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2020’s Social Media Heroes

Published in Nov-Dec 2020

A list of a few rather surprising heroes in Pakistan’s 2020 social media sphere.

2020 was a year of uncertainties and dark shadows. Yet, at the same time, it brought fame and fortune to some. Here is a list of a few rather surprising heroes in Pakistan’s 2020 social media sphere.

Shaniera Akram is Pakistan’s national bhabhi. Here is one woman with literally zero haters. Everyone rushes to protect her if anyone raises his or her voice against her on social media – which by the way has a combined tally of 1.6 million followers across platforms. Bhabhi has earned respect by her demeanour and poise. She has stood for social causes such as cleaning Karachi beaches, rights for domestic staff and #MeToo, among others. She was featured in branded videos about Pakistani food, speaking Urdu and often found engaging in friendly social media banter with her husband and other cricketers.What to expect in 2021: With her civic sense and socio-political awareness, bhabhi’s follower count is bound to increase. We expect her to create awareness about more social issues and use her voice to generate action among people.

Tabish Hashmi’s rise to fame on social media has been swift. He is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Covid-19. His self-shot videos on fairytales like Cinderella and Red Riding Hood began to circulate on WhatsApp during the lockdown. Nashpati Prime gave him his own show called To Be Honest and clips from the show went viral, in particular the one where he is seen with Maani making fun of political parties. Hashmi’s humour is very Karachiesque, like a true graduate of the Umar Sharif School of Comedy. His social media following has crossed 100K in less than six months.

What to expect in 2021: Last week, Season Two of To Be Honest was released and it looks like we will soon have our own digital late-night show. Step aside Jimmy Kimmel, there’s a new sheriff in town.

Ayesha Chundrigar’s Foundation (ACF) has done excellent work for animal rescue since 2014. However, 2020 was a definitive year for the Foundation. A lot of the work carried out by Chundrigar and her team came to the mainstream media this year, particularly during the Karachi rains, and created ripples on social media as well. Her Instagram account and the ACF Facebook page (followed by almost 100K animal lovers) were used to create awareness about helping animals at ACF’s sanctuary and the pet stores of Empress Market. Her followers and account also created vibes about animal abuse at zoos located across Pakistan.

What to expect in 2021: ACF needs more support from donors and Chundrigar will need to become more active in fundraising. This could come from brand collaboration with ACF. The foundation also needs to expand its geographical presence to other cities.

Zainab Abbas is not just an influencer anymore; she is a game-changer. Her fan following has reached three million across all social media platforms. Her biggest achievement is not becoming a popular sports presenter; it is opening doors to women in what used to be considered a male-dominated field. Following in her footsteps, more women have been seen in sports broadcasts in Pakistan, although Abbas is in a league of her own. She was the face of PSL 2020, when all the matches were played in Pakistan for the first time, and she has been a constant in any form of cricket played in or by Pakistan.

What to expect in 2021: Her stock is on the rise and with the T20 World Cup coming up next year we expect bigger things from this woman of substance.

Sami Qahar is CEO, Stimulus Productions,