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Home > Sunday Mid Day News > From K pop stan to business plan

From K-pop stan to business plan

Updated on: 24 March,2024 07:42 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Christalle Fernandes |

The K-Pop craze is not leaving India any time soon. A new initiative is ensuring that talent from South Asia is finding resonance with Indian brands, labels and artists

From K-pop stan to business plan

Riddhi Chakraborty started out as a fan of K-pop music and eventually grew her network of Korean, Chinese, and Thai music label contacts. Today, she says she has access to almost every Asian music label, like ATEEZ (seen here) BTS, and Kingdom

Riddhi Chakraborty was just 19 when she came across a music video of the K-pop boy band, Big Bang, in 2012. The song in question was Fantastic Baby, in which the then-five members—G-Dragon, Taeyang, Daesung, Seungri, and TOP—sported flaming hair, striking costumes, and eyeliner smeared deep across their eyes, as they chant the chorus that has since become an anthem for their fans: Boom Shakalaka. “Just the visuals of G-Dragon with that long, crazy hair was stunning!” she says. 

Fast-forward to today. The K-pop enthusiast has now established her own media company, Bridge Asia, which facilitates cross-cultural connections between Indian and Korean, Thai, and Chinese musicians, and acts as an intermediate platform for brands to collaborate with artistes from both industries. 

Chakraborty was working at the music magazine Rolling Stone India in 2016, as an assistant editor and a writer covering the K-pop music industry. “I started the whole K-pop journalism movement in India. I was the first Indian to interview a lot of the artistes, and have the most interviews with these artistes till date,” she recalls. At the time, she says, interviews with K-pop stars weren’t really covered by Indian media and publications; so, she started reaching out via DMs and connecting with the music labels. The first Korean artiste she interviewed was Dean, an R&B artiste. 

It took her six months of hunting through her contacts and networks to eventually connect with Big Hit Entertainment, now Hybe Coporation, the entertainment company that manages BTS. At the time, in 2017, the group was just cementing its presence in the Korean music industry. “I wanted to interview BTS directly. The label was surprised that someone from India was reaching out—they had no idea that India was a viable market. It was completely new territory for them to know that they had fans here,” she says. “They agreed to do an interview.” When it went live, the Rolling Stones website crashed because of the level of traction, which was an eye-opener for everyone involved. “That was the first proof I got—that there are Indian fans who are eager to interact with the artistes they love.” 

Chakraborty realised that Indian fans were already a strong community, and were “hungry” for Korean artists to talk to them directly. “Over time, I realised that this was very different from any other space—the fandom itself, and the interactions with artistes themselves, are so welcoming. It’s a two-way street.” Her love for Korean culture was a full-time passion at that point: “The music, the storylines, the visuals of the videos—everything about the industry appealed to me, and I felt I had found my niche.” Chakraborty decided to leave her writing role when she felt she hit a plateau, and decided to pursue a more interdisciplinary approach to reporting on the Asian music industry—documenting the developments through video content and multimedia formats.

A lot of Korean artistes today, she opines, are exposed to Bollywood music and facets of the industry, and are thus surprised to discover indie music and singers. In 2018, she started a series where she “introduced” Korean artists to Indian music and vice versa. “For example, I showed Divine’s music to Tiger JK, and then they both got to know about each other.” The Eric Naam-Armaan Malik connect happened because she’d shown Naam a lot of Malik’s music, and they became friends. “More than just interacting with fans, they want to interact with the Indian industry today,” she explains. 

“Our era of discovery of Korean culture already happened; they’re in their phase of discovering Indian culture now,” she says. “After RRR (2022), for example, Indian pop culture blew up globally, and that drew a lot of interest from Korean artistes.” 

What Bridge Asia does, therefore, is to act as an intermediary between Korean artistes and music labels, Indian singers and brands. The media agency-cum-consultancy firm, which was formally launched in February, arranges collaborations between Indian companies looking to onboard Korean artistes for the products. They’re trying to push homegrown brands and get them international exposure as well. “We also help companies who want to bring artistes into India—we represent the artist,” she says. 

What’s interesting is that because India and Korea are so different in terms of work culture, the company has to act as a “translator” of the culture. “It’s like the ‘chalta hai’ working with the ‘palli, palli’ (hurry, hurry) culture,” she laughs. 

Chakraborty saw G-Dragon—who remains her favourite artiste till date—live in 2017, at the MOTTE World Tour in Bangkok. She says it was an emotional moment for her; but attending a BTS concert, whom she credits for her current progress, was the most dreamy moment. “I saw them in 2019 in Bangkok. I couldn’t believe it was real,” she recalls. Learning about the K-pop industry was spurred by BTS, she says, who “came into her life when she needed them the most”. 

Currently, her team is working on bringing a few Korean acts to the country. They recently worked with Black Swan, currently one of the hottest girl groups, which was a fun experience. “It would be a regretful thing if I didn’t get to see my favourite artists in my lifetime. I want to make that happen for Indian fans as well,” she signs off.

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