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Want to be a celebrity manager?

Handling celebrities can be a rewarding career for those passionate about image-building. Pankaj Mullick tells you all that you want to know about this profession.

education Updated: Mar 18, 2010 09:31 IST
Pankaj Mullick

For every two minutes of glamour, there are eight hours of hard work.
- Jessica Savitch, American journalist

That aptly describes the life of a celebrity and artist manager. While the artiste or sportsperson has most certainly put in a lot of work to have "arrived", it's the job of a manager to help them reap the benefits and "live the life". And that is a lot of work. But that's what it takes if you want to be indispensable to the likes of Bipasha Basu, Sania Mirza, and Vijendra Singh.

Celebrity careers can last as long as a few decades or might be over before you can say "flop". In that varying span, the celebrity manager has to get the in-demand person the right brand tie-ups and the best price.

It is also the celebrity manager's job to recognise talent and nurture it before the medals and accolades prove the point. It pays huge dividends to identify a sport, or a genre (in the case of music) that is likely to catch the imagination of the masses in the coming years and pick a rising star in that field. And this takes foresight.

"We did not want to limit ourselves to cricket, and based on the country's talent pool, the industry landscape and our gut feel, we identified sports such as boxing, wrestling, football, hockey, and squash. With boxing on the top of our charts, we signed-up Vijender Singh in 2005. And the rest, as they say, is history," says Neerav Tomar, co-founder, Infinity Optimal Solutions (IOS). Singh subsequently moved on to another agency.

Tomar's firm currently promotes boxers such as MC Mary Kom (four-time World Boxing Champion), Akhil Kumar (Arjuna awardee) and Pradeep Kumar (professional boxer) and wrestler Sushil Kumar (Olympic bronze medallist).

Most of the existing top-grossers in the field of celebrity management have had unusual starts. "It all started with my passion for sports — being a National-level squash player, I always thought of promoting sports that got step-motherly treatment in India," says Tomar, who had to step off the squash court due to an injury.

One of the earliest starters in Indian rock and now a well-known artiste management professional, Subir Malik says, "It all started in the way I managed my own band and how I marketed it. We were probably the first band with our own website (1995) and advertised the band through all available channels, including the Yellow Pages. They put us under 'orchestra parties'. I soon realised that there was no organised sector in India for 'live bands' and thus Parikrama Inc was born. Today, we manage and book more than 75 bands from over 40 genres," says Malik, whose band, Parikrama, has blazed a trail for itself in the world of Indian rock.

What’s it about?
A celebrity manager provides services such as celebrity/athlete grooming, managing his or her time schedule, public relation services, marketing and advertising campaigns, negotiating endorsements, promotional launches, parties, and personal appearances

Clock Work
9.30 am: Check mails; do followup
10 am: Check on make-up person for photo-shoot
11 am: Make F&B and other arrangements for client
12 pm: Pick up and accompany celebrity to shoot
4 pm: Meet soft-drinks company to pitch celebrity client
6 pm: Meet celebrity client for drinks
8.30 pm: Meet another client for dinner
10 pm: Pack up and head home

The Payoff
Starting salaries can vary between Rs 7,000 and Rs 20,000, depending on the size of the company and the grade of celebrities it manages. Striking out on one's own (typically after 10 years) can mean big payoffs but one should be prepared for lean periods too when the endorsement market cools off

skills
.
An amazing amount of patience and maturity
. Ability to connect with people from varied backgrounds
. Ability to come up with quick solutions
. Understand media and image-building
. Business-minded
. Well-informed about brands
. Creative thinker

How do I get there?
After senior secondary education, you can pick up a public relations or advertising degree or diploma. Marketing and media planning courses would also provide an edge. One can then intern at a celebrity/sports management firm. Industry insiders strongly recommend on-the-job training, developing brand awareness and deep knowledge of the endorsement market

Institutes & urls
After senior secondary education, you can pick up a public relations or advertising degree or diploma. Marketing and media planning courses would also provide an edge. One can then intern at a celebrity/sports management firm. Industry insiders strongly recommend on-the-job training, developing brand awareness and deep knowledge of the endorsement market

Pros & Cons
. Hobnobbing with celebrities
. Working with big brands
. Travel all over the world
. Potential to develop a wide-reaching network
. Big deals can mean big pay-offs
. Prospect of starting one's own company in about 10 years
. Not a desk job
. Need to be available to clients 24/7
. Dealing with celebrity quirks can be stressful
. Mundane to start with (a lot of coordination work

Understand brands and endorsements

You can do without qualifications but not without awareness and curiosity, says a celebrity manager

How did you get started in artiste and celebrity management?
I always knew I wanted to be in the sports and entertainment industry and didn't want a conventional job. The buzz of entertainment fascinated me. Fresh out of college, I applied to a few celebrity management/entertainment companies and started as an intern. Later, while I was in a marketing function, celebrity management was one of the services the company I worked for provided. Over time, I realised that I enjoyed celebrity management and this was the career I wanted to follow.

According to your experience, what qualifications can prepare an aspiring candidate for this field?
Celebrity management isn't rocket science and doesn't require any qualifications, degrees or diplomas. However, it does help if the candidate is aware of the world around her / him and can converse intelligently with people from diverse backgrounds.

If you were hiring for your business, what would be the personality traits you would look for?
When we hire a celebrity manager, we look at someone who is smart, and a quick, logical thinker. In this profession, you need to be on your toes all the time and anticipate the situation. It helps if the candidate understands brands and the endorsement market because celebrities would want their manager to know which star is endorsing which product and what brands are looking for. Also, very importantly, the candidate should have brilliant communication and people skills, something that a degree can never teach you. So, if you are good with people, smart and logical, a quick thinker and have a general understanding of the entertainment industry, you have a shot at becoming a celebrity manager.

Are there any courses for this field? Which ones would you recommend?
There's absolutely nothing in India that I am aware of. There are celebrity management courses abroad, particularly in the United States but they are expensive and may not be very relevant to the Indian context. I would suggest interning with a celebrity management agency to start off; nothing better than learning on the job!

How does one get started in this field?
While the best way to start off is by interning with a celebrity management firm, the actual education can start in college itself. I suggest interested candidates keep a track, through commercials, of which celebrities are endorsing which products. Following brands and understanding their communication strategies go a long way in becoming a celebrity manager.

Indranil Blah, vice president, Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions Interviewed by Pankaj Mullick