Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan’s recent series Tandav, on Amazon Prime, has been in the news not just for the controversy around a scene, but also for one of the locations of the series—Pataudi Palace. Saif’s ancestral property, designed by architect Robert Tor Russell and assisted by Austrian architect Karl Molt von Heinz in the early 1900s, has for long intrigued Indians. In 2018, Saif leveraged his public persona, ancestral name, and palace to launch House of Pataudi, a clothing and footwear collection, followed by a furniture collection in September 2019 in partnership with Exceed Entertainment and Myntra. Clothes and footwear are available on Myntra, the furniture pieces can be bought from Flipkart. On the completion of two years of his brand, the actor talks to Forbes India about running a business, surviving the Covid-led crisis, and the Pataudi Palace. Which is the most important lesson you have learnt as a businessman? No job that will give you good returns is easy. In-depth knowledge and passion are a must before you can be effective in your chosen line of work. Usually, things look easy from the outside. You imagine that you could run a hotel or be an interior designer but when you actually get down to doing it, you realise that nothing is easy and that you need imagination and energy to carry on. Even when it comes to movies, people think it is easy to make one, but it’s not easy and nor is business. Why did you decide to get into business? I have always wanted to unlock various dimensions of my personality beyond acting. So, whether it is my creative production venture or my retail business–I’ve been into various business streams for a while now. The idea to market my ethnic sartorial sensibility was hatched by my management agency led by Afsar Zaidi and got converted into a business model with Myntra’s partnership. What do you enjoy more, acting or business? For me, it is acting. But acting is business too. Different people do it differently but ultimately you are marketing yourself. Also, as an actor, the market finds you. As a public personality, if you work towards being unique, delivering a certain kind of entertainment that is different than everyone else’s, a business chooses you. The difference between me and people who are into business full time is that I am not really calculating the market and looking at a product. I am a product working as a brand to make it unique. While filmmaking is more collaborative, the fundamentals of it and a typical business are the same. In both, you must deliver something, and the outcome, a movie, or a product, must be priced correctly and have great content. How has your business journey been so far? It has been exciting. We have been very conscious of what we bring to the customers and have balanced that with a strong sense of commercial acumen. Why did you and your business partners decide to launch online, with ecommerce partners? Ecommerce provides us with a huge scope to grow the whole premium ethnic wear category and make it accessible, particularly in the men’s wear space. Myntra’s reach across India has given us the opportunity to extend the brand's experience to audiences regardless of their location. What were the major challenges in running the business, especially in the pandemic? At the peak of the pandemic, shopping was not on anyone's list. People rarely ventured out and avoided celebrations and events, which slowed the demand for occasion wear and our sales dropped as well. Nonetheless, we tackled this situation by introducing daily wear for shoppers who do not associate with ethnic wear. This pivot towards everyday products was well received. We have also been able to ascertain the demand for our products from smaller cities apart from the metros during the pandemic. What is your vision for your brand, House of Pataudi? The core idea of House of Pataudi is to create a lifestyle proposition that enriches our customers by extending the royal experience of refined tastes into their lives, where contemporary tastes are inspired by a rich heritage. House of Pataudi is an extension of my family legacy and seamlessly weaves in the past into the present. Fashion and history are two areas I have always been inclined towards. What is next for House of Pataudi? Following the success of our men and women apparel and footwear collections along with our furniture line, the brand will be foraying into the kids wear space and soft home ranges this year. We are also exploring the accessories space. Which is your favourite space in the Pataudi Palace? I do not feel more at home anywhere else than at the Pataudi Palace. Every place else, somehow, feels rented and temporary. We have had many events here when the entire family–all the parents and kids–have gotten together, and these are some of my fondest memories in the place. From the middle of the palace, from an open chhabutra, you can see the moon and that is my favourite spot to sit in and look at the moon and the stars. My second favourite space is the library. Sometime ago, I renovated the palace and added some personal touches to it. Sadly though, I don’t end up spending more than ten days a year here and hence opened it for more shoots.
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