Creating an unique experience through friendships with eclectic and like-minded celebrities from around the world hardly seems like a sound business plan, but ASmallWorld’s growth in the last decade tells a different story.
ASmallWorld is a website, reportedly termed as “The Facebook of the Rich and Famous” (Lizzie Crocker in The Daily Beast). It caters to the world’s elite and creative class and was founded in 2004 by a Swedish count, Erik Wachtmeister and later purchased by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and then by Patrick Liotard-Vogt. Boasting of leading names from the world of fashion and travel—actress Freida Pinto, restaurateur Rahul Akerkar—it now has a new member namely, Kangana Ranaut who wowed the critics and the auds with her outing in the film Queen this year. The site that was relaunched last year was a travel and lifestyle club and its membership pruned to make it more exclusive.
Before flying off to London for the film shoot of Tanu Weds Manu, Ranaut along with Sabine Heller, Creative Director and Vice President of the club took to creating awareness of this high-end, exclusive club for international citizens of the world.
Explaining the concept, Heller said, “It is a travel and lifestyle club that was started 10 years ago for the crème de la crème and it ensures that our clients can travel to any of the major cities around the world and find a community of like-minded people, where they can feel safe and comfortable in a supertrusted environment. Membership is strictly by invitation or application and we screen our members very heavily.” The focus so far was on USA and Europe, although as Heller admitted, “Now we are looking at Asia.”
Ranaut, who is the first Indian actor to be associated with the club, met Heller in New York through common friends and shared an experience in Switzerland which convinced her to come on board. Both Heller and Ranaut agree that it is pretty similar to being a member of an exclusive club like a Bombay Gymkhana or a Breach Candy Club with its own set of rules and membership criteria except that this one has a global presence with some great tangible benefits with 1000 leading lifestyle brands and the company of some very creative and exclusive people. Of course, perks like access to a beautiful resort hotel in Carribean, help their cause too!
Say Ranaut, “There is a very discreet process, the idea is to give everyone who is elite, a very safe environment. What I gather from my experience is that they have a balanced mix of fashion, business etc.” The actress on her part would like to invite Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, Aamir Khan, Kirran Rao, Rajkumar Hirani and his wife Manjeet to the club.
According to the actress, celebrities lead rather constricted lives behind a security wall with very few genuine opportunities to meet like-minded people.
“I am an introvert. When I go for these film parties, I always have this sense of being an outsider. And then you are being watched all the time, so you don’t know who you should talk to or not. For me, ASmallWorld creates the perfect scenario (for socialising). The selection process is stringent so it allows me to have fun because I know that privacy of the members will be taken care of. When you know everyone around is very genuine, there is opportunity for you to be genuine too and that is reassuring.”
“I am an actor and I meet many people. I don’t know about others but I speak for myself. I am not going to follow a famous actress I meet on Twitter and say, ‘Hey are you going to be my friend’? For most part we are shut in our vanity van and then we are surrounded by a circle of bodyguards. It’s such a lonely world —everyone that you meet, you can only be suspicious of their intentions, so it’s really heartbreaking in the sense that you really can’t know people that well. It keeps you on guard always and that stops you from having genuine friendships and relationships or any other business opportunity. But with ASmallWorld, I have made genuine friends. When I was in New York it was nice because so many people from ASW were there that I felt a part of that society. In the same way, when people travel to India, they would be making friends and be a part of the community. I think the idea is to get people together and form a close- knit community.”
According to the two ladies a criminal or controversial record is a strict no-no and being well-travelled, trustworthy with a good sense of humour (according to Ranaut) are must- have qualities for being invited to the club.
“I hope many actors qualify… I would love my friends to be a part of it,” says Ranaut.