I’m a self-made man’
Koral Dasgupta uses Bollywood and brand SRK to effectively explain business practices in Power of a Common Man
The sun had gone down in Mumbai city and it was close to midnight; daybreak to no ordinary day but that of November 2. While most of the city peacefully slept, there were thousands who were in the mood for a celebration. These thousands had arrived at ‘Mannat’ in Bandra to celebrate the 49th birthday of their favourite star — Shah Rukh Khan. Reaching before midnight, they wanted to be the first to wish him a very happy birthday! Elated and humbled at seeing the exceptional turn out of a party he had never planned, Shah Rukh spent hours greeting his fans and soaking in their collective love. “I wish that everyone gets a life like Shah Rukh Khan”, he said. After the stupendous success of his recently released film Happy New Year, it looked like it was going to be a happy birthday too.
For an ordinary-looking Delhi boy who came to Mumbai to try his luck in the entertainment business, SRK has had an exceptional journey that most of us (in my generation, at least) have been witness to. From the fiery Abhimanyu Rai of Fauji to Raj, Rahul, Don and finally Charlie, it’s the intangible, magnetic force of SRK magic that helped him climb up the glitzy Bollywood ladder and take his rightful place in the hearts of millions of fans — not just in India, but around the world — as ‘King Khan’.
But there is more to SRK than his energetic screen presence. He is one of the most visible Bollywood stars in television commercials, an entrepreneur with his own production house and the co-owner of a cricket team. Chronicling his rise to fame and examining the reasons for his long reign at the top is Mumbai-based college professor Koral Dasgupta in her book aptly titled Power of a Common Man.
As a teacher of marketing management, Dasgupta’s biggest concerns were the backbenchers in her class, who never showed an interest in topics such as consumer behaviour, brand management, mergers and acquisitions and business diversifications. Trying different ways to broach the topics, she realised she might have hit jackpot when she gave references from Bollywood, the world of sports or Indian epics. A true-blue Shah Rukh Khan fan, Koral began to explain consumerism and consumer behaviour using the example of (what else!) brand SRK. And there were sown the seeds of her first book Power of A Common Man — Connecting with Consumers the SRK Way.
“My book is an effort to academically decode the actor’s business brain,” says Dasgupta, as she explores brand SRK from his journey from Baazigar to My Name is Khan and Dreamz Unlimited/Red Chillies (SRK’s business initiatives) to the Indian Premier League.
In his recent movie, SRK’s character famously quotes that there are two kinds of people in the world — winners and losers. Dasgupta takes the winners’ categories and further identifies them into four kinds of players who exist in the market, sharing space or fighting over market dominance, using the Bollywood stars as examples (now, who wouldn’t enjoy a class like that?).
These are Leaders, Challengers, Followers and Nichers.
Leaders in the Bollywood business are SRK, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan. They focus their energy on constantly expanding their market share or defending their current status. While Salman oozes style and performs whistle-inducing stunts, Aamir and Hrithik intelligently choose films that reflect their poise and substance; money and ranking follow automatically. SRK draws a balance between them all, offering something for everyone with his choice of films. The brands he chooses to endorse are another testament to the vast majority he wants to woo. Be it an advertisement for a fairness cream, a car, a luxury watch or a beauty soap — he has touched all segments of society.
Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan come under Challengers, in terms of star power, she says, when we judge them with respect to their films, endorsements and popularity while Abhishek Bachchan, Imraan Khan and Sharman Joshi come under Followers. These are less experimental with their choices and are often paired with another successful hero or heroine; don’t be fooled though — their contribution carries its own appeal. Finally, Abhay Deol and John Abraham are the Nichers, who don’t fall into the mainstream category and make themselves available for roles that are often not too predictable.
For Shah Rukh Khan, targeting it right has always been very important, the book says. When he first entered the film industry, people found him too thin, too dark, his hair was too thick, he spoke too fast and they questioned him as to why he wanted to be a part of this industry. “To make people smile,” he had said back then. And every time, it was the same response. He also said that he wants to make movies “so damned big” that his parents “somewhere in heaven can sit on some star and see” them.
He created his own standard, his own style and his own benchmark of excellence — which is why he feels he can’t be beaten. “I don’t have competition. And I don’t say that with immodesty or self-centered pompousness. I am going to be a star who is self-made. And since I am self-made, I’ll create a category for myself which did not exist before and will never exist after,” adding, “I’m here to entertain the youth, and I plan to entertain them till they grow old.”
Dasgupta’s students were ecstatic with the book as it gave them a fresh understanding of not only the topic of consumerism but also the way Shah Rukh Khan entered the psyche of his followers (“consumers”), leaving a lasting impact with his innovative marketing practices.
The topics of marketing management like consumer behaviour, branding, competition analysis, target marketing, psychographic analysis, cultural influence, consumer connection and motivation, perception, diversification, innovation, positioning, consumerism etc are all explained throughout the course of this book — against the romantic backdrop of Bollywood with SRK as the hero.
“I am just an employee of the Shah Rukh Khan myth,” SRK had once said. Aren’t we all?
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