How Much Does Google Value Amitabh Bachchan?

April 26, 2006
Soam Acharya

Thar's gold in them keywords, son.

Ever wondered how Google (and, to a smaller extent, Yahoo) get a large chunk of their revenue? Well, you don't have to look very far. Take a closer look at your results the next time you do a web search - those little ads that dot the top and side of the page add up to an awful lot of money.

"What does any of this have to do with Amitabh?" I hear you say.

Well, the ads that show up here are usually related to your search query. For example, if you are searching for Amitabh, there are advertisers willing to pay Google (or Yahoo or MSN) for the privilege of showing up alongside the search results. If you should then happen to click on the ad, the advertiser will pay Google a fee, perhaps a relatively small amount but over the course of many many clicks, it adds up.

Exactly how these prices are determined vary from search engine to engine but popularity plays a big part. You are much more likely to search for "Sachin Tendulkar" than, say, "Robin Singh." No offense to Robin who served India most honorably indeed but Sachin just happens to be one of the most popular cricketers on the planet. Consequently, his name is more likely to be searched, hence there are more advertisers (say sports sites) competing against each other to pay for a higher ad placement on Google resulting in a higher price for Sachin.

There are other factors involved, hence a fatter wallet is not a guarantee of top placement, but it certainly doesn't hurt! The upshot is this: words now have monetary value. And what is in a name? A lot of money indeed, particularly for the right one.

Now that we have a mechanism for measuring relative worth, I, of course, had to zoom in on Bollywood. I was curious - who was the most expensive fillum celebrity in the virtual firmament? Did any of our diaspora actors and actresses even rate? I devised a method to find out. I started off by going to Google's start page for advertisers.

Once there, I picked the standard edition which allows you to select the territories where you'd like your ads to appear. In addition to the subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh), I added countries with high desi populations (USA, UK, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia) as well as a sprinkling of smaller territories (Fiji, Qatar, Hong Kong and UAE). Next, I created a fake ad with the title "Come to desi talk." and description "Come to a site to find news about desi celebrities."

I provided Dishum Dishum, as the destination url. The penultimate step was selecting keywords for my ad. I entered my celebrity name here and Google then whispered, "want to purchase the most clicks possible?" This was Google's recommendations as to the budget and price per click (ppc) necessary to place my blurb near the top position for all possible impressions. Bingo! The ppc was the value I wanted. I started off with male actors. Here's the resulting list:

Desi Male Actors
Amitabh Bachchan$1.36
Kal Penn$0.40
Om Puri$0.36
Naveen Andrews$0.36
Shahrukh Khan$0.34
Salman Khan $0.28
Anil Kapoor $0.25
Naseeruddin Shah$0.21
Aamir Khan$0.20
Abhishek Bachchan$0.20
Sanjay Dutt$0.20
John Abraham$0.18
Nana Patekar$0.15
Boman Irani$0.10
Sunil Shetty $0.07
Paresh Rawal$0.05

Well, they don't call him the "Big B" for nothing! Amitabh extends his dominance over all things desi in the cyber arena as well. His name is worth as much as $1.36 a click. That's more than double the next contender, Kal Penn's rate of forty cents. Additionally, Kal "Kumar" Penn has Shahrukh, Salman, Aamir and all of the other Bollywood stars beat. What's more, the Khans are actually behind Naveen "Lost" Andrews and character actor Om Puri as well!

What's going on here?

If I had to guess, it would be that barring the diaspora, internet penetration (and consequently search based marketing) is still relatively low in the subcontinent. A lot of searches for desi terms is still going to come from the internet population at large - i.e. USA, UK and so on. Hence, diaspora actors who have made a name for themselves in the Western hemisphere but who are still relatively unknown in India will still be worth more. Perhaps Om Puri, by also having an international career (Salon wondered whether he was our greatest living actor ) in addition to his Indian one, avoids this sidelining as well. The Big B, of course, is in another plane entirely.

Some other observations from the list:

  • Old stalwart Anil Kapoor is hanging in there despite all the competition from young blood.
  • Aamir Khan is tied with Abhishek. Bluffmaster has a ways to go before we can start comparing him to his dad. But we knew that already, didn't we?
  • Old stars just refuse to fade away, don't they? Sanjay Dutt, recent bomb blast court case problems notwithstanding, continues to rate. Does Munnabhai have it in him for another charge up the charts? Stay tuned.
  • Young gun John Abraham has yet to completely escape the character actor ghetto occupied by Boman Irani and Nana Patekar. Nana's recent exploits in Taxi No. 9211 haven't been enough to drive him up the ppc sweepstakes.
  • Spare a thought for poor Sunil Shetty and Paresh Rawal, occupiers of the cellar. Mr. Shetty's Bollywood profile has been pretty low for a while but I would have thought Paresh Malamal Weekly Rawal had done enough to escape the dungeon.

