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Entertainment – In Conversation with SRK

Parag Dave

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not done too badly for himself as an entertainer-businessman either. His business, Red Chillies, has grown from a small seven-heads mom-and-pop show to a production house that has diversified into every aspect of the entertainment business, from films to TV commercials, telly serials to special effects studio. And with the Kolkata Knight Riders, he has forayed into what he says will be the next big thing for India. “Typically, developing countries move from roti, kapda, makaan to entertainment and finally, sports… India is no longer developing and we are on the threshold of moving from entertainment to sports,” he says. “And I want to be there and be a part of it.”

In business as in entertainment, King Khan’s mantra is pretty much the same: Keep it basic and simple. That’s part of the reason why brand SRK has been so successful for so long. “I stand for entertainment,” he says. “Brand building stands for the basic truth your grandma told you… work hard, be simple, keep it simple, have fun and make the organisation feel it was value for money.”

That mantra extends to his business as well. For Khan, the business bottomline is simple: You can’t lose money with the king. “My first rule of business is I have to make sure you gain from the business,” he says. “When people say big star, King Khan etc, it’s a big burden… and I am like God. Now if they work with me and lose, it really sucks… you can’t lose with the king, can you?”

That positioning is backed by some smart marketing and even smarter PR. Tongue firmly in cheek, Khan says he’s not really as smart as people think he is. ”You become smart when you’re in trouble.” That’s what made him rope in some of the brands he endorses into films he makes like Om Shanti Om and the IPL team he owns. “I believed in IPL. It’s a great idea,” he says. “I explained the big picture to friends like Nokia and they came on board. I said no matter how well or badly my team plays, this is a winning idea.”

Of course, he’s very clear that it doesn’t pay to be a stand-up comedian for two people. “The first rule of entertainment is mass communication. You just have to get enough people in the room,” he says. That’s where marketing comes in — something that he has mastered with hits like Om Shanti Om. “You gotta market the film according to its nature to make it work,” he says. So, retro OSO was over the top and Chak De more subdued.

That marketer mantra helped sell KKR even though for both seasons it ended up at the bottom of the pile. The Knight Riders did not win too many games, but the team did not lose any money, breaking even and making profits from day one. “Yes, I read in The Economic Times that KKR is making money,” he says. “It’s like you make a flop film and you make money. It doesn’t make me happy. We made some bad decisions…. sports decisions. But I am gonna win this on the field. I won’t sell the team. This is the last year when we have a chance and we have to win. My children get depressed when we lose. If I hadn’t hurt myself, I’d start playing. I’d be a better coach, maybe. I’d give my Chak De speech. It would have worked… it worked with the girls.”

As a sportsman, he may be hurting that his team isn’t top of the IPL heap, but Khan is smart enough to realise that his business is all about Brand SRK. That’s the way of the entertainment world. “The entertainment business is all about personalities. You call it brand, I call it personality. In that way, it’s different from other products. Whether it’s Walt Disney, James Cameron, Quintin Tarantino… they have a personality and their films are an extension of that and that’s enter-tainment for people like me.” That’s probably why the old Red Chillies corner room also has King Khan written on the door. “It’s the king’s company, after all,” he jokes.

Building that brand in Bollywood may be his forte, but Khan isn’t a hands-on CEO. “I don’t need to run this company,” he says. “I don’t like cracking deals, power lunches, flying jetliners. I don’t sit on contracts… I am just the ideas guy.”

As Red Chillies grows from a 100-member team to 1,000 with a new office, “doing much better”, SRK sees himself more as the ideas per-son. “Red Chillies will have CEOs, COOs, CFOs, UFOs, FOs,” he jokes. “I hope they’ll give me a small room and say you’re the ideas guy… just do the ideas thing.”

For all his ideas spiel, what makes Khan, the CEO, tick is his paranoia. “It’s nice to travel first class, but I should be able to afford the tickets first,” he says. “So I work, work, work. I don’t count chickens or eggs. Maybe that’s why I am successful.” At Red Chillies too is work-round-the-clock. “Most of the businesses aren’t hugely profitable, but we break even. We keep things cheap and fast. But beyond breaking even and making profits, we have great fun doing it,” he says.

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September 28, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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