Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Orry plans his downfall after tasting success. Storyboard18 finds out why and how

While fans and followers are waiting to get their hands on an Orry 'I am a liver' T-shirt or an Orry special phone case, Orhan Awatramani says he knows what goes up must come down. In this interview with Storyboard18, he talks about how he plans to deal with it, and also about the strategies and successes so far

Published: Mar 14, 2024 01:14:22 PM IST
Updated: Mar 15, 2024 06:37:16 PM IST

Orhan Awatramani, popularly known as Orry. Image: Instagram, @orry1Orhan Awatramani, popularly known as Orry. Image: Instagram, @orry1

Know what Orhan Awatramani, or Orry, is up to these days? He is planning his downfall.  Having tasted success at many levels, Orry says: “I've climbed high, and as they say, what goes up must come down. So, I want to plan an epic downfall, a spectacular crash that paves the way for a comeback. Because after a crash, you get back up.”

That apart he continues to ‘work on himself’ and his exclusivity.

Exclusivity has been a powerful marketing tool for luxury brands, creating a sense of desire and scarcity around their products. Orry follows the same rulebook. While fans and followers are waiting to get their hands on an Orry ‘I am a liver’ t-shirt or a Orry special phone case, he says these items cannot be bought. It can only be received as gifts and as tokens of appreciation from him.

Does that mean he doesn’t want to sell these ever? No. He just doesn’t want to sell this now and doesn’t want to start yet another brand that dilutes the person behind it by being available everywhere.

He is clear on one thing , if and when he launches a brand it will be exclusive and of course unique. There could be an Orry Event where the tickets could be Orry T-shirts.

This social media star is doing anything but following the influencer playbook.

Here's how he's turning down millions by not selling merch and building a loyal following on his own terms.

Edited excerpts:

Q. Can you walk us through the key milestones in your brand journey? How did you conceptualise and shape your personal brand?

Life is hard. It throws challenges our way, and hard work is essential. Every morning is a new chance to put in the effort. It might seem like I don't work hard, but I truly believe in the saying ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.’ The truth is talent without hard work is like having the tools but never building anything.

Of late, it feels like everyone's preaching something. My approach is different. I'm not here to complain or judge –  whether someone is a nepotism product or naturally gifted. Comparing yourself with others leads to negativity. Focus on your own path, your own life. You can't get a do-over. This is it.

That's the core of my philosophy: live your best life. Pursue what brings you joy, because tomorrow isn't guaranteed.  I didn’t just randomly coin the phrase ‘I am a liver’ for this interview. Everyone keeps quoting it. Living my best life has been my mantra for a long time. It’s really about embracing every opportunity and making the most of your journey. My whole brand is about ‘living your best life’.

Q. We don’t see a marketplace you are active in, yet you are everywhere. What is it that you are selling? And who is your target audience?

There are currently no plans to sell merchandise -- be it my T-shirts or my phone cases.  I understand the interest. I get a lot of requests to sell them, too. But for now, the focus isn't on selling products. I'm not selling you T-shirts. I’m not here to sell you merchandise. I am not a salesman. I am here to sell you the dream. The dream is to just be happy.

As for my target audience, while Gen Z connects a lot with me, age is really not a barrier for me. There are people across age profiles who follow me on social media and I think I connect with all age groups.

Also read: 'If I had to make My Name is Khan or Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna today...': Karan Johar at FILA 2024

Q. When you say ‘there are currently no plans’, do you mean you can have a change of heart later and fans can one day own a piece of Orry merch?

Absolutely. While I'm not opposed to merchandising in the future, if I ever sell something, it will be in a very cool way. I envision unique experiences, like an exclusive Orry event, where a limited edition T-shirt becomes your ticket. Currently, there are three Orry T-shirts. So, imagine a 300-person party with only 100 of each design. It will be a party with Orry.

The event is in the talks.

But for now, my focus is to spread the message of happiness. It resonates with people, keeps me going, and allows me to attend events that bring joy to others and myself. These appearances are currently my primary source of income. People call me to weddings and they are happy to pay me anywhere between Rs 15 lakh-Rs 30 lakh. They want me to attend not as a guest but as a friend, maybe to the groom or someone else.

So my actual audience keeps me so afloat that they want me there at their events.

