A white slam in carrom is quite a feat: it is when a player pockets all the white counters on the board, in the very first turn. Needless to say, it gives the competitor an undeniable edge as soon as a match begins. It’s also beautiful to watch. Many moves are, in this game, which is perhaps why Satish R Kotian’s YouTube channel has garnered over 19,000 subscribers in just a year.
Dedicated entirely to covering carrom matches and tournaments around the country, Carrom Grip had originally started off as an app. “I wanted it to be along the lines of Cricbuzz: a go-to platform for anyone interested in following the sport,” says Kotian. “It was initially a scoring app, and a separate YouTube channel for the videos.”
While the app still dedicatedly provides scores and updates for State-organised tournaments across the country, it is the YouTube channel that has attracted far more viewership. The former’s somewhat modest 1,000 downloads are a far cry from the lakhs of viewers that the channel regularly attracts. Both, however, are way more successful than Kotian had anticipated.
“Whenever I feel low, I just go online and check the numbers,” laughs the Mumbai-based businessman over the phone. Kotian used to be an ardent, competitive carrom player, but had to step away from it about a decade ago, due to personal reasons. “When I came back into the scene after a gap of 10 years, I realised that nothing had changed. There was no upliftment of any kind, so I approached the Maharashtra Carrom Association with this idea.” The association was happy with his plan, so Kotian approached a web developer and got to work.
“We are constantly trying to improve. There is a lot that needs to be done, but if you compare our earlier videos to our more recent ones, you will see a marked difference,” he says.
The treatment has changed: dramatic sound effects have given way to more subtle ones, and a few graphics coming into play in the beginning and the end. The team has grown to include a total of nine videographers, a video editor and Kotian himself. From a single, simple handycam, the team now has five — four for regular use and one for backup — and plenty of spare batteries.
Kotian used up much of his savings on the equipment. “In carrom, the quarter finals are very important, and four matches take place simultaneously, and they go on for quite a while. So we needed it,” says Kotian, adding that he runs an AC and refrigerator repair service during the day, and hasn’t yielded any income from Carrom Grip yet.
But he isn’t complaining. From covering just the Maharashtra matches, Carrom Grip has gone on to regularly cover matches in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and other states as well. “The viewership depends on where the match is being held,” he explains, “Maharashtra matches have the most viewers, but so do matches in Tamil Nadu, in cities such as Madurai and Chennai.”
It was in Madurai that Carrom Grip covered their first match outside Maharashtra, but Hyderabad that gave them their biggest break. “This year, the first grand slam to be held in India, was hosted in Hyderabad,” recalls Kotian, “Before that, our YouTube subscriptions had been increasingly steadily, and had almost reached 13,000 over time. But with this one event, it just shot up.”
Kotian plans to divert some of this success back to the app, and has a number of plans in the pipeline. “The app has live scores, but not live videos. To put all the videos of all the matches on the app, we will need a much bigger server,” he explains, “I had also made a flowchart of the players in Maharashtra. We haven’t done that for the other state teams yet.”
The 32-year-old acknowledges that carrom isn’t as glamorous as cricket, or tennis. But he has proven that the game has a large following. All it needs is the spotlight.