'Clubhouse a natural match for Kerala’s incredible verbal chat appetite' | Interview

Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Aarthi Ramamurthy
Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Aarthi Ramamurthy

Former Facebook executive Aarthi Ramamurthy along with her husband Sriram Krishnan started hosting a Clubhouse talk show, "the Good Time Show" out of boredom. The show's popularity shot up in the following months with big names including Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg appearing as guests to the late-night event.

In an interview with Manorama Online, Aarthi, who is currently the Head of International at Clubhouse, opens up about the invite-only social audio app and her highly successful talk show.

In an interview, Paul Davison (co-founder of Clubhouse) said that the server capacity had to be scaled up in a hurry when Elon Musk came for a show on short notice. Tell us how you and Sriram (Krishnan) brought Musk and Zuckerberg to your show, which made a wave around the world?

At Clubhouse, we celebrate bringing industry experts together so that people around the world can listen in and enjoy the experience. In this case, we both knew Elon and Mark and asked if they would like to join our show on Clubhouse and they were enthusiastic about speaking to the Clubhouse community. With Elon, even though we only had a couple of days' notice, people from all over the world were able to have a successful experience listening to him, so it worked out really well.

More recently Clubhouse has hit room capacity with Dr. Fauci and attracted tens of thousands of fans to hear from musical artists like Nicki Minaj. It’s incredible to see the diversity of voices ranging from tech CEOs to experts and creators in music, epidemiology, fashion, etc.

Tell us more about the Creator First program launched in India. Besides the blog post, could you please explain this with an example? Is it getting paid monthly for good content?

The Clubhouse Creator First Program is a way to help more creators focus on doing what they do best. There’s so much work that goes into making a show successful – the creative brainstorming, the innovation or invention of a format, the social promotion, and audience outreach – so we built this program to support new creators with tools and resources to help unlock their creativity on Clubhouse so that they can share it with the world.

We narrow down from a list of thousands of Creator submissions to dozens to a handful of ongoing series. As a creator as well as an audience, no matter what your interests are, from sports and space to Bollywood and cricket, to history, music, religion, gaming and stand-up comedy – there is something for everyone in unique audio formats.

You can expect an announcement on the various formats of payments and subscriptions that Clubhouse will be supporting in India very soon, so stay tuned to our India Townhalls on Clubhouse.

As a market how big is India for you? What will be your priority in India?

India is an extraordinarily creative and social country. It has been a priority for Clubhouse, and you can expect to see us expand creator support, help elevate exceptional content and make it easier than ever for people to connect.

Expanding local language support is a priority area for us and we will continue to grow our capabilities in the months ahead. As we continue to welcome more and more people to the platform, we consistently expand language support, and add more accessibility features, so that people worldwide can experience Clubhouse in a way that feels native to them.

While we do not break out any figures by country, but we can definitely tell you that since we began rolling out Android in May, we’ve seen more than 8 million new users with more than 2 million of those in India.

What are the craziest and creative rooms you have seen in Indian Clubhouse?

Every day we are seeing an incredible diversity of content covering Bollywood, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil film industries. People in India are innovatively using Clubhouse for all kinds of content - we’ve seen many community rooms especially in Malayalam like Malayalikootam which evolved from a social club to one where people find job opportunities.

We’ve seen rooms on religion and prayer such as the Hanuman Chalisa room. We’ve seen clubs on Bollywood film-making like the Bollywood Film Club. We’ve seen music contests, Antakshari rooms, comedy rooms and even rooms that do mock movie auditions which are really funny.

We’ve seen clubs on the Indian startup scene like the All India Startup club where we’ve seen interesting rooms on crypto, on finding cofounders and more. Then we’ve seen rooms on Carnatic music, on social impact issues and current topics. The diversity has been incredible to see.

What are the other monetization options for Clubhouse creators? Will tipping or entry fees for rooms be allowed?

Yes, payments & monetization are definitely on our radar for India and we are currently in the process of optimizing the best Creator-friendly formats for Clubhouse. We would request you to stay tuned to our India Townhalls that we regularly host on Clubhouse for more news on payments, tipping, and subscriptions.

How do you see the presence of Keralites in Clubhouse?

Definitely, Clubhouse seems to be a natural match for Kerala’s incredible verbal chat appetite.

We see many rooms where people openly talk about many controversial subjects. Some record these conversations, even expose the profile details of listeners. These videos get uploaded on Youtube and other platforms with obscene captions. A case has been already registered in Wayanad district of Kerala. How are you planning to tackle this issue?

There is absolutely no place for bullying, hate speech, or abuse on Clubhouse. With over 500,000 new rooms a day, we see that the vast majority happen without incident, but we encourage users to report such behaviour to us so we can investigate. It’s explicitly prohibited by our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service and when we find someone that breaks these rules we take action against their account.

IT Act intermediary guidelines are already in place. How are we going to comply with this?

Right now, we don’t meet the threshold defined by the government for a significant social media intermediary. We will work toward compliance at that level however as we anticipate Clubhouse’s continued growth in India. Our startup is still small, staffing-wise – we're just over a year old but our goal is to ensure that the platform is in line with the country's laws and regulations.

From your 'Good Time' experience, what is your advice to creators who would like to establish a large footprint on Clubhouse? Also, some tips to increase the follower base!

The Good Time show started as a hobby and it’s been really great to see all the positive feedback from the Clubhouse community. My advice to creators is to focus on curiosity and learning and cover topics that are interesting to you.

Also, seek continuous feedback from the community and keep improving to cater to their needs, so that you can provide value. We did a lot of iterations on finding the right time slot, on bringing a diverse set of guests and making the show more useful to our audience and we still keep iterating. Seek help from the community to recruit interesting guests to participate. And finally - keep at it! We try and do a couple of shows every week even during our busiest weeks and keep putting effort into making it a recurring show. I hope these help! Consistency in terms of rooms, creativity in terms of guests and subject matter.

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