Please tell us about yourself
Born and raised in Mumbai, I was an economics graduate from Sydenham College when I went to do an MBA from Stern School of Business at New York University. I majored in media and finance and started my career as an analyst in the media sector with Merril Lynch on Wall Street.
Being a banker on Wall Street was an adrenalin rush, working for 12 -14 hours a day, learning to dot the Is and cross the Ts, I learnt everything there was to in detail. At 24, I was one of the youngest to get the Stern degree, since most of my batchmates were significantly older. What I lacked in experience, I made up by building strong contacts. I met one person, who in turn introduced me to another and that’s how I realised there was so much to learn out there.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I always wanted to be a banker and the media sector was a natural draw for me. Working on Wall Street was a dream come true and my years there taught me to be disciplined. I went from analyst to associate, and then vice president within a short period, and I gradually became interested in learning the ropes of the media industry.
Nothing thrilled me more than understanding how studios operated and how films were financed. With time I was able to work with Time Warner, Universal Studios and many leading conglomerates. I couldn’t have asked for a better deal.
How did you get into media marketing?
When I returned to the country after eight years as a banker on Wall Street, little did I know that it would be a blessing in disguise. I jumped right back into work with Kotak Goldman JV covering media, and began working with the leading media houses in India.
It gave me a great insight into what I wanted to do even though I’d never imagined I would work with the likes of Shah Rukh Khan or Saif Ali Khan and their production houses.
It was over a cup of coffee with friends that the idea of starting a media company came to me. I knew that analysing and valuing a company is vastly different from setting up and running one.
I wasn’t sure if I had it in me to be an entrepreneur. My mentors backed me with advice and all the support I could get and that’s how Bottomline Media, my own baby, happened.
With time, I was able to contact my former clients who were interested in exploring the sector of movie marketing and our fund began to grow.
Along with movie marketing, our company also started funding other media ventures in a small way which were mostly at the inception stage. We would support start up funding, seed capital and let the business grow.
At the time we started, an old friend approached me to work on his film and I decided to take up the challenge. That’s how Rahul Dholakia’s Lamhaa (2010) happened.
It was a challenge as at the time, I had only two people under me and we operated from my house or coffee shops. The critically acclaimed Lamhaa went on to become a platform for me since marketing a film about terrorism was a hard task for anyone in the business.
We still managed to rope in the likes of Hero Honda and Tata Motors for the film, and I’ve never looked back since. Another one of my earlier projects was the Salman Khan starrer Main Aurr Mrs Khanna(2009) for which we tied up with Melbourne Tourism and Gitanjali Jewels, amongst many others.
What do you do?
My job is not only to make strategic tie-ups for the brands I handle and help them gain visibility by partnering with celebrity platforms, but also to help reduce the cost of filmmaking.
It was tough initially, to transition from a life with a secure paycheck to one where there is a constant uncertainty about whether the film would release on time and if the brand deals will go through. I would have nothing to do for months on end. That’s when I decided to diversify through the three main verticals of Bollywood-Movies, Marketing and Media.
I do not come from a film background, but my work always spoke for me. I started getting calls from production houses where we had no connect at all, just because they had heard of our work.
Convincing a client may or may not be a challenge. Some like Shah Rukh Khan for instance, are marketing geniuses themselves so when you go to him with an innovative thought, he will add more value to your idea and in the end and you know it’s going to be a killer concept.
I have a very simple philosophy- nothing is impossible and dream of the unachievable. Keeping that in mind, I have nurtured the foundation of my company. We read the script, identify what can work and why we would want to associate with the brand. We have been fortunate to work with brands and international chains that haven’t even ventured into Bollywood.
This year we are looking at actively expanding the verticals and will invest across media platforms more rapidly. Additionally we are also looking at starting a new division that would produce ad films.
My mantra is simple-to make the best of every opportunity that comes your way, because, as Abraham Lincoln said, “You cannot fail if you resolutely determine, that you will not.”