Providing authentic career-oriented guidance to students and that too free of cost may sound rather unbelievable but its not untrue; not if you go by the stats of the online talk show Chet Chat, a pro bono work started by Chetna Vasishth. With over 170 videos, more than 50,000 subscribers and close to 3 M views, Chet Chat is one of the largest growing online talk show in field of education and career. An ex-corporate banker turned successful entrepreneur, Chetna is committed to provide the authentic career counselling to todays youth; as the information on her You Tube channel comes straight from the horse’s mouth; wherein, she interviews the experts in the educational industry, CEO’s, founders, students and many more inspirational people.
In an interesting interview with Bytetrails, Chetna reveals the past, the present and the future plans of her You Tube channel, besides giving some nuggets of wisdom on how to start a successful web based talk show.
1. Chetna first the obvious question, for a person experienced in the banking sector what made you jump to the education sector? And in education also, why did you choose to niche yourself in providing guidance and counselling to the students?
I am a person who gets bored of things very easily. Banking was exciting at the start, but 10 years later it just felt like it was more of the same and the only excitement seemed to happen on salary day (smile). So leaving that was not easy but I wanted to teach. This was a bug in me since I was a kid, I remember teaching my classmates during my MBA days as well. So it all started with the Head of the Marketing department at IIM (Bangalore) asking me if I would like to take up their ‘Services Marketing’ Course as a visiting faculty. There was hardly any time between the busy banking life so I started teaching on Saturdays and Sundays.
It was overwhelming at the start but I soon found myself singing a tune while walking out of the classroom and I knew that this was where my heart was. I taught at several B-Schools and then set up a training company ‘Learning Tree’ to train bankers.
Along the way, I became convinced that I should reach out to students not only when they are established in their careers but even earlier – as they are about to make the choices that would then define them for the next 10/15 years. I wanted to provide authentic guidance to them, since it was apparent to me that the students were hungry for information, parents were not fully informed of various options available these days and counselors either had vested interests or were too expensive.
2. How did you come upon the idea of starting your business on You Tube? Did you have any prior knowledge or experience in making videos on this medium, because if you didn’t, then I am sure it must be quite intimidating in the beginning, what do you say?
Looking for something new as well as greater impact, I was exploring thinking of ways in which I could reach out to students in small cities and overseas with a common message, the Digital platform seemed the most appropriate given the audience profile and their preferences.
I had absolutely no experience in either video making or managing a YouTube channel or even social media as such. We started off in 2015 not knowing how to shoot or edit videos, we had one camera, no mics and no lights, no idea about how to popularize the created content. We recorded in the outdoors and were stuck with crow sounds and traffic noises with absolutely no clue on how to deal with that. My husband has always helped me with the shoots and initially something would always go wrong on every shoot, either the sound was not syncing with the video, or the exposure levels were wrong, bad lighting or just too much ambient noise. There was this standing joke between us about ‘what is it going to be this time?”
We invested in equipment, attended workshops and learnt every day on the job. I edited the first 100 videos on my own, to ensure I knew my craft well. We started with Windows movie maker and people laughed at us.
Today, 3 years and 3M views later, when people tell us that our videos look professional, and call me a celebrity, I laugh.
3. Chetna I have seen that people make their videos on YouTube and post it , but in an effort to look good in front of camera sometimes the content get lost; what are your suggestions for the people who want to start their own YouTube channel?
I am barely in a position to give advice to others since we still have a lot to learn ourselves, but I would say one thing, which is, know your own USP. In other words, some channels could do well because the host is very pretty and people just come to watch her and another one does well because the host is funny etc. Now sometimes, we look at other people’s work and try to become like them and that never works.
I’ll share our own example with you. We were making all these career and college videos which were informative and somewhat serious. Initially, like most youtubers we had a slow view rate. So there was lots of advice in the nature of people want casual content on youtube etc. At that time I met Marie Ann Beck, a leading makeup artist. And we worked together on a video with us titled ‘How to become a make-up artist’. Like my other videos, this too had a slow start and everyone made fun of me – you met Marvie and asked her for career advice, you should have asked her to do a make-up tutorial and that would have got millions of views.
Now, I was in the career domain and was not happy about moving out, but I kept everyone’s feedback in mind. Later, we met a leading nutritionist and I thought, ok let’s experiment. So instead of doing my usual video category of ‘How to become a nutritionist’ we did a video called ‘How to lose weight’ And everyone said, Chetna, this one will become the star of your show.
Today, ‘How to lose weight’ has only 2,000 views and ‘How to become a make-up artist’ has 42,000 views.
This and a few other experiments later, I learnt one lesson. My audience comes to me for career advice. They do not expect music, comedy or weight loss tips from me. There are other people who specialize in those things and the audience goes there.
