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Influencers and the creator economy are the big new development in the digital media space.  The continuing growth and success of the creator economy are predicated on two factors, the continuous entry and inflow of creators on the one side and audiences on the other.  

This needs an acknowledgment of the fact that creators and audiences are in a symbiotic relationship with one another. The creator will be successful if he is able to draw audiences with his/her content and then create stickiness of the audience, viz they stay loyal, habituated and bonded, coming back to them repeatedly, over months and even years. Ideally, this stickiness or loyalty also enables “influence” where the audience is open to being “influenced” by the creator in terms of ideas, viewpoints, knowledge and practices.

Creators of course need to monetise their talent and their influence and that’s where brands step in, in terms of working with them. The fee that creators can negotiate with brands is indeed based on the size of their ‘following’ as well as some other metrics and indices of the strength of their ‘influence’.

Creators come in all shapes and sizes, they talk about a wide range of themes and are spread out among states and regions. This is something that we wrote about in a previous article (

In this article we explore the differences between big city influencers and small town influencers. Understanding this difference is very important for brands seeking to sign up influencers for appealing to different parts of their user base. The persona of a big city influencer has a different type of impact and appeal to big city audiences when compared with the personas of small town influencers.  

How and why does this happen?  The rest of the article addresses these questions.

Big city influencers:

Sejal Kumar: Lifestyle vlogger from Delhi

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Sejal Kumar is a YouTuber from Delhi. She is an economics graduate from SRCC. In most of her vlogs, Sejal is seen talking directly to the camera while being vulnerable to relate with the audience. Sejal covers a whole plethora of topics in her YouTube channel, from vlogs about her personal life to videos about fashion and beauty.

In her videos about fashion, she gently advises her audience about how to go about fashion instead of making herself seen as a know-it-all. 

She does not come from a position of authority but tries to be a friend. Sejal almost welcomes her audience into her life, giving them a tour of her house. We get a voyeuristic take into her life, even though the voyeurism is completely intentional on her part. The influencer wants us to see all aspects of her life.

  1. Prajakta Koli:  Lifestyle vlogger from Mumbai

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Prajakta Koli is a YouTuber from Mumbai who has a bachelor’s degree in mass media. Her positioning as an influencer is similar to that of Sejal Kumar. Her medium of communication is also primarily English and Hindi. She presents herself as vulnerable and authentic to her audience. She positions herself more as a friend than an influencer or a performer. Most of her content has a ‘global appeal’ to it. The aesthetic of the videos are ‘minimalistic’ in nature, and have a high-value production feel to it.

She makes comedy videos, in which she plays many different characters. She also likes to talk about social issues, like the privilege of the affluent class of society, she especially focuses a lot of her content on women’s body-image issues. 

In one of her videos, Koli talks about hair removal issues and subtly plugs a hair removal product towards the end of the video. This is the key to being a good influencer in Koli’s book - you talk about an issue that resonates with people, you make content around it, and then you subtly plug the brand towards the end.

Small town influencers:

  1. Manisha Rani:  Entertainer from Munger, Bihar
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A post shared by Manisha Rani (@manisharani002)

Manisha Rani is a TikTok star and Instagram influencer from Munger, Bihar. She dances and posts comedy sketches on her Instagram channel. Her approach to being an influencer is that of a vaudevillian performer. She is essentially a performer, and does everything related to entertainment - she sings, dances, performs comedy sketches, and enacts dialogues from Hindi films.

Her audience is quite different from Sejal Kumar and Prajakta Koli. While Kumar and Koli try to be more authentic toward their audiences, Manisha is more of a performer. She also comes across as authentic in her videos, when she is not ‘performing’. While receiving an award in Mumbai, Manisha gave a speech about her background and upbringing, and the dichotomous nature of being a digital celebrity in from a small town in Bihar. She came across as very ‘genuine’ in that video, something her followers also commented on in that post.

Though she is mostly ‘acting’ on Instagram while assuming the persona of some form of performer or another, her real self comes out when she is in real-life situations. 

  1. Sarbajit Sarkar, a.k.a Neel Ranaut
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A post shared by neel ranaut sarkar (@ranautneel)

Neel Ranaut is a 25-year-old fashion influencer from Teliamura, Tripura. His influencer name is Neel Ranaut, while his real name is Sarbajit Sarkar. He has taken up the name Neel Raunat as an alias because he says that he is very much inspired by Kangana Ranaut, and he calls himself Kangana Ranaut’s real sister.

He is an advocate by training. Neel comes from a fairly humble background. His father sells chickpeas at railway stations. Neel makes outfits out of terrestrial material, such as twigs, poles, stones, flowers, and petals. 

The USP of Neel is that he talks in his native language, and in most of his Instagram posts, we see him doing ramp walks in a debilitated village set-up. In the absence of an actual ramp, Neels performs in Tripura's alleys and debilitated terrain.  He stages ramp walks in his village while his family applauds him. He positions himself as a show-stopper. 


While small-town influencers are more performers/entertainers, big-city influencers try to position themselves as friends and confidantes to the audience. They adopt distinctly different styles and strategies to build audience connect and stickiness. The reasons are many.

The sensibility of the tier-2/tier-3 small town audience is quite different from the sensibility of the tier-1 city audience. This is revealed even in the movies that are set in these two locations.  Small-town films often have characters who are more theatrical in nature. The performances are much more exaggerated. While films that are based in metropolitan cities, have a lot more subtlety to them. The treatment of the film is much more realistic, and the characters are subdued, unlike the small-town film.

Small-town influencers also prefer to connect with their audiences using their native languages while big-city influencers mostly prefer to speak in languages that have a much wider reach - primarily English and Hindi. Their audiences also bond with them by appreciating their confidence and boldness in becoming an entertainer.

Small-town influencers’ approach to content is to have a very ‘real’ feel to their video. This is reflected in both the content of their videos and their production quality. As the videos usually do not have a very high production value to them.

Besides the actual content itself, there are two key binaries that attract and retain audiences - the ‘performative’ style and the ‘authentic’ self of the Influencer as made visible. Small town and big city Influencers blend these two binaries in different ways, keeping in mind the sensibilities of their audiences. Small town Influencers have a more dialled-up ‘performative’ style, while they project authenticity through low production quality (inexpensive) videos. Big city influencers have an ‘authentic’ style, while they project high performance through much more slick production values.  

Actionable insight: When brands sign on influencers in different locations, they need to be sensitive to the big-city versus small-town differences as well as the distinct personas that influencers adopt in these locations. This sensitivity will help build more effective collaborations for mutual benefit.