After a small burp escaped from her mouth, Prajakta Koi laughed on stage. She was narrating how she became a YouTube star since launching her channel MostlySane about 8 years ago.
The crowd gathered at Entrepreneur India’s Tech & Innovation Summit in Bengaluru erupted into laughter. They were even more eager to hear her next words. This moment perfectly captured what has made Koli so popular with Indian audiences: her spontaneous, relatable humor.
Koli's childhood dream to become a radio DJ (RJ), which she had pursued for a year, ended in her dismissal. She then turned to a platform that was just emerging to give her career new direction. "At 21, I chose to pursue YouTube. It was a very new platform at the time. The digital space is constantly evolving, and it is so tailored to each creator's niche there is no blueprint or roadmap to guarantee success or virality. "As my channel and my audience continue to change, I still feel like I'm finding my way with content creation."
Koli has grown a lot in social media. She now has 6.89 million YouTube subscribers and 7.7 millions Instagram followers. Her interviews include Michelle Obama, Bill Gates and Jennifer Aniston, along with top Bollywood stars. Koli credits her success to the support of family, friends, and a professional group. She said that her parents have always welcomed all career ideas with the same enthusiasm and never questioned their feasibility.
Exploring New Arenas: Netflix, Bollywood, Advocacy, Entrepreneurship
It's an exciting time to be creating content because the lines have become blurred. There's a lot of content. Koli said, "You can watch a movie on YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime, or even in the theaters." She stepped onto a film set in 2019 when she shot Mismatched, Netflix's web series about a coming-of age romantic drama. This was an entirely new experience for her. While playing the first character she had never written was challenging at first, it was also a pleasure to not be responsible for everything else in filming, including scriptwriting, lighting, camera directions, video editing, and so on. The experience was great because I only had to come to the set and deliver my lines. She explained that it was liberating to let go of control. Koli appeared alongside Varun, Kiara and others in the short film Khayalipulao (2020), and comedy-drama Jugjugg Jeeyo 2022.
In this period, her rise to fame in content creation and acting was accompanied by a personal journey that cultivated social and environmental awareness. "Around 2016 I began speaking out about issues close to my heart, such as body shame and mental health. This snowballed and led into girls' education, and then gender equality. YouTube gave me the opportunity to talk to many people about these topics; I gradually realised that, even though I didn't have any experience working in climate protection, I could still use my platform to amplify voices who were already doing good work. Koli was selected to be India's first UNDP Youth Climate Champion in January 2022 as a result her participation in campaigns and initiatives like #iPledgeToBeMe and YouTube's Creators For Change and Girl's education, No Offence, Instagram's Safer Web Week and One.org Girl Education.
The creator has also partnered with Merch Garage, an online store that sells a variety of products, including mugs and phone covers. Koli admits that he doesn't have much business sense when it comes the technical aspect of things, but he has a great team. I prefer to focus on fun things like designing tee-shirts. We are just starting out and learning by taking baby steps. "But I hope that it will grow in the next few years."
She reflects back on her journey to win the admiration and approval of millions of Indians and is struck by two distinct 'wow moments': "In 2018 I did a Meet and Greet, and 8,000 people came and I thought it was unreal." She met Michelle Obama, the former US First Lady as part of YouTube’s global program Creators For Change. They had a discussion about girl child education. "She hugged me and knew my name. It was crazy!"