Why Ayushmann Khurrana, the only Indian actor to feature on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list, is also the blue-eyed boy for brands
Ayushmann Khurrana has been listed as one of the top 100 Influential People in the world by TIME todayTOI
Here is what makes Ayushmann Khurrana influential in the brandverse.

Why Ayushmann Khurrana, the only Indian actor to feature on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list, is also the blue-eyed boy for brands

Here is what makes Ayushmann Khurrana influential in the brandverse.
  • Ayushmann Khurrana has been listed as one of the top 100 Influential People in the world by TIME today.
  • With his rising popularity and influential power, the actor seems to be on a winning streak in the advertising world.
  • He has bagged marquee brands like KitKat, Peter England, The Man Company, Bajaj Allianz, to name a few, in the past few months amid a global pandemic.
  • We speak to experts to find out what are some of the qualities that make him influential in the brandverse.
Ayushmann Khurrana, the only Indian actor to be featured on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list, is also becoming India’s favourite brand endorser.

Even during the on-going pandemic -- when brands have tightened their purse strings -- Ayushmann has managed to grab more attention from brands and bag endorsement deals from marquee brands such as JSW India, Nestle, Toyota, Bajaj Allianz, Sprite, The Man Company, UNICEF, to name a few. Despite not having done a single blockbuster movie this year, apart from Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan and the virtually-released Gulabo Sitabo, Ayushmann is on a winning streak in the branding world. 2020 is turning out to be a tipping point for his career as a brand endorser.

Ayushmann has around 25 brands in his kitty and in Duff & Phelps’ report released in 2019, Khurrana was a new entrant at rank 10 with a brand value of $40.3 million.

In the times when everyone is talking about nepotism in Bollywood, associating with Ayushmann also seems like a safe and perfect bet for an Indian brand. He is the boy-next-door from Chandigarh who has made it on his own in the industry. After his first appearance in MTV Roadies Season 2, Ayushmann found his ticket to Bollywood as Shoojit Sircar offered him a leading role in Vicky Donor.

Since the beginning of his career, Ayushmann has been very picky with his choice of movies. He has made a conscious effort to increase representation of different kinds of Indians in his movies by playing a homosexual man in Shubh Mangal Zyada Savdhan, someone who suffers from erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan and a bald guy in Bala. He is also known for movies like Article 15, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Dream Girl and Badhaai Ho that have started a conversation around different social issues.

It is his choice of films that Vani Gupta Dandia, Founder of CherryPeachPlum Growth Partners - a marketing-led business consultancy thinks makes him the ideal fit for all challenger brands.

She said, “AK is an actor who comes across as someone with a very, very strong personality. He's chosen to do films which stood out for the stands they took, for the very 'difficult to speak about' subjects in society. The most appealing thing about Ayushmann Khurrana is that while he has chosen to do very offbeat films he still has a very mainstream appeal. His brand endorsements have also been in line with the offbeat actor he comes across as.”

On what qualities does he stand for and which brands should he choose, Vani Gupta Dandia added, “Brands that are looking for halo values like intelligence, substance vs frivolous mass appeal, gumption to stand up for difficult causes, choose v/s be chosen, and strong-mindedness - are best suited for a tie-up with him. He must be careful to stay true to who he is and not fall into the trap of the typical bolly 'dance- around-the-trees' mould. His appeal is in being a 'deliberate' and intelligent actor. Not the mainstream hero. He should carefully nurture this positioning and associate with causes and brands that fortify his own imagery in the consumers’ mind.”

Karthik Srinivasan, Independent Brand Consultant and Social Media Expert, calls Ayushmann the Amol Palekar of our times - a true 'everyman', but with extra panache.

He explained, “Given his smart choice of film scripts where he plays 'everyman' without the extraordinary stunts that define our films' heroism, and convincingly pulls off seemingly 'normal' roles, and given the enormous success he has garnered in such narratives, he fits perfectly for any brand that wants a relatable super-celebrity.”

Talking about what makes Ayushmann brands’ favourite, Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. said, “He is not the big-boots star of Bollywood. Neither is he a peripheral actor, many of whom come, survive and leave. He is someone in-between. And that's the beauty of his success today. As an actor, he is a method actor of repute. He has under his belt a series of hits that few can boast. In many ways, he is the small-budget star who takes the entire ecosystem of the film that is made to success. Today, viewers of Hindi cinema are bored to death by the big stars and the bigness they represent. In many ways, this is a David versus Goliath liking that comes to the fore. The big star is just too big, unapproachable and just too far away physically and metaphorically. The smaller star is that much closer, and that much more to emote with as a persona. This is Ayushman's touchstone of success.”

Ayushmann also bagged a deal with Bajaj Allianz Life this month. On why the brand chose him as its face, Chandramohan Mehra, Chief Marketing Officer, Bajaj Allianz Life, said, "Ayushmann outscores his new age peers on the attributes of relatability and likeability, across consumer profiles. Also, in context of his rise on back of the smart, unconventional and consistent choices he has made, his marketability has enhanced. He is seen as a role model and hugely talented across profiles of age, gender and income groups."

Ayushmann can act, sing and dance. He also writes poetry. His versatility and boy-next-door image make him brands’ sweetheart.

N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA said, “Ayushmann Khurrana is one of the multi-talented, multi-faceted actors who has a range of successes behind him in the movies. Without controversies, he is a stable bet for any brand. He has been considerably active in social media during the lockdown and combined with his earlier successes, this has increased his social media presence and salience. Ayushmann is versatile and he can endorse a range of categories, right from footwear to ice-creams, menswear to colas. His affable persona, boy-next-door looks gives him a wide range to choose from. Cost is a key driver for brands when choosing between endorsers, and his costs being lesser than superstar fees, makes him amenable to be the pick of brands, too.”

Lately, we have seen endorsers who are more than a model but less than a nepotism-breed superstar like Vicky Kaushal and Ayushmann, get popular in the brandverse. With this, the definition of ‘superstar’ is also changing.

Explaining what is driving this change in the industry, Srinivasan said, “Ayushmann is a bonafide superstar, by star value and films' success alone. As for the industry trend of more than a model, but less than a superstar, it could be mirroring the interest in tier-2 and tier-3 social media stars so that brands can tap into small user circles who are their followers. Similarly, given that mainstream, theater-led cinema was the only criteria to bill someone as a superstar at one point, there are now many other media platforms for someone to be called a budget-superstar or a different kind of superstar. Many actors have become big only by doing OTT shows, and many on TV alone. So there's a better range for that phrase 'superstar' now.”