Successful Indian Startups Hook Celebrity Investors

Many famous celebrities possess the ability to transcend boundaries across varied business domains. They are often sought-after names to have on board a new company, harnessing their popularity to establish revenue streams in industries as diverse as entertainment, food and beverages, healthcare and smartphones. To attract their attention startups usually structure a deal to pay for their association with equity and stock options. Startups gain tremendous value from these endorsements due to the visibility and image associated with the celebrity.

Increasingly in India, the celebrities are establishing their own enterprises, or taking up the role of influential investors in other’s start-ups.

Sourav Ganguly is a former captain of the Indian cricket team, who is known for his well-mannered demeanour off the field, but rather aggressive bets on it. In July, the so-called “Prince of Kolkata” and group of investors have invested more than $468,000 (Rs 3 crore) in Mumbai-based Artificial Intelligence powered algorithm video platform, Flickstree.

Flickstree makes movie and video recommendations to users, based on their preferences and consumption patterns. It focuses on compiling and categorizing free to watch videos from across social networks, media sites and blogs.

Its founders, Saurabh Singh and Nagender Sangra, have managed to rope in Saurav Ganguly after a long a three-year pursuit. "Video consumption in India is soaring and this is a platform I believe that has the potential to acquire users across the masses, from metros to tier-II and III cities," said Ganguly of the deal. "The combination of its content - from cricket to cinema - caught my eye. There are so many users who will consume this content while travelling and on the go... the market potential is huge."

Satish Kaushik is the director of “Tere Naam” ("Your Name"), a film featuring Salman Khan. He is also known for enacting the role of the fondly-remembered cook, Calendar in a film titled “Mr India.” Mr Kaushik has teamed up with Delhi-based entrepreneur Shray Jain to create a chain of family-friendly restaurants. While plotting his move into this space, Jain was thinking of all the references to food that Bollywood had given India, and the line “Calendar khaana lao” ("Calendar, get me my food") from Mr India instantly came to mind. This iconic catchphrase from the film later became the tagline for this restaurant.

Jain has now enshrined Kaushik’s most memorable character and recreated Calendar’s kitchen from the film. Bankrolled by the duo’s savings, Calendar’s Kitchen by Satish Kaushik has two outlets. One in New Delhi's Rajouri Garden that opened in December 2016, and the second location in Janpath which is likely to open its doors this month.

Salman Khan is currently building an operational management team to be headed by a professional with leadership stints at Samsung and Micromax. The Bollywood actor, who owns the Being Human clothing brand, has registered the Being Smart trademark for smartphones. He will work with a Chinese manufacturing plant to produce Android handsets that will cost less than $313 (Rs 20,000). These smartphones will initially be sold online and later through strategic partnerships with a few large cellphone and electronic retail chains. They may also be sold in Being Human stores.

Khan had initially floated the idea of entering the smartphone business two years ago. At that time a few Indian brands had shown interest, but eventually backed out due to the high royalty charges demanded by him. Overcoming this setback, Khan is how heading the venture himself. He is expected to launch the devices in the next two quarters, sometime before this years’ festive season.

Abhinav Bindra, the first Indian to win an individual gold in the Summer Olympic Games, has floated a venture fund that will invest in startups. “This is my first widespread and extensive business venture," says Bindra. "A startup is very much like an athlete's life... there's no guarantee for success." The fund, called Shooting Star, is an equal partnership between consulting firm Franchise India and Bindra, and will have an initial investment pool of $2 million. Shooting Star will invest in areas such as emerging sports academies, sports injury, rehab, health apps, holistic wellness, organic foods and dairy.

In 2017, Shooting Star fund has already invested around $1 million in healthtech startup - Fitpass. Launched in June 2015 by Akshay Verma along with Arushi Verma, Fitpass connects users with gyms and fitness studios. It provides an app-based pass to workout anywhere, anytime across 1,500 gyms and fitness studios in National Capital Region (NCR) in India. Its fitness plan is priced at $15 (Rs 999) per month. These funds will be used to expand the full suite of Fitpass’ service offerings across 10 cities in 2017.

Hrithik Roshan, who is known as one of fittest actors in India, has been signed as brand ambassador for health and wellness company CureFit, in what is touted as one of the largest endorsement deal signed by an Indian startup. As part of this five-year association, valued at more than $15 million (Rs 100 crore), the actor will receive an equity stake in the company. CureFit will be introducing a customised workout plan from Hrithik Roshan’s personal brand, HRX, in all of its CULT fitness centres across Bengaluru, where customers can choose from a combination of functional training, mixed martial arts, yoga, and other formats. The long-term goal for CureFit is to set up a total of 500 CULT centres across India in the next five years.

On Hrithik’s involvement with his venture, Mukesh Bansal, co-founder of CureFit said - “His involvement with CureFit will be multi-fold and we will soon launch a do it yourself format for the HRX workout. He will also be promoting CureFit’s philosophy of a healthy lifestyle.” HRX’s workout plan is anticipated to be launched via a mobile app, and this partnership is expected to rake in $39.2 Million (Rs 250 crore) annual business in the forthcoming years.

Original article:

Written by: Karan Kashyap

InsightsShana Grossman