He has been a constant in the Indian cricket team for the past 17 years. But Yuvraj Singh is much more than a cricketer. Like some of his contemporaries, Yuvi–as he is popularly known–has been active as an investor in startups over the last couple of years and has recently become an entrepreneur himself.
To say that he is an inspiration to an entire generation would be an understatement. His story is the stuff of blockbuster movies: No one expected him to make a comeback to the Indian cricket team after his battle with cancer in 2011.
Today, he is the senior-most member of Team India in one-day internationals and T20. Along with staging a comeback, he also started a foundation for cancer patients, YouWeCan (YWC). From there, he has grown YWC to invest in startups through YWC Ventures. Their portfolio includes EazyDiner, Startup Buddy, Moovo, JetSetGo, EduKart, and Creator’s Gurukul, among others. Then came YWC Fashion, which has established itself as a leading sportswear brand in India over the past year.
Winner of the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri, Yuvi’s autobiography, 'The Test of my life: From Cricket to Cancer and Back', was released in 2013 and revealed the person behind the celebrity.
Last Friday, we caught up with Yuvi at the Myntra office in Bengaluru, where he talked about YWC, entrepreneurship, and his charity work.
Here are some edited excerpts:
YourStory: What is the USP of your brand?
Yuvraj Singh: The USP of my brand is ‘Live to Inspire’; it is the story of my life. Live, dare, inspire a lot of people (despite) whatever adversities they have gone through. So, it (is) an inspirational brand. The brand talks about my life journey.
YS: As an entrepreneur and an influencer, how do you see the sportswear ecosystem evolving?
Yuvi: It’s very important to motivate people to go and play sports, especially those who sit in front of the computer all the time in office—it is very unhealthy. I think everyone should find some kind of sport or fitness regime that keeps them healthy. That’s what we are trying to say through the brand: “Get up and do it again.” Focus on your goals.
YS: You have struggled in your personal and professional life and emerged from it wonderfully. How has it shaped you as an entrepreneur?
Yuvi: I don’t think that I have struggled professionally. Personally, I have, with my health issues. It has really given me good lessons in life. You have got to offer the best and prepare for the worst. I think I have learnt a lot as I have grown up and become an entrepreneur. I learnt about business, I learnt about creating the right things for people out there, and doing good service for the community. We need to focus on younger kids and build their confidence, so that they can be the new hope for the country.
YS: What is the best part of being an entrepreneur?
Yuvi: When you are an entrepreneur, you have more opportunities in life. You look at different aspects of life, of leadership and creating a good working environment.
YS: You are a role model to youngsters and kids. What is your message to them?
Yuvi: Work hard and be free. Enjoy whatever you are doing; don’t do something that is forced on you. To parents, I would request them to always encourage their kids to do what they like doing. I had a similar experience when I was growing up. I didn’t enjoy cricket much at first but my dad forced me to play cricket. But I am thankful to him (smiles). I had a good balance of sports and education.
YS: How do you manage to multi-task between cricket, marriage, and business?
Yuvi: The business part is just an extension of my cricket. I played cricket, I started my own NGO for cancer. For the NGO, I had this brand. So, it is all an extension of me. It comes to me naturally. It sends a good message to the community, and I would always like to pursue that.
YS: What is next for YWC?
Yuvi: More categories will come in soon—caps and fashion now, and later bags, shoes, whatever is hot in lifestyle and whatever the latest trends are. It will eventually help in my cancer charity.
YS: Can you tell us more about your charity work?
Yuvi: We try and do a lot of awareness programmes on cancer and try to remove the stigma associated with cancer, especially in rural areas. We do it through YouWeCan camps for detection (of cancer). We check for health issues. But their main problem is the lack of money for treatment. So, we take it (the money) from the business. It is very hard to generate money. It is a long and on-going process. We want to focus on treating people, and get their kids who are educated but do not have opportunities to fulfil their dreams through education and sport. We also focus on kids who are diagnosed with cancer, whose parents have lost all their money on the treatment; we try to give them back their education.
YS: How hands-on are you in these efforts?
Yuvi: Pretty much every day. We have an office in Gurugram, and we can expand, with better, honest people working for us.
India’s ‘Prince of cricket’ has proved to the world that once you dedicate your life to your passion, then even the strongest of challenges can be overcome. Be it owning the cricket field, beating cancer, turning entrepreneur, or even making the comeback of the decade, the 35-year-old’s motto in life, in his own words is, “fighting hard and never giving up.” Now there’s a motto for everyone to adhere to.