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Brand Rajinikanth to Move Beyond Cinemas

Rajinikanth, the movie star who has never lent his name to any commercial activity so far, will do so for the first time with Anjana Reddy, part of the family that owns the Deccan Chronicle group. Anjana’s celebrity commerce firm Collectabillia, which is already working on brand tie ups for Rajinikanth’s upcoming 3-D movie Kochadaiyaan, will extend the Rajini brand beyond the realms of entertainment. 

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The appeal of Rajinikanth, 61, the Bangalore-born bus conductor-turned-film hero, goes far beyond the boundaries of his adopted home Tamil Nadu and the Tamil film industry. He keeps a very low public profile and has never endorsed any brand. Collectabillia, founded only a few months ago, has tied up with cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar and India’s number one woman tennis player Sania Mirza on a similar mandate, Anjana, 24, said.

“We are working on extending their brands beyond their respective careers. This doesn’t include endorsements,” she told ET. 

Anjana, who holds a masters degree in finance from the University of Illinois, is the vice-president for business development at Deccan Chronicle. She is the daughter of Vinayak Ravi Reddy, the vice chairman of Deccan Chronicle which has defaulted on its debt and seen its short-term borrowings being downgraded by ratings agency CARE earlier this month. Over a 35-year career and 150 films, Rajinikanth’s reach spans thousands of fan clubs from the remotest parts of Tamil Nadu to Japan. On the internet, his mannerisms and style have triggered a huge collection of outlandish factoids, much like for American actor Chuck Norris. “An example of what we are doing is what the Olsen twins with professional help from Beanstalk have been able to achieve. They have set up a billion dollar business which hasn’t got anything to do with their movies or acting careers,” Anjana said.

Part of the Omnicom group, Beanstalk is known for its work on brand extensions, including developing actors Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s lifestyle programmes and extending a consumer brand into the restaurant space with the Harley-Davidson Café.

The idea has its genesis in Anjana’s meeting with Rajinikanth a few months ago regarding Kochadaiyaan. “Rajini sir put me on to (his daughter) Soundarya. That’s when this branding idea sparked we wanted to do something different which hasn’t been done in the market so far,” she said.

“Rajini is a global brand and I am looking at global sales. He has a market everywhere right from India, to the Middle East to North America.”

Soundarya is directing the movie, which is slated for a December release. In the West, celebritybranded products have been around for decades. In the early 1990s, Elizabeth Taylor lent her name to the ‘White Diamonds’ perfume of Elizabeth Arden. Recent examples include rapper 50 Cent lending his name for a vitamin-water brand, former NBA star Yao Min’s launch of his own wine label and Lady Gaga’s association with the Fame perfume brand.

In India, however, it’s still early days for celebrity commerce. Brand consultant Harish Bijoor said there are some efforts on “but most of them turn out to be celebrity managers who swear by their own celebs and can force-fit any brand offering onto them.” Bijoor believes that “Rajini is beyond a brand. Promoting him as a brand would be doing injustice to the concept of Rajinikanth the Superstar. If done sensitively without overtly involving Rajinikanth, it can work.”