Episode 138 / October 10, 2021
Raj Shamani on Content Creation, Organic Growth and Making Money
Personal branding is something that’s drawing a lot of attention from people across all domains.
And the only proven way, to create a personal brand for yourself, is by becoming a consistent and quality content creator.
With over 200+ speeches in 26+ countries on wealth & personal growth, the guest of our today’s episode, Raj Shamani describes his journey from 0 to a million+ followers and building a strong personal brand.
Other than that, being –
# One of the youngest Indians to represent India at the United Nations
# Featured amongst Top 10 Young Entrepreneurs in India – Asian Age
# Featured amongst Top 5 Young Influencers in India – YourStory
# Featured amongst Top 10 Business Podcasts in India – Itunes
Are just some of the feathers in his cap, during his personal brand building journey.
During the episode, Raj talks about starting small with consistency, importance of building a team and much more.
02:29 – Becoming a speaker at small scale
04:43 – Strengths from 0 to 100k followers
05:21 – Getting 900k+ followers organically in just over a year
10:23 – Expanding team over time
13:38 – Monetizing multiple channels over multiple platforms
18:50 – Recommendation to first time content creators
21:19 – Journey as an investor
Read the full transcript here:
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:00
Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100x entrepreneur podcast. Today we have with us Raj Shamani. Raj has been an entrepreneur, a content creator, and a motivational speaker. Raj started his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 16 by selling soaps and filling his father’s shoes while stepping into his family business. After surviving his business, and making it profitable, he soon started sharing his journey on social media. Raj today is India’s one of the most followed speakers and content creators. In this episode, we’ll be talking about content creation, the process to take your content journey to 1 million followers, and how creators are making their passion into a successful venture, which generates tonnes of revenue. Welcome to the podcast, Raj.
Raj Shamani 00:50
Thank you so much for having me here. I think I would correct one thing that right, you said, Raj filled his father’s shoes. And I would say it would be more like I held my father’s hand and we walk together. It was nobody feeling no one’s shoes. It was like we just walked hand in hand. And we make it work. It like make it sound so good. That it worked for our family, you know, so it was like a joint effort.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:18
So awesome. Awesome to know that. Raj, share with me, you know, how did you begin your journey as a content creator? And when did you start?
Raj Shamani 01:29
Okay, I will go back. I’ll tell you I go back to the 16-year-old me right, I wanted to become the rapper first. I never wanted to become an entrepreneur or a speaker or anyone of that sort. I wanted to become a rapper because I was very influenced by the few songs which I learned. Because it was very cool to speak in English when I was in school. And I was the one I was not able to speak in English properly till I reach like till I got like 16 years old or 17. I was in my 11th while I was not able to speak till then. And I wanted to become that. But life happened. And I had to take the part of an entrepreneur, entrepreneurial journey. And I started doing that. But as I doing that, I thought what is that one thing that makes me stand out from other people? What is that one thing which will stand me, which will which is like a unique thing in me when you compare it with me, the giants of the world FMCG giants or the Unilever or the ITC, your P&G was there? And that was they telling stories through other people, I can tell stories myself. That is the only thing like there’s no front face in Unilever who could come out and talk about that. I was like, Oh, why not? I use it as a strength and started talking about how people can grow their business, and how retailers and wholesalers would be better off when they buy from us rather than from any other company. So, I started doing that started giving speeches in my small, small conferences, small colleges, different business groups started doing that. So initially, I started becoming a speaker there. So that was still content creation. I was doing that offline. And then I discovered this man called Gary Vee, I was like, oh, this can be done at scale. Why am I doing that in front of 10-10 people every day and actually burning out my energy? Why don’t I create one thing at one time and start distributing it on Instagram and other places? That’s when I discovered that and I started creating content for my business. Then I eventually moved on to how young people can find opportunities. Then I moved to why India is a land of opportunities and then eventually moved to mindset finance, sales, and everything related to actually just get up and achieve your dreams.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 03:42
And how has your journey been followership in the process of content creation? Like what was it took you to the say zero to 10,000, then 10,000 to 100,000? And currently 100,000 to 1 million? What is the various leverage you used? was it a team, was its focus on the distribution channel?
