TikTok and its Teenage Millionaires

Imagine a young boy working as a salesman for `50/day at a perfume shop in street-side Mumbai.

Published: 05th April 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th April 2020 02:10 PM   |  A+A-

Riyaz Ali (L) and Mr.Faizu (R).

Riyaz Ali (L) and Mr.Faizu (R). (Photo | Instagram)

Imagine a young boy working as a salesman for Rs 50/day at a perfume shop in street-side Mumbai. One day, he accidentally breaks a bottle worth Rs 12,000 and gets fired. Twelve months later, he launches his own deodorant brand at Instagram, gets Rs 5,000 pre-orders and is sold out in two hours! What changed? TikTok. 

TikTokteenage millionaires are making Ripley’s Believe It or Not! look believable and the Gen X’s ‘rags to riches’ stories sound like a grumpy uncle’s sex life—too little, and way too late. The TikTok star mentioned above is Mr Faisu, who has 24 million followers on TikTok and 11 million on Insta, more than several Bollywood stars or cricketers, and damn, he is not even No. 1 in India.

What a loser! 
The No. 1 Riyaz Ali is, I kid you not, 16 years old. His USP? Hairstyle. At 16, when I didn’t know what to do with my pimples, this boy makes 30 million people drool over his hairstyle. The amount a TikTok star earns in a couple of years, his/her dad might have earned in 40. And they do so, not after rounds of funding for a tech start-up or doing pop concerts in front of a million-strong crowd, but syncing voice to Bollywood songs at their rooftops. Basically karaoke. With a hairstyle.

Let that sink in.
Now, I get it. You too want to bunk school, sayonara college, shoot ‘I quit’ to boss, rush to your rooftop and dance. Right? But here’s the deal. Other than a Faisu or Riyaz Ali, or maybe 50 more like him, other millions of teenagers are not stars. In fact, in a race to outbid each other on social media, they get entangled in adventures like the Blue Whale Challenge, even leading to suicides.

The same need for validation and instant success then infects the young working adults too, who are the new ‘urban poor’.They must show to the world they have a successful, high-flying lifestyle—the latest iPhone, the 5-star brunch, even though secretly, they literally fast themselves to keep the façade up. TikTok is fun and at best if it remains only so. A Faisu or Riyaz too started it as fun, not knowing or planning for it to lead to anything. One may become the next millionaire or one simply enjoys the reach it has and joy it can bring. Like one non-teen @mr.dineshpawar. Do check out. It’s TikTok not for money or fame but joy. Pure, unbridled joy.


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