Global Opportunities Beyond the Radar

Incredible India: An Incredible Emerging Market?

Taj mahal, Architecture, Minaret image.


So, here’s an interesting question for you.

Who do you think is the biggest movie star on the planet?

Could it be Tom Cruise?

Or…maybe…it’s Leonardo DiCaprio?

Or…perhaps…it’s Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson?

Well, no. Surprisingly, it’s none of them.


Source: Wikimedia Commons


The biggest star on planet is actually Shah Rukh Khan. They call him the King of Bollywood. Here’s why:

  • On IMDB, Khan is listed as having over 100 credits as an actor, with a career spanning almost 40 years.
  • In that time, he’s developed a massive international fan base. He potentially reaches an audience in excess of 1 billion people. This is true not only in India, but everywhere with a large Indian diaspora — America, Canada, Britain, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
  • Khan’s popularity even stretches into non-diaspora audiences. He has enormous appeal in countries like Germany, Russia, and China.

Now, growing up in Malaysia, I have watched my fair share of Shah Rukh Khan movies:

  • I don’t speak Hindi, so I depended on subtitles. However, to be fair, Khan’s movies have stories that are so universal, so they actually require no translation at all. In fact, you could switch the subtitles off, and you would still be able to follow the plot easily.
  • Khan often plays the romantic hero. The underdog who battles against great odds. He overcomes social prejudice with his wit. He smashes glass ceilings with his charm. And, yes, he does it while embracing good old-fashioned family values.
  • Because of this, I dare say that Khan has become everyone’s favourite son. Favourite brother. Favourite boyfriend. Indeed, he is a cultural icon who transcends borders. His themes are aspirational and universal. How could you resist?

I bring up Shah Rukh Khan because he’s the perfect embodiment of something known as ‘soft power’:

  • You can see this in the way that other high-profile Indians have transcended their regional roots to become global leaders.
  • For example, British prime minister Rishi Sunik is of Indian heritage. The same goes for Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. And, yes, the same for Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google.
  • Soft power — unlike hard power — is not about tanks and bombs. It’s about hearts and minds. It’s about charm offensives rather than military offensives.

So, in this regard, what is fascinating to me is how India and its people have become global achievers. They are using soft power to project their culture, thereby carving out a successful presence on the world stage. Here’s why it matters:

  • India is the world’s fifth-largest economy. It has a relatively young population with a median age of 28. Increasingly, it’s becoming a strategic gateway between East and West.
  • By comparison, China — which relies on hard power — could be losing its competitive edge. Its population is getting older. Its central planned economy is stagnating. Foreign investors are leaving.
  • So, could India actually step up to the plate and become an alternative to China? Could India capture the Asian crown? We are going to explore why investors are now keen to capture potential upside in the Indian market…


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