Raj Shamani 04:00
I’ll tell you what, every time what was my strength, let’s talk about from zero to 50,000. Okay, zero to 50,000. I never bothered about followers. I was only giving speeches in different colleges, different countries, different places, and I was representing India and the UN, and giving speeches everywhere. And while I was giving those speeches, I recorded those speeches and put them out on my Instagram. So, I never bothered for the first three years to actually whether this can be a thing or not. So, when my first three years my biggest strength was my life and my speeches abroad, which was very fresh in India specifically that Okay, there is some young kid who’s going abroad and talking about and giving speeches. So that got me the initial followers. So that was the first trend. From 50,000 to 100,000. I used ads. I started advertising myself as the speaker. I was like, okay, hire me, call me for speeches, book me for your conferences, all that and just because I started promoting that a lot, people booked me as a speaker a lot that given me 50,000 to 100,000, this take me like from zero to 100k, this took me four and a half years
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 05:07
and this is only Instagram you are talking about, right?
Raj Shamani 05:09
The only Instagram Okay, only Instagram. it was very clear that become big on one platform first then move to second, very clear from the beginning. So, when I reach 100k the pandemic happened last year. And I was like, Okay, I want to make this my life because now that I’m not going to go out and give speeches, I really miss this part of my life. So, I told my dad, I told my family that I want to leave the business I want to give you this business and you guys carry on. I want to focus on this content creation. And since that day, I decided okay, what can be my moat because just like every business there’s a moat and I feel this is a business, content creation full time is a business game right? So what can be my moat, I started thinking of a lot of things. But I thought till the time I don’t get my moat, let consistency be my moat. And from 29 July 2020, when I had 111-121,000 followers, I had that many followers, I started creating content every day. So, I would be creating reels every day in fact, sometimes there were two sometimes there were three so 29 July now you talk about 2021 I reached 1 million so from 100k to 1 million it was this one year but it was about 523 or 525 videos, which I produced so it was like every day one or two one or two videos. So, my mode has been consistent. And because during this time Instagram launched new features I capitalize on those new features and I use them for my benefit so it really helped me grow.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:46
And did you also use advertising from 100k to 1 million?
Raj Shamani 06:50
Nothing not at all zero.
Raj Shamani 06:56
in fact, my courses now sell on advertising because that’s one of the biggest how you sell them. Uh, we started advertising after we reach 1 million because I was very sure that I’m never using anything else apart from just organic growth for my channel. And I think advertising, this is my personal opinion I don’t know whether it’s true or not but if you advertise your personal profile then you end up losing rather than gaining, is you end up losing the money you end up losing organic reach and the moment you stop advertising you’re still going to go down
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 07:33
so, you face that moment of deacceleration because you stopped advertising at 100k
Raj Shamani 07:40
Yes, I tell you so from that, instead of 100k I’d reached around 130k, and 30,000 dropped in four months after I stopped advertising, like 30,000 followers in four months drop just because I stopped advertising that was like failing the hard key like What the hell is going on? But I was very adamant that from the next day I’m not going to advertise. I am not because there is no point of keep advertising and one day, you’re going to lose followers again. It’s better to organically keep growing because when you advertise right you have to understand the psychology people see one of your contents, they feel like oh let me follow this person and have fun. Okay, so that’s an impulse reaction and once you put start putting like 2-3-4 possible content pieces, they realize oh we don’t like this person’s going to unfollow them but when they organically see organically, they’re going to come to the first ghost to you for a while, they’re going to see you for a while Okay, what’s there they’ll come to consume a couple of content pieces, and then only they’ll follow you. So that’s a much better following than the advertised one. So, I feel people should not advertise they should use if they want to grow organically, they should use the new features which platform is promoting, let’s say if you want to grow on YouTube, use live streaming if you want to grow on Twitter use spaces if you want to grow on Instagram use reels. So, the moment if the platform launches new features, use it to your benefit you’re going to grow.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 09:10
And what has been your team size from your journey if you can take us to the team size on the content creation from zero to one?
Raj Shamani 09:20
Okay, so till I reach 350,000 followers, I only had one guy. till i reach 350 K, I would get one guy that one guy would just edit my videos, I would record it myself and could sit in front of a camera or in front camera, and that guy would edit for me. Sometimes he would record. it was just one guy. Okay because I don’t know to edit. I can’t edit it. I have never bothered to find out how this works. I don’t want to do it because I tried once when I was in college and I failed miserably so I don’t want to do it. So, I had only one guy. After 350K I hired one manager. So, she was doing all my scheduling, posting finding out, taking care of brands, cracking brand deals, all of that. Then till we reached around, I think 500k, I hired one team that would focus on my YouTube and so that there are two guys, one as a copywriter. And so, who write descriptions, timestamps, and everything. And one is the data guy who would try to find out all the data, then we recently hired a thumbnail person who is now doing the thumbnails, these are three people, then the fourth guy we hired is writing content for LinkedIn. So, what we have now started doing is that whatever I talk, let’s say, this is the interview we are having, this is a podcast we are having. So, whenever I talk about you he’ll pick up few pieces from here and there to make LinkedIn posts. So, there’s one guy for LinkedIn, there are three people for YouTube, there is one manager for Instagram. And there’s one videographer and then one editor. So now there are seven people.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 11:00
And these are working full time, part-time. How are they?
