I'm the best! That's one line he is known by, said Shahrukh Khan at the launch of my latest book, Thorns to Competition, which I coauthored with my wife Rajita. It was supposed to be a normal book launch with Shahrukh Khan – the man I personally think is the most intelligent, educated, witty and charming superstar the country has. But it turned out to be something else. Not just did Shahrukh launch the book, he also spoke in detail about how he had applied every concept of the book in his life. And his speech became a journey of his life. It sure was special, more so since he is known to be shy and rarely to open up like this in public. I have experienced this special side of him at least a couple of times in the past as well during our events. This time, I felt I must write on it. It’s pure inspiration for one and all to know of this side of his life and it sure will help the masses know this iconic man and his amazing journey better. I thought of writing this piece more so because today morning, when I made a Facebook entry on how I thought Shahrukh was so intelligent, I was instantly barraged by messages asking me to write more on the same.
However, before I write more about what he spoke, let me admit that like a majority of people in this country, I am a huge fan of Shahrukh, and that I feel I have been extremely lucky (it’s my pure luck that I had the opportunity to know Shahrukh from relatively closer quarters, much before he became this iconic superstar, through a very dear common friend of ours, Sabiena) that in every event of IIPM which he has come to, he has spoken about something that people later insisted that they had never heard before. Yes, I know he feels quite relaxed here due to his past links, but I don't think that is what makes him share so much. I believe that when he comes to IIPM, he sees students looking up to him. And he knows he shouldn’t just be entertaining them. Rather, he should leave a message to make a difference to their lives. And the messages have mostly been very, very meaningful, honest and drawn straight from his life’s experiences, as expected out of a man of immense intelligence and education like him. Similarly, when he comes to a book launch, he sees a totally different class of very learned people sitting across the stage, and I believe he gets into a totally different world of ideas and philosophies just to live up to their expectations.
I believe his tremendous habit of reading is what makes him totally different from most others. I have always believed that you can't be a great leader if you aren't a great reader! In fact, I tell my friends – just like in the case of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan – reading Shahrukh's social media entries is a great lesson on how to look at various facets of life and express them through absolutely brilliantly words. Come to think of it, both Shahrukh and Mr. Bachchan are known for their education, extremely brilliant communication skills, their unique way of expressing themselves, and of course, above all else, both of them made it to the top through their sheer sincere hard work and perseverance despite not being traditional good-lookers!
In this book, Rajita and I used ‘T-H-O-R-N-S’ as an acronym for six competition beating strategies! They are: Target it right | Hit where it hurts | Obsess with it | Reinvent it | Nail it | Sell it | And when Shahrukh was introduced as the star who has literally given thorns to his competition during his entire journey, he decided to speak on what each of these letters stood for in his life! Yes, this is how the Badshah of Bollywood has given thorns to his competition... Read on! Coming to the first principle; in the book, we focussed on the need to identify and ‘T’arget one’s consumer segment right. For Shahrukh too, targeting it right has always been very important! However, while most stars in the industry will consider the audience whom they wish to please as their key target, Shahrukh’s target has been beyond all this. He said that when he came to this industry, people found him too thin... too dark... thought he spoke too fast, that his hair was like a bear – all over the place – so on, so forth... and questioned him on why he even wanted to be in the film industry. His response always used to be, “To make people smile!” They couldn’t relate to this answer. They insisted that people came to the film industry to make money, to get rich; and said that what Shahrukh was professing couldn’t be true. When they asked him why he wanted to be a movie star, he said, “I want to be a movie star for my late parents... I want to make movies so damned bloody big that my parents, somewhere up in heaven, can sit on some star and see my movies from there too, and say, ‘Hey, we can see his movies from here better than we can see the Great Wall of China... We can see his movies covering the face of this earth’...” And that has been his target. A target that no one can compete with. It’s his own set, standard of excellence. And that's why he feels that he can't be beaten, for he has never fought the battle that everyone else has been fighting. For him, the target needs to have an ideology, and only then, he believes, can one succeed!
