Published: 09th November 2020
From a MAD series to a YouTube channel with 2 mn subscribers: This is Harun Robert's story
DIY guru Harun Robert tells us how his journey into art and craft began and why he's toggled between TV and YouTube over the years. He has over 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube
Trash can be useful if you know how to work creatively with it, believes Harun Robert, popularly known as the DIY Guru in India. Harun became famous through his MAD series on the POGO channel through which he taught children to make creative toys and crafts by upcycling waste materials. In fact, 90s kids will probably remember making a pen stand with a used floppy disk or a cool book that's actually a stationery holder.
Harun later switched from TV to YouTube, starring in his own channel called Mad Stuff With Rob where he has garnered more than 2.14 million followers. Now, Harun is back on the Disney channel with yet another interesting series called Imagine That. It has been more than a month since this new show aired and the people's response has been nothing but overwhelming.
Excerpts from a fun conversation:
1. Tell us how you got into DIY arts and crafts and how the MAD series started?
I was always interested in art and when I was young, I used to draw and paint my own characters. I was very passionate about DIY art and enjoyed doing all of it. When it came to the point of choosing a career, I moved to Mumbai to pursue animation and design. I worked with several studios on various projects creating animated content. That's when I got in touch with the kids' channel, POGO. While POGO wanted someone in front of the camera doing creative stuff for kids, I also wanted to create some animated content for them. Though I was hesitant to be part of the MAD series, the channel was very confident with what I presented to them. Finally, after two auditions, they finalised the MAD series and the rest is history.
2. As kids, we were never bored watching the MAD series. But how and when did the transition from TV to YouTube happen?
The show was going on well and I worked in the TV industry for over ten years. However, as an artist, I always wanted to explore something new. As a YouTube channel, we would shoot a lot of new content but sometimes, we would revive something old and put it out too. I felt that as an artist, there was no specific growth when I was doing TV. I wouldn't say it was getting monotonous but it was getting more and more comfortable for me.
When I saw that YouTube was a new medium that a lot of people were using to put up new stuff, I decided to start my own YouTube Channel called Mad Stuff With Rob. I had no knowledge or experience on how to go about it. To be honest, initially, my YouTube channel wasn't growing. Though we were making good content and quality videos, we weren't growing for some reasons. I had to unlearn a lot of things because both the format and audience are quite different from that of television. Unlike television where we watch shows with our families on Sunday or Saturday, YouTube can be watched anytime and anywhere by individuals. It is more like a personal space for the audience as well as the artist. As soon as I learnt the difference, I modified a few things in my videos and the content we delivered. Now, we have over two million subscribers.
3. As you just mentioned, you have over two million subscribers. What are the lessons you have learnt so far?
When I started my YouTube channel, I thought that the age group of my audience would be 10 to 14 years but I realised that it also included 18 to 24-year-olds. So I have to upload videos and content accordingly. For instance, if I am teaching how to print on a T-shirt using some simple materials available at home, then a 21-year-old might design a superhero T-shirt or one with their favourite Bollywood star, while the 10-year-old might design a cartoon or a butterfly T-shirt. Basically, I keep my techniques simple yet more aspirational.
4. Tell us about your new show on Disney Channel. What is the difference between Imagine That and MAD series?
It is unfair to compare these two shows, it's like comparing two movies of different genres. First of all, I am excited to be back on television with my new series, Imagine That. I am also enjoying my YouTube channel because whenever I put up a new video, people immediately comment on it. It's a great way to connect with people. But a lot of people have told me how they loved watching me on TV. I was very lucky that the Disney Channel approached me regarding a collaboration. Imagine That is a DIY show which is here to entertain kids as well as parents. The aim of this show is to tell people to upcycle creatively. We all know that we produce a lot of trash at home from the online shopping that we do. So the whole idea is to tell people that we must recycle the trash around us in a creative way. If you are working with the trash, it helps you stimulate ideas, creativity. Focus and concentration also increase as you work around adding more value to the trash and making it reusable.
We have added a few extraordinary features to the show. Children can send in video requests and also throw some new challenges our way to make something different using upcycled materials and we will shoot episodes around the same subject. That's how we are connecting with the audience using technology. In that way, it is a fun and entertaining show.
5. You are also a motivational speaker. Tell us about that.
We are going through a really tough time right now, especially because we have to stay indoors and cannot meet people. Naturally, we feel trapped but the young ones often don't understand the reason behind staying indoors. They are curious about attending classes online rather than attending them normally. But there is also a good side to it because you get to live with your family and spend time together. So, we must be grateful and try to help others in whatever way we can. With a view to help kids and adults stay away from stress or depression, I was also involved in webinars teaching them to create art and crafts with stuff available at home. I think it is these little things that matter a lot to bring happiness.
6. What are your plans for the Imagine That series and your YouTube channel?
I am super happy about the developments on the YouTube channel. I am working on new videos and concepts. A year ago, my team and I conducted several stage shows called Imaginarium through which we travelled across the country teaching DIY art and crafts, creating awareness among kids about trash and how it can harm our Earth. I hope that if everything is in place after this pandemic, we will conduct many such Imaginarium shows across the country again. In terms of Imagine That, we have received a great response from people, the show is doing really good and we hope that people make the most out of this show.
You can check his YouTube channel to learn creative and DIY art: www.youtube.com/user/madstuffwithrob?sub_confirmation=1