India’s ‘granfluencers’ are taking Instagram by storm with sex ed, knitting classes and Lifestyle News

Entering the multi-billion dollar, youth-obsessed influencer marketing industry is a dark horse: older people.

In India, many took their interests and values ​​to Instagram, bringing together hundreds of thousands. They cover everything from fashion to sex education, breaking stereotypes with innovative content, the most popular being those with compelling stories.

The rise of these Indian “granfluencers” mirrors the older personalities taking social media by storm in other Asian societies, notably China and Japan.

Dinesh Mohan, 63, from Delhi became a model and actor at 55 and inspires his 305,000 Instagram followers with his posts. With his tattoos, ripped jeans and toned physique, he’s also a perfect role model for a plethora of lifestyle brands lining up to list him – although that wasn’t always the case for him.

“Nearly ten years ago I weighed over 100kg and needed help even to stand up,” Mohan said. “But I decided to change my life by becoming fitter and healthier. My transformation has brought me many opportunities to model and even act in films. I am also a successful motivational speaker. Life has never been so beautiful.

Meanwhile, Ravi Bala Sharma, 63, the ‘dancing grandmother’ (grandmother in Hindi) who believes ‘age is just a number’, dances to classic Indian songs in sarees elegant for 187,000 people. Although her late husband encouraged her to pursue her passion for dancing, Sharma never found the time until 2020 when, encouraged by her family, she finally launched her Instagram account.

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“I had a choice of feeling sorry for myself after my husband died of cancer in 2016, or channeling all my grief into my love for dance. I chose the latter, and not only that pulled me out of my trauma, but also gave me a creative outlet.

In the northern Indian state of Haryana, Yashpal Verma and his wife Shanta, aged 82 and 76, have become an internet sensation, gaining around 58,000 subscribers who follow their entertaining stories about their lives fun everyday. Helped by their granddaughter Jonita, the couple had started posting videos of their dance and dress-up sessions, which quickly found a delighted audience.

Inasmuch as they entertain others, they also derive great joy from the process.

Shanta admits that because she wasn’t internet savvy, “it was a little awkward at first recording our lives, but now I really enjoy posting about our lifestyle.”

For many, the influencer market has also proven to be lucrative. Sheela Bajaj, a 78-year-old from Delhi, said she rediscovered her passion for crocheting during the lockdown and quickly turned it into a business via Instagram.

“I have been knitting crochet sweaters for my family for over five decades. So when my granddaughter suggested I start a business showcasing my internet skills, I was up for the challenge,” Bajaj said, adding that the business was launched in November 2020, the demand for its products now far exceeds supply.

Many also take advantage of their presence to inform and educate the public on social topics.

At 61, Seema Anand is breaking stereotypes around physical intimacy thanks to her Instagram account which has 695,000 followers. Elegantly dressed, the sexual health educator shares her thoughts on topics related to sex, virginity and pleasure, which are traditionally considered taboo topics in India.

Experts say much of this activity is being driven by changing market dynamics in the world’s second most populous country, and accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“A growing tribe of seniors is driving the Silver Economy, driving interest in social media,” said Pramod Bisht, marketing manager of an online shopping portal.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed older people even deeper online, looking for shopping and entertainment. They also opt for online sites to learn to sing, dance or exercise through live streaming channels. This also explains the popularity of senior influencers.

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India currently has 138 million elderly people, a demographic that is expected to grow by around 56 million by 2031, according to the Technical Group Report on Population Projections for India and the States 2011-2036. A 2020 study by The Lancet India has gained 10 years in life expectancy over the past three decades – from 59.6 years in 1990 to 70.8 years in 2019.

This growth signals new challenges as well as opportunities for the country, economists say, with many Indian companies launching special services and products for the group. These range from stylish homes to clothing, makeup, and skin care for the elderly.

In November 2019, satellite broadcasting service provider Tata Sky launched a specially curated television channel “Tata Sky Seniors” with shows to enlighten seniors on topics such as financial planning, health and well-being. being, digital education and relationship management.

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In Japan, where 28% of the population is aged 65 or over, older influencers are making waves on TikTok – which is banned in India.

One such group is made up of men in their 50s and 60s – who call themselves ojikyun or “old men” in Japanese, and kyun meaning “love at first sight”.

Showing off their spontaneous dance moves in brightly colored shirts, ties and belly warmers, the elderly men have become Japan’s latest TikTok sensation.

Since their first post in February this year, their videos – filmed at playgrounds, shrines and municipal buildings – have been viewed more than 16 million times, according to an AFP report.

This article was first published in the South China Morning Post.