So, if there is ever an Orry brand, say like a makeup line, it will be an affordable one. My audience comes first, and being pricey isn’t the goal here. I can make money elsewhere. Accessibility is important.

Q. So, basically you are building up suspense and creating a demand for your future line?

Yes, I am. There are lots of merch items I generally gift people. There are T-shirts, key chains, bag tags, and stickers but they are currently for gifting only. I've given them to my team, supporters, and even media personnel.

During Christmas, I gifted some Orry and we got calls from Delhi and Haryana where people wanted to order as many as 300 of those hampers for gifting. So we have received innumerable requests to sell these items, but for now, they're only a way to show appreciation.

This approach builds a sense of exclusivity. My limited-edition T-shirts, featuring my emojis, follow the same logic. Owning one lets you know which designs you're missing, creating a playful demand.

Q. Beyond creating a sense of exclusivity with limited-edition merchandise, what core principles guide your approach to building your personal brand?

Building a brand is about authenticity, not forced promotion. I learnt this young. People can see through inauthenticity.

For instance, for collaborations, the script is crucial. When you come to me with a proposal to collaborate with your brand, it's no longer about your Nivea or your Vaseline. It's about brand Orry. The Vaseline collaboration, for instance, worked wonders because I wasn’t forced to sell something.

It was funny and it was relatable. So was the CRED ad. I liked the script and I took it up because it aligned perfectly with my brand. But if it feels forced, I won't do it. The focus should be on creating entertaining content that incorporates the product naturally, not a hard-sell.

Q. Is there a no-go area for you when it comes to endorsements?

I’d rather endorse something that's unhealthy than endorse something that I do not believe in -- say, for instance, an alcohol brand or a cigarette brand or even a pan masala brand or chips because you and I already know they’re unhealthy.

But I'd not promote a health product I don't believe in or something I don't actually consume, because I would not want to deceive my audience.

Q. Social media plays a crucial role in personal branding. What is your strategy for leveraging social media platforms to enhance your brand presence?

They say fame in India is a two-horse race: Bollywood or cricket. Maybe a politician here or there, but that's not quite pop culture. Then there's me, Orry. Not quite Bollywood, not quite cricket, but carving a new lane.

People tell me I'm a trailblazer. Paving the way for authors, influencers – anyone outside the usual suspects. It's exciting! This new kind of fame feels wide open, full of possibility.

But here's the thing: fame on my terms. My Instagram isn't just random posts; it's a movie. Every reel and photo is meticulously chosen to tell a story. I pick the content like an actor picks a script. It's about creating a vibe, a little mystery that keeps people hooked.

The same goes for Snapchat. It's the behind-the-scenes cut, the bits that fill in the blanks on Instagram. More personal, a little closer look.

But Instagram has its limits. I don't want to spam my followers. I’ve recently started exploring YouTube. There is only one video up there and there will be a new one soon. I’ll soon be posting a  video about Orry Number Nine, part of my whole "Orryverse" thing. It's not even about me – it's her story, her journey.

This is how I use social media -- building a brand, a narrative, across platforms. It's a new kind of fame, and it's working. Who knows where it takes me next? But one thing's for sure: Orryverse is just getting started.

Also read: There's a little crazy inside me: Shahid Kapoor

Q. You talked about the demise of your brand on national television. How is that shaping up?

Let me be clear. I’m not planning to destroy my personal brand. I'm talking about a curated downfall, like what Karan referred to as a "digital demise." I'm open to calling it that, but here's the thing: downfalls can be entertaining! Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment – that's what my world thrives on.

People love a good story, and a well-orchestrated downfall can be the most captivating chapter of it. You've seen my rise – the parties, the clothes, Bigg Boss, the media attention, even Koffee with Karan, which is truly  an achievement for non-film personalities. I've climbed high, and as they say, what goes up must come down.

So, before the inevitable crash or someone else forcing it, I'd rather take control. I want to plan an epic downfall, a spectacular crash that paves the way for a comeback. Because after a crash, you get back up.

Ideally, I'd like to schedule this downfall for May. But it needs to be incredibly entertaining, something that capitalises on the current attention. Then, after this grand performance, I'll disappear for a vacation in Europe. Upon my return, I'll come back with a bang, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

A downfall isn't about self-destruction. It's about creating an entertaining saga, not shutting down my Instagram or erasing everything I've built. It's about taking charge of the narrative and using it to propel myself forward.