With more than 40,000 subscribers and 2.3 million views till date, Chetna Vasishth of ChetChat is riding the YouTube high. An XLRI Jamshedpur alumnus, she has setup a channel that defies benchmark numbers for Indian web-based talk shows.
Establishing authentic virality, is one step ahead of generating advertorial revenue.
While many YouTubers dream of launching successful talk shows that attract hundreds of thousands of views, with the aim of monetizing these into a respectable revenue source, Chetna Vasishth has gone a step ahead and established an actual talk-show, which caters to an established demographic of students aged 13 to 25. 70% of her viewers are from India, and her channel - which serves career advice, passion-to-profession tips and successful video stories, is now viewed in over 140 nations.
This is an Exclusive Interview with Chetna (Founder, ChetChat), as a part of the #TimesStories initiative by The Times Blog.
ChetChat has touched upon a space that still remains largely aspirational for Indian content creators. What inspired you to launch a business on YouTube?
Prior to the channel, I was active within the education space for over a decade. I gradually realized that students across India are faced with an acute lack of authenticated information. Most students and parents are sadly forced to make choices that are largely uninformed, and career counsellors are either very few in number or extremely expensive.
So, I thought - why not create a platform wherein I could interview students and experts, and share their genuine views directly with students and parents? After all, nothing authenticates facts better than video sessions with the right experts!
What challenges did you face while going about your launch, and in the subsequent years?
We started in 2015, with zero knowledge of how to shoot or edit videos. We had one camera, no mics and no lights. More importantly, we had no idea about how to promote the content that we were creating. We went about recording stuff in daylight for better lighting, and got stuck with noises made by crows, foley noises and traffic 'buzz' with absolutely no clue on how to clean all that up.
My husband has always helped me with the shoots, and initially something would always go wrong on every shoot. Either the sound wouldn't sync with the video, or the exposure levels were wrong, sometimes we had bad lighting and at other times, there was just too much ambient noise. There was this standing joke between us, on the lines of ‘what's it gonna be this time?”
But we kept sailing, and shooting, and we've come a long way in the last two and a half years. We have invested in equipment, attended workshops and continued to learn every day on the job. I edited the first 100 videos on my own, to ensure that I knew my craft well. We started with a tol as basic as Windows movie maker, and back then people just laughed at us.
Now, when they tell us that our videos look professional, it is very satisfying. We are also experimenting all the time, about what videos get received well, shared well, etc. It's a continous learning experience, really.
How did your family react when you told them you wanted to run a YouTube channel to support yourself?
My family has been completely supportive, and without that support I would have found it very difficult to sustain my momentum. But almost every other person I talk to today, asks me ‘what is your revenue model?' and honestly, I have no answer to that question. Right now, I just know that what I do contributes and adds value. I know that it is meaningful both for me and for my viewers, and that it will become a very significant resource in the future.
But how and when all of this will fall in place, is something I don’t necessarily have answers for at this moment.
Was there ever a time when you felt overwhelmed and unable to continue? What made you continue? What kept you motivated at your worst moments?
I believe that the universe always conspires to make things work for the best. There have been several times when I felt like giving up on the channel, I have felt demotivated, and every time around, someone would just 'appear' in my environment to motivate me and remind me that what I'm doing is important.
It's almost miraculous in the way it transpires, but I now realise that the work we do is way bigger than ourselves and that the universe will ensure that it continues to reach the people for whom it is designed, at the right time when it's supposed to reach them.
So I just take baby steps every day, and know that everything will move towards perfection as we leap ahead.
Any specific influences that have helped you shape up your content creation strategy so far?
I try to learn something new from everyone I meet, and to name one singular source of inspiration or motivation, is tough.
Personally, I draw a lot of inspiration from my son. He has taught me to consistently strive for maximum quality, to keep learning and challenging myself, while staying grounded. He also goads me to live my life on my own terms.
Professionally - I draw inspiration from Oprah Winfrey. The way she has fashioned her life helping others and crusading for humanitarian causes despite everything that she went through, and from Elon Musk for being so brilliant and courageous, and because he doesn’t care that he’s worth billions.
The fountain of my motivation is my husband Dheeraj. Every time I get dejected and feel like giving up, he pulls me back up! Sometimes, I feel like he believes in me more than I do in myself! (smiles).
What are the Top 3 Business Takeaways that you did not know when you first started out?
We might gain knowledge by reading, but most things that we truly understand come to us from our own life's experiences. My top three learnings so far, have been:
Having a goal larger than yourself and being passionately committed to it, come what may, is the only way to achieve success. How passionate you are about the impact you want to create (and that impact should be larger than yourself, larger than money, larger than fame) defines everything. And this is not only for an entrepreneurial venture, but for any kind of success in life.
Patience is way more critical than we normally give it credit for. Good things do happen, but not in the exact manner or timeframe that you imagine. So it's important to just 'hang in there', and to keep making incremental changes.
Consistency is king. Taking small steps every day in the general direction of your goals, not looking back, not getting distracted - these are the real stepping stones towards the bigger picture. One day, you will realise that you have come a long way from where you started. Always aim to break down the bigger picture into little slices, like salami. For me, that translates into releasing a high quality video every week, to get to a decent volume, let's say 500 videos sooner than I thought.
What advice would you give to your ten-year younger self, if given an opportunity?
Ha! For all those stressful moments that I lived through, I would tell younger Chetna to just "enjoy the roller coaster ride". Entrepreneurship is a rocky road, and we mostly keep waiting for one big ‘happy ending’. But my biggest takeaway has been to keep laughing and smiling all way, through the ups and downs that come my way. That happiness always reflects in my work.
Any words of advice for aspiring YouTubers out there?
People often write to me and ask me things like "Ma’am, I want to become famous, and I want to make money out of YouTube, tell me how to do it."
I always tell them that making money out of YouTube is no longer an easy business. Do something because you think you are genuinely good at it, and because you can create a positive impact on people’s lives with your work.
Don’t go on YouTube because you want to get famous. You will become famous if people love what you do for them - but hone your craft first. Never stop learning, and always strive to be better with your work. People (your viewers) will get used to a certain standard that you set, and then they will start expecting more from you. So remain committed to providing the absolute best that you can deliver, and your viewer will return.
How much of a role does consumer marketing/publicity play for you? What challenges do you see here?
When I started out, most people would stare at me with abject disbelief, and their questions were mostly on the lines of ‘What (on earth) made you think of this idea’.
Over time - one video at a time, we got bigger, and we got noticed. The New Indian Express named us as one of the 18 people to watch out for in 2018, we became India’s largest online talk show in the career and education space, and soon everyone began reading and talking about us.
Before we knew it, people were already sharing weird compliments, like ‘we always knew you would succeed’. But they didn't, they really didn't. We didn't! As funny as it may sound today, a strong lesson I learnt, is that success makes everything beautiful, and great publicity makes every venture successful.
The Times RapidFire
Name The book on your bedside table.
Answer: Beyond Biocentrism - By Robert Lanza
An original quote for your loyal customers?
“Miracles are the sigma of the small stuff we do each day.”
Do you operate with goals, or systems? Pick one.
Answer: Systems. I am clearly a person who believes that if we do things the right way, every single day, we will go way past our own goals.
Editor's note: Chetna is the first respondent to The Times Rapidfire, who has chosen systems over goals. Applause, ahoy!.
Cricket, or no Cricket?
Answer: Yes...Cricket. But more importantly, Basketball!
Print, or Digital?
Answer: Digital. It's the future!
And finally... what comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘The Times Blog’?
"A blog that outlines the times we're living in!"