Few can say they went from being a humble admin assistant to becoming the president of the country’s top record label in 23 years. Yet that is precisely the career trajectory of Vinod Bhanushali of T-Series. During his journey in T-Series, he has worn multiple hats in his career, production, marketing, publishing, distribution, licensing A&R and much more.
Vinod Bhanushali’s Opportunity At T-Series
November 1994, Vinod Bhanushali’s mentor Late Gulshan Kumar Ji noticed him on the sets of Sahara Studios while Vinod Bhanushali was handling the T-Series account there. Late Gulshan Kumar Ji, often noticed the young Bhanushali on the sets of Sahara Studio while T-series used to come for many shoots they did at the studio.One fine day when Gulshan Ji said to Bhanushali, “Tu Chal Mere Sath (You Come With Me)”, Young Bhanushali decided to smilingly walk out and assist his Mentor Late Gulshan Kumar Ji on his day to day work at T-Series.
When your passion becomes a profession, everything falls into place and thats what happened to me! – Vinod Bhanushali
He only took his first role at Sahara Studios to pay the bills, his passion for films & music was existing ever since he was young. He often asked himself “Why is Gulshan Kumar Ji trusting me so much, me being inexperienced, young, straight out of college?” and then he remembered the saying in response to the same which his father often said “Heere Ki Parakh Sirf Johar Ko Hoti Hai” which translates in English into “Only a jeweller can truly identify a (real) diamond”. A person can sow a seed of talent with the power of his affluence but the real, inborn talent only needs a director and a stage. T-Series was Vinod Bhanushali’s stage and his dear mentor was the director. This was the beginning of Vinod Bhanushali’s journey at T-Series.
Vinod Bhanushali Learning On The Job!
I wasn’t an MBA or anything. I graduated as a B-Com Pass, I Only Learnt Everything On The Job – Said Vinod Bhanushali to Loudest In An Exclusive Interview
His role in T-Series, at the beginning, was not defined, he did everything that Gulshan Kumar Ji sent his way and often worked over 18 hours a day willingly and dedicated. He did not have any formal education at that age, only a B-com pass who was blessed by his mentor and learned along the way. Under the production team, he started his journey with booking the shootings, getting the logistics in place for the shoot, coordinating with the directors & production guys or the artists (for music videos). There was no compulsion for late working hours, and he enjoyed working hard every day.
The process of creation, and creating an IP! Thats where it got into my DNA. The thought of creating something from air and being a part of process of creating something so beautiful made me feel excited and gave me a sense of satisfaction! The feeling of being proud of something after it became successful, and having the honour of being a part of it, that was my drive! Being a non-creative person, learning the process and being a part of it all was my favourite part. – Vinod Bhanushali
Gulshan Kumar Ji to me was a magician! He created something out of air, and I always learned by his ways of thinking. I always looked upto him in more than many ways. I called myself Eklavya, and he was my guru. I am glad, and proud to say today, Eklavya turned into Arjun. – Vinod Bhanushali
Product Creation & Strong Distribution Network Has Always Been The Strength Of T-Series
Back in the day, the investments were all about artist development, across all genres and all languages. T-Series is given the credit to introduce newer genres back in the day to a large extent. T-Series was successful in providing raw artists a platform to be launched! From Making Festive songs, Folk songs, Gazals, Geet, Devotional, to Regional and multiple other segments which were introduced by T-Series ever since it commenced. A lot went behind ensuring the consumer demand was being met.
The distribution & marketing of the content & artist that was created was everything. Bhanushali during his early roles in production was also responsible for distribution of content to Television Channels, Cable Networks and even physical distribution, which was literally every single corner of the country! From all small to big record shops, to even small Tobacco shops, everyone had T-Series Records, CDs & Cassettes! It was the reach which always was the biggest strength of T-Series and still is!
Today, T-Series is not only India’s most viewed YouTube Channel, but also Globally stands No.1!
Cassettes and CDs literally used to fly from T-Series Network! Availability (when someone visits a store) & visibility (always being the first on sight) were the key to success, and we made It happen! Being at the right place, at the right time is everything and it was my responsibility as the marketer to amplify every sound, as powerfully, every single time! – Vinod Bhanushali
Threats For T-Series Then & Now Still Remains Piracy & The Free Consumption Market Of Music
The legitimate money that is coming from sales be it digital (or physical), or licensing, is reinvested into promoting new talent as well. The money that is being taken away by the piracy or the money loss by giving away music free in India is essentially one of the biggest threats or opportunity loss.
Educating the consumer and artists is everything! Parents always tell their children about theft, and stop them from wrong doings. When at a supermarket, we really don’t without hesitation go and pick up our favourite chocolate without paying for it? Music somehow in India is “socially acceptable” to be consumed free. It all has to come from within, conscience and self-education! And If this gets fixed, Our artists too will be as big as the global musicians. – Vinod Bhanushali
For Late Gulshan Kumar, T is for Technology, Tracks, Talent & Trishul of Lord Shiva In T-Series!
Being the best, first, affordable at everything was in T-Series from DNA of Late Gulshan Kumar himself. Music is something that makes one happy, his thought was it has to be available and affordable. And to make it affordable we had to have the right technology, and T-Series brought that to India “The Cassettes”.
My First Marketing Assignment At T-Series – Vinod Bhanushali
Vinod Bhanushali took over the role of Marketing in T-Series 1996-1997, this was when they started buying music. The start of Bhanushali’s career as marketing role in T-Series, his first mission was to take their song to Channel [V]. After facing multiple rejections, Bhanushali worked hard to take the first-ever T-Series song to Channel V. This was big for T-Series because back then the label was all about folk, devotional, regional music, and being on a youth channel for the record label meant opening themselves to newer audiences, young listeners. This was a chance for T-Series to associate with the “cool” quotient of a youth music channel.
