Tanmay Bhat has taken on many roles — comedian, content creator and now, streamer. His foray into gaming in October 2019 has boosted his popularity among younger audiences and has proven, if proof was still necessary, that gaming has indeed become mainstream in India. At Tech2 Innovate, Network18 Digital Videos Head Ragini Verma talks to him about why he started streaming professionally, how different comedy is from streaming, and the thought process behind generating new content. He also discusses why he wants to become India’s PewDiePie and outlines his strategy on how he plans to do it. Below is the entire exchange:
Editor’s note: Some responses have been edited for style and brevity.
Ragini: It is wonderful to see the excitement in this room. Thank you so much for joining us at Tech2 Innovate. We’ve seen how the availability of cheap smartphones and data led to the rise of gaming — especially that battle royale game we all love — in India these last couple of years. What that translates to is that gaming in India could become a billion-dollar industry, with about 350 mn users by 2021.
There is a thriving gaming community which is present here today, a very engaged audience, hordes of players, and some very big gaming stars. It is my pleasure to welcome them at Tech2 Innovate today, ladies and gentleman, in fact, boys and girls, Tanmay Bhat. Thank you for joining us today. How does it feel to be back?
Tanmay: Feel to be back? People say that as if I had gone somewhere. This is called a break. Aamir Khan comes once in a year, people don’t call it comeback. It feels great. First of all, I want to thank Carry, who streamed a lot with me. He encouraged me to try gaming out. I feel great because I have met new people through gaming. I really want to thank everybody who watches and supports it. You (audience) helped me in my comeback after my depression. [APPLAUSE] You guys are very supportive, I appreciate it.
Ragini: Was there a specific thought or was it Carry that led you to choose gaming as the content for your comeback?
Tanmay: I was always into gaming. I have been playing games since my childhood. But when you play PUBG for six hours continuously, you get a message of the same. After some point, I wondered why I didn’t stream. I might as well start streaming. I used to watch Carry stream a lot. I thought it would be fun to stream with Carry. I just hit him up and since then we’ve been having fun. I can’t believe it’s just been three months
Ragini: And it is doing really, really well.
Tanmay: It feels like a long time. It feels like home now. I like it.
Ragini: You went from being oh-so-famous to not-so-famous.
Tanmay: Am I not so famous? [audience cheers]
Ragini: Now you are, of course. You’ve come back to the community of gaming. Any lessons for dealing with fame, or the absence of it?
Tanmay: When I started with comedy, I said to myself I have to spend at least 30-35 years on this. Ups and downs are a part of it. Every time something happens, I think I have aged five years in one month. I think adversity teaches you a lot. And I think I have come out the better for it. Now I am streaming, there’s nobody else in my older community who is doing it. Other comedians message me asking, what is this streaming? How do you do it? Teach us too. Every pit is an opportunity for you to rise higher again, you get the full spectrum. I think the number of experiences per year is greater than the number of years of experience. I welcome everything, I’m very happy with it.
Ragini: Once you become part of the PUBG universe, you are automatically plugged into a thriving community, and we can see it here. Do you think it was an antidote to your depression?
Tanmay: Oh, 100 per cent. For one year, I did nothing. I never went out of my house. I began playing PUBG and through PUBG I made friends with 17 & 18-year-olds. I have not met them in real life. There are so many moderators on YouTube that play with me. They are some of my closest friends. When you play six hours continuously with someone, you develop a great bond. I would not meet my real friends but I would talk to gamers every day. They are the same people who moderate my channel now, who play with me. In a sense, I think I rediscovered friendship and an audience through gaming,
Carry is just 20 by age, but he is immensely mature for his age. Like I said, Carry has experienced a lot, he has also seen so much that you tend to age a lot faster. I think he is in such a fantastic place, where physically he is 20 years of age but mentally I don’t look at him as someone who is only a little younger or something.
Ragini: In Oct 2019 you had 9k subscribers, now you’ve crossed the 350k mark. It’s quite a steep rise. On your channel, we see gaming streams, vlogs, open mics. Is there a thought process behind the content?
Tanmay: To be very blunt, there is no thought process. I just had to make something. For the last one year, I had created nothing. So, I told myself whatever I do, I will put it out as content.
