Their day may start with a morning meeting with Sania Mirza, lunch with Deepika Padukone, and wind up with dinner at Rishi Kapoor’s. This isn’t one of those fantastical be-a-celeb-for-a-day contest victories; it’s an ordinary workday in the life of a celebrity manager. Whether you work in sports or entertainment, hanging out with actors, cricketers or athletes comes at a price. We spoke to four people in the business—entrepreneurs and employees—to understand what it takes to handle superstars and sportspersons.
Rahul Teny, 31
Assistant vice-president, Percept Sports, Mumbai
Rahul Teny joined Percept Sports this year to work with Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh and other boxers such as Jai Bhagwan and Manpreet Singh. The young sports manager has just finished organizing “Fight Night”, a special boxing event in Pune.
Sports fanatic: Rahul Teny loves the fact that his job allows him easy access to his sporting heroes. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
How he got here: Teny studied economics at Mumbai’s Mithibai College and then joined Wizcraft in 2000, where he assisted the sales and marketing teams with proposals and market research on sports-related activities. In 2003, he joined Tiger Sports to work on organizing corporate golf tournaments. Three years later, in 2006, he re-joined Wizcraft. There he worked with the Kings XI team and its owners during the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. He also did a short stint as a trainee at a private equity firm, working on a project to set up neighbourhood pubs, before he joined Percept earlier this year.
Dream deal: Wizcraft (where Teny was working in 2008) made three presentations to three different IPL teams, to manage their events. “I got the account to work with Kings XI. Those three months were the most awesome of my life. I had a chance to interact with the owners of Kings XI and to travel with the team and interact closely with many cricketers.”
A typical day: He wakes up at 7am and reads all the papers “very carefully” and then drives to work. After a 9.30am team meeting, he gets down to work on issues that need firefighting. “Today it is hotel reservations for the English boxers. The hotels don’t appear to have rooms for the nights we need. Wrong jerseys have reached the Indian boxers and we have to find a local supplier and printer who will remake them right away.” Usually he finishes work by 7.30-8pm.
Sucess mantra:You have to be good at presentation skills and must think your projects through. Make multiple checklists.
Biggest challenge:“Sports is the hardest thing to sell in India. And if it’s not cricket, it’s doubly hard.” Teny says he gets an average of six to seven emails a week on his LinkedIn account, asking him how he has made a career in sports management. “The sad part is there are not so many jobs out there now. Unlike globally where leagues are run by professionals, sports management in India is still not privatized.”
What I love about this job: Interacting with the sportsmen. “I remember one evening when (cricketer) Brett Lee was playing the guitar for all of us till 4 in the morning—that was an awesome night. (Cricketer) Glenn McGrath was in town too. He has always been my hero and now I have a picture with him.”
One thing I would change: “Sports management people like the ones who have done such a sham job with the Commonwealth Games. As it is we are a cynical country, and when people do a shoddy job at events like this, the country’s reputation is spoilt for a long long time.”
Money matters: Salaries could range from Rs 9 lakh to Rs 18 lakh per annum, depending on your skill and expertise at managing a particular sport.
Anirban Das Blah
Managing director, Kwan Entertainment, Mumbai
Sitting in his Andheri office, surrounded by film posters, Anirban Das Blah recalls his early days at tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi’s sports and celebrity management company, Globosport, that he helped build up. Last year, Das Blah left Globosport to set up his own firm Kwan. It represents Bollywood biggies such as Ranbir Kapoor. Today, Kwan has 45 employees, offices in six cities, and billings, claims Das Blah, close to Rs 100 crore in its very first year.
Multiple Skills: Anirban Das Blah believes you need communication skills and understanding of pop culture to manage celebrities. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
How he started Kwan: “I saw Jerry Maguire, and thought his was a fantastic job to have. I spent eight years of my life at Globosport building it up. But I felt that it was time I owned what I built. Also Mahesh and I had different management philosophies,” Das Blah says of the split. Blah left with seven business heads at Globosport, to start Kwan.
Dream deal: Signing on actor Saif Ali Khan in 2004 for Globosport, and getting Seagram to sign him on. Recalls Das Blah, “Those days everybody said Saif was a wrong person, he’s too Westernized. But I met Vikram Basu of Seagram in Delhi and told him: ‘If you want to sell your products to the housewife in Bareilly, please sign Shahrukh Khan, but in urban India this is who men want to be and this is whom women want to date’. So we took one of Saif’s biggest perceived weakness and made it his strength.”
A typical day: Starts work by 10am. “Today I spent the first half hour with my team, discussing annual reviews. Then we went through the presentation we are making to one of the biggest brands in the world. We’ve suggested they drop their existing brand ambassador and sign on Ranbir Kapoor. In the afternoon I will meet with one of our young actor models and discuss his career. At 4pm, I have a meeting with a photographer.” Most days Das Blah is back home by 6.30pm but he usually always has meetings post dinner.
