Thorns To Competition Review by Arindam Chaudhuri

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You can beat competition if you adopt the right strategies. Here’s a set of six winning strategies: Target it right, hit where it hurts, obsess with it, reinvent it, nail it and sell it. This approach works. If in doubt, look at Shahrukh Khan. He has used these six strategies, along with his unshakeable belief in ‘I’m the best’, to reach the top

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 co-authored 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 Khan 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. 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 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 Amitabh Bachchan — reading Shahrukh Khan’s social media entries is a great lesson on how to look at various facets of life and express them through absolutely brilliantly chosen words. Come to think of it, both Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh 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 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 Khan 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.

Coming to the first principle, in the book we have focussed on the need to identify and ‘T’arget one’s consumer segment right. For Shahrukh Khan, 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 Khan’s target has been beyond all this.

He said that when he came to this industry, people found him too thin, too dark and thought he spoke too fast, that his hair was like a bear’s — all over the place — 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.

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 can one succeed!

Hitting where it hurts, our book’s second principle, has been as important for Shahrukh Khan. While our book speaks about comparative advertising and competitive intelligence gathering, Shahrukh Khan 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.

In our book, ‘O’ stands for obsessing with the customer and the nation. For Shahrukh Khan, 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 doing so. 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 said his grandmother used to tell him that every time a camera flashed, it took away a minute of one’s life — Shahrukh Khan 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. That’s how much he is obsessed with his work.

‘R’ in our book stands for reinventing! For Shahrukh Khan, reinventing has been a constant process. His films 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 Rag Bhairavi that he now listens to — to understand today’s generation. 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.

‘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 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. By nailing this line into himself, he now has to work twice as hard to do things better.

‘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 Khan 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.

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Author: Arindam Chaudhuri

(The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian.)

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