The most popular stickers are those that people can relate to, have good flow and are fun or silly. Shamika Chaves (@shamika) a children’s book illustrator from Mumbai, has some quirky ones of a woman doing ‘various things’.

Words alone are passé, FB status messages so yesterday. These days we’re updating the internet on the progress of our lives through Instagram (IG) stories — a combination of pictures or videos, snappy text and all the necessary hashtags.

The zing to these stories, however, comes from the quirky animated stickers that IG so helpfully throws up for our varied moods. These gifs of hypnotising cats and nervous nailbiters tie our stories together.

And, as it turns out, some of these stickers are being made by independent Indian artists. 

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Feeling silly? You might want try Aditi Mali’s @goodbadcomics collection, featuring comic characters, Adi, and her cat, Mau, doing silly things. Feeling out of sorts? Try the droll character web comic artist, Sandy (who goes by one name), 22, whose handle has fashioned after himself. HIs handle is @sandserif. Posting from an anti-CAA protest? @creativesagainstcaa by art group, Kadak Collective, has gif stickers for you.

Finding these stickers is quite simple. Just type in the artist’s handles on the Giphy-powered search engine in the stories feature. They will also show up if you search for hashtags relevant to the images. (It works similarly on Snapchat, Facebook and TikTok, other sites that are integrated with Giphy.)

SILLY, HAPPY, FUN

Shamika Chaves (@shamika), 32, a children’s book illustrator from Mumbai, had been making gifs for years when she figured out she could also make them available on IG. “I set up an artist account on Giphy, uploaded some personal illustrations I had made of my husband and myself doing random things, entered the relevant hashtags, and waited,” she says. “Giphy moderates entries for hateful and violent content. This usually takes a few hours to a day, owing to our time difference with the US.”

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Giphy reveals how many times an artwork has been viewed, but not how many times it’s been used. So the only way to find out if your sticker has been used is if you get tagged.

The most popular gifs are those that people can relate to, have good flow and are fun / silly. “My most popular sticker is Adi doing a happy dance by moving her hands in circles,” says Mali, 22, a comic artist from Bengaluru who has made around 30 stickers.

Sandy uses his Stories to tell his audience that there are more of his dark and funny stickers out there. “There’s no money in art on IG, but it’s just fun to see my readers and famous people use it, even if they don’t know who I am. [Musican] @iamhalsy and [retail chain] @hottopic have used them once each.” His page on Giphy has registered over almost 169 million views.

Unlike YouTube, which is largely an independent content sharing site, such staggering numbers on Giphy do not make the artist money. Instagram, too, struggles with this. 

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Giphy is a platform. Sure, my work gets visibility, but it’s a weird tradeoff. It feels unfair,” says Mira Malhotra, who runs Studio Kohl (@studiokohl), a boutique design house in Mumbai, which designed a series of stickers for musician Tejas Menon’s album, Make It Happen.

For now, the only way to make money is to by making stickers for brands and artists that want to capitalise on this feature. And there are plenty of those when you search for them. UberEats India, for instance, used personalised stickers to get clients to participate in their #eatslikeafoodie campaign, and messaging app, Hike, has stickers of conversation tropes.

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