Late 1996-1997, The song “Billo by Sukhwinder Singh” was my first assignment to market. To get this song to Channel V was a first for T-Series back then. That time Mandar Thakur (Current COO, Times Music) was heading Channel [V] at Star TV. Getting an appointment with himself itself took a long time for me. After waiting for an hour and a half for my turn, when I finally met Mandy (Which Now I can call him, unlike back then), I took this song to him I said, Mandar Sir theres this one song please listen to it. And it got an OK, I was told it will start playing from tomorrow at a certain time.
I experienced an uncontrollable joy which still remains very close to me and is special for me, I didn’t know how to react I was extremely happy & proud of myself. I called Gulshan Ji and said, “Saab, ye gaana kal bajega channel V par, and ye apna pehla gaana hoga (Saab, this song will play on channel [V] tomorrow, and this will be the first song by T-Series to be played there).
I called Mandar and said, please send me a fax stating this song will be played on channel V, and that letter to me with Star TV’s logo will be a big boost to my career. I will then take this letter to all dealers, and take orders. And Mandar was very kind to oblige and sent the same to me. It came from Hong Kong Office, and had a time difference of about 2.5 hours.
The moment I received the fax, I made multiple copies and sent it to every dealer in the country! It that was my first marketing assignment!
In 1997, one day the Marketing in charge before Vinod Bhanushali (back then in production) quit T-Series to join a new record label, Late Gulshan Kumar called Bhanushali the conversation was something like this,
Gulshan Kumar : “Sun, Idhar Aaa!” (Listen Come Here!)
Vinod Bhanushali: “Haan Sir” (Yes, Sir)
Gulshan Kumar: “Ye to Gaya, Ab Kya Kare?” (Now That He Has Quit, What do we do?)
Vinod Bhanushali: “Kya Kare…(thinking) Doosra Dhoondte hai aur kya” (What do we do?…Lets find a replacement, what else!)
Gulshan Kumar: Nahi, Tu Karega! (No, You’ll Do It!)
Vinod Bhanushali: But Sir, Main Kaise, I was into Production all this while, I have no marketing background. (But…how will i do it?)
Gulshan Kumar : Jo banana jaanta hai, usse bechna bhi aana chaheye! (The one who creates, must also know how to sell)
Vinod Bhanushali : Sir, What if I Fail?
Gulshan Kumar: Without Starting, how can you say that? You haven’t failed all this while. I take responsibility of grooming you. Now we will not hire anyone from outside, you are our homegrown guy and you have the knack and passion to do this! You will do it! Have faith in what you make, and if you can’t sell it then don’t make it?
And that’s how it all happened for Vinod Bhanushali!
In 1997, T-Series Started Expanding Their Hindi Music Catalog By Buying Film Music!
After exploring the folk, devotional songs to diversify and expand, T-series bought a big catalog of film music. Big films including “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”, Sirf Tum and many others were on the list! We released a few as well and promoted them, until August 12, 1997, tragedy happened and the entire company was shaken!
“On August 12, 1997, I lost My Mentor & Guiding Light, Gulshan Kumar Ji” – Vinod Bhanushali
It was a day of mourning, when the entire company was lost somewhere, felt helpless after loosing their leader. Everything changed! It was almost like an end to a dream. For me I lost my guiding light, and now I am blind. Gulshan Kumar Ji was someone who held my hand, made me walk, made me run and always showed me the direction to run in. He always gave me a vision, showed me the finish line and it was always on me as to how I wanted to reach there.
I was completely shattered, thinking my career is gone, and did’nt know what to do. And then Bhushan Kumar (Son of Late Gulshan Kumar) at the age of 19 years took over the company. And we had to start over!
1997-2000 | The Big Battle Of Bouncing Back!
Under the leadership of Bhushan Kumar, the vision of Gulshan Kumar and Vinod Bhanushali’s learnings and execution over the years they started re-building T-Series to its high standing. The credibility of Gulshan Kumar was the only big push that T-Series had, and they took that to the next stage. That’s when T-Series released Dil Chahta Hai, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and many more. The super hit by Sonu Nigam “Deewana” was then released under Bhushan Kumar’s and Vinod Bhanushali’s strategy and it became the biggest hit of the year and helped T-Series get back in the game.
I still get covered in Goosebumps every time I think of it. It almost felt like, if the industry or a competition puled us back we had a force backing us which made us retaliate even stronger every single time, and we did that! – Vinod Bhanushali
If Someone corners you, don’t be scared. You’re a lion’s kid, give a roar! – Vinod Bhanushali
And this is how at that time T-Series worked towards regaining their 1st position in the country!
The Digital Evolution & T-Series
When the digital age came in, the long-term partnership between Hungama & T-Series happened, and T-Series became one of the first to position themselves in the digital transformation. As Bhanushali rightly said, it was all about going fast, finding right partners and being the first ones to do it! After Digital Era came in, physical sales dramatically dipped.
While before 2006, T-Series was giving away their music videos to TV Channels without any fees, after digital era came in they started licensing the music and charging the channels for their plays.
In 2006, licensing started and the record label started making money from this segment then! T-Series under Vinod Bhanushali’s marketing role also ventured into publishing and strengthened their digital distribution network, as strong as it was for the physical distribution network. It was their relationships, awareness, and consistency that made T-Series successful again and bounce back. The entire efforts at that time were all about buying film music and promoting well! It was the quality, differentiation, key permutations, and combinations, choosing the right paths to move forward. The key for Bhanushali and his team was speed, consistency to success!
We Continue On Our Mission Of Spreading Happiness Via Music on T-Series!