Moving on to actresses, we have:

Desi Actresses
Shabana Azmi$0.69
Rimi Sen$0.50
Rani Mukherjee$0.43
Mallika Sherawat$0.40
Lisa Ray$0.40
Sushmita Sen$0.30
Lara Dutta$0.30
Parminder Nagra$0.30
Aishwarya Rai$0.28
Kareena Kapoor$0.25
Preity Zinta$0.23
Archie Panjabi$0.21
Priyanka Chopra$0.20
Riya Sen$0.20
Bipasha Basu$0.20
Neha Dhupia$0.20
Purva Bedi$0.20
Sheetal Sheth$0.20

This list draws more questions than answers. How on earth is Shabana Azmi topping the list? Her ppc of $0.69 is actually more than all the male actors barring Amitabh! How does Rimi Sen manage to beat out reigning Bollywood queen Rani Mukherjee? What's Aishwarya Rai doing in the middle of the pack?

My previous high-international-profile theory might explain Shabana's preeminence but, by that logic, Aishwarya should be topping the list. She isn't. On the other hand, Mallika Sherawat, despite having starred in a fair number of bombs of late, continues to rate. The diaspora actresses, although virtually unknown in India, are hanging tough as well. Over to you - let me know if you have any theories that fit the bill.

Some parting thoughts:

  • Desi stars are still cheap. Grab 'em while you still can! Even the Big B, barely compares to the average keyword price which, according to Fathom Online's quarterly roundup, is $1.39. As DesiPundit noted, he's still cheaper than "asbestos."
  • One reason for the actresses costing more than male stars on average could simply be prurience. If you don't believe me, try searching your favorite web search engine for "Aishwarya Rai" with and without the adult filter turned on. Now repeat for "Amitabh Bachchan" - see the difference? These adult web site owners know something about search habits. That, of course, still doesn't explain why Shabana rules the roost.
  • Wondering whether my ego could handle the bruising and aiming to get a baseline value, I tried finding out the value of my own name. Alas, Google gave me an Online Pharmacy ID Required warning. Apparently, "Soam Acharya" appears to contain pharmacy-related content while targeting the United States. Most excellent! Consequently, despite her protests, I punched in my better half's name. I won't tell you what value came up but Sunil Shetty and Paresh Rawal can surely cheer up a little. I had to spend considerably more than that on flowers though - hopefully she'll start talking to me again soon.

Disclaimer:. This article is for entertainment purposes only. Hat tip to a fellow Yahoo, Amr Awadallah - his original post inspired this article.

Soam Acharya is a San Francisco Bay Area based multimedia producer and technologist. You can track his efforts for greater global understanding by the almighty power of the great dishum at Dishum Dishum.
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April 26, 2006
06:26 AM

Aha! Nice post; I will be blogging about it soon. But where is my favourite Konkana Sen Sharma ;)

April 26, 2006
11:13 AM

Interesting analysis, how about doing one for the international people-in-the-news too?

sami, hopefully you will post your own article to Desicritics

April 26, 2006
02:15 PM

nah...it most probably would just be some references to the material in the post by Soam Acharya(with due credit and links ofcourse). not DC material i guess.

Soam Acharya
April 26, 2006
02:17 PM

Sami - thanks! I actually thought of trying both Konkona and Nandita Das but the list was getting too long. Ditto for Aaman's suggestion. I actually had a list of desi musicians and cricketers as well but decided to focus on actors for brevity :-)


April 26, 2006
03:08 PM

A-B-solutely engrossing post. Great work Soam! Going by the entertainment value I'm ready to compensate a bit of those floral expenses of yours, as I'm sure some other readers will be, in the hope that you keep making such 'investments' and return with posts like this!

April 26, 2006
05:28 PM

Interesting post. Would have been fun to find out Sachin's pricise click-worth too, and indeed of some other leading cricketers of the region and how their click worths compared with those of the Bollywood acters and acteresses!

April 27, 2006
01:22 AM

International sports stars would have Ronaldinho heaps above the rest right now. He just crossed Beckham as the person earning more as well recently.

Would be very interesting to see who all top the list in sports internationally. India/desi wise too. A post on those lines, if possible would be highly appreciated.

Soam Acharya
April 27, 2006
02:09 PM

Angshuman - thanks for the kind words. There's more stuff in the works :-)

Zainub, Pratyush - so noted, perhaps it's time to start thinking of a followup!

The Hissing Saint
April 27, 2006
03:56 PM

While on the topic of Google - I once got a search referral to my site. ANd the search query was - "Crotch of Shakti Kapoor"

Makes you wonder doesnt it - the kind of perverts that roam this planet!

Great entry! Enjoyed reading it!

May 2, 2006
01:24 AM

does any of these bucks actually go to the actors/actresses who work so hard to make and keep their reputation?

May 2, 2006
02:47 AM

what kind of mentally retarded person is you, son?

May 2, 2006
04:21 AM

moderators please note
"Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy."

does comment #11 violate the above?

May 5, 2006
03:54 PM

Suprised Aishwarya is so low on the list. Specially with all the crowing about of "International Movies" that she has been doing. Guess she's the only one convinced that her publicist is doing a great job. Or maybe her publicist is doing the best possible with the material available ?

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