Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

The greatest challenge with content creation is that every few months you have to reinvent yourself: Dolly Singh

The 29-year-old influencer, actor and entrepreneur is all set to make her 2023 Cannes Film Festival debut today. In a conversation with Forbes India she talks about the creator economy, hedging her bets and her look for the red carpet

Naini Thaker
Published: May 19, 2023 04:37:05 PM IST
Updated: May 19, 2023 04:57:12 PM IST

The greatest challenge with content creation is that every few months you have to reinvent yourself: Dolly SinghDolly Singh, influencer, actor and entrepreneur is all set to make her 2023 Cannes Film Festival debut today

Fashion blogger turned influencer Dolly Singh, who is now also an actor and entrepreneur, has been working on attending the Cannes festival for a while now. “For a content creator, it is a huge opportunity. It was one of those things that we really wanted to do as a team, and my team worked very hard for it,” she says in a telephonic conversation with Forbes India, a day before leaving for the French Riviera. 

Apart from films, Cannes is known to also be an annual celebration of fashion, with top actors, directors and more recently influencers, walking the red carpet, and Singh is also all set to make her debut at the festival’s red carpet later today and attend official movie screenings at the iconic Grand Lumiere Theatre. Without revealing too much about her look, she says, “It is something [Indian] traditional, paying homage to a few Bollywood looks, which I’m not going to name.”  

Singh started off as a fashion blogger with her blog Spill the Sass and later worked at iDiva as a junior writer and stylist where she started working in front of the camera. Eventually, in 2015 she decided to take up content creation full time and grew popular with her ‘Raju ki Mummy’ videos. Today, the 29-year-old influencer—who was also one of Forbes India's Top 100 Digital Stars 2022—is also exploring opportunities outside of content creation with acting and entrepreneurial stints. She starred in the Netflix series Bhaag Beanie Bhaag and Modern Love Mumbai. Singh speaks to Forbes India about the challenges of working in the creator economy, exploring new avenues and her upcoming movie. Edited excerpts: 

Q. How has your process of creating content evolved over the years? 

I think when I started I had too much inspiration. Now I feel like I have to look for it because whatever I had learnt in life or observations I made have been used up. But jokes apart, initially, there was no process. For instance, when we were at iDiva, there were no scripts. We would just ramble in front of the camera about a set topic. We only started writing scripts when we got brands on board. So even when I started off as a content creator independently, it was pretty much on the go. I didn’t have much written down. I would record whatever came to me, and then edit it later. 

I think a lot of my strength lies in my writing. I believe a lot of my comedy comes from good writing, and not just because I’m a comedic person. Because I enjoy writing so much, I also wanted to develop good characters. Nobody on Instagram probably cared about these things, but I did. 

Now, the difference is that work feels more like work and not just passion. It might also be a sign of success. 

Q. What would you say is the most challenging part of being a content creator? 

The audience is constantly evolving. For instance, we used to do a lot more exaggerated comedy and punch lines. Now none of that is working. People today want to see us talk about real things and find humour in real life. It is fun, and also challenging, because whatever you were doing till now will not work. Every few months, you have to restart. So I think the greatest challenge when it comes to content creation is constantly reinventing yourself. But I think since every job does have a challenge, this is ours— you have to either take it or leave it. 

Also read: Content is king, engagement is queen: Going behind the scenes of India's influencer economy

Q. How do you balance what you want to create versus what the audience wants to watch? 

This is something I’m the most torn about. It does sadden me a lot of times that what I want to make is not something people want to watch and what people want to watch is not something I want to make. I think initially I was very upset that long form isn't working and I love writing and performing long form. None of that was working. 

So it's very hard to find a middle ground. But after bouts of anxiety and months of rethinking things, I've tried to find a solution. I tried to bring in my strengths and what people want to watch, so I decided to do these series where I write a long-form story. But I divide it into one-minute videos and leave every part with a cliffhanger so people can come back. I’m trying to learn what people want to see and look at it more as a challenge than an obstacle.

Q. The creator economy is all about the numbers, be it following, engagement or reach. Does it get to you sometimes and how do you deal with that pressure? 

It's every day. We talk about this, we cry about this and we laugh about this... every day. It's something that's part of the business, you can never run away from it. At the end of the day, that's the job. Brands are paying you and coming to get work done, they will look at those numbers and they do matter. I think it's about how you tackle them and the kind of relationship you have with them. 

I'm trying to not get too bound with what the numbers are saying. I am definitely working on getting the best of them, but often these are not in your control. Sometimes you post a video which has taken a lot of effort and it just doesn't work at all and other times, you post a random video, and it has millions of views. It is weird, because there's no formula to it. That is the most frustrating thing about this profession: You can never tell. 

I try to find my happiness in other projects and other opportunities, away from Instagram. For instance, Cannes [Film Festival] is such a big opportunity. These things also pacify me and I tell myself, ‘Don't worry, numbers are not everything, the other things you are doing also matter.’ 

Q. Content creation isn't the most stable money-making business. You’ve also taken up acting and entrepreneurship. Is this you trying to hedge your bets? 

I think some part of it, for sure. 

We are the first generation of content creators in this country. We just jumped into this when we started and we have no idea where it's going. We don't know how long this is going to last. The only thing we keep discussing as a community is how do we maintain the revenue, make sure that all our eggs are not in just one basket. 

Particularly after the TikTok ban, it was pretty scary. Hypothetically, if Instagram goes tomorrow, what do I have to show? It's my portfolio and my life's work. So yes, definitely finding ways to have a more stable revenue stream. A lot of the decisions we are making as a team are also happening with this in mind. For instance, my collaboration and venture as an entrepreneur with Rad Living candles. 

As far as acting goes, it is something I've always wanted to do and I’m obsessively enjoying it. I love being on set, it is a wonderful collaborative process. 

Q. What was that moment when you knew that Dolly Singh has arrived? 

I had just started, I had a few thousand followers. I posted a selfie, saying ‘I feel like having Taco Bell’. I didn't tag Taco Bell, I think I was just trying to be cool and needed something to write on my selfie [laughs]. Next day, I get a call saying, 'We are from Taco Bell and we are standing in front of your office, and we have a lot of goodies and food for you. Can you please come down?' 

That was very overwhelming and in that moment I felt like something has changed. 

Q. What is the next big thing you are looking forward to? 

I have a movie coming out soon, where I have a fairly big role. I felt like a proper actor in this one. Second, working on the short film that I've written in the next couple of years.

Click here to view India's Top 100 Digital Stars 2022