With a string of genius ideas and sharp business acumen, T-Series has revolutionized the music industry time and again. And the tale of success spans from one generation to another.
Once a juice seller in the alleys of Old Delhi, Gulshan Kumar laid the foundation of a revolution in India’s music industry with an unprecedented approach to market domination. And now, in the evolved digital music industry of today, it his son Bhushan Kumar who has come out as the undisputed market dominator.
And in an age where opportunity is virtually limitless with the reach of internet and digital media, Bhushan Kumar-led T-Series is quickly becoming a global name – a label that has a habit of revolutionizing the industry generation after generation.
Phase 1 – Gulshan Kumar
In an era where the Indian music market was virtually unregulated and no serious copyright infringement laws existed, Gulshan Kumar formulated an unprecedented mantra of success. Flooding the market with music cassettes even before movies were released, T-Series dominated the market for years.
Devotion – Idea that changed the game
Having had tremendous success in the market, Gulshan Kumar then made a monumental shift in his gameplan. Understanding the lack of competition in the market for devotional songs market and the difficulty of India’s elders in reciting hymns and chants, he debuted T-Series in the Hindi devotional genre with new takes on old hymns and fresh songs.
Kumar hired many future heavyweight singers on his rolls and flooded Indian households with variety of recorded bhajans at dirt cheap prices. The appeal of T-Series music grew across sections of the society making the brand a regular household name.
Video Pilgrimages – A Breakthrough concept
Kumar’s success wasn’t just because of a great observation of an unfilled gap in the industry but his innate genius as an entrepreneur. Another remarkable innovation of Kumar’s, that turned out to be a resonating success, was the recorded videos of major Hindu pilgrimages.
The offering flattered millions of Indians who were unable to visit these holy spots and had no hope of doing so ever. Kumar can be credited with playing the role of an inter-mediator, who enabled millions of devout persons to reach out to Gods. Gulshan Kumar changed the face of pilgrimage and made it accessible to the most devoid sections of the society.
Bollywood success in the era of romance
Kumar decided to venture into the Indian film industry in 1984. But the breakthrough hit for T-Series came in 1988 with the Amir Khan and Juhi Chawla starrer blockbuster movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. QSQT’s soundtracks became one of the best-selling Indian music albums of the time, shelling out a whopping 8 million units.
But the biggest hit by T-Series, which made it the leader in India’s music industry was the Mahesh Bhatt-directed 1990 flick, Aashiqui. By selling 20 million units in India, Aashiqui still holds the record of best-selling Bollywood soundtrack album. T-Series is credited with playing a major role in Indian music industry’s boom in late 80’s and early 90’s.
Passing over the torch
T-Series was the biggest dog in the neighborhood and today stands as a major production house in Bollywood. Gulshan Kumar himself acted in many Bollywood movies under his banner. But his run as the torch bearer of the industry was cut short when he was assassinated in 1997 by Mumbai’s mafia underworld for not giving in to extortion threats.
Kumar’s untimely demise came as a major blow to the rising star of T-Series in the flourishing Indian music industry. But this trying moment became the bully pulpit for Bhushan Kumar to carve himself in the image of his father and take India’s most loved music banner to the next level. Bhushan Kumar remarkably took his father’s legacy to the next level.
PHASE 2 – Rise of Bhushan Kumar
When Gulshan Kumar was assassinated, Bhushan Kumar was a mere 19-year-old teenager. At an immature and raw age, Bhushan Kumar was asked to be the patriarch and lead a million-dollar music company. Still in his graduation, and with little knowledge about the business, Kumar emerged against the odds and dived into the nuances of the trade full time.
At an age when most college goers are hanging out in cafes or attending late-night parties, Bhushan Kumar took reins of the T-Series music label. But his early entry into the business world was besotted with even darker days ahead. A lack of trust gripped T-Series which saw not only movie banners, but also from music albums. Even the people launched by late Gulshan Kumar showed little to no respect for the label and kept away from working with T-Series.
