You can’t ignore this hit among Salman Khan’s top grossers. Merchandise, especially T-shirts, from his charitable foundation, Being Human: The Salman Khan Foundation, are all the rage. While sales figures are not public, retailers such as Cotton World, Myntra.com, Coolmaal, and BookMyShow claim that Being Human merchandise—T-shirts and watches—are flying off the shelves. Apart from the strong demand for the T-shirts, which cost upwards of Rs 550, there’s also brisk business in fakes. “Ironically, counterfeiting does indicate the strength of a brand,” says Thayne Forbes, joint managing director, Intangible Business, an independent brand valuation consultancy. “A weak brand would not be worth counterfeiting.”
Khan’s last three films—Dabangg, Ready, and Bodyguard—have together grossed nearly Rs 400 crore. But Being Human is a rare Bollywood achievement. Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan couldn’t quite create waves with branded merchandise like perfumes. But it’s also a space where a couple of flops could upset the Being Human juggernaut.
“A time comes when a brand loses novelty. It’s up to those in charge of it to make sure that the present high is sustained,” says Madhukar Sabnavis, country head, discovery and planning and regional director, thought leadership, Ogilvy & Mather India.
Abhishek Nayar, marketing head, Percept Pictures, disagrees. “It is important to distinguish the actor from the star. Being Human, even while drawing from the star’s aura, benefits from being a charity doing good work. Flops won’t affect it much.”
While Being Human’s success may be the result of the craze surrounding the actor’s gold rush at the box office, some attribute it to Indian society trying to discover its social consciousness.
“Salman Khan, through Being Human’s charitable framework, gives legitimacy and glamour to consumers looking to ease their guilt about their ways,” says Sabnavis. Cue the rise of the Anna Hazare movement and the recent altruistic gestures by corporate India.
It’s the duality of Being Human, set up in 2007, which is a strategic tool for the foundation. Alvira Agnihotri, trustee, Being Human: The Salman Khan Foundation, says: “On the front end it’s a lifestyle brand. At the back end, it’s a registered charitable trust and royalties go towards supporting education and health care initiatives.”
Plans are on for a retail chain with at least 500 stores by 2015. There are also agreements in place with Mak Luxury for watches, Gitanjali for co-branded gold and silver coins, and Rotomac for co-branded pens. Also in the offing is an investment of Rs 65 crore from Mumbai-based textile and apparel maker Mandhana Industries over the next 18 months as part of a licensing deal. Mandhana is expecting Being Human apparel sales to touch Rs 250 crore by the end of 2015.
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