Shamitabh, the movie that has nothing conventional about it, uses an unconventional route to raise money for a social cause through flywithvip.com where the highest bidder got an exclusive rendezvous with Mr. Bachchan while he flew with the cast of Shamitabhin a private jet from Mumbai to Delhi.
Author: Gautam Chhabria, Founder and CEO of flywithvip.com
2nd February, 2015. It was a breezy morning, when I drove to the Gate No. 8 at Kalina, near Miltary Camp, the place from where all private jets from Mumbai depart, and from where a Bombardier Challenger 604 was set to takeoff at 10.20 am for Delhi. For a bystander, the scene was nothing out of the ordinary. But, for someone, it was very special and exciting. Because, you see, the plane was to carry Mr. Amitabh Bachchan (Yes, ‘THE’ Amitabh Bachchan) and a Fly with VIP auction winner. The seat adjacent to Mr. Bachchan was auctioned on flywithvip.com and the winner was Mr. Ashok Ajmera, an investment banker from Mumbai. The auction proceeds were to go for the benefit of AkshayaPatra Foundation, the world’s largest mid-day meal provider.
The flight timing got changed from 10.20 am to 12 pm. The other actors of ‘Shamitabh’, Dhanush and Akshara entered the airport at 11 am, but an excited Mr. Ajmera presented himself at the airport sharp at 9 am. I doubt if the poor chap managed to catch any sleep the previous night! A manager at the airport who was keeping track of Mr. Bachchan’s vehicle movement, announced excitedly at 11.40 am that Mr. Bachchan’s car had left his residence. And within 10 minutes the car arrived at the airport and in walked Mr. Bachchan throwing the entire airport in a tizzy. Everyone burst into action, an officer ran to check-in his bags, another to keep his car ready at the tarmac, and another to ferry in the other passengers quickly into the 10-seater aircraft.
During the hustle and bustle, Mr. Kumarmangalam Birla walked in unnoticed to board his aircraft. His entry didn’t turn half as many eyeballs as did Mr. Bachchan’s entry. From Mr. Bachchan’s entry to the airport to his entry into the aircraft, all was wrapped up in just under 5 minutes, of which a couple of minutes could have been saved if not for the frequent stops for photographs and autographs with the airport security and staff. Part and parcel of the fame!
Ensconced in the aircraft, Mr. Ajmera was introduced to Mr. Bachchan and seated right opposite him.
They broke the ice by discussing the day’s headlines.
Mr. Ajmera, ever an eager businessman had a business proposal ready for Mr. Bachchan. He suggested to the actor to purchase an aircraft like the one they were flying in, for the frequent visits he and his family members, Abhishek and Aishwarya, make. By chartering it for a few days in a month, not only would the interest cost be recovered but also Mr. Bachchan’s trips would turn out to be free.
”Give me a detailed proposal as soon as you can work it out,” said a visibly interested Mr. Bachchan.
Next Mr. Ajmera spoke about how Mr. Bachchan could consider making angel investments to support entrepreneurs in India and also get great gains from investing in a multi-bagger like Inmobi or Ola cabs.
”Submit a 25 cr. angel investment plan to me,” said the actor.
As if two business propositions were not enough already, the investment banker took out another one from his kitty. A business plan for investing in the realty sector. This man, I must say, was on a roll.
”But how do I send these 3 proposals to you, Sir”, asked Mr. Ajmera.
Mr. Bachchan looked behind towards me and said, “Give it to Gautam, who will forward it to me”.
A breakfast of ‘idlis’ was served, though Mr. Ajmera hardly touched anything, guess he was saving his appetite for the talking.
While it was all very well for Mr. Ajmera and Amitabh Bachchan, all this business talk had put Dhanush to sleep. Dhanush might have thought the Fly with VIP winner would probably talk about Indian cinema (as a typical Indian) and how the South Indian Film Industry had helped shape Bollywood, but, alas, that was not to be…..Mr. Ajmera did not even know that Dhanush was also an actor (and an accomplished one at that).
By now, the designated half-hour had passed. In fact, they had been chatting for more than an hour now. Mr. Bachchan’s manager Mr. Bunty Walia (of GS Entertainment fame) started signaling from behind for Mr. Ajmera to change his seat. But the ever-thoughful Amitabh Bachchan would have nothing of that sort. He said very politely, ”Ajmeraji, aap yahin bethiye, aapko seat change karneki koi jaroorat nahin”.
Mr. Ajmera then took out his autograph book and asked Mr. Bachchan for not one but four autographs; one for his son, one for his grandson, one for his granddaughter and finally one for himself, which he promptly got without one word of complaint or hesitation.
Next it was my turn to be seated with Mr. Bachchan and get his testimonial. I enquired nervously whether the one and a half hour chat with Ajmera instead of the planned 30 minutes was tiresome.
”Not at all,” quipped the polite actor.
I probed him further. “This time around, we had an investment banker who could talk on interesting topics. What if the next time the winner is a chaiwallah or a paanwallah?”
”No problem at all,’ Mr. Bachchan assured me. ”I’d love to chat with them too.”
“Great it’s a deal”, I said and shook hands with him.
The flight landed. A BMW was waiting at the tarmac to ferry Mr. Bachchan to the terminal.
Mr. Bachchan insisted that ‘Ajmeraji’ sat with him in the same car.
While disembarking from the car, Ajmeraji nervously asked if he would get to meet Mr. Bachchan again. ”Ajmeraji, I don’t forget things like these, my office will contact you for scheduling our next meeting,” promised the legendary actor.
Some lovely pictures were also taken with the aircraft as the backdrop.
Seen here below is Dhanush telling Ajmeraji, “Dude I fell asleep, but, we must meet again so that you can give me that investment gyan that you gave Mr. Bachchan”.
”Anytime for you Dhanush, but let’s have that meeting when your whole family is there; wife and father-in-law as well,” said Ajmeraji jokingly. He was sure catching up with things fast.
The same night, I was pleasantly surprised to see a mention of Fly With VIP in Mr. Bachchan’s blog for Feb 2nd and 3rd Day 2485. “Introduced to the new concept of fly with a VIP on the private charter to the Capital. It is interesting to have conversed with the winner of the lot and having spent a major portion of the flight discussing finance and other investment gyan……!!”.
Just the previous day, Mr. Bachchan had addressed a Rotary District Conference of 2500 assembled members where 10 Rotarians paid Rs. 11 lacs each (to a charity of course) to get to just shake hands with Mr. Bachchan. The Flywithvip winner got something worth 100 times over; friendship with Mr. Bachchan and a promise of many further meetings in the future.
“The day,” in Ajmeraji’s own words, “will always remain etched in my memory as the best day of my life”. To read his detailed experience click here.
We at Flywithvip.com are indebted to Mr. R. Balki for his enthusiasm, support and consent, without which this would never have happened. Mr. Balki is ever open to new ideas, especially when it’s for a good cause. We also thank the team at Eros International Media Ltd. for their ‘burning the midnight oil’ to make this happen. Thank you Bunty Walia for being the best celebrity manager one can deal with. And of course a big thanks from the whole team of Fly with VIP to the living legend Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. With your support, Sir, we can be sure, we will achieve our goal for the next year of raising 200 crores for charity.
Flywithvip.com which has signed up 300 celebrities and shall auction and raffle their adjacent seat whenever they fly, with proceeds going to a charity of celebrity’s choice!
This handwritten note from Mr. Bachchan is on its way to get framed and put up on a wall in my office cabin, amongst my other treasured belongings.