The list, compiled by Influencer Marketing Hub, is dominated by US-based TikTokers like dancing stars Addison Rae Easterling and Charli D’Amelio.
Yet, Riyaz Aly, Arishfa Khan, Awez Darbar and Nisha Guragain occupy the 9th, 12th, 14th and 15th place in the global rankings, respectively, it said in a report released earlier this week.
The four Indian creators had risen to fame on ByteDance’s short-video sharing platform in the country over the last couple of years, garnering millions of followers within a short time.
They were also among the top 10 TikTokers in India when the Chinese app was banned in July over security concerns.
As per the report, Aly, the top Indian TikToker with over 43 million followers, earns an estimated $35,000 per branded post, while Guragain, who had 28 million fans on the platform, makes approximately $23,500 for each sponsored content post.
Influencer marketing experts, however, said that the estimated earnings may differ from the actual amount that the Indian TikTokers made in the first half of the year, or continue to make now after they branched out to create content on several TikTok alternatives that came up following the ban.
“The actual numbers might be half of the estimated earnings mentioned in the list,” said one influencer marketing manager, adding that Influencer Marketing Hub may have extrapolated the numbers based on the earnings potential of creators in the United States, where advertisers spend a lot more on digital marketing than they do in India.
Where India’s top YouTuber stands compared to rest of the world
Influencer Marketing Hub also clarified that its estimates “can vary greatly by niche, country, audience location and audience brand affinity.”
Had TikTok not been banned in India though, some of these creators would have been earning what the estimates in the list suggest, as “many brands were planning to increase their spends on TikTok, especially during the festive season that’s upon us now,” said Gautam Madhavan, founder of Delhi-based influencer marketing platform Mad Influence, which represents over 300 influencers and celebrities exclusively.
‘Ironic and intriguing’
Be that as it may, it is nevertheless intriguing that Indian TikTokers even made it to the list, since there is no certainty whether the ban would be lifted anytime soon.
Werner Geyser, founder of Influencer Marketing Hub, told ET that this could have happened because the report takes into account the creators’ followers and engagement rates on TikTok during the first half of the year.
“A lot of people outside India don’t even know that TikTok is banned here as they keep seeing old TikTok posts from Indian creators popping up on their feed,” said Madhavan.
Some of them, like Aly, have even gained followers after the ban. His fanbase on TikTok stood at 43.2 million in August but a Google search with the keywords “Riyaz Aly TikTok” shows his profile on the platform has over 43.5 million followers now.
Indian TikTokers making it to this list is also ironic, because urbanites — both creators as well as viewers — relished in deriding TikTok for its cringe-worthy content when India became the app’s biggest international market outside of China.
Yet, it is the only platform where Indian creators have emerged as the highest earners at a global level.
“If there were a list like ‘15 of YouTube’s highest-paid creators’, you might perhaps see a Bhuvan Bham in it from India. For Instagram, I would be surprised if any Indian creator can touch even the top 50 highest-paid influencers’ list,” said Madhavan of Mad Influence. “To have four creators in a list of 15 top-paid stars is, therefore, a big deal,” he added.
It also calls out the class war between TikTok and YouTube or Instagram, said Lakshmi Balasubramanian, cofounder of influencer marketing firm Greenroom, referring to the controversy that broke out between a section of TikTokers and YouTubers in May.
Roast, rage, jealousy, cringe. Who’ll have the last laugh in YouTube vs TikTok’s online ‘class wars’?
At that time, India’s top YouTuber Ajey Nagar (CarryMinati) was found belittling TikTokers’ worth in a roast video that was eventually taken down by YouTube citing issues like harassment and bullying.
At the core, the class war was about the divide between English-speaking versus non-English speaking creators, and TikTokers were predominantly associated with the latter, Balasubramanian said.
“But, in our marketing plans these days, a top TikToker like Awez Darbar features alongside a YouTuber like Kenny Sebastian (whose standup comedy is largely targeted at English-speaking Indians),” she said. One guy is good at something, the other at something else.”
Indian TikTokers should also take this recognition as a huge compliment, Madhavan of Mad Influence said, although qualifying that the list only considers TikTokers outside of China.
“Had the list included creators on the Chinese version of the app, called Douyin, then all 15 most-paid creators would have been from China!”