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IIHB report on what India’s top 20 TikTok influencers earned

Riyaz Aly, Faisal Shaikh, Arishfa Khan, Jannat Zubair Rahmani and Awez Darbar top earners.

Riyaz Aly with 42.3 million followers was the Big Boy of India’s TikTok world. This 16-17 years old music lip-syncher from the Jaigaon, a border town of Bhutan, was the highest grosser amongst TikTokers in India on monies he made from peddling his influence for brands, labels and clients. IIHB’s research team, after detailed discussions with market intermediaries, talent managers and TikTokers themselves estimated Aly’s annual earnings from TikTok at Rs. 5-6 crores. His run-rate during the pandemic was actually higher and he could’ve easily crossed Rs. 8-9 crores in 2020, but for the ban.

Faisal Shaikh, more commonly known as ‘Mr. Faisu’ was in second place on TikTok in India. Shaikh’s earnings from Tiktok are estimated at between Rs. 4 to 4.5 crores. Again, these could have been substantially more but for the ban, as numbers on revenue had picked up substantially during the Lockdown.

Arishfa Khan’s earnings are also estimated in the Rs. 4-4.5 crores range. She is third in the list of highest number of TikTok followers. Jannat Zubair Rahmani, with over 27.6 million followers on Tiktok, is said to have earnings from TikTok that are estimated at Rs. 5 to 5.5 crores, a notch higher than Faisal Shaikh and Arishfa, though both of them otherwise enjoy larger follower bases.

Awez Darbar, the son of well-known musician Ismail Darbar, fifth ranked by number of followers, has earnings of Rs. 2.5-3 crores which were set to rise exponentially this year.

Avneet Kaur, ranked No. 9 by follower numbers, was another major rising star of the TikTok universe with earnings estimated at Rs. 3-3.5 crores. Aashika Bhatia, who ranked only at No. 18, was also earning in the Rs. 3-3.5 crores range, and punching much above her weight class. Aashika had been predicted to be the future giant killer of the global TikTok world, with experts having said that one day she would topple TikTok World No. 1 Loren Gray as the richest TikToker on the planet. That seems like a distant dream for now.

Bhavin Bhanushali, who was first seen in the OTT series “Aisha – A Virtual Girlfriend” seems to have been raking it in disproportionate earnings to his 20th ranking on the TikTok tables. Could well be a function of good marketing, and outreach. Annual earnings of Rs. 2.5-3 crores.

The Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) research team met a large number of those from the TikTok world, in the past week, to arrive at a gross number on the loss that TikTok’s exit has created. An educated estimate is a dent of about Rs. 120 crores at most for the Top 100 influencers. Pessimistic estimates could even be Rs. 100 crores. But interestingly, the long tail of TikTok is really really long. Someone with a 1 million follower base could earn Rs. 30-35,000 a month. At double that number, the earnings could be in the Rs. 50,000 range.

Commenting on the incomes generated by TikTok influencers, Dr. Sandeep Goyal, Chief Mentor of IIHB said, “Prices on TikTok for paid content were not high too. A Picture Post for a Top 10 TikToker was in the Rs. 1,20,000 to 1,50,000 range; A Carousel or GIF cost Rs. 1,50,000 for a Top 10 influencer but dropped to Rs. 5000 for a Top 100 ranker; A Story was priced between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 50,000 depending on the pecking order; A Story Highlight was priced between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 1,00,000 and a Link in Bio (24 hours) fetched between a meager Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 35,000. For followers running into millions, this is indeed poor compensation”. He added, “The one thing I could never fully understand with respect to TikTok was why its millions of followers did not convert into larger earnings for its influencers. There were easily atleast 50 influencers with over 10 million followers. That is no small number. But the bottom of the Top 20 list barely made Rs. 5-6 lacs a month, in reality. There were taller claims and larger stats touted by agents and middle-men, but the actual numbers were actually much lower”.

Answering another pertinent question, Dr. Goyal elaborated, “Did TikTok suffer because of an age skew? More than 60% of TikTok’s active daily user base was said to be between 16-24 years. Some even younger. While this is an age cohort that is theoretically very attractive to brands, in reality, this age-group does not really have as much discretionary spending power as compared to their peers in Western economies”.

This is the first of two Reports by IIHB on TikTok. The second Report will cover brand attributes of the leading players in the TikTok universe in India.