Saturday, January 8, 2011

Talent - the new mantra of a surging India

Here's a surefire proof of the surging economy in India. "Talent" of any form is in great demand today. The new and biggest beneficiaries of the economic boom are those who can call themselves talented.

Traditionally, its been the capitalists who have made the most wealth. You have invest and rake in the moolah. In an economy starved of capital, capitalists boomed. Capitalists also had another characteristic: they had the ability to take risks. This gave birth to a new generation of capitalists. Sunil Mittal, Narayanmurthy, Dilip Shanghvi, Phaneesh Murthy, Raghav Bahl and others are examples of this. But there is really nothing exceptional in capitalists accumulating wealth. Its plain obvious.

What is exceptional however is the way talent is attracting money nowadays. First lets understand what talent really means. Talent traditionally meant being "well" educated in India. An engineer was considered talented and that talent got him a job. Likewise, doctors and later MBAs were considered talented.......and for the same reason, basic sciences, arts, literature and even architecture were not considered talent because you couldnt get a job with such qualifications. As a result, every parent wanted his/her child to become an engineer or a doctor or an MBA.

But look how the world has changed today. There is a huge demand for a different type of talent now......all of it is in the nature of individual talent. Frankly, it does not matter what talent you long as you can do something unique and be the best in the's going to take you places. Of course, some forms of talent are valued more than other forms of talent. Generally speaking, if the stakes are high, that particular talent which secures returns, is valued high.

Lets look at some traditional forms of talent why they have been valued high:

Film stars: Akshay, SRK, Aamir.....all in the Rs 25-50 crs category (per film). We know that films ride on the popularity of the stars.
Bankers: The best bankers make crores for their clients......clients happy to reward bankers.
Lawyers: Best lawyers charge 10 lacs per appearance. But then corporate stakes are high. Likewise, criminal lawyers charge a bomb given the goods they deliver.
Doctors: Best doctors get away with murder (so to say!). But then who wants to take a chance with life.
Fashion Designers: Have always been considered a part of the "upper crust"

But lets look at some of the new forms of talent that have picked up a lot of value recently:

Cricketers: Largely because of IPL. And of course because of the success the Indian team has seen. Team owner stakes are high and relative cost of players is affordable.
Film Directors: Sanjay Leela, Ashutosh, Raju Hirani....all charge 15 crs + per film. Today, producers realize the role a Director plays.
Numerologists: Sanjay Jumani......If a small name change changes the fortunes, its worth paying him!
Master Chefs: Restaurant owners charge a bomb from their patrons.....celeb chefs draw in the crowds!
Personal Trainers: Again, the best trainers charge up to 5 lacs a year. But that's really cheap change!
Nutritionists: Same as Personal Trainers.
Singers: KK, Kailash Kher, Sonu, Sunidhi, Sukhwinder all make 15-25 crores per annum.....but then these are truly exceptional artists. I am calling this a new entry because they never made so much in the past.
Architects: Patrons spend 10-50 crs on a house.....they dont mind spending a few crores more on architects.
Wedding planners: Average cost of wedding in a wealthy family has gone beyond 10 crores...
TV anchors & Radio Jocks: Arnab, Rajdeep, Barkha, Udayan, Jeeturaaj, Anant & Saurabh, Mir and Dhvanit.....worth their weight in gold.

Today, wise parents identify anything unique that their child may have and develop that as a form of talent. Music and cricket are very popular. But "writing", "poetry", "scultpure", "painting" are increasingly being encouraged. Parent dont put their children through the usual rut of engineering and MBA courses any longer.

However, just having talent is not enough.

The real truth is that you need a lot more to be able to monetize that talent.

One important ingredient required is media. Once media joins talent, talent turns into a money making machine.  Media builds imagery for the talent. Media makes the name and face well known. Sometimes the imagery is more important than the real stuff you are made up of. That's why Suhel Seth runs from one TV channel to another (I have never heard of what Counselage does really)! Or Ashwini Nachappa who has never won an international sports pageant, but is still in demand. It makes the talent desirable. Everyone wants in on the talent. The value escalates and that's when the talent cashes in.

The other important ingredient is sex appeal. You have to have sex appeal. Yuvraj Singh, Sreesantha, Bhajji, Dr. Naresh Trehan, Sania and Saina, Sanjeev Kapoor......all have sex appeal. Sometimes, if you dont have sex appeal, a close substitute is a kinky look. Or talking style. For eg. Swapan Dasgupta is always out of breath. Suhel Seth is always fuming. Ravi Shankar Prasad is always grinning under his thick mush, Ashwini Nachappa always try to look coy......anything that makes you look different!

So, talent + media + sex appeal is the mantra for economic success in the new world.

Where does this leave poor CEOs like me? Ah ha.....To be called "talent", I better practice the same mantra. Must feature regularly on TV and print, even if it is to say the same thing again and again! I must work on a "style".....maybe go bald or pick up an American accent or wear dark glasses all the time! And finally, even if it is utter rubbish, pretend to be an expert of some sort! Else, I better be prepared for a world of total anonymity.....and poor pay!


  1. awesome. tha last para had me in splits - abso brilliant :-))

  2. LOL This is hysterical

  3. In accordance with whatever you've said. Talent is the sure winner. Without any of it, no media or glamour can catapult your career. Maybe for a bit, but the thrust wont be enough to keep you up there long enough.

    But, as much as you've glorified the entire package of "talent + sex-appeal + Media", you've made it sound fully frivolous by the end. How like this? :)

  4. superb!aako coloumn mil jaayega bahut jald TOI mein:-) seriously prashant interesting stuff and I agree that knowing how to exploit your talent is as important as having the talent.

  5. No Meera.....its the truth. Its not frivolous. There is a lot of talent, but talent needs to be spotted and it needs a platform. That's all!

  6. It sure does need a platform. Unfortunately, it only gets spotted if the "talented" goes bald, out of breath, fumes etc.. :) It is the truth, I accept it.

  7. good connections Prash
    but i resent the bald head thing!
    i have been bald a really long time, and no one rewards me for that!

  8. Umm, need a talent manager, do u now? :D