Raj Shamani 11:05
They all are, they are part-time apart from just two guys, the videographer and the manager, they are working full time, rest five are part time. They only have to work for like, let’s say an hour a day. And that’s it. And they are free to go.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 11:20
And how do you make it self-sustainable? Can you share your monetization journey? Till now?
Raj Shamani 11:27
See, you have to understand that you have to make it like a business, right? Businesses cannot if you look at any big business, they all have multiple sources of income, though their main source of income is one thing, still, they have multiple sources of income, because they’re not dependent on one thing. So the same thing you have to apply in the content creation journey as well. If you look at my content creation, I started with only brand deals. That how because branding is a major chunk of getting money. That is one, then you start after brand deals, then you start giving speeches. So, for the speeches, because of the authority, you have built over a certain topic, you get paid for your speeches, then you get started training, like the courses which I sell, that is another monetization, then you can start affiliate links, because there are a lot of companies are giving you affiliate, they’re not charging anything upfront from your audience, but is giving you the cut from their profits just because they have come like just because they have come from your particularly. So that’s an affiliate, then you can also start consultancy for let’s say you’re able to build this 100k follower or 500k followers, or a listenership of a couple of people on your podcast. So, there are other people looking to do the same thing, you can start consulting them, that’s a fifth way of monetizing, then six, of course, this all of this can happen through Instagram. Once you’re doing all of this, you start hiring people for LinkedIn, once you grow on LinkedIn, again, the same thing gets started on LinkedIn as well. Then you do it on Twitter, then you use it on YouTube. So, it’s like, I have around seven or eight ways to start making money. Like where I’ve started making money. And yeah, it’s going pretty well. So, if anything, if let’s say one time Instagram is down. That’s what happened last night, right? Instagram now just let’s just assume that Instagram stopped promoting me for the next six months. I still have LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, my consultancy, my courses, my affiliate links to give me a lot of money. So that’s how you make it self-sustainable by not being dependent on one thing, but the majority of it comes from definitely brand deals on a platform where you have maximum followers.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 13:36
But what branding is somewhere you know is not a consistent source of revenue. Because brand maybe once twice and you have to keep on looking for different brands?
Raj Shamani 13:48
see, it’s not that true, I would disagree with this point I used to think of it the same way. But if you’re really good at your game, and you have your niche sorted, brands will die to give you money. Like brands will be coming upfront and be like okay, we want you and that, I don’t agree that you have to run towards the brand again, again, obviously there are ups their downs, some months you’re going to make a lot of money, someone’s not going to make any money. But if you can justify the ROI for the brand who’s paying you these brands are going to be a long-term partner so I have a proudly like, I love to talk a lot about investments and crypto right. So proudly partnered with INDmoney, small case, and coin switch now these brands are with me for the last six months and they plan to give me a business for another next year. Like Raj, we just want to because we love what you’re doing. And I honestly use them. I reached out to them upfront, they didn’t reach out to me. I reached out upfront and be like, You know what? I? I really want to start talking about it because I love your brands. Is there any way that we could start working together? They said let’s do a trial. We did a trial, it worked out well. Then you just have to continue to continuously prove them for one or two months. And they’re going to fall in love with you for another year. So, you don’t have to think about next year. Now, my next 12 months are only going to be focused on how can I get? or how can I bring justice to this one brand? and if you do justice to this brand other brands are going to notice that next year, they’re going to give you
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 15:21
and Instagram is the only channel where you promote these brands or promote your content
Raj Shamani 15:28
Right now. Yes. So, I tell you, I will rule in mind, okay. It’s a very funny rule. But I feel that first I need to be able to reach a certain level on some platform, and then only start monetizing you because first let me build my community. Let them trust me, let them actually have this kind of trust that okay, if Raj is promoting some brand, he’s not going to con us he’s not going to just do it for money. We trust this guy. And that will only happen when you have a 50-lakh follower good community. So, on Instagram, I started doing brand deals after I reach 300k. Twitter, I started doing brand deals after I reach 40k-50K because Twitter is really hard to go. And YouTube, I’ll start doing it after I reach one lakh, 100k. So, I’m at 95k. I have not started doing anything on YouTube as of now. I’ll start doing on 100k. So, if you see, let’s say, if you see any brand I’m talking about on YouTube, that’s genuinely I love that brand that I’m talking about. They’re not paying me for YouTube. If you see that I’m talking about someone on LinkedIn. I love the brand that I’m talking about it or else I won’t talk about it. So, after 50,000 I started doing on LinkedIn after 50,000, I started doing Twitter after 100k will start doing on YouTube. And after 300k or 350k, I will start doing it on Instagram.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 16:50
And you have separate teams, as you mentioned for each of the platforms, Twitter is separate, LinkedIn is separate?