So, recognize your strength and consolidate around that, would be my single advice to all budding youtubers.
4. Let’s talk about your talk show – what is it mainly centered on?
ChetChat (www.youtube.com/c/ChetChat101) today is the largest Indian online talk show in the career space. It is a one of a kind career-oriented channel featuring students and experts speaking about how to pursue careers, medicine, design, chartered accountancy, dentistry or artificial intelligence, machine learning and even cricket. They also share their experiences from universities around the globe like Harvard, Cambridge, Columbia, Oxford, University of Toronto. They speak about cracking top exams like the UPSC, CLAT, IBPS and CA entrances.
You will also find videos from students pursuing pure passions like dancing, art, singing and scuba diving etc. We did two videos with Terence Lewis, who gave incredible advice to prospective dancers and shared his life story with us. We visited Virendra Sehwag’s school in Haryana to show students how to become a cricketer. We have interviewed several entrepreneurs and CEO’s on their stories, challenges and how they keep going.
I want every single student and parent to subscribe to ChetChat and watch videos around the career of their dreams to be able to best decide whether that field is indeed for them or not and if yes, how they can go about making their dreams come true.
5. Any anecdote (funny, serious) you remember in your professional career as a Founder of Chet Chat, which you want to share with the readers?
When we started out, I would call people and invite them to the show. It was funny how they would sometimes avoid my calls, even some people I knew very well, didn’t want their children to be interviewed, since they were worried about how this would turn out eventually. There were times when the person confirmed and would cheekily opt out in the nick of time, with some lame excuse. It seemed difficult back then and funny right now.
We’ve come a long way and now, PR managers are calling and writing in, requesting for the clients to be featured on ChetChat, and I find it funny that sometimes I am refusing.
Life goes around full circle.
6. What are the business acumens you wish you had known when you started out?
Oh Lots, I wish I knew that this would be as hard as it was ! Ha ha! Or maybe not. If I had known I might not have ventured into it.
But on a more serious note, well if I knew how to edit movies, how to record shoots and how to promote content well on social media I could have made this even larger, but then that was the fun element too. The learning is what has kept me going even three years later, otherwise I would have got so bored of doing the same thing every day.
We all know that lots of hard work goes while running a successful business; besides hard-work what business and marketing strategies you use to run Chet Chat smoothly?
For long term success of a YouTube Channel, uploading quality content is the starting point. The goal is to reach more and more students and their parents and also to ensure that existing subscribers watch most of your content. Some of our practices include –
Consistency – I upload a video every Friday – we have been lucky to be able to do this on almost every Friday – at least 50 out of 52 Fridays a year we pull through
Reaching students where they are – which means connecting with them in college forums and chat rooms where they ask questions
Looking for trends and themes – e.g. board exam time or entrance examination dates or time to apply abroad etc. Which means, giving the students what they want at the time they want it.
Personal connection – I do my best to answer each and every question that comes to me either on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, twitter or on email.
Patience and keeping the viewers interest in mind at all times – Listening to the viewer, connecting with them, giving them what they want will give you a loyal fan base.
And most importantly making videos with the viewers interest in mind.
7. You are a woman who has an impressive resume; MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur, TEDx speaker with over 20 years of work experience in Banking and Education and now Chet Chat whose success made the New Indian Express name you as one of the 18 people to watch out for in 2018. Though it may sound cliché, they say behind every successful man there’s a woman, but readers want to know who is behind Chetna’s success.
Thank you for your kind words. I feel that the purpose of running the channel is greater than myself. My family has been completely supportive and without that support I would have found it difficult to sustain this momentum. The whole universe conspires to make something work, when it is meant to be.
From a working professional to a mother to a successful woman entrepreneur, you have seen and done it all. So any advice from your side to the women who wants to start their entrepreneurial journey.
People write to me and ask me ‘Ma’am I want to become famous and I want to earn money out of YouTube, tell me how to do it.’ I always advise them that making money out of YouTube is no longer an easy business. Do something because you think you are genuinely good at it and you can create a positive impact on people’s lives with your work. Don’t go on YouTube because you want to become famous. You will become famous of people love what you do for them but hone your craft. Keep learning and improving. People get used to a certain standard and then they will expect more from you. So, remain committed to providing the best and your viewer will always come back to you.
8. Chetna any interesting plans up your sleeve for your You Tube channel?
Oh yes. I have two notes on my phone – one with a To Do List and one with a Strategies for the Future list. For now, the second list is much longer than the first. So, I have loads of plans. I recently launched ChetChat’s Masterclass which has been very well received. I now am working on e-books for the students with greater detail on some of the topics, since videos cannot cover everything. I intend to set up Podcasts and like I said, plans are galore. I have to ensure that I never get bored.