October 13, 1997  
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SUPER CASSETTES INDUSTRIES
All in the Family

Bhushan KumarGulshan Kumar's business legacy is as extensive as it is intricate. In a bid to consolidate his hold on the empire, son Bhushan plans to trim the flab.

By Namrata Joshi and Anupama Chopra

It's business as usual at Super Cassettes Industries (SCI). All's well and all's still within the family fold. Yet, even as the flag flies high, cassette king Gulshan Kumar's death has brought its fair share of change. His sprawling legacy -- the Rs 350 crore business empire that stretches from the world of cut-rate music cassettes, compact discs and television sets to detergents, incense sticks, mineral water and even real estate -- is turning into a collective corporatedom; from the one-man show that it used to be.

Gulshan's whimsical, impulsive and often eccentric approach is being slowly replaced with a low-key, more professional and business-like one. Twenty-year-old Bhushan Kumar, Gulshan's son who was till recently a director with sci, is all set to take over as its managing director. Holding a 60 per cent stake in the company, he is very much in control keeping the show on track. With a posse of security guards, he shuttles between Noida, near Delhi, and Mumbai, issues crisp instructions in between conversations on the mobile, signs files with a flourish and takes critical decisions, once the prerogative of his father.

Providing a helping hand and a protective ring are his three chachas (uncles) who hold 10 per cent of the company's shares between them. The youngest, Krishan Kumar, oversees the Mumbai operations, which involve music recordings, buying music rights and tv production. The head office, factories and studios at Noida are managed by the older uncles, Darshan Kumar and Gopal Krishna. The overall incharge, of course, is the paterfamilias and sci Chairman Chander Bhan, who has kept a 30 per cent holding with him. While Gopal Krishna still looks after Gopal Soaps, which makes the T-Series detergent, Darshan takes care of the tape-coating plant Tony Electronics and Krishan also heads Krishan Electronics.

The first major decision of the new order has been to shed flab and go slow on the diversification drive. The idea is to cut down in non-core areas, to consolidate instead of spreading themselves too thin. A proposed biscuit venture has been abandoned and the 200-acre Golden City residential project at Greater Noida has been put on hold.

The main target, however, is the Bollywood film production unit. Commercial filmmaking will gradually be phased out. Says filmmaker Uday Shankar Pani, who has made a number of advertisements, serials and films for the company: "The family business is spread so wide. Pehle woh to sambhal lein (that has to be taken care of first). Expansion will come later." While cost-cutting may have been one of the reasons, the family's eagerness to distance itself from the murky world of films is evident. Says Bhushan: "We are not interested. My mother, in particular, has been very disturbed and scared since my father's death."

Even Krishan, for whose sake Gulshan had forayed into films, has decided to give up acting and concentrate on business. "Showbiz is full of crooks. Only Gulshan could see through and outsmart them," says one industry associate. Two ambitious projects which Gulshan had planned with Krishan and directors Priyadarshan and Raj Kanwar have been abandoned. Krishan will, however, be taking up Mahesh Bhatt's Dil Chura Liya assignment and completing K. Bhagyaraj's Papa the Great, for which about a week's shooting remains. "Dil Chura Liya was a film very close to Gulshanji's heart," he says.

Rumour has it that sci's serial Shiv Mahapuran (estimated loss per episode: Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh) may soon be dropped and that the axe may fall on several heads in the Mumbai office this week. But Bhushan is quick to deny the rumour: "Everything is going the same way as before. Shiv Mahapuran is the No. 2 serial in Maharashtra." T-Series has already aired 25 episodes of the Sunday-morning serial and the 43rd is now under production.

One look at Bhushan's office and it is not difficult to tell that the focus is now on the audio division, including music for films. The company, which owns the music rights for a dozen films, recently came out with the cassette of Nitin Manmohan's Prithvi. Also coming up are six to seven film-music releases between October and January. These include Guddu Dhanoa's Aflatoon and Rajeev Kumar's Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar Ho Gaya. And that's not all. There's David Dhawan's Gharwali Baharwali and abcl's roster of five films, including Loveria, Majorsaab and Saat Rang Ke Sapne. Beyond Hindi, T-Series has also bought the music rights of K.T. Kunjumon's next Tamil release Ratchakan.

Special albums and videos of musical tributes are being brought out for Navaratri and Diwali. These include Abhijeet's tribute to Kishore Kumar and Anuradha Paudwal's Volume No. 8 of the Ramayana series and Anand and Milind Shinde's Jhumbad Jhumbad, an album of Marathi folk songs.

T-Series is also making a foray into Hindi pop music. Several new albums are being planned, details of which have not yet been thrashed out. Raageshwari is one of the artistes expected to be roped in for the pop venture.

The role of Paudwal in the new scheme of things has been a subject of much discussion. Though there are allegations that she is being sidelined, she is officially still a director with the company. She not only records albums for the company but also offers "creative advice". Says Mahesh Bhatt, scotching the rumours: "Paudwal is an asset, the family feels her significance even more today. It depends heavily on her advice in music-buying decisions." Among the other T-Series loyalists are Kumar Sanu, Abhijeet, Sonu Nigam and Lakhbir Singh Lakha.

The family makes no bones about wanting to make the company more professional. Far from the individualistic approach of Gulshan's days, the new set up is one where, as Krishan points out, "Everybody (who matters) has a say in everything." Says Darshan: "Hum to ek muththi ki tarah hain (We are like a clenched fist)," indicating the family's unity in business.

Despite all these efforts, Gulshan's instinct for music and business in general is being missed. Says Mukesh Desai, sci's Mumbai-based chief executive: "When Gulshanji was alive, our speed was 500 km per hour. Now it seems to have come down to 400 km per hour." Bhatt is more direct: "No one can replace a man like Gulshan; he had enough energy to put 20 mbas to shame."

Bhushan claims that business has remained unaffected after his father's demise and that sci continues to corner a commanding 60 per cent share of the market. However, these are early days yet. It remains to be seen whether the show of strength can compensate for Gulshan's business acumen and unorthodox style.

 

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