IPL 10

The Badshah of KKR: Why Shah Rukh Khan has been the best team owner in the IPL

Despite a rough beginning, King Khan has established a very happy space with the Kolkata Knight Riders over ten seasons of the IPL.

Nine years back, at a Kolkata venue, Shah Rukh Khan stood on the stage and quipped, “You don’t win silver; you lose gold”.

Khan was accompanied by Sourav Ganguly and John Buchanan on that fateful May evening. Now, in 2017, Ganguly and Buchanan have no connection with KKR anymore. The only survivor from that trio is King Khan himself, SRK.

But there has been a perceptible difference. In the early seasons, Shah Rukh Khan was the name and face of brand KKR. He could be spotted in almost every match. He was there in all the hoardings. He was doing ads for the sponsors. Brand SRK was brand KKR.

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In fact, it went further.

‘Brand KKR to the power of brand SRK’

“It’s brand KKR to the power of brand SRK,” laughed the noted advertising filmmaker, Prahlad Kakkar. It’s a fair point. When the Indian Premier League begun in 2008, Kolkata Knight Riders had Sourav Ganguly as their icon player, a massive draw not just in Kolkata, but across the country. The SRK-Dada combination sizzled in all departments except on the most important one, on the field. The first three years were unhappy times for KKR, plagued by poor results and a troubled team atmosphere.

Then, the Knight Riders made a risky move. They changed their team around and went for Gautam Gambhir, a player who had no perceptible connection with Kolkata till then, in the 2011 auction. The rest, as they say, is history.

It was a strategy laden with drawbacks, it could have easily backfired. It did not. Six years down the line, Kolkata Knight Riders have among the most passionate fanbases in the IPL. The team’s performance surely helped – the stragglers of the last three years picked themselves up in 2011 and went on an astounding run, winning two titles in 2012 and 2014. But, the professional manner in which SRK handled the team, in no mean way, has had a role to play.

“He provides absolute support,” said Kakkar. “He’s accessible to them 24/7, but he doesn’t interfere. If there’s any shortage, he backs them up. He’s just created a very strong brand.”

One distinctly identifiable proof of the special relation SRK shares with KKR is his public expressions of support for the team, even on days when things don’t go too well. Here’s what he wrote after the Kolkata Knight Riders crashed out of the IPL in 2016, following a defeat in the Eliminator to Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Here’s him again in 2015 after another loss.

It’s marketing genius, sure, but most importantly, it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. It doesn’t feel like fluff. The sadness seems, nay feels, genuine.

Support, not pressure

The smart thing about these messages is the lack of frustration or negativity. He’s disappointed but positive. The clear message is that he’s backing his team. He’s telling them, “I’m firmly behind you”. The team is never under pressure. In a world of egoistic team owners across every sport, that cannot be underestimated.

In an interview with Cricbuzz recently, Venky Mysore, the CEO of KKR, provided some insights into how Khan manages the team: “It is amazing how he stays in touch with things, even some of the younger players that are coming through of whom most people would not have heard of, somehow he would be aware to an extent.”

Mysore also talked about “ring-fencing” brand KKR from brand SRK, basically explaining that much effort has been made to keep the two distinct entities in their own right. In recent years, that “ring-fencing” he mentioned has been distinctly visible.

It’s become more and more obvious over the last few editions that Mysore is the head of the franchise and takes part of all the operational nittygritties. SRK, on his part, has played the role of the encouraging, cheerleader owner from the sidelines, shouting words of support from the sidelines, backing up the team when required and celebrating like crazy when they win.

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No pressure

This lack of interference stands out compared to some of the other owners. At the 2016 Indian Premier League opening ceremony, the anchor gently ribbed Preity Zinta, co-owner of the Kings XI Punjab about the fact that her team had never won the IPL.

In jest, she replied that she hoped that David Miller, the newly appointed Punjab captain, wouldn’t disappoint her this season. The camera quickly panned to Miller in the audience. It was a comment made in jest, but even in that split second, Miller’s expression showed the pressure a statement like that, even if made in humour, could have.

From what we’ve seen of him in the last ten years, SRK has never come across as an interfering owner. But, what he has cleverly ensured is that his looming shadow always falls over the team. That has one significant benefit: whatever be KKR’s performances in a season, they never lose their status as one of the most high-profile teams in the IPL. Even more significantly, the Knight Riders have been the only IPL franchise to consistently post profits, recording a 54% jump in the financial year 2014-’15.

“Kolkata always need something to be fanatical about,” said Kakkar. “It was East Bengal-Mohun Bagan earlier, but SRK made them feel that they had their own cricket team.”

A marketing genius

He added, “He has no training in marketing but he’s intuitive and that makes him a genius. From the beginning, he’s followed his intuition, look at the number of negative roles he did at the start of his career. And he’s successfully pulled off the same with KKR.”

Yes, the past ten years has seen the Badshah of Bollywood successfully conquer new territory. It’s been a good ride – except for one major tumble that happened on May 16, 2012.

SRK got into a heated altercation with security guards at the Wankhede Stadium after KKR had wrapped up a rare win against Mumbai Indians. By all accounts, it was an ugly, avoidable incident. The photo of an enraged SRK pointing his finger at a security official was everywhere you looked the next day. The superstar was banned from entering the Wankhede for five years. The ban was only lifted in 2015.

The infamous altercation at the Wankhede Stadium in 2012. Image credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP
The infamous altercation at the Wankhede Stadium in 2012. Image credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP

It was a rare blemish in SRK’s carefully coordinated image. Allegations and counter-allegations ran rampant. You just did not expect such a high-profile owner to behave in this matter.

The Badshah of KKR

Yet, five years later, was it really a blemish in a spotless record? Kakkar thinks otherwise:

“It [that incident] was a turning point,” said the distinguished adman. “I think that’s what got the entire Kolkata crowd behind SRK. They saw that SRK, a Mumbaikar, was treated like that at Wankhede. For them, one of their own had been thrown out. And they embraced that Mumbaikar as one of ours. They took sides and accepted him and KKR as a team of their own.”

It was in that season that KKR won their first title and started off on that hugely successful run. But there was another change. SRK, the owner, became more restrained. He doesn’t show up for as many matches anymore. To some extent, that incident led to a happy little space being created between SRK and KKR.

But, he’s never gone. If KKR need him, SRK shows up. And therein lies the secret of how from being the Badshah of Bollywood, he is now not just the Badshah of KKR, but also, of the IPL.

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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.