Indian Cricketers and their Tryst with Entrepreneurship (or as restauranteurs?)


Indian cricketers have had a history with restaurants. Some very successful names on the field have not been able to hold onto their reputation when it comes to running businesses off the field. We earlier wrote during the IPL fervour and why Tendulkar cannot be an entrepreneur. This evoked a healthy discussion on whether a cricketer employing someone can run a restaurant and be called an entrepreneur. Disputable but we'll consider it as yes for the discussion here and have a look at all the businesses cricketers have held.

To start with Sachin Tendulkar, the God of cricket joining hands with famous hotelier Sanjay Narang of Mars Group and began his restaurant named Tendulkar’s and café named Sachin’s in Mumbai. The lack of devotees at his café was ensued by Sachin’s first shutting down. Following Sachin’s, sadly Tendulkar’s also shut shop. Dada Ganguly began his four storey restaurants Sourav’s seven years ago in Kolkatta only to shut it down last year. Following the footsteps of Sachin here as well, cricketer Virendra Sehwag also had his go with the restaurant business with Sehwag Favourite in Delhi which also shut down. Pivoting, Sehwag has now started the Sehwag Internatoinal School foraying into education.

While for the first time in the history of Indian cricket, spinner Harbhajan Singh did sell the licensing rights to his name as a brand to Franchise India Holdings Ltd in 2009. As a strategic move the company decided to underplay Harbhajan’s name while starting the chain of restaurants – Bhajji Da Dhabba by only using Bhajji as a ‘just another’ nickname for any Sikh. Though these Indian sports stars lent their names to their businesses, unfortunately creating a larger-than-life hype, these restaurants making a sustainable mark may have required a tad bit more than just brand names. Maybe give the customers good food along with exorbitant prices as well?

True to that, Zaheer Khan’s restaurant ZK’s started in Pune in 2005 still stands tall, also receiving a 3.5 rating on TripAdvisor for its food, quality and service. Learning from the lack of scalability of Tendulkar and Ganguly’s businesses, ZK’s was also planning on opening its outlets in other cities of India as a move to go past the image of being a standalone single restaurant. Opening a one-of-its-kind restaurant as a strategic move in Patna, Kapil’s Eleven started by Kapil Dev in 2006 is also going strong. The restaurant also recently launched a lounge bar.

Former Ranji cricketer Mr.M.J.K.Mahindra along with cricketers Sreesanth and Uthappa have also started the Bat & Ball Inn houses in Bangalore, Chennai and Kochi. Bat and Ball has cushioned itself with a café run by the management of Cornucopia, a successful restaurant from Chennai that understands the nuances of serving great food.

Interestingly, Sunil Gavaskar thought differently even back in 1985 and opened India’s first sports management company. By virtue of its founder being a sportsman himself, the company has lasted by keeping itself updated with the changing trends in the business of sport men management. Making news, Anil Kumble recently resigned from being the Chief of National Cricket Academy because of his venture TENVIC, an academy that mentors sports talents through schools across the country started in 2010.

Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is venturing into the business of fitness along with his business manager Arun Pandey. Through the company SportsFit World Pvt Ltd, they plan to invest around Rs 2,000 crore in the next five years opening around 200 fitness centres in India, Australia, Middle East, Singapore and the UK. Although related to the field of sports, fitness again is a ball game that would require the expertise of good trainers and nutritionists to really live up to the brand - Dhoni that he will offer to the business. That apart, Dhoni also has plans to open his own sports academy in Bihar.

In another intelligent move, Anjali Tendulkar and Aarti Sehwag wives of star cricketers jointly own the majority stake in Chennai based Sports Mechanics founded by Subramanian Ramakrishnan. This company got its big break in 2003 when the then Indian coach John Wright invited him to address the level 3 coaches and then to help the Indian team. Anjali holds 35% stake of Sports Mechanics while Aarti holds 25% and Ramakrishnan holds over 38%.

Recently Accel Partners has invested $5million in Universal Collectabillia, a celebrity merchandise and brand extension firm in which Sachin Tendulkar owns 26% stake in the company. Since merchandising essentially requires only the brand image of the stars, this might actually be a great bet in terms of investments.

While these are some of the businesses of Indian cricket stars, sports stars world over have been making their bets with entrepreneurial ventures right from basketball star Michael Jordan, Sri Lankan cricketers Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena to footballer Clarence Seedorf. Although it is encouraging to see sports stars foraying into entrepreneurship, their performance on field could seriously tarnish their businesses off the field while the reverse might not be the case. As for pinning all their hopes on just their stardom to build successful businesses, some of the Indian sports stars may have to realize that the secret ingredient to run great enterprises might actually lie in what they have to serve as product/services going beyond just names. And many of their businesses have also proved so.