Swati Khandelwal National Editor at Business Television India (www.btvi.in), met with Shah Rukh Khan to have a conversation about his association with Hyundai, his movies, his company and almost everything under the sun. Here is an exclusive excerpt of her interview with Mr Khan.
Your association with Hyundai has been strong. The commitment it shows from a person like you that you have stuck with this brand through its difficult years to its glorious time. Tell us about your association and where do you see this grow from here on and what is that really attracts you about Hyundai?
To be honest when they signed me in 97 – 98, I think it was a world renowned brand and was its first advent in our country and then to take upon someone who is as new, say a whole campaign and a whole product, which is known around the world as a great car, I think it was a responsibility for them. I certainly believe that over the years, now it’s nearly 20, I think they have just stuck to the guns and said this is our brand ambassador and we love him, so let’s go. And so they have stuck to me through my thick and thin more than the other way round. Or even if it did, I wasn’t aware of their bad times, Hyundai has always been good, Mashallah.
So the association has become a long marriage. We feed off each other. Also there is a huge amount of ease with which we work with each other. You know it’s not formal anymore. Everybody knows everybody here for a very very long time. And what we are here for, is making sure our product is counted, liked, noticed and bought finally.
In the last five years the change we all decided collectively in a way, after the suggestion came from the main team of Hyundai, that we should now showcase our cars and now everybody knows our cars are beautiful they always were. But now everyone knows it’s a household name. Can we start doing a little thing or two which kind of talks about other things related to transportation which will make for a better living?
Because every car that we sell, makes your life better, easier, safer, cooler and faster. Let’s start talking about other aspects of life which make it safer, which make it cooler, which make it actually something that will have something small to do but will have a big effect on environment, like say saving water while washing a car. So small little bits and pieces. And I think we all are now noticeable enough not to keep on talking about how good we are. I think Hyundai is noticeable enough to say some good things about other parts of life too, that’s a great change over.
Sure and that is what we are seeing reflected in the way the cars are now talking about safety and specifically on the environment friendliness, and the way we are approaching electric vehicles, and the entire plan of the government to be all electric by 2030 . All the manufacturers are putting a plan together. In that context what do you have to say, how the auto companies should take on this challenge of becoming or switching on to the electric mode and forget about petrol and diesel?
I think there are two parts to it but one of course I am sure all the manufacturers are doing it. Each one of them must be doing it including Hyundai on a very large scale in a very big way. I think the policies in the nation also change accordingly in terms of taxing a electric vehicle. I am sure those policies are changing too. But I think side by side, I know it’s a small thing, but the systems to charge your cars have to be developed simultaneously.
If you have a hundred cars which are electric, which Hyundai can produce by say 5 years or two hundred cars, but will they be having enough spaces to charge at the conveniences of a petrol pump, or you know at home, apart from the buildings that you live in, on the road, in the offices that you work. Also the charging systems and the batteries that will be created, if you don’t have that kind of fuel, you will have to have enough people creating innovative fuel batteries and systems to charge them. I think the approach will have to be simultaneously between a manufacturer, the government of course and the battery manufacturers and the accessibility to charging systems.
Do you see an opportunity of business here to get in? I mean we know you as an actor, as an entrepreneur, as somebody who’s great acumen on business as well. Do you at some point see as a take up on your agenda ?
I am not really a professional businessman to be honest. I get into business when nobody else is doing and is something I want to do. I have entered most of businesses at force rather than desire. I think there should be a kids place for kids to play, so Kidzania. And I think sports should have a platform because my kids would like to be sports people. They are too old now may be the third one can be a sportsman.
But we do have enough facilities so IPL or ISL or what have you, there are so many smaller leagues that are coming now in different sports. I think that was the beginning and I wanted to be a part of that. And cinema VFX, you know, the things that are not accessible and nobody is putting money in and which I like. So I like cricket, I mean sports, I like children so children’s parks or anything to do with children safety and I like cinema so VFX and all. And I like cars, one fine day I will start making battery chargers.
Talking about the three businesses that you are in, and the way they have been as you said you pretty much been there by force not by choice so much. Do you intend to sort of keep them alive and grow them from where they are, and how are they performing more importantly? Because any business to stay on, needs the viability and the kind of returns. So are you happy with the way each of the businesses have performed?
