Rana Daggubati started off as a visual effects coordinator, launched a production company, and went on to produce a National Award-winning film before he made his acting debut. While his acting chops are applauded nationally, it’s his entrepreneurial spirit that’s always raging.

It’s been 10 years of Rana Daggubati movies. One of those rare actors to have achieved a pan-Indian appeal, Daggubati attributes his success to the fact that his choice of films has been more story-driven than star-driven. “It was always about the content for me. From the beginning of my career, that was the path I took, whether it was Leader or Dum Maaro Dum, and language wasn’t really a barrier for me. Over time, you understand content that can travel places, and find films like Ghazi and Baahubali that break through the regional language barrier. I think starting my career like that really helped,” the 35-year-old actor says.

Other than his acting career, Daggubati has been cutting big cheques for a host of businesses ranging from business accelerator programmes for technology start-ups, to an entertainment agency, and a comic book company. A self-confessed geek, he owns a technology company, Anthill Studios, that invests in start-ups in the VFX, augmented reality and AI space, like AppStar (augmented reality), LDM (a visual effects studio based in London), and Gamezop (a game development studio), among others. He is particularly heavily invested in VFX, and also owns the South Indian arm of Kwan, the celebrity management and services company that also deals in film acquisition, licensing, and digital activations. To top that, he has stakes in sporting events, like the Super Boxing League, Premier Futsal, and the Premier Badminton League.

Daggubati may not be a Nostradamus, but these investments are the ones that have kept him going while COVID-19 ravaged an already staggering global economy. In fact, he is currently in the process of giving the legacy of Amar Chitra Katha a digital facelift through the app, and is also collaborating with them for two films. “Amar Chitra Katha is doing its best right now in terms of the app, because it has rich content that you don’t get anywhere except on the app. Most of my investments are content driven, and tell my story better. There has been a slowdown in business, but there has been a rise in alternative stuff, whether you see animation, or something independent,” he says.

His spirit is also driven by his motto: impossible is not a declaration but a dare. And given the current global scenario, Daggubati still holds fast to it. “Whether it’s understanding how you want to conduct yourself in business or in life, what’s really important for you, what you want to spend on, where your interests really lie, and who you really are. During the regular days, you don’t really get to think of all these things. In the entertainment space, this has been a huge eye-opener for everyone, me included. I would have never done animation at this scale if not for COVID,” he says.

It is no secret that India is one of the world’s fastest-growing OTT markets, with the Indian OTT sector seeing a 30 per cent rise in paid subscribers from 22.2 million to 29 million in the initial days of the lockdown. Being a serial entrepreneur, Daggubati naturally caught on to this trend, and recently launched a YouTube channel called South Bay. Having realised the need and demand for ‘relatable’ content, Daggubati’s new platform will allow him to host live chats, and feature a range of content, from news to music to fiction.

According to media reports, the star has invested around Rs 5.5 crore into this new venture that will follow a branding and advertising model of monetisation as of now. “It’s a great time to tell stories, and it’s the greatest time we’re in right now where you can tell any story on any platform, in any length, language, or any format. 2020 will resettle the kind of content we watch, and the things we consume,” Daggubati predicts. It’s only onwards and upwards for hustlers like him.

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