PUDUKKOTTAI: We’ve heard how slow internet, or no internet, has impacted students in villages, making them miss online classes. However, a group of youngsters from Chinna Veeramangalam in Pudukkottai didn’t let their slow internet connection come in the way of starting a YouTube channel.
They launched it in April 2018, and have now become the internet’s darlings, with more than 7.4 million subscribers. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s appearance on the ‘Village Cooking Channel’ showed how popular it is across the country. Yet, the video in which Gandhi appears is not their most-viewed one.
Several of their videos have more than 40 million views, and their most popular one, the ‘mutton curry’ video, has 49 million views. Like many others in their village, cousins Subramanian, Ayannar, Tamilselvan, Muthumanickam and Murugesan aspired to go abroad.
But as Subramanian, who used to run a website, couldn’t find any good opportunities, decided to start a YouTube channel. Since their grandfather Periyathambi was a caterer, and all of them were interested in cooking, they started a channel on cooking.
Road to 7 million subscribers
However, the path to success wasn’t easy. They had been posting videos regularly since 2018, but didn’t garner many views. Their ‘aha’ moment came when they simply posted a video showing how eesal (winged termites) are caught and eaten.
They didn’t even intend to upload the video, but it received a great response. Since then, they switched to videos on simple village cooking, and that seems to have done the trick. “After Cyclone Gaja, we got eesal in our village after several years.
The delicacy is usually made once a year, when it rains. But since we didn’t have much rain for five-six years, we were eating eesal after a very long time. We just took a video of us enjoying the moment, eating it with puffed rice,” says Subramanian.
Growing up in a farmer’s family, the cousins seldom bought food from outside, eating only what they grew. After the winged termites came videos of them catching and cooking fish and crabs, among other things. They continued to attract viewers, and eight months after starting the channel, they start getting paid by YouTube.
The compulsion to cook
As ‘thatha’ Periyathambi was a caterer, the grandchildren’s were introduced to cooking at a young age. It wasn’t so much of an interest, as a compulsion, explains Ayyanar. “Children in farmers’ families learn cooking at a young age. Our parents and grandparents head to the fields in the morning and return in the evening. We would be asked to cook, and would be scolded if we don’t add enough salt or spices,” says Ayyanar. The channel’s uniqueness is its simplicity.
The visuals of lush fields, and fresh vegetables washed in running water are soothing to the eyes. The spices are freshly ground on the traditional ammi (stone grinder), in accordance with subscribers’ requests. They shoot a video once a week, and travel to nearby villages, sometimes more than 50 km away, in search of lush green fields for their videos. The shoots start at 8 am and go on till 5-6 pm. Editing takes a similar amount of time the next day, and uploading a video takes three-four hours, due to the slow internet connection.
Cooking extra to feed the needy
Initially, the food in their videos was cooked only for a few people, but they now cook for at least 100 people. As their income increased, the creators started cooking enough to distribute to charity homes and feed people from the village. “We once cooked for 650 people. Initially, we used to earn only a little from YouTube, but we now make a lot. We started the channel thinking it would provide for the six of us and our families. But it gave us much more than expected.
We earn more than what we work for, and have been taught that whatever we earn beyond our effort won’t remain. That’s why we cook enough to give to the needy. It brings us contentment,” explains Subramanian, adding that this is why they don’t do paid promotions. As Rahul Gandhi mentioned during his visit, the creators hope to go abroad and cook. ‘Thatha’ Periyathambi says the channel has brought him more joy than he ever experienced in his 20 years as a caterer.
“I cooked at many functions, each time for more than 1,000 people. Yet, I never got as much happiness as I do now. Nobody used to appreciate me or my cooking. Now, everyone appreciates us and our cooking. They call me thatha, and it brings me happiness. Cooking with my grandsons is such a great joy. We just laugh and cook and enjoy,” says Periyathambi.
Advice to aspiring YouTubers
The content creators say it’s important to first learn about YouTube and how to shoot videos. “There is a creator academy on YouTube. It’s necessary to learn about the platform and assess the mindset of the audience. Then learn the technical aspects and camerawork. Your content has to be good and useful,” says Subramanian.
‘Nobody appreciated my cooking, but now they do’
“I cooked at many functions, each time for more than 1,000 people. Yet, I never got as much happiness as I do now. Nobody used to appreciate me or my cooking. Now, everyone appreciates us and our
cooking.... Cooking with my grandsons is such a great joy,” said Periyathambi
With more then 7.4 million subscribers on YouTube, the brains behind ‘Village Cooking Channel’ share how they got popular for showcasing their delicacies, and explain how they shoot and upload their content