Has the club closed? Is Clubhouse losing its female users, we find out...

Clubhouse might have been the hottest app in the social media networking space a few months ago. Users feel otherwise, today. We speak to five female users to figure what the status quo is on the app

Five months after Clubhouse launched its Android avatar and India took to the audio social media networking app like moths to a flame, the popularity of the app is slowly but surely dwindling. One of the most popular rooms, that involved the sharing of daily updates of news in English and Malayalam, once attracted close to a thousand listeners per session and today struggles to keep its listeners, numbered less than a hundred usually, occupied. What happened to the obsession with Clubhouse and are audio social media apps a trend that’s here to stay? The reasons are many, as we find out, in conversation with five female users of the app in Chennai. Why women, you ask? Well, the app was heralded (though, now probably prematurely) as the next big space for female representation with safety nets in place. Has this been true? Did Chennai embrace Clubhouse wholeheartedly? Will the city continue to show up in large numbers on the platform? We find out.

It’s brand new

“The biggest draw of an app like Clubhouse was that it allowed you to be absolutely unconcerned about how you looked while you participated in a room. For people like me, who also run live streams on platforms like Instagram and YouTube, this was an absolute sigh of relief. I could participate in a room at any time and from anywhere,” explains 67-year-old danseuse and artiste Anita Ratnam who hosts a club called Chutney Mami (473 members) and has 658 followers on the app.

“We definitely took to the audio format and why not? It’s a democratic space and it is easy being a fly on the wall. You also begin to realise how people listen or don’t listen to one another on a platform like this. I haven’t really made a lot of connections on the app, but was able to participate in an online competition called Voice of Clubhouse that was really successful in Tamil and is now being replicated in Telugu,” says 37-year-old singer and musician, Chinmayi Sripada, who has over 7,000 followers on the app.

Same old, same old

Experiences were however very different for 26-year-old plus-size model and actress Akshaya Navaneethan. With a background in advocacy and emceeing, Akshaya initially found the platform wonderfully welcoming. “Initially, it was super exciting. I was hosting a number of rooms, none of which I owned, on topics as varied as sexuality and music. It brought a lot of positive reinforcement into my life. I could talk about a range of topics from identity and adoption to common interests and sometimes harmless flirting. As the months passed though, the novelty wore off and most rooms just devolved into demeaning and shallow games based on choosing people based on their profile pictures. I haven’t been on the app for over two months now,” explains Akshaya, who had over 4,000 followers when she was on the app.

Chinmayi Sripada, Anita Ratnam & Akshaya Navaneethan
Chinmayi Sripada, Anita Ratnam & Akshaya Navaneethan

Mrs Chennai Superwoman 2019 winner Bhagyam Aravind agrees. “As a differently-abled person, I first found a lot of warmth and acceptance in the various rooms I joined. But then over time, the topics weren’t really moving beyond casual dating. Occasionally, I would find an interesting group or a room and it would pique my interest for a while, but other than the platform I get to possibly spread advocacy on many of the issues I espouse, the app is just another social medium now,” says the motivational speaker and genetic engineer who has 312 followers on the app.

Bhagyam Aravind (centre) winning Mrs Chennai Superwoman 2019
Bhagyam Aravind (centre) winning Mrs Chennai Superwoman 2019

The future?

It’s been a very different experience for 24-year-old Trishia Santhus. “I joined Clubhouse the day it launched for Android and when I got on, I noticed a complete absence of rooms for anyone from the South. Most of the rooms were based out of Delhi and Mumbai and while it was great to engage with people from all over the country, there wasn’t content out there that was relevant or relatable for anyone from Chennai. And that’s how I decided to start the club Everything Chennai (29,000+ members) to bring together people who connect on this identity. It was the lockdown and so it worked. It was the perfect distraction that we needed while we couldn’t step out. Today, with the lockdowns lifted, the participation in the rooms has drastically reduced, but we still manage to bring in conversations on topics as diverse as Chennai nostalgia and investing to horror stories and what we think of Spencer Plaza. I think the app does have a future, but only time will tell or maybe another lockdown possibly,” shares the digital creator and social media manager who has over 8,000 followers on the app now.

Trishia Santhus
Trishia Santhus

Clubhouse has seen more than 6 million downloads in India alone, within a month after it launched on May 21, 2021. The latest numbers are not available, but Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, Clubhouse founders, told the media that the app had over 2 million-plus active users in India as of June 18, 2021.


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