Interview: YouTube Pre-school Sensation ChuChu TV’s CEO & Creative Director, Vinoth Chandar

ChuChu TV is the third most subscribed YouTube Channel in the country with 7.13 billion views. Many may not know what is ChuChu TV? It is the country’s most watched children’s rhymes channel. With the motto of ‘spreading goodness among children’, ChuChu TV has become the ‘to-go’ place for kids and their parents to educate and entertain them.

The century old nursery rhymes have been given a positive twist thereby inculcating the good thoughts and habits among kids. With its vibrant touch and jazzy beats, they have been the daily endeavor of feeding and pacifying children.

In an exclusive interview with Licensing Corner’s Leo Oommen, ChuChu TV CEO & Creative Director Vinoth Chandar talks about what inspired him to start ChuChu TV and his take on the licensing and merchandising.

What inspired you to start ChuCHu TV?

My daughter was my inspiration to start ChuChu TV. ChuChu is her nickname, when she was two-years old I was showing her some YouTube videos to calm her and teach her some basics and that’s how the idea clicked. I wanted to draw my daughter into a 2D or 3D art and present it to her and I did that. The character came out really well and she was ecstatic. After animating her, I showed it to her and she loved it.

Initially I made a video of my daughter reciting Chubby Cheeks nursery rhyme and she was adorable reciting it. I wanted to upload her video but I did not want her to be exposed to media at such an early age. I made an animated video and uploaded it on YouTube and to my surprise it picked up around 300,000 views in just two weeks. I found potential in this field and took this ahead with my partners of the Software Company.

How did you decide to start a channel on YouTube instead of going for some other platform?

I am associated with YouTube right from the start.  I along with M. Krishnan (Creative Head) used to upload singles and devotional songs regularly. I knew that this is going to be the future and monetary wise we never thought it would be a good business opportunity. We did a new version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star nursery rhyme in our own style. That was very popular as just with two videos uploaded we got 5000 subscribers. YouTube partnership manager called us and appreciated our work and that motivated us to do even better.

Krishnan then brought a great change to the content. The first video we made was Jack and Jill rhyme but we changed the lyrics to add good values and changed the whole rhyme into a very positive meaning. Most of the rhymes which we know have dark origins like the Rhyme Ring around the Rosie. Though its lyrics and even its title have gone through some changes over the years, the most popular contention is that the sing-songy verse refers to the 1665 Great Plague of London.

Do you think the traditional art of storytelling and oral traditions have been lost due to digitalized world of content being presented to the children?

No, I don’t think our traditions will ever be lost. We are trying to improvise, earlier nursery rhymes were just a lullaby and today it is much more than that. The new generation kids are different as they get access to mobile phones and tablets much before than we did. We are making good content for the new age kids. As these kids are into the digital world, we plan to make them watch something good. Instead of glamorizing violence we want kids to watch good content. We rewrite the lyrics; give it a positive and vibrant touch. Although the tiny tots won’t be able to catch the lyrics and sing along, the visual impact would be good. That’s why digital.

NDTV has featured our version of the Jack & Jill rhyme all the way 3 years back. The original version says that they fell down and broke their leg. We added another paragraph saying ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. In our version, they successfully bring down the pile of water. We were appreciated for the change made to the concept. Similarly, we don’t use the other nursery rhymes as they are. We change it for better.

What is the new with ChuChu TV in terms of content? Are you Indianising the content for Indian audience?

From inception we made sure all our content are original. We change the concept and the lyrics. Almost 50% of the videos which we have done are original songs. Our goal is to be educative and be entertaining as well. We want to teach the new age toddlers what they learn in pre-school like alphabets and numbers in our new intriguing style. We are not indianising the content but we are globalizing it. Most of our users are from the US and followed by India so keep the content world friendly. All the viewers around the world will enjoy our content.

What are the reviews which you receive from your Target Audience and does it inspire to change?

We recently crossed over one billion views for Johny Johny Yes Papa making it the first ever Indian video with most number of views of all times in the history of YouTube. We ranked 43rd previously, now we rank 42nd on the charts. When we crossed it in December, we were 43rd video to enter the one billion clubs in the history of YouTube and that in itself is a great milestone achieved.

ChuChu TV CEO Vinoth Chandar with his team

In the Johny Johny Yes Papa video we made the father son duo co-sleep. In India, co-sleeping is a very common practice. We then got reviews from our fans in the US and other western countries wherein people found the co-sleeping part absurd. We immediately launched a new version removing part of co-sleeping. So based on our fans and target audience we changed the video. We take our fans very seriously and every comment we respond. We understand what they want. Every fan is valuable to us.

With Amazon Prime and Netflix making entry into the Indian market, how well do you think the Kids entertainment category adapts to it?

Change is for good. There are new platforms coming in and that is good. We are content creators and currently we are 100% on YouTube. We would not mind sharing our content on other platforms as there is no harm. We have a lot of traction from other platforms; in fact about 20 OTT platforms are coming to India.  When it comes to choosing the platforms, we would be selective according to our needs.

What inspired you to device a licensing program for ChuChu TV?

The Characters ChuChu, ChaCha, Chiku and Chika have been in all our videos right from the beginning. We regularly get comments and emails asking us to provide them with our merchandise. In fact, when we started this channel we tried out a couple of toys and sample to make sure how our character looks like in toys. We were not ready at that time but the idea was always there. We always wanted to take our brand into licensing and merchandising.  We were waiting for the right time and then we met Jiggy George, CEO of Dream Theatre, and we started our licensing program with them. They are currently helping us to upgrade the characters and making the brand license-ready.

According to you, has licensing been an effective strategy to expand your business?

Yes, I feel licensing is an effective strategy for ChuChu TV. Although we have not started the licensing programs yet but it will certainly help us. We are sure that licensing and merchandising will help us in big time because there are many successful digital properties who have done a lot. We being an international brand, the merchandised toys would be sold around the world. Having a global presence is a big advantage for us.

What are the other product categories in licensing and merchandising through which you would further expand?

Basic but conceptual products, we are still deciding on that matter. We have not yet finalized all the product categories. First we will upgrade our characters to be more beautiful and produce new content.  We recently released a New Year video wherein all old characters go into a machine called ‘The Transformator’. They come out as new characters and they take resolutions like they will help the elder, poor and needy and will follow good habits.

Reaching the zenith of your career, how does it make you feel?

I am elated.  Achieving goals in business is great but on a personal level what makes me happy is seeing kids happy with what we make. We have to think and be like a child to create amazing content for them. Our motto is ‘Spreading goodness among children.’ We feel with all the dreadful things happening in the world, we want to spread positive messages to all the little ones so they become better adults in the future.

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