Left with company ready to be down-trodden by other big names in the industry. The only thing which kept him going was his father’s dream of making T-Series an international level success. He took this as an opportunity to prove himself and outperformed expectations with the success of the Aksay Kumar-starrer Aflatoon.
Selling over a million units of Aflatoon, Bhushan gave out a firm statement to his competitors. T-Series came back on its feet and reconquered the Indian music industry. Bhushan Kumar is said to have an ear for good music like his father. This quality is the reason he almost never fails to find and deliver great content and talent. He expanded T-Series by using every medium available. He knew what the audience wanted, be it melodious hymns or party songs.
Beyond the traditional
Another attribute of Bhushan Kumar is adaptability. He has gradually transformed the label carefully and in resonance with ever-changing audience needs, standing out from competition. Kumar introduced the digital streaming of music labels partnering with Indian digital startup Hungama.com. Today, T-Series is available everywhere, from radio to every digital platform.
In the past, Kumar has opined his dreams of making T-Series the biggest production house in Bollywood. T-Series has decided to invest 300 crores annually on movies, with an expected return of 400 crores. The resounding success of T-Series in the post-Gulshan Kumar era epitomizes the determined leadership and business ingenuity displayed by Bhushan Kumar.
The YouTube mantra of global success
The dominance of T-Series can be seen from the grand acclaim and success of its YouTube channel. With a nation of 1.5 billion people, the rise of an Indian channel on YouTube as number one was inevitable. But it was Bhushan Kumar and T-Series who caught hold of the idea before anyone else. T-Series made their YouTube debut way back in 2010, with some movie trailers and video songs.
Until 2017, T-Series had only 12 million subscribers, with the mass population’s low access to the internet a riding factor. But the scenario was changed with the digital transformation that has engulfed India in the last few years. The entry of Reliance Jio made free internet available for millions taking India’s internet userbase to 500 million.
T-Series’ Digital Dynamics
This gave Indian YouTubers the break they were seeking for so long. T-series utilized it very well and started focusing on the video streaming platform. They own 29 channels on YouTube, with 40% of traffic coming from outside of India. The 60% of company’s revenue now comes from online sources and they reportedly earned Rs. 720 crores in the first half of 2018. From 12 million they travelled to 100 million in just 2 years.
They became the channel with highest views in 2017 surpassing PewDiePie with more than 14 billion views. In January 2017, T-Series had around 875 monthly views, and now has around 3 billion monthly views and 100 thousand daily views.
The battle to the top
Before T-Series became the most subscribed channel, the YouTube community saw a huge battle between the former most subscribed YouTuber with a 96 million-strong subscriber army of
9-year-olds, Felix Kjellberg aka PewDiePie against the Indian music industry’s heavyweight, T-Series. PewDiePie, with a huge fan base and support from other YouTubers, put up a great fight and even released two diss tracks to stay at the top.
But all his efforts in vain, only delayed the eventual outcome. The battle took an ugly turn with some of his supporters posting racist or anti-India comments on T-Series channel and the social media portrayed it as India v/s the World. Although PewDiePie made an attempt to stop this by donating huge sums to charity for unprivileged children in India, his followers took illegal means of promoting the channel such as vandalism, hacking and malware distribution.
100 million subscribers and the legacy continues…
Bhushan Kumar in an interview with BBC told he had previously never heard of PewDiePie until “a few months ago”. Kumar said he’s “really not bothered about this race” and followed up with “I don’t even know why PewDiePie is taking this so seriously”, adding that “are not competing with him.”
T-Series finally passed PewDiePie in April 2019 and has remained perched on the top spot ever since. As of now, T-Series has a lead of 6 million over PewDiePie and gaining around 100 thousand subscribers daily and 4 million subscribers monthly.
Bhushan Kumar was felicitated by the Guinness World Records for T-Series being the first YouTube channel to have 100 million subscribers. With 102 million subscribers and two-third of Indian population still offline, this number will rise and we may see more Indian channels holding the top spots on YouTube in near future. Not just keeping up his father’s legacy, Bhushan Kumar has taken T-Series to the top of the globe.