Popular digital creator, Raba Khan, opens up about the challenges and opportunities of being a powerful voice online.
Please tell us about the journey that led to you becoming one of the biggest content creators in the country.
It started out somewhat unintentionally back in 2014. People always appreciated my sense of humour and my brother’s as well. We had a camera and a tripod lying around at home and both of us were big fans of YouTube videos, so we thought, “why not give it a try?”
Inspired by popular YouTube skits in 2014, particularly Lily Singh’s comedy, I gained the confidence to write and create content myself. With YouTube tutorials, my brother and I learned filmmaking skills, diving into shooting, editing, and content creation.
I had a clear intention with my YouTube channel, TheJhakanakaProject: to create diverse content that went beyond just comedy. I explored singing, dancing, and even delved into the fashion world with my own clothing brand.
One of my biggest concerns with humour is its potential for creating negativity. It’s all too easy to make regressive or problematic jokes, but I made a conscious decision to never go down that path. Even when I wrote skits that featured sensitive topics like body shaming, I always ensured the message condemned the harmful behaviour.
My viral Musical.ly (now TikTok) video in 2016 was a game-changer. It was just a simple lip-sync to some nostalgic jingles from old Bangladeshi TV commercials, but it resonated with people in a way I never imagined. The video took off, hitting 400,000 views, which was a huge deal back then. It even captured the attention of well-known media personalities. That’s when I realised video creation wasn’t just a hobby; it was my calling. It didn’t feel like work; it felt natural, almost effortless, and I knew I was bringing joy to people. That’s the feeling I chase every time I create content.
What do you do to connect so closely with your fanbase and how do you manage the growth of your audience?
I never intended to build a fan base. The creative process itself, from scriptwriting to editing, fueled my passion. I didn’t have a strategy, just a desire to create content I loved, hoping it would resonate with others.
Personalisation is key to my interactions. I address my viewers as tumi, and see them as friends rather than just numbers on a screen. This informality helps foster a sense of connection and allows me to build genuine relationships with my audience.
Even my book, Bandhobi, felt like an extension of my personal diary. It offered a glimpse into my world, connecting with readers on a deeper level.
Initially, there was harsh negativity. My unfamiliar content received hateful and hurtful criticism, even leading to a four-month Facebook ban, silencing me and limiting my reach. However, the landscape has changed. Today, creators and their works are better understood and appreciated. Now, I actively incorporate audience feedback into my process.
Tell us about the interplay between content creation and revenue generation as well as the opportunities and challenges that this avenue has presented.
Early on, I saw the potential for monetisation through brand partnerships, but it took time for brands and agencies to recognise the value of online content creators. By 2017, things shifted, leading to exciting collaborations with Banglalink and Airtel (now Robi). Today, brands actively seek me out.
Platform ad revenue, alongside brand collaborations, has been crucial to building a sustainable income and ensuring I can create high-quality content.
In 2021, I collaborated with renowned music producer Arafat Mohsin on our album, Muhurto. Despite being a camera-friendly person, I focused solely on audio, opting for lyric videos to simply share the joy of singing with my audience.
Being a prominent figure online also comes with unique challenges. While I’ve shared a significant part of myself with the internet, certain areas remain private. For instance, you won’t see my parents in any of my videos, and for quite some time, my house was off-limits as well. The pandemic shifted things, and I started filming in my room out of necessity.
My creative process has also evolved over time. Currently, I’m not actively creating comedy content, despite having a backlog of over 40 potentially viral scripts. This shift reflects my own consumption habits, as I’ve gravitated towards travel, food, and beauty vlogs lately. My creative mood is fluid, leading me to explore different content formats.
How do you see the creator economy evolving over the coming years?
I recently attended the Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia in Singapore, where I participated in a panel discussion about the booming digital content creator economy. One key takeaway from it is the industry’s projected exponential growth, potentially reaching half a trillion dollars worldwide by 2027. This will likely attract more aspiring creators, leading to professionalisation and advancements in production technology.
While the novelty of content creation may fade, the demand for diverse and engaging content will remain constant. Bite-sized formats like reels and shorts cater to shrinking attention spans, but long-form content will still be relevant for informative purposes, particularly in areas like product reviews and documentaries.
The future of the creator economy is full of potential. As technology advances and viewers embrace new ways of storytelling, I’m eager to witness the continued creativity and innovation shaping this dynamic and impactful industry.
Photograph: Courtesy of Raba Khan