Deepika Padukone: Bollywood star turns to tech investment
The star of Bollywood movies Chennai Express and Padmavaat, talks to the FT's South Asia Correspondent Stephanie Findlay about becoming a start-up investor
Filmed by Avijit Mukul Kishore, produced and edited by Tom Griggs
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Deepika Padukone is one of the biggest stars in Bollywood. The 33-year-old actress has appeared in some of the biggest hits in the past decade, including Chennai Express and the historical epic Padmaavat. She's even made the crossover into Hollywood, starring in Triple X - The Return of Xander Cage. But now she's looking beyond Bollywood and has set her sights on becoming a player in India's start-up scene. She already has stakes in a string of companies and sectors ranging from beauty to space vehicle propulsion.
I started by asking her what made her want to become an investor.
I think there's various factors to it. I think one is the risk factor. One is the excitement factor. The fact that it allows me to interact with people from a completely different world.
So what sort of things are you looking or what appeals to you about companies when you're scouting to see who or what to invest in?
The way I invest is exactly the way I would choose, say, any of my film scripts. I think that's always been my process in anything in life that I do. I think to be - to follow your gut. There's always a voice inside you that tells you what you honestly want to do.
And what sort of expertise do you offer, as a Bollywood star, to start-ups?
If anything, maybe I think I'm bringing emotion to the table. I do feel sometimes it gets very number driven, and we're losing our ability to be driven by emotion and by our gut.
Emotion in kind of like a moral sense? Like it's not just about how much profit is created, but it's also about the good that the company does?
Oh, absolutely. That, for me, goes without saying. If you see the kind of companies that I've invested in, I think somewhere... eventually, I think that's my life's goal. Anything that I do in my life has to be purpose driven and has to bring about some sort of positive impact. Otherwise, I would question why I'm doing it.
Some of your investments like Epigamia and Furlenco, these are sort of in the traditional celebrity sphere. You know, design, healthy living, but can you tell us a little bit about your investment in space company Bellatrix Aerospace?
I think, again, it goes back to wanting to be part of something that, I think, something that I'll be proud of.
In terms of your brand, how does being an investor fit as part of your celebrity brand? And how is that pushing boundaries as a celebrity, do you feel?
From my perspective, it's really about having more skin in the game and moving away from the vanilla endorsements and just having a lot more involvement with the brand.
Why do you think it's important for people to see you, as a star, in this sort of role?
I don't expect them to. I expect them to see me as someone who is aligned with the brand's vision or with the company's vision. And sure, I might bring in... because of being an actor, I probably bring in some sort of visibility or... and help, accelerate their business growth.
And where would you say you've gotten your business brain from?
It's actually very strange because nobody in my family has ever been, like, pure business minded, in a way. My mother worked as a travel agent. My father's an athlete. My sister's a golfer, now heads my mental health foundation. I'm an actor. So none of us have really studied business.
But now that you ask me that question, I remember a producer that I worked with many years ago at the start of my career told me that one day I would be a producer. And this is even before I could think of anything else beyond acting. He said I had a business mind.
And at that point it made no sense to me because, like I said, I don't come from that world. I don't know anyone. I didn't know anyone at that point who understood business. I was really young, and so none of that made any sense to me. But now that you asked me that question, I'm reminded of that moment.
I don't know. I don't know where I get it from.
...so, so much for your time.