Fashion to fitness: Meet the women who dominate India's IGTV

As Instagram TV beats YouTube in influence and reach, vloggers give personalised advice on fashion to fun.

Published: 03rd November 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd November 2019 07:38 PM   |  A+A-

One look at Aakriti Rana’s IGTV channel and what you will see is a glossy, dreamy world.

One look at Aakriti Rana’s IGTV channel and what you will see is a glossy, dreamy world.

As Instagram TV beats YouTube in influence and reach, vloggers give personalised advice on fashion to fun. Dominated by women with attitude, IGTV’s India story shows the country is changing for the better.

Instagram took a leap of faith in 2018 with the launch of IGTV (Instagram TV), its vertical engagement format. Considering a third of online surfing is dedicated to video-watching, and over half of this is viewed on mobile phones, according to Wordstream, an online advertising support portal, IGTV is the flag-bearer of the future of digitised entertainment. According to Cisco, by 2021 mobile videos will account for 78 per cent of all mobile data traffic.

This makes applications such as IGTV—which boasts 1 billion active users—all the more commanding, and influencers, who are its primary drivers of traffic, have become digital heroes hitting skilfully into what is now a $2-billion industry. India’s IGTV powerlist starts with fashion and styling, followed by travel. Fitness aficionados have digital video experts to keep them healthy. Then there is comedy, which tells the dark secrets of the rich with wry social digs.

What started as a limited-period video platform—in the beginning IGTV could support videos only between 15 seconds and 10 minutes in length—has now turned into a long-form video-uploading platform that can easily support hour-long content. Needless to add, platforms such as YouTube are taking a hit. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom said that advertisements are on the cards, and creators will start making a living from videos. Since the cost of advertising with IGTV is not as high as in traditional formats, influencer marketing has skyrocketed. However, this also fuels the debate surrounding authenticity, though many ethical IGTV stars publicly separate sponsored videos from an unsponsored one.  

As we speak to some of the trailblazers of IGTV who have set this trend going with their ambassadorship and have broadened the content landscape with personalised, customised and interactive episodic material, there is another trend that comes to the fore. For reasons best known to the platform and its consumer base, I-divas are largely women who love to show off exotic wedding videos to wannabe individualists. Is it because it provides freedom of expression that challenges set social norms? Ask the zaftig video sensation Shenaz Treasurywala. “I love my voluptuous body and I feel the sexiest I’ve ever felt in my skin.” After all, why should girls not have all the fun? 

Aakriti Rana
Digital Creator

One look at Aakriti Rana’s IGTV channel and what you will see is a glossy, dreamy world. But beneath this influential fashion blogger’s foolproof exterior is a girl next door forever engaged in a constant battle with belly fat by hiding it with high-waisted jeans. As a streaming social ambassador for positive body image that boosts self-worth and empowerment, Aakriti says that bloggers have become celebs like reality stars who are idolised by impressionable minds.

People love people like them who do not look like people like them: videos of her wedding and its chillax chic do both show the video filters that smoothen out her cellulite and keep her tiny waist forever a work no longer in progress. Makeup makes her, since her grey hair and saggy arms are too real. But what is a beauty icon without curves and cool? This crusader against body-shaming uses IGTV for the blubber-challenged to bring comfort about imperfections. With 72,840 views for her ‘perfectly imperfect’ IGTV campaign, her followers are mostly young girls with misleading notions who ask how she owns the perfect body and glowing skin, earns tonnes of money and can afford to travel to fancy destinations. ‘Nuf is nuf’, says Aakriti who is moving away from beauty for the neutral space of travel advice and perhaps footloose exhibitionism with a purpose. 

Aanam Chashmawalaa
What When Wear

To be an IGTV badass, you don’t need to be an expert. Just attitude and looks. Twenty-eight-year-old Aanam Chashmawalaa who got on IGTV last year is a self-appointed authority on all things such as beauty, fashion, travel and lifestyle. Her channel, ‘What When Wear’, buzzes with makeup and styling tutorials, with a fair amount of travel vlogs. High-spirited content shot within beautifully curated frames has got her a dedicated mass of viewers. From dangling from a flying trapeze in Mauritius and caressing her cat, Nibbles, to documenting her wedding and enjoying driving around in her plush car, her videos are viral. Success on instant medium IGTV is a must to grow. It wasn’t until this year that she became an IGTV-er having started with YouTube and later Instagram, before leveraging the potential of her current digital vehicle. Aanam is a ‘posing’ addict who dabbles very convincingly in experimental styles for her flamboyant videos. A fan of pastel colours, she surprises everyone with pops of neon every once in a while. Her family features in many of her posts, especially her husband and her cat. 

Gia Kashyap
Gia Says That

Since starting with random videos in 2018, Gia Kashyap’s approach to Instagram changed by the end of the year to a purpose-driven niche-specific stream with light moments. For example, “Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?” or “a secret and simple immunity tea to fight fatigue!” This influential fashion and general advice Instaguru’s wedding went viral on Insta #GiaKaViah last year. Starting out in 2009, Gia is one of the first few fashion and beauty bloggers in India. College bored her and she decided to use her opinionated mind to make social media statements. She is no amateur though; she and her social media manager chart out a monthly calender for blogs and IGTV. She knows that the medium’s mojo lies in easy process and uncomplicated shooting: all that is needed is the app and a camera or an advanced mobile phone. On principle, she mentions paid partnerships on her channel. Endorsing fairness or weight loss brands are a big no-no. 

