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U of R Business grad scores #1 song, viral hit on TikTok, and major music label partnership

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: July 23, 2020 11:00 a.m.

U of R Alumnus Hitesh Sharma DipBA’15, who performs under the name Tesher, recently reached the top spot on the BBC Asian Music Chart with his viral hit single, the Bollywood-inspired hip hop track Young Shahrukh.
U of R Alumnus Hitesh Sharma DipBA’15, who performs under the name Tesher, recently reached the top spot on the BBC Asian Music Chart with his viral hit single, the Bollywood-inspired hip hop track Young Shahrukh. Photo: University Advancement and Communications

Social media has allowed people to connect – no matter where on earth they are. It has also allowed one University of Regina alumnus to gain viral fame halfway around the world with a song he recorded in his bedroom. 

On July 10, Hitesh Sharma DipBA’15 reached the top of the BBC Asian Music Chart with his hit single Young Shahrukh. Sharma, who performs under the moniker Tesher, has been releasing music to platforms including SoundCloud and YouTube since he was in high school. Drawing inspiration from the traditional Indian music he grew up on, Sharma has built a worldwide online following with his unique fusion of genres such as Bollywood, bhangra, and western pop and hip hop.

With some unexpected exposure for his music on the social media platform TikTok, along with his own savvy social media promotion, the Toronto-based rapper and producer has been able to reach a massive global audience and earn the top spot for one of his singles.  

Sharma, a native of Regina and graduate of Campbell Collegiate, attended the U of R from 2013-15, completing the Diploma of Business program through the Hill School of Business. A hardworking and focused student, Sharma made the Dean’s list each semester of his program, was the recipient of the prestigious Hill-Ivey Scholarship, and subsequently completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School.

During his time as a U of R student, Sharma was heavily involved on campus as an Ambassador Leader with the U of R Ambassador Program and as a Creative Director for the Hill Business Students’ Society (BSS). While volunteering with the BSS, Sharma was able to sharpen his marketing skills by helping to promote the BSS’ events and programs.  

“Taking those foundational business classes taught me many important marketing and business concepts,” said Sharma. “With the BSS’ marketing team, I was able to gain a ton of hands-on experience creating videos, music, posters, and developing and executing promotional campaigns. I learned a lot about how social media marketing and promotion work.”

In March, Sharma discovered that one of his old songs, a mashup of Old Town Road and Ramta Jogi, had become popular in India on TikTok as the inspiration for a viral video challenge. To date, more than 500,000 videos have been posted to TikTok featuring the song.  

“People found that remix through TikTok and wanted to know what else I had released,” said Sharma. “The success of that remix led people to discover Young Shahrukh and it just started to build, and eventually became a hit.” 

The music video for Young Shahrukh, an original song inspired by iconic Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan, premiered on Sharma’s YouTube channel in February. Sharma promoted the song with a social media campaign and it instantly became his most successful song to date with his self-produced music video gaining thousands of views in its first few days of release.

As time went on and with the new exposure Sharma was receiving through TikTok, more and more people began discovering Young Shahrukh, and it became the BBC Track of the Week, the most Shazamed song in India, and charted on Spotify’s Viral 50 in ten countries. Dozens of other media outlets, primarily from the United Kingdom and India, featured the song and interviewed Sharma to learn more about his music. This exposure not only introduced Sharma’s music to a more mainstream audience, but helped him garner the attention of a major music label.

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As a member of the BSS, Sharma holds a
poster he designed for Business Dinner.
Photo: Hill Business Students’ Society

Sharma poses in front of the U of R sign
after Spring Convocation 2015.
Photo: Hitesh Sharma

 

“Sony Music India saw the song blowing up on TikTok,” said Sharma. “They reached out and we formed a partnership for them to distribute the record and help take it to the mainstream.”

Since his partnership began with Sony Music India - one of India’s largest music labels - Young Shahrukh has blown up, being viewed on YouTube more than 8 million times across the platform, gaining more than 6 million listens across streaming platforms, and earning its own viral fame as the inspiration for more than 266,000 TikTok videos and counting. After six weeks climbing the BBC Asian Music Chart, Young Shahrukh claimed the #1 spot. Despite achieving so much social media success, reaching the top of a major music chart was confirmation for Sharma that he had earned a place in the music industry.

“When I wrote Young Shahrukh, I had a really good feeling about it,” said Sharma. “What has happened since, however, is absolutely crazy and beyond anything I could have dreamed.”

Even before the release of Young Shahrukh, Sharma, who works in digital marketing in Toronto – home to Canada’s largest Indo-Canadian population – noted that he would occasionally be recognized as Tesher. Currently in Regina and working from home, Sharma is happy to be home and enjoying the anonymity.

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Tesher’s Young Shahrukh has been viewed more than 8 million times on YouTube.
Photo: Sony Music India

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I attended concerts and would get tapped on the shoulder by people asking ‘Are you Tesher? I love your music!’” said Sharma. “Once the world gets back to normal, I’m wondering if that will happen more often.”

Dr. Gina Grandy, Dean of the Hill and Levene Schools of Business, commented on the incredible success Sharma has had as a young graduate in his business and music careers. 

“I am so pleased to hear of the achievements of another incredibly creative, innovative, and driven alumnus of the Hill School of Business,” said Grandy. “Hitesh is a shining example of how the completion of a business program from the U of R ensures that students can graduate career-ready with the business skills to succeed in any venue – anywhere. We can’t wait to see what he accomplishes next.” 

Now with a hit single of his own and many artists reaching out with collaboration opportunities, Sharma is inspired to keep the momentum that Young Shahrukh has started. While the U of R grad is keeping his feet firmly planted, continuing his career in digital marketing, he is excited about what the future may hold.

“I have lots of new songs ready to go and a ton of new ideas,” said Sharma. “This is only the beginning!”