When Riva Bubber decided to start her very own business venture, she spent hours on the Internet looking for the perfect course to give her the much-needed training ground. After making a trip to London for a course on pet grooming, the actor was back in Mumbai meeting financial advisers and banks, and property agents for identifying the right location. "I always wanted to have a lucrative Plan B which would give me happiness," she says. The Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi actor turned her passion for dogs into a business opportunity when she set up her first dog grooming salon, Wizard of Paws, in December last year.
|KUNIKA SADANAND LALL |
BEST KNOWN AS: Vasundhara in Kittie Party
BUSINESS: Spa and restaurants
ROAD AHEAD: Will expand her chain of restaurants
INVESTMENT: Rs 8.5 crore for all her ventures
SMRITI Z. IRAANI
BEST KNOWN AS: Tulsi in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
BUSINESS: Ugraya, a production house
ROAD AHEAD: Six serials, more plays and films
INVESTMENT: Rs 7-10 lakh (estimate)
BEST KNOWN AS: Tanya in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
BUSINESS: An event management company
ROAD AHEAD: International and music-related events
INVESTMENT: Rs 15 lakh (estimate)
BEST KNOWN AS: Damini in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
BUSINESS: Wizard of Paws, a dog salon
ROAD AHEAD: Branches across the city
INVESTMENT: Rs 6 lakh
BEST KNOWN AS: Prerna in Kasautii Zindagii Kay
BUSINESS: Palak Creations, a production house
ROAD AHEAD: Will produce Bhojpuri and Hindi films
INVESTMENT: Rs 75,000
|While Bubber is sure her venture will reap profits soon, Tiwari is playing safe with a low initial investment. |
Bubber is not the only one who is talking business. A number of television actors are launching innovative ventures ranging from spas to event management companies and production houses. The trend began with Smriti Z. Iraani launching her production house, but other actors are fast catching up. Be it Kunika Sadanand Lall or Shweta Tiwari, small screen stars are joining the growing list of celebrity entrepreneurs.
The trick is to identify a business that is lucrative and falls within the area of one's expertise. So, when Iraani decided to start something on her own, she chose what she knew best-production. The actor-politician set up Ugraya, her production house, two years ago. The self-confessed "safe investor" kicked off her new venture with two plays that required low investment and ensured quick returns. After breaking even in the very first year after the launch, Iraani then turned to producing Thodi Si Zameen Thoda Sa Aasmaan, a TV serial which has its share of loyal viewership. The astute entrepreneur has her business mantra in place-a strong script, personal attention to and a separate team for each show, concentrated effort and an understanding of how the industry functions. "I have never restricted myself to being just an actor; I have always been aware of how the various departments of a television house function," she explains.
Actor and anchor Rakshanda Khan agrees that a sound knowledge of the field is imperative to smooth functioning of the business. "Having been an anchor for so many years, I know all about the licences required for live events, venue decorations and brand building," says Khan, who teamed up with friends Kedar Gavde and Hemant Thakkar to launch Celebrity Locker, an event management company, six months ago. But Khan hadn't bargained for the professional hazards-getting permissions specific to every event, dealing with the disparity between the client's expectations and the actual brand requirement, and delay in payments. "Big accounts are tough to handle. You think you have everything in place and suddenly you realise that without that one all-important licence, all else is useless," she says. However, the actor is confident that experience will iron out the creases and the company will break even in the next few years. "The business has a lot of potential; the sky is the limit for events management," she says.
The potential for growth is an important factor in deciding on a business venture. Lall decided to invest her hard-earned money in the beauty sector, which is constantly growing. She set up Exhale, a unisex spa, salon and institute, two years ago in suburban Goregaon. "You have to put your money where your mouth is. Spas and restaurants are the most lucrative businesses these days," says Lall, who is all set to open three new restaurants with business partner-cum-architect friend Shekhar Dadarkar. With her finger on Mumbai's pulse, Lall is expanding her business to include an Italian bistro and a banquet hall in the suburbs. "The initial investment is high because you have to pay for space and manpower, but the returns are also rather quick in this business," she says. Location, too, is an important factor. Bubber chose to set up her salon in Andheri because of the monopoly the location offered her. "It takes time for any business to start giving returns, but since there aren't many pet salons beyond Bandra, this venture will reap profits soon," she says.
But not all are willing to make a large initial investment. While deciding on an alternative occupation, Tiwari chose to stick to the low-investment production business. With an initial investment of Rs 75,000 to pay the minimal staff, Tiwari launched Palak Creations five years ago with actor-husband Raja Choudhary. The company, which started off with making ad films and producing tele-serials within a given budget, is now set to release its first big venture-a Bhojpuri film starring Tiwari and actor Ravi Kissen. "Production is not a gamble; it's a safe investment where you recover your investments in the first few months," explains Tiwari, who looks into the creative aspects of scripting, costumes and casting, while Choudhary manages the financial aspects of the business.
Lack of experience in production did not deter these actors, who entered the business with their biggest asset-their celebrity status. "When you are a known face, people trust you and it's easier to get work. All the actors we approached agreed at the very first call," says Tiwari. Others like Khan agree that contacts and goodwill within the industry help open doors at least in the initial stages. "I know I can ensure a good celebrity turnout at an event because of my association with actors," she says.
Iraani, however, believes that being a celebrity does not guarantee a smooth ride in any business venture. "Actors don't decide to do roles based only on their association with you. You can attract the best talent only if you are professional and give them a strong script and good roles," she says. Despite the apparent benefits, there is also a downside to being a celebrity. It is easy for tv stars to fall prey to unwanted attention and rivalry. Iraani has a word of caution for budding entrepreneurs. "It's important to focus on what's achievable. Your image is your asset; it should never be a victim to your enterprise," she says. Riding on the back of their tele-success, these celebrities are now busy making their presence felt in business circuits. A typical case of the small screen nurturing big dreams.