Authenticity defines creators, not blue ticks: Vijay Subramaniam
Vijay Subramaniam, Group CEO & Founder, Collective Artists Network, tells YourStory in an interview that the collective is looking to nurture creators to grow and scale.
- Collective Artists Network is keen to identify and nurture creators at the early stages of their social media journeys.
- The collective, through its initiative Big Bang Social, is working with a slew of creators across sectors including beauty, entertainment, finance, real estate, and music.
- Group CEO Vijay Subramaniam believes anyone can be a creator, as long as they are authentic.
- Collective Artists Network wants to be the one-stop holistic marketplace for all things talent in India. Global expansion is also on the cards.
When Bhuvan Bam launched BB Ki Vines in 2015, it immediately struck a chord with the audience. The content on this YouTube channel was funny, relatable, and authentic. Something people hadn’t seen before, and hence it went viral. Within a year, BB Ki Vines was a brand and Bhuvan was a celebrity. Bhuvan had an abundance of talent, but what he was probably missing was a propeller, a network of connections to scale bigger. That’s where the Collective Artists Network came into the picture. Their collaboration turned Bhuvan into a superstar-creator.
Cut to 2023, BB Ki Vines has over 26 million subscribers. Bhuvan has starred in several music videos and television shows, and played the lead in OTT shows such as Dhindora and Taaza Khabar. Bhuvan’s artistry worked wonders. Playing the role of a catalyst in the background is the Collective Artists Network and its entity, Big Bang Social.
Vijay Subramaniam, the man powering the Collective Artists Network, is the biggest believer in the creator economy. A veteran in the talent management space, his mission is to identify the hidden gems and the underdogs in the creator economy and refuel their growth.
“Today, a creator is anyone. Their celebrity status or their blue ticks don’t define them. Their authenticity does. We want to catch them early in their creator cycle” says Vijay, Group CEO & Founder, Collective Artists Network, in an exclusive interview with YourStory.
The Collective Artists Network and its initiative Big Bang Social are a marketplace for social media storytellers. Vijay explains that they have built a structure wherein the creator is at the centre. Creators are at the centre of touchpoints like monetisation, brand deals, investments, collaborations, commerce, and content.
“I don’t like people calling us a talent management business. We are a pop culture marketplace, creating a flywheel where every part of the wheel is refuelling itself,” he adds.
Their efforts come at an opportune time when India’s creator economy is burgeoning. The country has ~80 million social media creators. Brands recognise the popularity of these digital personalities and are ready to offer them big money for sponsorship deals. From being considered a hobby, social media content creation is a full-time job in today’s era. And it helps to have entities such as the Collective Artists Network powering the ecosystem.
The collective engages with creators at all stages of their careers, be it a first-timer looking to make it big or a mega influencer looking to chart the next chapter of their professional life. Big Bang Social represents creators from different sectors like real estate, beauty, finance, visual design, chiefs, sketch artists, and B-boys.
Diving into the creator wave
Becoming a creator may look like an easy pivot for the outsiders. The reality, however, is that it takes years to hone the craft and another long struggle to get noticed. It helps to have allies such as Big Bang Social to prop you up.
But, is there a secret sauce to identifying creators? Vijay says backing a creator is a gut call.
“We look for something that is amorphous and intangible. It cannot be quantified because that is the nature of our business. We cannot remove that human side,” he explains.
However, one thing that Vijay and his team look for in the creators is passion. Because Vijay himself is driven by it. “I am an all-in-or-nothing sort of person. I don’t have a warming-up process. I take a business decision and dive straight into it,” he says. It is the same passion that led Vijay into the talent industry.
Born to an army officer, his father’s armed forces background of courage, grit, and persistence shaped Vijay’s childhood. In fact, Vijay was born while his father was away on a military operation in 1984. With his father being away, his mother was all alone in the delivery room. Hence the name Vijay.
Growing up, Vijay was a heavy metal drummer and was interested in the world of entertainment. As he grew older, Vijay dabbled with a bit of talent management, even managing a band when he was in the 11th grade in 2000. He, like many middle-class Indians, studied engineering while holding onto a dream of being in entertainment.
Around the same time, tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi set up a brand solution agency called Globosport. Coincidentally, the agency had rented out a space in Vijay’s house to set up their office. One fine day, Vijay walked up to Mahesh and sought an internship opportunity. Interning at Globosport, he realised his real calling.
Fun fact: Vijay opened for Iron Maiden’s first-ever India concert held at Bengaluru in March 2007.
As his talent management business expanded, it onboarded some of the biggest names of Bollywood. But there was another phenomenon that was happening in parallel. YouTubers were slowly becoming household names, and consumers were watching their content religiously.
By 2016, this shift in entertainment consumption had achieved full momentum and Vijay saw an opportunity to back some of these creators. Seeing the need to build a niche, Vijay and his team set up Big Bang Social in 2019.
Playing the long game
Big Bang Social has recently launched a creator super-app that aims to be a comprehensive creator platform for collaborations, networking, and upskilling.
“Creators can use our app to collaborate, create new experiences, build affiliates and build their communities. This is developed with an underlying support of technology,” adds Vijay.
Going forward, Big Bang Social is looking to build the largest ecosystem for creators in the country. Vijay explains that international expansion and acquisitions are also on the cards. “We are developing an enterprise model and enabling licensing and merchandising for creator’s products,” he says.
Vijay believes a few trends will shape the future of the creator economy. One is the return to independent music, which reflects an uptick in content creators in this space. “We have a music label with Sony Music called Big Bang Music. It is doing exceedingly well and launching independent artists,” he adds.
Second, with revenge tourism in vogue, creators in this segment will see new opportunities opening up. Third, with corporations focusing on climate change, ESG (Environmental, social and governance) conscious creators will get popular over the next year.
For creators trying to make the cut, Vijay has three pieces of advice:
- Be extremely passionate.
- Be extremely ambitious because it is a cutthroat market.
- Be authentic. It is what viewers seek.
“The moment you move away from authenticity, you will lose work, you will lose traction, and you will lose your legacy,” he warns.
From a Collective Artists Network point of view, Vijay says that the idea is to go deeper into each business segment, led by autonomous teams and independent decision-making.
“We are the largest entity in the world for Bollywood talent. We have the largest macro roster of creators and standups in the country. We will be the first ones in India to industrialise this business,” he explains.
With new creators achieving virality in every nook and corner of the country, Vijay and his team at the Collective Artists Network Collective have a long road ahead.