Business – Q&A Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan’s tryst with entrepreneurship has been difficult, yet inspiring. He weathered the disastrous fate of his first corporate venture
ABCL to gradually reclaim his iconic status in Bollywood and his business too. In a chat with Partha Ghosh, Bachchan shares some of the lessons he learnt through this experience and his plans for AB Corp.
With AB Corp Ltd on a roll with Paa, the spotlight is also back on Amitabh Bachchan, the entrepreneur. How do you see this new chapter in your life?
I am no entrepreneur and am least qualified for the job, but yes I do feel happy with the success of Paa and what it means to all of us here at AB Corp. Fortunes of celebrities in the creative world change according to their commercial standings. The fate of a film, an event and enterprise can bring the focus back on to the individual. I do not think this is any new chapter in our life. The idea really is to keep working at new ideas and thoughts. The realm of opportunity is endless. It’s what you do with it that counts.
So, you don’t see yourself as an entrepreneur?
No, I do not. I am an actor in the creative world of cinema. Under the wide umbrella of Indian cinema there are several opportunities to exploit various and varied avenues. If the road to that end is conducive to my desire I attempt to venture out into it. I am not sure whether that entertains or not or whether it makes business sense. If it excites me I go ahead and do it.
You never gave up despite debacles at ABCL and you continue putting more money into new ventures. What’s this drive about?
There is no drive as such. As I said if there are opportunities, one likes to delve into them and explore. There are shareholders in the company that look expectantly for performance and results. A keen eye has to be kept on them too.
What did people say when you started ABCL?
No one believed in the corporatisation of the film business when we formed ABCL. We were the first out of the block and were often the butt of great humour and ridicule. Our not-so-glorious start seemed to confirm what the naysayers had opined. But today there are over 20 such corporate bodies, following the pattern set by ABCL. There is redemption there. I do believe that today we may not have developed the acumen to have flourished in the business the way we had designed it, but we have the satisfaction of not having crumbled under adverse conditions. We are small today but happy that we exist. I had always believed that this was the right way. I am happy that many others think similarly now.
What do you think were the reasons behind ABCL’s losses?
Incompetence in managing the management.
It must have been a big setback for you. How did you feel when your debtors and even the media showed little confidence in your abilities?
Setbacks under any circumstance are not comfortable and they certainly were not for me either. Debtors, creditors were a regular feature at my doorstep and their language and tone was deplorable to say the least. But I am happy that I was put in that situation. It was a learning lesson for me and gave me reason to correct myself. I am glad that I did not seek bankruptcy as an exit route and stayed back and fought adversity.
Do you believe that failure in business is taboo in Indian society?
Why in business only, failure in any sphere is not looked upon favourably. You lose credibility and faith and subsequently get relegated to the background. Attention and focus from you gets diverted, you are not considered important enough. Humiliation and other related ‘tions’ follow you everywhere. It’s the way of the world. You learn to take it on the chin and stand up or be felled by the onslaught of blows.
What kept you going?
I think such conditions get you to reassess your core values and assets. Once that is identified, you start off again and make sure that the earlier mistakes are not committed. What keeps you going is your own assessment of yourself. That is the strongest feature of every individual. Lose that and you will lose everything.
What would you do differently today?
I would not venture into any action that I do not personally know how to operate. If I cannot do it myself how can I expect to guide someone in doing it for me.
There is talk about your raising money from PE firms…
No, we are not going to have a public offering and we do not wish to raise money thus. We are a lean organisation and intend to keep it so. We shall depend on our core values and hold hands with those who know jobs we are not good at.
What’s the leadership structure in AB Corp? Are you still comfortable with professionals running the company?
We have a CEO and a CFO. That’s it. Family is always there to assist in opinion and decision making and if the need arises to go out and do some field work.
We hear Mrs Jaya Bachchan is involved. How involved are Abhishek and Aishwarya?
They are sufficiently involved, as would any family in any business. They are all creative individuals in their own right and express their views accordingly. Aishwarya is not involved in running the company but she is family and executes her rights in the company as a family member, as must she should.
What is your plan going forward?
Any act that has a forward and backward integration possibility in the entertainment world shall be given its due consideration. If something exciting comes our way and we feel strongly inclined to do it, we will.
Will you own a cricket team one day?
No. I do not have that kind of money.
So, where do you invest your wealth?
I am not in possession of any perceived wealth to talk about. But whatever I earn goes to my bank.
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