The first Indian video to hit one billion views on YouTube isn’t from a comedy or tech channel, as popular as those segments may be. Rather, the honour belongs to Chennai-based ChuChu TV — a YouTube channel geared towards kids from the ages of zero to seven. It hit the billion views landmark for its nursery rhymes compilation video, Johny Johny Yes Papa. Instead of being a straight up cover of the well known nursery rhyme, it is modified to be a more contemporary take on the classic.
According to YouTube, ChuChu TV is the number one channel in Asia Pacific across all genres, and ranked number two worldwide in the education genre. Overall it ranks 15th globally across all genres – no mean feat considering it started just in 2013. Gadgets 360 spoke to Vinoth Chandar, Founder, CEO and Creative Director, ChuChu TV to find out what makes this relatively new player in the space tick.
“She was almost two years old so I used to show her YouTube videos and she used to get a lot of excitement from seeing cartoons and other stuff,” says Chandar, talking about her daughter, who became the inspiration for ChuChu TV. “I always wanted to draw her in 2D and create a character out of her. So I went ahead and drew her in 2D and then animated her and she liked it. And she’s a very chubby girl from birth so I did this chubby cheeks rhyme for her and the video really came out well. When I showed it to her she liked it a lot.”
Seeing his daughter’s response, Chandar thought it could be a good idea to upload it to YouTube for other children to watch. The results were beyond Chandar’s expectations.
“In two weeks we got more than three lakh views, other kids were liking our content,” he says. The second video, which was based on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was even more popular, getting four to five times more views than the first.
“With just two videos our channel crossed 5,000 subscribers,” says Chandar. “That’s the time when a partner manager from YouTube called us and said ‘you’re doing some magic, yours is coming ahead other channels.’ They asked us to invest more on the platform.”
At the time, Buddies Infotech — the company run by Chandar and four of his partners, was into services. After Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, that changed pretty quickly.
“We took a conscious call not to focus on services, all five partners are on ChuChu TV, although Buddies Infotech exists for sake of it,” he says. “We started with four animators, we’ve now grown to 200 and moved into a 20,000 square feet office in Chennai.”
And while ChuChu TV started thanks to Chandar’s daughter, it sustained with inputs from the children of other members too — along with a combination of instinct.
“Right from day one it was gut feel on what to do,” says Chandar when asked about the process of making videos for ChuChu TV.
“Once we decide what to do, then we sit together, think a lot. They say you have to think like a kid to attract a kid right? That’s the basic premise,” he tells us. “Lots of us have a six-year-old or a three-year-old and spend a lot of time with our kids. So we think like how the kids think and then based on that we set up the story board and shorts for the kid, like how funny and engaging it should be for a little one.”
In addition to this, the company ensures the rhymes are free of any negative connotations such as Ba Ba Black Sheep, which has its roots in racism.
“We added a black sheep, white sheep, and a brown sheep. The video crossed 500 million views and is still doing well,” Chandar says. “After that, we got a lot of comments from parents and we’d add more verses to promote positivity and good values like sharing, caring, and loving.”
YouTube comments are also how ChuChu TV gets ideas for new videos. While the comments section on most videos make a post-apocalyptic earth seem like paradise, a dedicated team at ChuChu TV trawls through its comments section (which seems around 1,000 to 2,000 comments a day) to understand what its burgeoning fanbase wants.
“Most of the new ideas come from these comments. Now they want us to do the rhymes which they like, which their kids can watch,” says Chandar. “That has been the trend with parents asking for videos based on colours or exploration. All these comments we take into account and plan. We take our parents communication very seriously.”