T-Series was founded on 11 July 1983, by Gulshan Kumar, at the time a fruit juice seller in the Daryaganj neighborhood of Delhi. The company initially sold pirated Bollywood songs, prior to releasing original music. Back then, the Indian audio cassette market was small-scale, with widespread piracy, but there was a growing demand for cassette music. According to Rediff, while Kumar “was involved in piracy, he was passionately market- and consumer-driven.” The company also took advantage of loopholes in copyright law allowing for the release of cover versions of songs.
Kumar discovered that there was also a market for devotional music, and began recording and selling it. Kumar noticed that many elderly Hindu followers could not read hymns and chants because of failing eyesight, so Kumar hired singers to record the chants and sold them as cheap cassettes. Later, he filmed major Hindu pilgrimages in India and sold them on VHS and video cassette tapes.
T-Series’ first original film soundtrack release was for Lallu Ram in 1984, with music scored by Ravindra Jain. The company’s breakthrough came when it released the soundtrack for the 1988 Bollywood blockbuster Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (also known as QSQT), directed by Mansoor Khan and starring Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla. The Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak soundtrack, composed by Anand-Milind and written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, became the best-selling Indian soundtrack album of 1988 and one of the best-selling Indian soundtrack albums of the 1980s, with more than 8 million units sold. The biggest hit song from the album was “Papa Kehte Hain”, sung by Udit Narayan and picturized on Aamir Khan. T-Series founder Gulshan Kumar soon played a key role in Bollywood’s cassette boom of the late 1980s with his affordable T-Series albums.
T-Series later became a leading music label with the release of Aashiqui (1990), directed by Mahesh Butt. The Aashiqui film soundtrack album, composed by the duo Nadeem–Shravan, sold 20 million units in India and is the best-selling Bollywood Music album of all time. A cover version of “Dheere Dheere” from Aashiqui was later sung by Yo Yo Honey Singh and released by T-Series in 2015.
T-Series was largely responsible for sparking a boom for the Indian music industry in the early 1990s. Many of the best-selling Bollywood music albums of the 1990s, particularly those composed by Nadeem–Shravan, was released under the T-Series label. Besides music production, the company also began venturing into film production. The annual earnings of T-Series grew from ₹20 crores ($16 million) in 1985 to ₹200 crores ($88 million) in 1991, and by 1997 had reached ₹500 crores ($140 million).
As the company grew, it began producing film music for Bollywood blockbusters. In 1997, when the Mumbai underworld assassinated Gulshan Kumar, His son Bhushan Kumar took over the reins at the age of 19.
According to industry estimates, T-Series’ annual revenue is $100 million, with a market share of 70-80 percent. Outside India, it’s T-Series’ sudden and rapid rise on YouTube that has garnered the most interest. It has expanded its YouTube subscriber base from 18 million in 2017 to almost 100 million within the space of two years.