EVERYTHING Shah Rukh Khan does, he does with passion and love — and the way he runs his businesses is no different.
“I have a very simple rule if you’re not an expert in something you should stay out of it. What I know how to do is spread the love. I’m not good with the business part,” he said.
Khan, 52, who was in Trinidad last week to support his team, the Trinbago Knight Riders in their Caribbean Premier League campaign, spoke to Business Day on Saturday at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain.
He said he’s not a businessman, but through his production company Red Chillies Entertainment, Khan is the majority owner in the most successful franchise in T20 domestic league cricket. The Knight Riders brand spans the world: in addition to the TT team, there’s the flagship team, Kolkata Knight Riders, which plays in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Cape Town Knight Riders, part of the South African T20 Global League. He also owns a 26 per cent share in the Indian franchise of Kidzania, a Mexican “edutainment” theme park that helps children role-play having adult jobs and even earn money.
“I’m not a businessman but certain things hold an appeal for me and I like to participate in them in whatever way possible, while not over-stretching myself. I also have a lot of patience in those things so I can wait. There can be a gestation period for it to become something self-running. I like children so when there’s an opportunity to do something with kids I’ll do it. I like sport, so cricket was something that was offered to us with the IPL. I also produce films. The three businesses I have are centred on the things I like. I don’t sit on number crunching or the business part,” he said.
For all his modestly though, Khan, who famously came from a middle class background to become the most charismatic and bankable star in Bollywood, is one of the most recognisable people in the world and he has parleyed his fame into a US$600 million empire. He’s dominated Indian cinema for three decades, and last year, American business magazine Forbes listed him as the eighth highest paid actor in 2017, earning US$38 million.
Khan maintains his philosophy is simple. “I read something once when I was young that said if your business can touch the lives of many people it’s a successful business and the money will follow. My job is to make people smile. If I can do that, that’s all I want to do in life.”
He readily admits to being a performer and intrinsically understands the appeal he brings to the game — there are lots of Indians, and West Indians, who are as mad about cricket as they are about Shah Rukh Khan.
“I’m a movie star and people love me,” he said, although he refused to take credit for the crowds that packed Queen’s Park Oval last Friday and Saturday — many of whom were as excited to see him as they were to see the matches.
“I’m part owner of this team and I understand the people who love the team would love it regardless of the owner, it just happens that I happen to be someone they recognise. I just want to thank them for the support,” he said.
And Khan did give the crowd a treat, taking a walk around the pitch in between innings to greet the crowd, even dancing with the carnival characters and cheerleaders who help keep the crowd entertained during breaks.
The last time Khan came to Trinidad was 20 years ago, performing a concert at the Oval. This time, he was back as a spectator, and the vibe and energy of the crowd, as well as the trade mark party atmosphere of cricket in the West Indies has resonated with him — even if his team lost.
“I enjoyed losing to Andre Russell’s team (Jamaica Tallawahs). That’s one of the charms of having franchises all over the world — sometimes you lose to your own players, sometimes they make you win,” Khan said in reference to Russell’s magnificent knock last Friday. The match was a thriller, though, with TT, batting first, setting the Jamaicans the seemingly insurmountable task of scoring 223 — the highest ever CPL score. Russell, a Jamaican, plays for Kolkata in the IPL, but led the Tallawahs to victory, scoring a blistering century in 40 balls — the fasted in CPL history — eventually finishing on 121; he also bowled a hattrick earlier.
For Khan, then, it’s really about the energy and the fans. “Even back home everybody isn’t dressed in purple (KKR’s colours). Here, there was all red everywhere, and girls and boys dancing and those people in costume — it’s like playing cricket in (Indian resort town) Goa.
“Everyone is easy and giving and loving and I think that is the culture and quality you see in a country and people. I just want to say a big thank you to everyone. There’s so much love. The people here in TT have been really kind.”