So I am a big believer that ‘ant me sab theek ho jata hai’. You know if you are doing a business with passion and love, if your heart is in the right place you know…. I am a big believer that if a heart is not in the right place for a business whatever number crunching you do.. it’s not gonna hold true. You need to love what you are doing. I love the kids space, Kidzania. We have one in Mumbai and we have one in Delhi, Inshallah. We will be opening in two more cities. That was the dream, to have four as fast as possible. They have been self paying both of them. We didn’t have to invest more in them and the whole team that is managing is very specialized and they are doing very well. I have heard Delhi one does even better than what Mumbai does now. So they are kind of very good on their own.
I think cricket has been fantastic rundown for three years for not knowing how to run the company. And we are proud to say Venky, the CEO, runs perhaps the most successful sporting franchise in the country ever. We have KKR, we have CPL, we are now in South Africa and we make profits and we win championships too. That’s good. VFX also breaks even. We have to make a film every year that is VFX heavy, so we pay for it. So we make a Ra.one, we make a new film. I need to keep on bringing challenging jobs to those 200 people, so they don’t get bored and leave. Cinema cannot be a business. Some days it’s great, some days it’s really bad. I need to keep on making films. I don’t make 10 films. And hope that you know. It has to be a couple of films, both do well or not.
So how do you deal with the phase where films are great and they are doing well on the box office and have been widely appreciated and sometimes when things don’t do well, I mean how is the whole challenge around dealing with that sort of pressure?
I don’t know. See both of them at the end of it all, end up telling you only one thing that you can do next morning. So if a film has done well and everybody has loved it, you have this big party with the unit. Where you are laughing and joking. You wake up in the morning and say we have to work harder because we made a great film, now we make a greater film.
Similarly when you make a flop film then you still have a party and everybody is sad and crying, and go back to sleep and again wake up and say we have to work harder because we made a crap film. With film business we have only one go, you just work harder in the morning whether you made a hit film or a flop film. Only the tones of the parties change. One has got a lot of laughing one has got lot of crying, but the party is still there.
But you wake up in the morning and get back to your job. You can’t crib you can’t find excuses and you can’t find reasons. Either the hit, or the flop. Because while you were doing it, you thought that was the best film you were making. Sometimes your best is not good enough and it is very difficult to accept when it fails, but there is no other go you have to accept and move on.
These small budget films you know Bareily Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Savdhan, those movies have picked up in the way the acceptance from the audience has been overwhelming. Do you see an opportunity, do you see a reason that you could produce these kind of films ?
We have been wanting to. We have done. Dear Zindagi was a small film. Our new film is coming Ittefaq which I think is even smaller than Dear Zindagi. See those films are called concept films and you need to have a great concept. And every star does not like to get attached to a concept film. So I am really grateful when Alia Bhatt is attached to Dear Zindagi, Siddharth, Akshay Khanna and Sonakshi attach themselves to Ittefaq.
They are concept films and concept films can be made cheaper depending on the concept. So yes I am making some, sometimes I have to work in some like Dear Zindagi. And look I will be a part of this and still there is danger it should not become a typical SRK film in terms of expectation. Gauri was very clear about that.
Yes we are producing some, but it takes a little while. Ittefaq, we had for four years and we just finished it. Dear Zindagi was started 3 years ago as a thought in Pune or 4 years, we just finished it. So you have to have people ready participating. You need to give the concept film an honest cast and an honest director who believes in all this. It is difficult to get it all together but like you said ya… If they do well it is a lesser risk. But having said that I truly believe in bigness of cinema where you take biggest of risk and hope people pile in and come and see the film.
You write really well. You have been writing a book for years. Do we see it getting published anytime soon? some point and you know some glimpse of what you are writing if you can share
Yeah if it doesn’t get published, it’s a waste. I have written lots of it. So hopefully I will finish it. Very few chapters are left. But those are about my work and I am finding it very boring to describe. I am not a great writer. Just feel bored writing, “Maine ye picture kiya”.
May be you can find someone else to write that part.
Would you read a book written by me or somebody else? No, I write it myself. Everything myself. If I give a speech, I write it by myself. It’s an important thing for me. I just need to maybe take some time off. But now with my 4 year old, I rather just spend time playing legos. So yeah, I think it will finish. Inshallah it will finish.
END OF PART 1
National Corporate Editor & Chief of Bureau
With over 12 years’ experience in the industry, Swati Khandelwal Jain is the National Editor – Corporate, Anchor & Chief of Bureau at BTVi -India’s premier business channel. She is in charge of corporate news & digital news content for the channel. Passionate about Cars, bikes and travelling, Swati hosts BTVi’s flagship weekly show ‘THE AUTO SHOW’ wherein she interacts with the biggest auto honchos on regular basis. The show while showcasing latest luxury cars also provides detailed reviews on the modern bikes along with its innovative technology and unique features.