I just wanted to put out every possible thing I can. I started looking at everything as how can I make this something interesting for people to watch. But there’s more coming up. A podcast is just going to begin, a show is coming up, there are sketches yet to be shot.
Ragini: Everything on one channel?
Tanmay: Everything on one channel. Sketches are what we used to do on AIB earlier, we’re going to bring it back now in the next couple of weeks, so that’s going to be fun.
Ragini: We look forward to that.
Tanmay, Carry has roasted you in the past, when are you going to roast him back? Somewhere on road to one million?
Tanmay: [laughs] Let’s see when I should roast him. I don’t want to roast everybody at the same time. Slowly, slowly, I want to stretch the roast over two years. If you have seen the stream, I roast Carry a lot.
Ragini: I was wondering if there would be a formal roasting?
Tanmay: We might roast Carry on AIB Knockout.
Ragini: You do think it (streaming) is going to come up for other games as well?
Tanmay: Nobody is watching our stream for gameplay… [cheers and applause]. The point is people watch streams for the personality. Loneliness has increased because of hyperconnectivity, and they get attached to online personalities. No matter what Carry does, at least 25k views will come. That is called stardom.
Ragini: On a serious note, when are you going to bring the PMCO trophy home?
Tanmay: I am just waiting. I am opening a clan by the name of Bot Army, today’s winners please come and join it. I think I will just straight up win at the Pro League, why bother with PMCO? We will go to China and beat the Pro league.
Ragini: You’re more serious about gaming than I thought. Is your target audience different now that your content is different? Are you catering to a younger audience now?
Tanmay: That day, I was at Marine Drive, with Scout. Eleven-year-old girls came up to me and said ‘Sir, I watch your stream’. I was surprised. There’s a whole new audience, people who don’t know what I did earlier. They were so cute, and I wanted to kidnap them. It has been one year since no FIR has been registered against me [laughs]. It’s a newer audience. But I don’t think of that. I just make stuff and if younger audiences like it, then why not.
Ragini: But people largely come for personality, right? Are you modifying content to cater to this (younger) audience?
Tanmay: This is the most me I have ever been. You cannot hide yourself during a live stream. Whatever you are, you are. You cannot switch yourself on and off. Especially if you stream for 3-4 hours, people love you for your most authentic version. I am the most ‘me’ now. When you are loved at your best and worst, what more can you ask for.
Ragini: You both [Tanmay and Carry] have one thing in common. A decade long career in what you are doing, despite the age difference. So, why don’t you share tips with people who aspire to become streamers, content creators?
Tanmay: [to the audience] Who runs a gaming channel? [Hands raised] You should do it.
Ragini: Don’t stop at that.
Tanmay: 30 years ago, a study was done on the number one occupation kids are aiming for. Earlier, it was astronaut, now it is YouTuber. I am not kidding, this was an actual study. Earlier, your heroes were people you saw on TVs and news channels, if Neil Armstrong went to the moon, everybody knew him. But now, YouTube is the new TV. People see stars on their phones, and that’s what they want to become. Stars on phones, children see them and want to be like them. [Noticing the audience’s hands], I am not surprised by the raised hands, as a lot more people want to be YouTubers.
If you are running a gaming channel, the first tip I would like to give you is please use FaceCam, without that you are just like everybody else. You won’t stand out. When you watch Carry streaming, the tricks he uses that makes audiences happy, learn from those acts, ape them, but add a taste of your style and personality to it.
Ragini: To sum it up: uniqueness, your own style, self-train, and be consistent.
No discussion is complete with Tanmay without asking him some basic questions.
Where do you see yourself five years down the line?
Tanmay: Where I see myself five years down the line, I don’t know. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in my 10-year career is that nobody supports you more than people who watch your content, because you become an emotional part of their life. My career was largely dependent on what the media and brands thought about me, so this is the first time that it is dependent on the audience’s support. I want to be the PewDiePie of India. When I say I want to be like PewDiePie, it doesn’t mean be like him, but the place he’s got in life where he’s independent, regardless of what Wall Street Journal says about him, or any other publication, his people are with him forever no matter what he does. He went from gaming to becoming an overall personality. He is an inspiration in the model he created. I would want to reach somewhere there.
The guy gets up and reads a Reddit thread and gets five million views. That’s all. How can anyone be loved so much that you want to watch him read?