From a struggling youngster trying to find his feet two decades ago, he is now King Khan of Bollywood. Shah Rukh Khan not only rules silver screens, he endorses cars, watches and sells dreams as well. He also has business ideas in areas in which he is passionate about. He runs the country’s leading cricket franchise KKR and hopes to get into many more sports. Speaking to Bloomberg TV India , Khan says he is a believer of Make in India and praises the Swachh Bharat initiative. Excerpts:
You have been associated with Hyundai for almost two decades now, a rare feat. Can you sum up the journey with Hyundai?
I think very few people will understand this, because now they see it as a successful association 18 years down the line. But, there was a lot of commonality when we started. Hyundai was from a different country; in a new city, fledgling and starting off absolutely new, and as a novice. I was exactly the same. I had come from Delhi. I was trying to find my feet and trying to figure out where life takes me. Will I make it? Won’t I? I have a service to provide like they have. But we both didn’t know where we’re going with it. So we started off then.
We both got associated in a new place, a new environment, a new attempt, a new hope and a new aspiration — two people who were trying to make it and stand on their feet. So somewhere, there is a very interesting romance between the two of us or a relationship, which has developed. But, I think it’s just the respect we’ve created for each other and the respect we have for each other. And you know, success had its own magic of making people stick together.
And it worked brilliantly for the brand…
I think there’s a misnomer when people say that brands work because of the ambassador. I think it’s actually the other way around because I think the brand ambassador is like a wrapping. It could be a good wrapping. It could be mediocre wrapping, whatever depending on the work you do. But I think, finally nobody’s going to buy a product if it does not justify and if it does not satisfy what you buy it for.
So I think Hyundai itself has done really well to come from a different market and understand the intricacies, culture, family values; about the sun shine car, about the happiness it can spread and about the pricing. Yes, people can get attracted to an Indian face for a foreign car to start with. But finally, the car has to deliver. It has to be more than just four wheels. It has to give you something more than what the ambassador promises you. And that depends on the technology and how they’ve innovated the car every now and then, and changed something that I feel really sad about — they let go off Santro.
You’ve never been a car fan. Being associated with a brand which stands for being an automobile company, how difficult was the choice when you took on and said that this is a brand you want to associate with?
Yes. I’m not a car freak. But for me, it’s a basic necessity. It’s never been the big one or the small one. And to be honest, Hyundai was one of the most popular names that I’d heard internationally before it came to India, one of the top guns and one of the finest cars. When I sat with the team initially and even till date, 18 years later, we just feel happy that my films are doing well and I’m happy that the car is doing well. And it’s a fantastic car.
The government is coming up with a lot of schemes like Swachh Bharat and promoting yoga. Do you want to be associated with these causes?
Personally, because I am technologically-minded, I like the Make in India concept. I’m a big believer of that. I mean, if you would take slogans and put it in place, I think Make in India. I believe in the notion: make everything here as best as the world does and send it all across the world because I think, we as Indians, as technocrats, innovators, thinkers and scientists, have a great mind. And, we have a lot of people too. And I’m sure we can collectively come together and make anything.
And we’re innovative. We may not have resources at hand, but we do it. And if we extend this a little, it’s actually a step towards invention. It’s a step towards scientific discovery. We have a young population. We have the workforce. We have the minds. We have the brains.
Implementation is the key…
Implementation will happen when the infrastructure is in place. So it’s not an overnight concept that you just announce it and it’s going to happen. Swachh Bharat is not an overnight concept. It’s going to take time. You put the idea out, then you provide the dustbins and then you get it implemented everywhereWhen I travelled to Singapore, it’s quite outstanding that they’ve put in place regulations, implementations, and the infrastructure was provided. All three things will go hand in hand.
Most of these things (government schemes) be nice. When you get to hear Amitabh Bachchan on polio vaccination, I think it’s amazing. We don’t understand it being in cities. But it’s the call of the day. I hear it’s been eradicated to a great extent. And that’s nice to hear. And what does it take for a movie star? Stand in front of a light and say a few lines. Feel for it and that’s it, if it helps.
Do you believe the followers will get engaged in that message?
If I can sell an engine, I can sell a good thought too. And I can sell dreams.
You sell dreams, undoubtedly. You are an entrepreneur as well. You have invested in KidZania and Red Chillies Entertainment. How are those coming along?
I’ve said this and I don’t say it out to shirk away from my responsibilities as a businessman or from the businesses my companies do. But I’m an actor. So I act very well as a businessman. But I’ve got genuine people with me who know their stuff. And some of the time, what I bring to the table is an idea and say, ‘let’s do this’. And I have a feeling behind it. And I’ve said this a hundred times before: don’t do a business that you’re not passionate about.
So, I like children. I like sports. I like movies. I’m passionate about these things. And it shows in my actions at times. Sometimes, maybe it’s not there for everyone to see. I love movies. That’s my job. That’s my core competence. So whatever I have passion for, I try to extend it and expand it. Like I said, bring it to India, Make in India, and hopefully one day with that business, as immodest as it sounds — the jump has to be high enough — I want to rule the world.
You rule hearts of many already.
Yes. But that’s my acting part and my film making part. There are other things I like and I hope I can manage it. If I don’t, at least I have fun because I have passion for it. But beyond that, the number crunching, house stuff, projections and yearly, half-yearly meetings, I go for them. But I have an amazing team of people, and over the years, all of them have joined me because they have passion for one of the aspects that I do and not just for the money part of it. And I’m very happy to have them. And they kind of make me look good, just like my make-up man does.
Is it correct to assume that Kolkata Knight Riders is in profits because you have a great team behind handling it?
Absolutely, I just go and stand in front of the balcony, hold my son and feel sad if we lose. But I have Venki who runs the team under him. They are fantastic. Of course, having said that, we do have a little advantage and it has to be utilised properly. We have the biggest stadium in the country, we have a lot more ticket sales and all that was planned by him and designed by him.
But to carry forth an organisation like this, which was on the losing side for the first three years, he did not lose hope. It is okay if we did not make money as long as we did not win. But now we win and we make money. That is great. And I have no part to play in either of the two things. I don’t play cricket and I don’t play business.
Will we see you associating with other sports, or is it only cricket?
We have looked into lots of them. — Formula One (F1), soccer. It has to be viable because I do business with my own money. That is the only business criteria I have in the company and have a say in. It becomes difficult. We are not a corporate. Many a times, we have to let go of something because we can’t afford it. But now we have gone for the Caribbean Premier League. We can afford it 3-4 years later. Sometimes we have shirked away because we can’t do the business. Sometimes we didn’t find it viable enough.