Raj Shamani 16:57
I don’t have a team for Twitter. Because Twitter is mind farting. Like what do you need on Twitter? If you are someone who is breathing or creating content day in and day out, you can use Twitter as your notepad. You just need to use your notes if there’s some thought okay, oh, let me tweet it right now right here. That’s it. So, Twitter is really organic for me, honestly. I’ve started doing threads recently on Twitter. So, the same LinkedIn guy who is doing threads for me like posts for me on LinkedIn is the guy I have asked to do that Twitter threads. So that is one additional thing which has started apart from that everything else.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 17:36
So, if you have to share with the audience who are looking up to you, especially students these days, who want to start their full-time career in content creation. And their aim is to at least earn one lakh sustainably every month, they can pay themselves. You can pay their due, what is the path that you can tell them that follow this and you can reach this milestone, the first milestone that you can sustain yourself.
Raj Shamani 18:02
Okay, the first milestone is first you have to understand anything which is in a passion economy, okay, you have to understand this, it takes time. No matter what you do, you want to become a guitarist, you want to become an artist, you want to become a content creator, anyone in a passionate economy is going to take time. So, you have to take at least two years in your hand, like minimum, that’s what I would say, for two years, you have to think about sustaining yourself and get really, really good at your particular art. And then if you’re creating consistent content on any platform, for the next two years, you can grow. Just the only thing you have to focus on is that when you’re doing when you’re choosing a particular platform, you need to choose the platform on two grounds. Number one, which is the platform that is coming up. Okay, that is one. Number two, what is the new feature this platform has launched or is pushing, right? Because if you respect the platform, the platform going to respect you back. If you want organic reach from the platform, you need to give something which they are looking forward to. So, you give that for the next two years, you’re automatically going to reach a point. That is one way to start monetizing. But the second and the most brilliant way which I’m seeing, the creative economy is getting really big. There are a lot of social media apps, which are regional, which are local, which are just trying to come up with a lot of community-building platforms, there are so many things. So, you need to reach out to the new platforms that recently got funding. So recently, any platform which got funding is not mainstream, you talk to them and be like, hey, you know what, I have 10,000 followers on Instagram. I would do regular community-building sessions and create content on your platform, can you give me some money and they would happily give you initially 25-30-50,000 in the beginning, because they are looking for more content creators. And you are looking for a consistent flow of income. So, it’s a good match. So that’s what you can do. Let’s say a lot of people have done this right after Ticktock, tick tock ban happened in India, people moved to MX, Takatak, Roposo. So, they’ve paid millions of dollars. Snapchat came into the picture, Snapchat rolled out a new feature people paid a lot for. There is a platform, which I recently invested in Avalon scenes. So, on the community-building platform, you talk to Avalon scenes founders, they are ready to pay you, you talk to Koo, you talk to a lot of platforms, right? They’re coming up in there. So that’s a good way to start making money if you’re a young creator with let’s say, under 50,000 followers.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 20:42
And Raj, you have also started, you know, various things after, as you said like Instagram took off, and now you’re whatever the money you are able to generate, you’re putting it in startups. So can you share your journey? How did you start as an investor?
