Growing up with little means in a lower-middle-class family from Haryana, studying beyond school – let alone, becoming a pilot of a commercial airline – was a distant dream for Ritu Rathee Taneja. But she managed to achieve this all and then some.
“Being a pilot was never my passion but I knew I didn’t want to do a desk job,” she tells us, recalling, “One day when we were waiting for our Class 12 board exam results, someone suggested that I become a pilot.”
Ritu adds, “I was great with Math and Science, but I was never good with languages and general knowledge. So, the suggestion [to become a pilot] got me interested and after Class 12, I went on to pursue a BSc in Chemistry from St Stephen’s College in Delhi.”
As her ambitions took flight, so did her career, and the self-confessed “gawky and tomboyish” kid from Haryana found herself flying high on all fronts. Today, Ritu is a popular face online. When she is not globetrotting, the Captain at Indigo airlines is busy chronicling her life for the Flying Beast, the YouTube channel that she manages along with her husband and fellow YouTuber Gaurav Taneja.
From fitness to fashion, and travel to lifestyle and glimpses of her personal life – the channel documents it all. It is a huge hit today, with more than three million subscribers, and each of the videos draws close to a million views on an average.
Raw charm, real content
In their many vlogs, spouses Ritu and Gaurav are hilarious and extremely relatable. It is like showmanship comes naturally to them. But do not be mistaken! Behind each of these quirky video stories capturing the eccentricities of everyday life, is a lot of hard work, planning, brainstorming, and of course, creativity.
“When it comes to vlogging and being a content creator, Gaurav and I have divided our roles there – I look into content strategising and brand management while he creates and edits the content. We brainstorm and strategise together, but brand management is completely handled by me,” Ritu tells us, tracing it back to the initial days of vlogging and her YouTube channel.
The Flying Beast, incidentally, had started as ‘FitMuscle TV’, a fitness channel run by Gaurav with occasional appearances from Ritu.
“For instance, if I cooked something that Gaurav liked, I’d be in the videos too,” says the YouTuber. “But slowly, we realised that the audience loved us; they liked the way we talk and communicate as husband-wife and started asking for more content. That is when Gaurav thought of starting a separate channel where we just vlog our lives, as raw as it can be.”
And that was the genesis of the Flying Beast and the second innings of Ritu’s career as a social media influencer. As a vlogger and YouTuber, her #1 USP is her raw charm and the fact that most of her and Gaurav’s videos are “unscripted”.
“I think people connect with us on those grounds, because nobody wakes up with perfect skin, full of makeup, and nobody looks like Katrina Kaif, you know,” she quips, “And if Gaurav and I are okay with each other, we don't really care about others' opinions. I think the best part is the realness of our videos.”
A rewarding career out of vlogging
A lot of things that have unfolded in Ritu’s professional life have been unplanned, unanticipated. For instance, becoming a pilot was never on the horizon. But against all odds, this feisty mother-of-one decided to travel to Arizona, USA, to finish her training.
“My father wasn’t even willing to let me go alone but after a lot of convincing he agreed,” she recalls.
Similarly, vlogging, YouTubing, and stardom weren’t things Ritu had aspired for, but like most good things in life, they just happened. Of course, once the brand was created, she had to toil hard to keep her viewers engaged, the content fresh, and her videos relevant.
“The biggest challenge is keeping people glued to you,” she says. “Even if you are going to show them every single day of your life, after a point, people will wonder ‘what’s new here?’.”
This is where the brainstorming comes in, putting in efforts into thinking what kind of content people might like, and coming up with ideas. This, says Ritu, is the more difficult part of the process, which if executed well, also bears fruit. “Professionally speaking, it's a very good career option,” she says adding, “We collaborate with a lot of brands and we do generate quite a good revenue out of it.”
Social media for good
From a single picture on Instagram, an influencer stands to earn in six figures today. And that’s not all. The power of social media marketing and video content creation goes beyond just money-making; it is a consumer-driven tool through which one can effectively reach out to thousands of relevant users within a few seconds.
And that’s what Ritu is doing with her platform as well. Through her initiative Rashbhari Chai, a play on the name of her daughter, the social media personality has been organising meet-and-greets for fans to come meet the duo, and while doing so, buy tea from tea vendors and donate a sum of money. In this process, Ritu has been helping raise funds for the daughters of street-side chai walas.
“We had raised Rs 51,000 and we were planning to do this across the country, but COVID-19 forced us to cancel our plans,” Ritu tells us adding, “Once this is over, though, we’ll continue this work because it makes me feel peace and calm, that no matter how busy I am, we’re doing some good.”
(Video Production: Urmi Chatterjee, Text Edit: Saheli Sen Gupta)