Hitting where it hurts, our book’s second principle, has been as important for Shahrukh. While our book speaks about comparative advertising and competitive intelligence gathering, Shahrukh jovially said he did feel like hitting a lot of people when he entered the industry. And still does! But he can't, thanks to where he has reached! So he has decided not to pick up cudgels. To hit hard, he decided to change the game. He decided to go on a route that no one has gone on before. He even took up bad-guy roles. He is now making the biggest film that this country has ever seen. And that's how he hits them hard. He plays a game that others are not into, and changes the rules of the game – something that anyone studying his career will vouch for!
In our book, ‘O’ stands for obsessing with the customer and the nation. For Shahrukh, obsessing is what he does. He said that he never tells his children that he does films so that he can earn for their future or give them better lives. He tells them that he does films for himself. He does films because he loves it. He is obsessed with it. And even now, he says, he gets up in the middle of the night and mutters “Kkk... Kiran!” to his wife’s questioning eyes! He went on to talk about his obsession by sharing something that stars rarely do. He said his grandmother used to tell him that every time a camera flashed, it took away a minute of one’s life – Shahrukh confessed that his obsession with movies was such that he would rather have so many cameras flashing at him that his life ended in a second’s time (this, incidentally, is also the last line of his yet-to-be finished autobiography). That's how he wants to go... giving the last shot for a film. That's how much he is obsessed with his work. No wonder, such unparalleled obsession results into success!
‘R’ in our book stands for reinventing! For Shahrukh, reinventing has been a constant process. A look at the cover of this magazine is enough to prove how he has been reinventing himself to remain relevant with the changing tastes and demands! He said that as in the book, it is Lady Gaga and not Bhairavi Raga that he now listens to – to understand today’s generation. And in fact, he is now in talks with her to do something together! It’s no more Saturday Night Fever for him but Justin Beiber – as reinvention, for him, is an essential aspect of life.
‘N’ is for nail it. Nailing the message right. And that's where he spoke that it’s nailed in public psyche that he believes in saying, “I am the best!” But the truth is that that is not how it is. This – that he is the best – is something that he has nailed in his own brain and psyche. He did this to work harder than ever before. He works with better and more talented actors all the time. But since these words are now nailed and embedded into his system, he gets up every morning believing and wanting to be the best. That's how he inspires himself to be the best! And by nailing this line into himself, he now has to work twice as hard to do things better, just to live up to those lines!
Of course, finally ‘S’ stands for sell it. The end result of any marketing process should be sales. If it doesn't result into sales, then it results into nothing. And Shahrukh has always believed in this. He has always been a big believer in selling. He believes in selling dreams. This is a real world and we all need to earn, he says, adding that a good earning makes life a lot easier. So he has never shied away from selling his talent.
His urge is to see two smiling faces in the audience. And if for that, he has to do a handstand, dance at parties, and more, he is all game for it as at the end of the day, all the brand building is to sell better! As per Shahrukh, even life doesn't come free. It comes with a price tag of death. We are all living with a quest of permanence of youth, black hair, prosperity. And this is the price tag that life comes with. So it’s important that we accept it and never shy away from selling with passion and making it all worthwhile. People tell Shahrukh that one should not sell art. He says, “Well, no. I don't come free... You can buy me! I will do anything that you want me to do, because I am a firm believer in selling dreams; and as long as what I do brings smiles to the faces of just two people sitting in the audience. I am a proud believer of selling!” No wonder then that Mallika Sehrawat made that famous line – in this country, only two things sell. Sex and... yes, you guessed it right... Shahrukh!
Those of you who didn't know how Shahrukh Khan is so successful and has beaten his competitors hollow, well, this has been his success strategy. Thorns to competition!
However, at no point has he gotten so arrogant as to think that he will never fail. In his foreword for my previous book Discover The Diamond In You, he wrote an oft forgotten but most meaningful quote, “Success is never final, and failure never fatal”. That's perhaps the key attitude that makes a winner. He also wrote, “Failure gave me an incentive to work harder, an act which invariably leads to some kind of success in most cases. So work hard whenever you fail... Failure is an amazing teacher... In my life, it’s not success that I want as much as I want not to fail.” He is one man who keeps learning from all his failures and keeps moving ahead. And this tremendous urge to never fail coupled up with the way he has practiced his version of THORNS, is what has helped him become such a winner. Let’s hope he keeps on believing in his mantra of “I am the best” and keeps on giving Thorns to Competition!
- 02 September 2011 |