All India Bakchod's Gursimran Khamba began proceedings at Spikes Asia 2015 with his session 'Create Content That Matters' in which he spoke about the English stand-up comedy scene in India, the much talked about 'Roast' and the group's stand on net neutrality.
He began his session by introducing the comedy group as India's fastest growing YouTube channel. He said, "In terms of hits for a YouTube channel, we're the largest group, outside of the media houses, who basically use whatever they create for television on YouTube too. We are at the cusp of YouTube success in India. Seeing us and a couple of other groups that began early with us, more people have followed and joined this revolution."
"The English stand-up comedy revolution is also currently happening in India. The year 2009 saw the first generation which is a tight knit community. In 2009, when we started we didn't have a platform. We had to request restaurants, bars and the likes to let us perform there and promise them that we wouldn't drive customers out of the restaurants. This revolution started around a time when Russell Peters' performances started going viral."
He compared the situation in India similar to that in China and claimed that keeping the balance between wanting people to watch the shows, but making sure 'not too many people' watch it was a big challenge back then. "Since some of our jokes were related to politics and religion, we wanted to steer clear of the government back then," said AIB's Khamba.
Cutting back to 2015, he said, "In 2015, most of the 150-200 people who started off in 2009, have had their careers transformed thanks to YouTube. The controversial jokes we'd want to convey would get no takers on so called 'mainstream' media. Now, stand-up comedy is a legitimate career. In most major cities a show happens almost everyday. But, it's gone beyond the shows. Even if I were to do 200 shows a year, which got 1,000 people each in attendance, I wouldn't reach out to the number of people who watch one singular YouTube video."
He followed this with three pieces of content created by AIB and explained how they've helped garner mainstream attention.
It's Your Fault
He explained, "The problem of rape has been one controversial problem in India. It's a big global problem as well, but it's actually projected as only an Indian problem. The idea of a rape victim/survivor has always been very controversial and a big blame game where the girl was always somehow blamed in India. So, we created this (above) video. it has garnered 5,195,557 views. It was even translated into five languages after we got requests from several countries. We'd created this video for India, but 65 per cent of our traffic came from international viewers. All we put in this video was how some politicians made remarks connected to rapes in India. Such content couldn't run in mainstream media. We created it like a comedy sketch and used YouTube as a creative platform. We picked two Bollywood stars in this and that finally got even mainstream media to follow and cover this piece."
The Comedy Roast
Khamba then spoke about the controversial AIB Knockout Comedy Roast, which featured Bollywood actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.
He explained, "The format 'roast' is about getting a celebrity and then insulting him or her on stage. We did it with Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor through an event in Mumbai and raised around Rs 40 lakhs. We wanted to make it an annual concept. The night went well and we wanted to put it on YouTube a month later. Once we did, we got interesting feedback. The video got 11 million views in three days. We then had to take it down because of several complains. I can only say that much about it because the case is currently in court in India and I see a few Indian journalists around. Anyway, we took the video down on our own I've been told you can now buy pirated DVDs of the show. For the next month (after the YouTube video was released) it was in the eye of the storm like that was the most important matter in India. The mainstream media was after it. A lot of people supported us too."
He then added how that content influenced mainstream media. "I want to cut to something that happened two weeks ago. Colors has launched Comedy Nights Bachao and labelled it a family, friendly roast. So, in six months we've done a roast - put it on YouTube - got lawsuits in multiple cities - and now a family friendly roast on mainstream media has been launched. It's ironic actually - a roast can never be friendly."
Save The Internet
The third piece of content Khamba spoke about was the video created for 'Net Neutrality'. He said, "Over the last six months, India is having a huge debate about Net Neutrality. In India, the telecom regulatory body put together a public document to get opinion of the public, but hid it somewhere on the website. It get zero play on mainstream media. We found out that this policy was made and made this video to tell young people about this public policy document. We wanted to get 15,000 people to respond to this by sending emails, but we got 10,00,000 instead. Nobody had done this, but we used YouTube as a tool for engagement instead. Once this happened, the government did a round two of consultation. This time through inviting people to comment on its website instead of the email system from earlier. Being a government site, registering and commenting took about three days. It didn't work well. Then Facebook, started bugging people with messages like this (insert image below).
He surmised, "Most markets in the world have similar challenges to what we've addressed. If a small video group can do this - you can create content which can do similar stuff. There are ways to engage with young people - and YouTube is one that can help."
Watch Campaign India in conversation with Khamba in the video below: