My childhood was not a wealthy one, but a contented one. My family was not rich but then we never saw poverty either. Since my father had been a freedom fighter he had a lot of connections and he could have gone on to become a lawyer or a politician, but he tried to set up his own business. He tried his hand at many businesses but he was too nice to make money at someone else’s expense, so he was never very successful. He was never depressed or unhappy though. I call him the most successful failure.
At the Asia ’72 Expo, he got permission to set up a chola batura stall. He hired a small staff to prepare the dish and it was a huge hit because it was right next to the Russian Centre, which had samples of mud from the moon. We made money from it but he distributed it amongst the people who worked with him. Then, he had a transport business but his partner cheated him. He had a refinery business. He also had a huge furniture business. My mother felt that he was too nice a man. He couldn’t take advantage of people. He would just give out money. At one point he used to also run the canteen at the NSD. To date, actors like Mr. Raj Babbar and others owe him some money.
That’s the way he lived and that’s the nature I have too. But I also saw my mother suffer because of his niceness. I realised when my mother died that there is a reasonable essential quality about money. Since then I have always remembered one thing: you should do business to the extent that you have a position of choice. You get that position of choice when you fulfil your basic needs. It should not be that you don’t marry because you don’t have enough money. That is my basic line of thought when it comes to business. Even when I price myself, I don’t go according to my stardom or the market rate. My price is based on how much I require. There are a lot of times when I have been underpaid because of this attitude and there are a lot of times when I have been overpaid too.
Secondly, at heart I’m a retailer. It should never be that you have to sell your personal belongings to make the business run. It should pay for itself. This is the basic premise of a retailer. If you open a shop it should pay for the electricity bill, the water tax and the staff salary at least. It may not make crores, but it should be self-sufficient.
Also, I believe that you should not take interest money. I believe in the Islamic principle that you should not take money if you don’t deserve it. You should work for it. I don’t dabble in shares. Nor do I dabble in speculation, lottery, gambling. I know it’s an old-fashioned thought but I believe that money is no good money. I don’t think I deserve it unless I have wrestled for it, boxed for it, run for it, made a painting for it I like that money.
These four principles cover my business philosophy: You should work for it, you should not lose money in any business, you should make enough money so that you are in a position of choice. And finally, if you start a business employing a lot of people, the end result, regardless of whether it made money or not, should be that all those people involved should be happy that they gave it a shot.
Many people say creative artists should not do business. But I don?t do business at that level. Then again, a lot of people tell me I’m a very good businessman, but that’s not true either. I believe in simplicity and clarity in business. I believe in honesty and quick decision. And I am ready to give more than what you expect from me. But what you promise should be delivered otherwise I feel cheated because I invariably give in more than what was negotiated for, whether it’s a film, an ad, a TV serial or the production of a film.
Also it should have some newness to it. It should not be the done path. I have never taken amazing big risks in business as I have done in my career which also became a business at one time. It should be a little bit different from what others are doing. If I find that everyone is opening a toy store, I would like to open a toy store with one special toy which nobody has.
One of the greatest gifts of God to me is that I have never felt a lack of money. God has given me a lot of things – name, talent, fame, looks, success – but the one aspect he has given me for which I am most grateful is that I have never had to ask for money. Even in my growing years, I remember I once told my mother, “Mom, can I have a car?” not knowing whether she could afford one, but the next day she would tell me, “You know, Shah Rukh, while going through the accounts I realised that an FD is lying with me.” And from that money I would find a car standing outside the door.
When I wanted to buy a flat, Ratan Jain gave me cheque of seven lakh rupees. When I wanted to buy a bungalow, star prices suddenly shot up so much that I had the money to buy the bungalow. When I couldn’t afford a Pajero, the dealer gave it to me at half the cost. It has always been like that. If I have wanted something it has always come to me. That’s why I never wish for material things. Maybe God has said that He will grant my wish only 48 times in his lifetime so I don’t want it to run out.
I have not been greedy for wrong things. But in a different context, I think greed is the mainstay of life. I believe that you should have a greed for knowledge, for money so that you can have choice, greed for love. Greed is the core of mankind’s existence. Greed is what makes me what I am. I am greedy for doing more than what I am doing. I am geedy for more money too. I have enough money right now, but I will never let go of a chance to make money. Opportunity knocks only once. And if you don’t let her in she walks past and knocks on the other door. Opportunity is like a lady. Dad used to say ‘waqt ki choti aage hoti’. Opportunity is like a woman and her braid is in the front, so if you let her pass you can’t catch hold of her. You have to hold her when she is facing you. So I believe in initiative and in striking when the iron is hot.
Before me, no actors and actresses used to do ads. Friends of mine like Anil Kapoor and Juhi used to say I was stupid. I take the credit for bringing honour to stars doing advertising. Now every star is doing it. No medium is too small for me. I will dance at weddings, I will dance on the street, on stage, on TV- Today, Amitabh Bachchan is the biggest star, thanks to the small screen.
I did ads because I need the money. And I find nothing wrong in having money. It is a proud moment for me when I earn money through my work. With the money I earn at weddings, I get the choice of not doing a film I don’t want to do. Many actors have done 70 films out of which 30 are just for the money. Like, many actresses are stuck with films they did only for money.
I am very proud of the fact that I never did a film because I wanted money. Even Guddu was to be directed in a very fine way by Lekh Tandon, though it didn’t eventually work out that way. I never did a film because I wanted to buy a house. A person who does a film because of money will dislike the film when it does not do well. This doesn’t happen with me. There is not a single film from the 35 films which I dislike. As a matter of fact, I have made it a point not take money when I do guest appearances. So that door of making money is closed for me. There is no easy money for me. That is my business philosophy. You should only earn money with your hard work.
Whatever business I do will be in some way connected to entertainment. I dream of one day owning a five-star hotel with a multiplex cinema and a bowling alley. I think there is some entertainment value attached to the hotel business. It forms a part of the entertainment industry. I like people to watch me shoot at Marine Drive and to have a smile. Similarly I would want people to come out of my hotel with a smile on their faces.
Love & Hapiness