A Film Ahead Of Its Time: Rocket Singh - Salesman of the Year

The movie released in the pre Shark Tank era when foraying into entrepreneurship was not as popular as it is today
A Film Ahead Of Its Time: Rocket Singh - Salesman of the Year

In the opening scene of Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, a young man is seen checking his exam results with bated breath on the university’s website. He places the cursor on his name, Harpreet Singh Bedi. He has passed the exam with a meagre 38.72%. To the marks-obsessed Indian, this percentage will come as an utter shock. However, Harpreet (Ranbir Kapoor) is happy. He is, in fact, proud of his achievement. Harpreet is not book smart but what he lacks academically, he makes up with interpersonal intelligence. He knows that his excellent people skills can only be appreciated in the field of sales. Hence, he decides to become a salesman because “Number kam hai, dimaag nahi”! (My grades are low but my IQ isn’t).

In 2009, when this movie was released, the protagonist’s job was either not known or would be someone pursuing dreamy and high-profile jobs like musician, photographer, lawyer, corporate shark, fashion designer, etc. Moreover, only the glamorous and exciting side of the job was depicted such as breezing into large corner offices and firing instructions at subordinates. This was the first time a job in sales was seen as important enough to be portrayed on screen. The movie vividly showcases an actual cramped office environment with files piling up on desks, landline phones, printers, and old swivel chairs where the majority of the middle class works instead of the unrealistically large glass cabins exhibited by Bollywood.

A Film Ahead Of Its Time: Rocket Singh - Salesman of the Year
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Harpreet gets selected as a sales trainee at AYS Computers. He is like a wide-eyed child, eager to learn the ropes. The sales manager, Nitin (Naveen Kaushik), reluctantly and insolently mentors him. Despite his rude behavior, Harpreet tries to collect and imbibe as many pearls of wisdom Nitin drops. However, he soon realizes that his love for the vocation and his character brimming with values are not enough to successfully navigate the world of sales. Clients are rude and openly demand bribes. Salespeople are scheming and employ dirty tricks which is difficult for him to fathom. He blames his grandfather (Prem Chopra) for raising him to be too upright, He angrily tells him, “Choro wale kaam hi toh nahi sikhaye aapne, choro wale kaam sikha dete toh aaj mujhe chor nahi banna padhta! (Your never taught me to be a thief, if you had taught me, I would not have to be a thief today). He is unable to compromise his values for the unethical practices followed and as the saying goes, straight trees are cut first, he is forbidden from visiting clients and is asked to leave after completing his training period.

The office secretary, Koena (Gauhar Khan) takes pity on him and slips him an order. This little stroke of luck leads him to inadvertently start his own start-up, ‘Rocket Sales Corporation’ in which he convinces four other employees of AYS, Koena, Giri (D Santosh), Nitin, and Chotelal Mishra (Mukesh Bhatt) to join. Sadly, but expectedly, his venture is busted by Sunil Puri (Manish Chaudhari), the Goliath in the story. Harpreet, the proverbial David does not fight Puri, his work ethic does it for him. His values and dedicated services to customers leave such an indelible mark on them that the same buyout (Rocket Sales Corporation) which was seen as the badi khabar (big victory) for Puri becomes a major burden for him snowballing into losses and even tarnishing the AYS brand.

A Film Ahead Of Its Time: Rocket Singh - Salesman of the Year
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Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year was way ahead of its time. It was poles apart in its approach to handling characters. Ranbir’s character is a Sikh man but never talks in a loud twada-sada, jeet- sheet tone which was a welcome relief. There is no screaming of balle balle, hadippa or Punjabi as his character theme music. Chotelal Mishra, the office peon is shown as someone who also knows how to assemble computers and make tea/coffee. This is actually true because, in most offices, peons know more about filing or billing as compared to officers.

The movie released in the pre Shark Tank era when foraying into entrepreneurship was not as popular as it is today. Harpreet Singh Bedi also demystified two common perceptions at the time, one: People with a poor academic record always have to be at the mercy of their employers as they can never succeed in business yet Bedi effortlessly transforms himself from a job seeker to an entrepreneur. Second: A business can be started only when one has a lot of capital. This is also untrue because a concept drummed into students at business schools is that ‘most businesses fail not because of money but because of lack of the right people’. Harpreet understands the importance and value of human capital and builds the right team for his venture. The movie is a lesson in marketing and customer relations as it serves as a reminder to prioritize the needs of the customer for long-term business growth instead of employing tricks and schemes. Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year is a pleasant reminder that ‘Jab log khush hote hai toh number apne aap badne lagte hai. Business number nahi, business log hai’. (When people are happy, numbers increase on their own because business is not numbers, business is people). A statement often forgotten or ignored while competing in the rat race. 

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