Every morning on my way to work, I used to dread passing through the bottleneck at the Toll plaza at the Delhi Gurgaon Expressway. Long lineups, chaos and frustration was everyday routine, and coming back in the evening was worse.
An idea had been brewing in my head for many months, about turning this everyday ordeal into a joyous experience.
So I did an experiment. For many days, when my car reached the toll plaza, I paid the toll and also paid for the car behind me. A random act of kindness, buying happiness for a stranger for Rs. 21. One day I learnt the toll plaza was shutting down, on its last day, I thought it would be cool to remember this experience with a happy memory. Took two days off to shoot and edit the video. Credit to my boss at the time for encouraging experimentation and driving action, for which I’m grateful.
Suddenly everything came together, the film workshop I had attended couple of months back, cool little camera gear I had been collecting over months, and my dream of becoming a filmmaker. A low resource filmmaker, making impactful videos for the smartphone generation. I attached three cameras to my angry little Tata Nano, hoping to document my little experiment from all angles. From going back and forth six times, to running out of money and getting permission from Toll plaza authorities to take panoramic shots of the plaza from their offices, it was a full day of a one man film shoot. Took the next day to edit, and shot little sequences, improvisations on my work table. And the end result was a nifty video under three minutes.
From Release to the Radio in 18 hours
I posted the video on YouTube and shared the video on Facebook. The next day around noon, I got a call from a Radio Jockey. My little experiment had gone viral! Phone began to buzz with messages about friends seeing the video on NDTV, IBNlive and Buzzfeed. A simple idea, had hit the stratosphere.
Here’s how far it reached
- Uploaded on YouTube
- Featured on StoryPick
- A full screenshot story on Buzzfeed
- Found its way to Reddit
- Featured on NDTV, IBNlive and Daily Bhaskar
- Featured on ThatScoop, JunkTechie,
Slowly many blogs pickup up the video, and today ever after an year, if you Google “Gurgaon Toll Surprise”, first couple search results pages are about this :) For two days since the release, me and my Nano had become a minor celebrity on the roads. People waving, conversations in cafes and signs of thumbs-up from random strangers. What a memory.
The purpose of the video was to inspire action, and to get maximum traction I released it the day the Toll Plaza officially shut down and it was all over news. Being topical was my first lesson for success in making a video to go viral. But above all the marketing mumbo-jumbo, it firmed my belief in the democratic power of social media. If you have an idea, the world is ready for it. Woody Allen once said
“80% of success is just showing up”; Execution is everything.