Raj Shamani 20:59
Okay, my intention was very clear, I didn’t want to become a content creator. I’m a storyteller at heart. I love doing what I’m doing right now. So, I wanted to talk, if anybody would talk, anybody would ask me, what do you love doing? I said I love to talk. So then when you start talking, and when you achieve financial freedom, or when you actually reach a level where you’re actually making good money. So, I started doing, I started making good money from my business. I was very lucky that from 16 to 22, I hustled really hard. Like I didn’t care about what car I’m driving what house I’m living in, what kind of clothes I’m wearing, I didn’t care about anything. From 16 to 22, 6 years, I hustled out and made enough money for myself. So, once I did that, I had this sense, like, okay, now I want to do something which can create impact. Because first is your sound. As I said, you know, Maslow’s hierarchy is a need hierarchy, would you like first you think about yourself and think about a family, and then you think about the world. So, when I and my family, were taken care of. Now is the point, how can I use the strength which I have to make an impact in the world? So, I said, Okay, my strength is talking and storytelling. Let me build something out of it, and help other people. How can I help other people? Let’s say I have a reach of distribution of 1 million people. Okay? Can I go to young startup owners, and not make them face the same problems which I face, the initial problems of the startup are, they don’t have initial users like they don’t have the reach, and they don’t have the money to build the product. So, I thought, okay, whatever money I’m making here, through Instagram, I’m going to put it in good startups, give them some money to initially started and, and talk about them to my audiences. And we’re like, Okay, you know what, this is a new startup, which I feel is really good. They are trying to figure out what they want to do. Let’s all help them. And my audience is kind enough to help them and give them an initial set of users. So, if out of 1 million, even 10,000 people are becoming the sign the initial users for the startup, that’s a brilliant way to do it. And that’s when I became an investor. So, I only invest in companies, which is related to EdTech, FinTech, or passion economy, because those are the specific areas where we can directly help the startups. That’s where I looked upon, and that’s where I started.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 23:23
Awesome. And what was your ultimate goal? Where does it lead to?
Raj Shamani 23:43
Right, see, the ultimate goal leads to two major things again, one is, I’ll talk about one which is a selfish thing, and the other, which is a selfless thing because I am not a saint. And I have selfish motives and have selfless motives. I’m very open with them. The first thing is, can you live the life of your dream by doing something you love? I won’t be able to create, let’s say, a billion-dollar Empire by doing what I love. Can I do that? That’s the idea that excites me a lot. And that is the ultimate goal. Okay, with this passion economy with just creating content, can I think of making a unicorn Can I think of becoming a unicorn? This just the idea is, is something which is very exciting to me. And that’s the ultimate goal for selfish reasons. So, I don’t want to have the biggest house or I don’t want to have a Lamborghini or something like that. But it’s just the idea that Okay, can I play a unicorn game because nobody has played in the country right now. So, can we do that? That’s one. And the other is, I get really, really sad when I look at people who are being forced to do certain things. So as a kid, I was always tagged as a useless kid. I was not, I was not good at English. So, I would be miserable in my social skills. I was not good at my studies. So, people thought I’ll be a failure most of my life. And I was not even good at sports. Because if people are bad at studies, they’re usually good at sports, I was bad at everything. And I thought, I’m being forced to learn and do something which I don’t understand, which I don’t want to do.
And that all happened, because there was nobody to tell me that, okay, focus on your strengths. And out of your strength, you can build an empire, nobody did that. So, whenever I look at kids who are being forced to do something, and they’re miserable at that, I feel like I need to go out there, help them with the right kind of content. And just make sure that you know what, start focusing on strength, and forget about the weaknesses. Because if just, if you just pick one skill, and you master it, you’re going to make tons of money and become really successful in that one skill. So, I really want to put that message out. And I can only do that by actually becoming an example for them. Because if I just talk about it, like another guy talking on Instagram, because it’s easy for him, dude, I come from tier two city, our middle-class guy. I was bad at all of these things. And I’m living my dream life just started doing something I love. Can we do this for everyone in the country? Yes, because I believe nobody is bad. No kid is useless. Nobody is a failure. is just that they are being forced to do something they’re not good at. You fail because you’re not good at the thing that you’re doing. You will become successful the day you realize your strength and you started doing something in that particular strength. There’s no kid who’s useless. So that’s the big moto. Make every useless kid useful.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 26:52
Thank you so much, Raj. It’s been insightful to have you on a podcast. Thank you for sharing the framework. How creators can pursue their passion and make it sustainable. And can you so can also relate the billion dollars dream out of the Creator.
Raj Shamani 27:09
Thank you so much.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 27:12
it’s been an honor hosting the podcast.
Raj Shamani 27:15
Thanks a lot for having me.
-This episode is brought to you by Prime Venture Partners, an early-stage VC fund led by Amit Somani, Shripati Acharya, and Sanjay Swamy. Prime is often the first institutional investor in category-creating tech startups in fintech, SaaS, Healthcare, and Education such as MoneyTap, Happay & Mfine. To know more about Prime visit https://primevp.in
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