Koral Dasgupta is not embarrassed to acknowledge her fangirl-like crush on Shah Rukh Khan. So much so that she wrote a book examining the Bollywood star’s business and marketing prowess—most evident in the hold he has over people like herself.
“I am going to be a star who is self-made,” Khan famously said in a 2011 interview. “And since I am self-made, I’ll create a category for myself that did not exist before, will never exist after.”
It is this entrepreneurship of self that is at the core of Power of a Common Man (Khan’s oft-repeated phrase from last year’s hit Chennai Express). He wasn’t interviewed for the book but Dasgupta, a business school instructor (until recently she had taught at Mumbai’s United World School of Business), examines his brand as rigorously as a case study. The book is packed with marketing lingo—chapters are titled “A Psychographic Analysis of SRK Films” and ”Consumer Connection and Motivation”—and tries to extrapolate business lessons from the world’s second wealthiest entertainer (with a net worth of $600 million, he’s only behind Jerry Seinfeld, although boasts three times as many Twitter followers).
The key takeaways:
1. Khan will endorse practically anything
He’s everywhere, from an international watch brand Tag Heuer; Pepsi (India was the first country where movie stars endorsed Coke and Pepsi), to women’s beauty soap Lux (a supposedly naked Khan in a tub surrounded by four Bollywood stars—Hema Malini, Sridevi, Juhi Chawla and Kareena Kapoor); and his most controversial—Fair and Handsome skin-lightening cream, for which he has been criticized by several groups. On this last one, the star refuses to engage in the controversy and comment.
2. Timing is everything. Case in point: His films of the 1990s
Dilwale Dulhaniyan Le Jaynge (1995), Pardes (1997), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) all were released just as the global Indian flexed his identity. Unlike in the past, when Bollywood would go shoot a song or two abroad, characters were suddenly entirely living in the west, creating so-called NRI cinema. Khan became the first Bollywood star to embody the NRI (nonresident Indian) on screen.
His subsequent films, including the recent My Name is Khan (2010) opened up new markets for Indian cinema, from Egypt to Poland to China.
3. Delegate delegate delegate
All of Khan’s business decisions—launching his production house Red Chillies, its visual effects division, and the investment in the KKR cricket league involved intense decision-making. But the actor is also known to pass along the execution of these operations to people he trusts, including his wife. In what is still a reflection of old family-run businesses in India, Khan never assigns titles and designations to people who run these ventures.
Like the best Bollywood films, his blend of old world and new world seem to balance out just fine.