was becoming very time-consuming.

“I moved to Reels and this reduces my time of creating videos by 70%. I like to keep things conversational. And through this role-playing format, I help solve problems related to income and investment,” she says. Her followers started increasing after her post on gold bonds reached 1.7 million views.

How long does it take to create short-form videos?

Ironically, creating a short video is actually a long process, say the content creators.

They need to ideate, think of ways of infusing humour, explain and yet, keep it crisp. “It takes 10-12 hours to put together a 30-60 second video. This includes research, scripting, editing, posting, responding to comments,” says Sharan.

Research takes about 70% of the time, says Chandralekha, explaining that it is a bigger responsibility than food, travel, or fashion influencer as here, people often invest their hard-earned money based on suggestions made by the finfluencers.

Says Sharan, “So, it is imperative to be vigilant. We cannot afford to make a mistake.”

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