In the past five years, the social media following of young entertainers has increased dramatically, so much so that many Pakistani teenagers have achieved stardom overnight, amassing millions of fans on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok by posting content that youth finds relatable and engaging.
Haris Baloch, a young man hailing from Kharan, one of the most underdeveloped areas of the country, is aiming to change that by providing established social media stars with all the help they need in tackling threats to their social media presence. These threats have increased in recent years because of misinformation, cyber attacks, and coordinated anti-Pakistan campaigns supported by hackers and even some Indian nationals at big technology firms.
The threats on social media
In August last year, a movement gained traction on social media that called for video-sharing platform YouTube to open an office in Pakistan. The movement was the result of hacking attempts that targeted several Pakistani entertainers, who were left helpless as their channels were used to run illegal streams which resulted in YouTube cancelling their monetisation (earnings, in easy words), thereby rendering them jobless.
Social media literacy is also a major hurdle in the intelligent use of digital platforms in Pakistan. For example, many top social media stars and companies do not have the right people managing their profiles and pages. This leads to multiple issues when these stars and firms encounter problems related to their content, reach and security. In order to solve these issues, these individuals almost always turn to foreigners for help.
Coming up with solutions
In late 2018, Haris Baloch, a young man hailing from Kharan, and studying at a private college in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on a scholarship, noticed that social media celebrities in Pakistan were having trouble establishing relationships with social media giants to improve their content, expand their reach, and otherwise tackle security-related problems on their profiles. A little research informed him that foreign companies were taking advantage of this problem.
Since late 2016, Baloch has had millions of followers on his Facebook and Instagram pages. These pages mostly post memes about contemporary issues. He thought about putting his resources to good use by using his audiences to build a rapport with other social media stars in Pakistan, while trying to establish personal relationships with Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to better understand the digital issues plaguing social media usage in the country.
With the help of a friend, he set up a firm to provide social media services to up and coming stars. “I wanted to support the local social media industry by providing them with a service that only foreign companies did until then, for which they would charge exorbitant fees. I was also concerned about social media giants limiting the reach of content from Pakistani creators, mostly because Kashmir and Palestine's issues were regularly highlighted,” Baloch says.
Rags to riches
Baloch was not particularly wealthy, his family scraped by on odd jobs and he was studying far away from his hometown in Kharan and could not help much, at least until his studies were completed. He also had to take care of himself financially while away from home, and so the motivation was there to do something big. In August 2018, Baloch finally succeeded in developing a personal relationship with three social media giants through his firm.
“Although I started small, working from my laptop at home, I have since gained more than 20 million followers on my social media pages. Life is not easy, especially when you are still a teenager. It takes an awfully long time to judge intentions, and by that time, losses are aplenty. However, giving up is not an option, not on your dreams,” he says.
Over the past two years, Baloch has helped names like Shaam Idrees, Ducky Bhai, Umair Awan, Queen Froggy, and Abid Brohi, among dozens of others, as they fight social media giants for their right to promote their content around the world. More often than not, Baloch has been successful. For those not following these young stars, perhaps it would be worth noting that they have a combined following of close to a hundred million on social media.
‘Still dream big’
Baloch helped them recover their accounts when they were hacked, fought on their behalf when they were hit unfairly, and also tried to promote these stars at international forums through his own social media reach. “I am proud to say that this small-town boy from Balochistan has made a name for himself, at least nationally. I still dream about achieving something bigger, and even though 2020 was hard, hopefully, the next year will be better,” he says.
Inspired by the success of young Baloch, more firms are now striving hard to provide young entertainers with the same kind of services that Baloch does, and some have even made a name for themselves in the local market. Baloch appears unfazed by the competition. “I always tell myself that I will not let my competition intimidate me. I make sure to keep the best team happy that will help me through your thick and thin,” he outlines.
More recently, Baloch has opened up an office in Kharan, urging the youth of his hometown to embrace the opportunity that access to the internet offers. He hopes that more young kids from Balochistan will become internet celebrities in Pakistan with his help.
“When I first started in the industry, my vision was to establish myself as the most well-known content publisher in the country. There is still some way to go to achieve that, but I have come so far.”