Masoom Minawala Mehta
Public Figure

From the Cannes red carpet to Bvlgari, Louis Vuitton and Dior campaigns, 26-year-old Masoom Minawala Mehta’s chutzpah and chumminess got her India’s best luxury fashion blogger award this year. She is a storyteller of opulent elegance who shares snippets from her eventful and high-flying life (literally, because she’s always on a worldwide carbon footprint chase) like her wedding proposal serenade. Before starting her site, Style Fiesta, this ‘fake it till you make it’ fashionista interned at Calvin Klein and studied fashion affairs in London. Her site is a style advice platform for the lookist crowd which takes her OOTDs (outfit of the day) pretty seriously. Now living in Belgium and handling business in Europe and India, her mantra is, “Own your culture.”

Shenaz Treasurywala
Travel Hotel Smiles

She wears no makeup in the videos. Her hair is always a mess with a crooked centre parting. Her fringes fall over her broad forehead that she frequently blows off. Her clothes are regular. There are zero attempts at editing out the flaws. You see her falling, awkwardly hiking, chasing buses, missing trains, emotionally worked up, physically worn out, and sometimes even lost. That’s Shenaz Treasurywala for you, a bona fide, true-to-her-craft influencer with inspirational travel goals. Her IGTV uploads are totally WYSIWYG: aspirational content minus the illusion.

She seems to love her waterbaby shots, curvaceous in a bikini sitting on an ocean pier in the Maldives in an oomphy video. Comment: “Phew, that was so hot, we started sweating in our air-conditioned offices.” “What’s your favourite bath?” A Costa Rican waterfall, of course. What makes this Mumbai girl special? Fans take her at a premium since Shenaz is one of the true non-digital celebs. A long-time MTV VJ who moved from the small screen to the big one—she modelled for Gold Spot, Akai and Philips, acted in Ishq Vishk (after a chance meeting with Ken Ghosh in a nightclub) and Delhi Belly—her high-spirited banter has caught the pulse of the millennials who are her top fanbase. 

Ayesha Billimoria
Fitgirl India

After fashion IGTV stars, fitness comes next like the track athlete Ayesha Billimoria striking poses for girls with a fitness fetish. IGTV’s massive outreach has made the ‘Fit Friday with Fit Girl’ a look and feel healthy show for girls, some of whom bear body-shaming scars. The ex-sportsgirl’s functional everday fitness routine has made workouts less daunting for her fans. Through IGTV videos, Ayesha explains the background and practical application of each movement. She wants to push women outside of the boundaries of comfort. Her channel is a serious affair, not the giggly gooey shows that are rampant on IGTV. It’s not about your hips, waist, legs or looks but about fitness and the relentless effort to be healthy. She believes that IGTV is the way forward since high-quality videos made on high-tech mobile phones make it easy to reach out to a large audience.

Sakshi Sindwani 
Style Me Up with Sakshi

Anti-anorexia Sabyasachi must watch Sakshi Sindwani on IGTV.  This Delhi style diva is the salvation of plus size women, a 23-year-old body-positive heroine whose epiphany that there is simply not enough digital content for large women resulted in Style Me Up. Its short format styling videos encourage the ‘Love Thyself’ maxim. Sakshi believes that personality starts and ends at self-love and regulated narcissism generates self-respect in looks. This vlogger has her own YouTube channel on styling which has over one million views, besides 11,000 fans on Instagram. Why the numbers? Because fashion is not a constant state of existence but a constant state of mind with a cocktail of glam and comfort—as she said once, Miranda Priestly from Devil Wears Prada on one day, and ‘worn and torn tee’ the next, is she in a nutshell.

Harpreeth Suri
Mom Wears Prada

Amateur experts are not all kidding. Harpreeth @monwearsprada is the top digital mommy influencer whose two kids are the inspiration for much of her IGTV content which needs no parental control. The 37-year-old stylish mother started by putting up a video of a Christmas Carnival she had curated for children; now an annual affair after it became an Insta-hit. Why does her format work with parents? Because she is an advice dispenser who picks up what her audience wants to watch instead of telling them what to want and do. She talks about being a balanced parent who loves oneself while encouraging the offspring. “No gift policy on Rakhi/Bhaidooj. Gifts are special, gifts are the way of expressing love.” Social conscience goes with polio warnings. And the naughty interruption in a romantic moment. Of course, she does show off videos featuring her children on IGTV. Child’s play is a serious matter on IGTV. 

Kusha Kapila
Digital Creator

A decade ago, making videos for a living would have been unimaginable but influencers such as Kusha Kapila are changing that notion. Brands reach out to people like her for paid sponsorships given their massive appeal among the urban population. Kusha is an Instagram humourista who believes in sophisticated satire over blatant in-your-face jokes. The reason why anyone who is anybody in Indian cities watches her? Kusha’s funny bone has IGTV cackling and cackling with her Insta-spoofs which began a few years ago in her South Delhi Punjabi rich girl mileu and got comic upgrades of characters based on real people.

This digital comedienne’s live-wire scripts target audiences aged from 20 to 45. Famously known by her nom de plume—Billi Maasi—Kusha is a laugh for all seasons, audacious, outspoken, quick-witted, a tongue-in-cheek spoofer who uses IGTV to make clever content. This digital synergiser gets more hits than the long list of well-known pros she loves to impersonate with clickbait parodies, mostly on the Indian urban elite culture. Laughs apart, Kusha is aware of the dark side of digital world. She believes that easy access offered by digital platforms has made anyone and everyone an online critic who can influence susceptible minds. The internet is a space where judgements are tossed around as expert knowledge. Sending a quick hate mail without worrying about consequences has become a scary norm, she rues.

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