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From bricks to clicks, Pakistani laborer achieves fame and financial independence via YouTube videos

SANGHAR: Riaz Ali, 34, would stack brick over brick and bond them with mortar, a thick paste of cement, water and sand, as he built homes and did other manual labor work for years in the southern Pakistani district of Sanghar.

In 2022, he started making engaging video content that included throwing and catching mortar, targeting a tall pole with a motorbike tire and some prank videos, which have not only turned the daily wager into a millionaire but also a digital sensation.

Ali, better known as Riaz Jaan, initially posted videos on TikTok after which a friend advised him to post them on YouTube. He created his YouTube channel in April 2022 which was monetized only nine months later.

He now earns 20 times more than what he used to make two years ago.

“As a laborer, my wage was Rs1,500 [per day]. In a month, I used to earn Rs30,000 or Rs35,000 ($107-$125) as it was an inconsistent livelihood,” he told Arab News on Thursday.

“From YouTube, I earn more than Rs500,000 ($1,795) per month.”

Ali, who has 1.9 million subscribers on YouTube, 439,000 followers on TikTok and 359,000 on Facebook, says his content went viral through YouTube Shorts — vertical videos that have a duration of 60 seconds or less.

“My first earnings on YouTube were Rs800,000 ($2,872). I had never seen such a huge amount of money before. My family and I were so delighted that such a significant sum had come into my hands,” he said.

“After YouTube, my life changed. As they say, when Allah gives, He gives abundantly.”

Ali, who started working as a daily wager in 2010, has left his laboring job since becoming a digital sensation but still makes videos related to his former work.

He has also enabled the sharing of his viral videos on YouTube, helping several other content creators have engagement on their channels.

“There are people from various countries who repost my content and videos on their channels, and their channels have also been monetized,” he said. “I have granted them permission.”

This success has helped Ali buy two residential plots and two buffaloes, send his children to better schools, and take care of his family in a much better way. The 30-year-old has also bought a mobile phone worth Rs500,000, which he uses to create quality video content.

But Ali has not kept his success to himself and has passed his digital skills on to his family, friends and whoever he found willing to learn.

“Besides myself, my brother also has a YouTube channel where he posts labor-related videos. His channel has also been monetized,” he told Arab News.

“Additionally, I have two sons, Ali Ayan and Zeb Zohan, whose channel is also monetized.”

He says neither his brother’s nor his sons’ channels gained traction in the beginning and so, he began posting his content on their channels, which helped them gain momentum. Consequently, both channels were monetized.

The 30-year-old offers free, informal consultancy services to youth, who are interested in establishing their own YouTube channels, in his hometown of Jhol in Sanghar. He says he has around 50 to 60 youngsters, who either have monetized channels or are actively working toward them.

“I guide them all, and they follow my directions,” Ali said.

Ali Raza, a farmer and a friend of Ali, got inspired by seeing his friend earn through YouTube. Raza created his own account on the video-sharing website, where he posts funny videos.

“Since Riaz Jaan is teaching others, I also joined his group. It’s been four months since my YouTube channel has been monetized,” Ali Raza told Arab News.

“I earn between Rs25,000 and Rs30,000 ($89-$107) per month.”

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