Success mantra: You cannot manage celebrities if you have issues about timings and job profiles. To be successful in this profession, you must have the ability to leave your baggage behind. “I’ve met a lot of people who want to get into the sports business, people from IIMs, investment bankers. But these people are simply not able to leave their baggage behind. I took a massive pay cut when I joined Globosport (he worked with the telecom sector before this assignment) and joined at Rs 17,000 a month. It was like I’d erased my entire working life in telecom and started from a scratch.”
Biggest challenge: At present, he believes “there is not much money to be made by managing sportspersons in India unless you are managing (M.S.) Dhoni or Sachin (Tendulkar).”
What I love about this job: Unpredictability. “If I had stayed with my earlier career in telecom, I would have been sitting and having a conversation about how you transfer data on different networks and making a presentation on that. Now, I have a beer at the waterfront in Cape Town with Ranbir Kapoor and talk about that.”
One thing I would change: “When you’re socializing, and people find out this is what you do, its all they want to talk about. They always ask: ‘Tell us the gossip—who is seeing who?’ It’s not something I can or want to talk about.”
Money matters: Anything from Rs 1 crore to Rs 3 crore per annum.
Priyanka Mehta, 23
Senior manager, Bling Entertainment Solutions, Mumbai
“This job always looked so glamorous. I know it’s a lot of hard work now but I still love it.” Problems keep cropping up and she has to be on the ball always and that’s why Mehta says she can never plan in advance. The ability to stay calm in stressful situations is a key, according to her. Currently she handles Vidya Balan’s account. “This means I have to be in constant touch with her.” A typical day involves coming into work by 10.30am. There is always a lot of paperwork pending—contracts to look into, coordinating dates and timings with brands. “We also need to send out email pitches to companies. Most days I leave office by 8.30pm. But my phone doesn’t stop ringing until 10pm. I’m a late sleeper and so is Vidya Balan, so we conduct a lot of our work conversations between midnight and 2am. Later today I have to speak to her about some still photographs she has to look at before they get plastered over billboards all over the country. I need to travel a lot too, mostly to Delhi, Kolkata, sometimes down south.”
Money matters: Fresh graduates can earn between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 a month.
Atul Kasbekar, 45
Managing director, Bling Entertainment Solutions, and photographer, Mumbai
Atul Kasbekar walks into a coffee shop in Bandra, wearing a grey Abercrombie T-shirt and trousers. He puts his sunglasses on the table, and then his two phones—a Nokia, and a BlackBerry with a number known only to 10-12 people. He says he’s late as the meeting with actor Deepika Padukone took longer than planned.
Brand creator: Atul Kasbekar says most sportsmen end up doing way too many endorsements.
How he started Bling: As a photographer, Kasbekar sorely missed an agent who would step in to cover all the marketing and commercial aspects of a deal, and leave him to concentrate on the photography. “I think I’ve done alright for myself as a photographer. But I know I could have done four to five times better if I had an agent. No creative person should be negotiating their own deals.”
Dream deal: Creating a distinctive brand for Kapoor. “Post Saawariya, Sonam was perceived as very Indian looking, ‘almost rustic’. The truth couldn’t be further,” says Kasbekar. “She is actually 5ft 10 inches, fabulous looking, has a great body, incredibly well-read —I don’t know too many people who are better read—and probably has the most innate sense of fashion that I’ve seen. It’s not a stylist dressing her, it’s her. We just started to showcase that—next thing she was on magazine cover after magazine cover. This is what we do—get people noticed.”
A typical day: “Work out and then start my day with meetings. Today for example I had a 2-hour meeting with some people who wanted to talk about a joint venture with my company. From there I rushed to Sonam’s house for a meeting. Then there was a meeting at Shahid Kapoor’s house. Then there was a meeting with Sahil Shroff. I will reach home at 6.30-7pm.”
Success mantra: Keep your phone on at all times. An agent who is not reachable at all times is asking for trouble.
Biggest challenge: Being able to say it like it is. “It’s a dangerous business of expectation management; if I paint a rosy but unrealistic picture to a star, the only person who is going to suffer is me.”
Bling handles cricketers Jonty Rhodes and Zaheer Khan. Kasbekar believes sportsmen come with many challenges. “Too many of them want to make as much money as they can right now. So building a brand becomes difficult,” Kasbekar explains. With a minimum guarantee (amount predecided), you can’t say no to any endorsement, no matter what it is. “Otherwise, say, if there is a ceiling-fan offer, or digestive pills for one of the sportsmen, I would decline it. But it is tough to say no. Most sportsmen end up doing way too many endorsements.”
What I love about this job: Being able to build a person as a brand.
One thing I would change: With people who are important or famous, when they need something, they want it now. “Very few will think its 2am, maybe I shouldn’t call now.”
Money matters: It all depends on the stars and celebrities you have. You earn a 10-15% commission on the endorsements you get for the big stars (anywhere between 20-30% for models and lesser-known stars).
Every month, we explore a profession through the lives of executives at different stages in their careers. Tell us which profession you want to know more about at firstname.lastname@example.org