As chief of Alwar Cricket Association, Lalit Modi’s son wants to better the game and encourage talent; as scion of the Modi empire, he’s spearheading digital transformation of the business.
For Ruchir Modi, scion of one of the foremost business families in India, the “Modi” name has been a double-edged sword. The family accrued goodwill by erecting businesses central to life in India under the $2.8 billion Modi Group, including Godfrey Phillips India and Indofil Industries, major players in cigarettes, tea and beverages, entertainment, consumer products, multilevel marketing, chemicals, tertiary education and gourmet restaurants.
KK Modi, the successor of RBG Modi and Ruchir’s grandfather, perpetuated the fiefdom and Ruchir’s father, Lalit Modi, did his bit by creating the Indian Premier League (IPL).
However, this honour built over decades of entrepreneurial strides has been put in serious jeopardy ever since Lalit was accused of unfairly awarding the broadcast rights of the IPL in 2009 by pocketing Rs 125 crore in exchange for the favour. The otherwise flamboyant man – now wanted by the Enforcement Directorate – is currently lying low in London, and has applied for the citizenship of Carribean tax haven Saint Lucia. In his wake, he has left a reeling regional cricket club exiled from the BCCI for electing Lalit as president, and a 22-year-old son resolute to remember his father at the peak of his glory, and paving his own way in a field he has also come to feel strongly about.
Even as his bid to helm the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA), presided over by Lalit Modi until 2014, was met with friction and eventually overthrown, Ruchir had already set his sights on the Alwar Cricket Association (ACA), which he has been presiding over since 2016. Besides this, the young gun sits on the board of directors of Modi Enterprises, KK Modi Group and Godfrey Phillips India.
Early to rise
According to Ruchir, growing up in the Modi household was like living in an inspiring realm where one was always encouraged to think big. He did his schooling in Mumbai, and went to Regents University, London, where he founded Modi Ventures, the investment arm of the group, in 2015.
Ruchir didn’t let the Modi name dwarf him; instead, he felt responsible to be a worthy heir to the family’s legacy.
“The support and mentorship provided by him never put any pressure on me; it helped me excel. Having said that, my father and I are different, we both have different ideologies just like any other father-son duo,” he says.
Growing up in a business family is a balancing act. On one hand, you are expected to join the fray and pledge fealty to the family business; on the other, you must live up to the name if you decide to start out independently.
“Plan A for me was always doing what I was passionate about: Sports, especially cricket, and that’s why I am doing my best in this field,” Ruchir says.
If the number plate on the car he drove while in London – they read ‘cricket’ – were anything to go by, his desire to help better the game and encourage budding talent comes from pure passion for and commitment to the sport.
“Under my father’s mentorship, I developed the skill to view challenges as opportunities. It may seem surprising that I am able to manage everything at such a young age, but most leaders today are young and adept at handling bigger things. And this is how I worked for the ACA; all my efforts were directed towards only one direction – the betterment of cricket and players,” Ruchir says.
‘Criticism is inevitable’
The pain points in the ACA, Ruchir states, are the lack of infrastructure and other essential equipment, along with quality coaching.
“I think these are the biggest challenges that ACA is facing and will stay at the heart of my plans for a better future. Additionally, I am also focusing on improving facilities and identifying talent in a fair and transparent manner,” he says.
When asked if Lalit Modi’s infamous track record has been a deterrent as he takes on Lalit’s former bastion, Ruchir denies that there is bad blood between the cricket fraternity and his father.
“He’s revolutionised the sport and IPL has thrown up quality players who would otherwise have stayed on the fringes of the game. While I agree that we had to go through a lot of ups and downs, we have all stood by each other. Criticism is inevitable, but I just focus on achieving the best for state players and the game. There will always be people dedicated to criticising you. You must keep trying and delivering your best,” he says.
Big shoes to fill
Only a couple of months ago, Ruchir was accused of being a puppet in the hands of Lalit Modi, who people said would return to the scene if his son won the RCA elections. After the conspiracy theories that Ruchir repeatedly denied, he went on to be defeated by CP Joshi.
But in his role of director of GPI, Ruchir insists that as the only millennial in an age-old enterprise his approach is unique, innovative, and unprompted by any predecessors or baggage. He maps out strategic advances for the company while focusing on international business development.
“My vision is expanding this business to new markets and transforming this into reality entails evolving traditional business models and bringing something unique to the masses through digitisation and diversification,” he says.
On the agenda is monetising the group’s real estate assets, introducing their tobacco and tea products in foreign markets like Africa, and scaling up their chain of Twenty Four Seven Convenience Stores to at least 200 outlets within a year, from 50 currently.
Going by his plans, Ruchir is clearly charting out the future off his own bat.