I love a good story, be it through advertisements, movies or an entrepreneur who dared to think differently. I believe in bringing in fresh perspectives -- to a corporate profile or a Facebook post -- like new wine in an even newer bottle. I graduated with a journalism degree from the Xavier Institute of Communications. My weekend rituals involve watching Bollywood movies and reading up on style trends.
In 2010, when he was slowly approaching the twilight of his career, Sachin Tendulkar chose to rewrite cricket history yet again. At the Captain Roop Singh Stadium in Gwalior, he notched up a double hundred against South Africa, the first batsman to cross the milestone in one-day cricket. Amidst the humidity, fatigue and a South African bowling line-up that comprised the likes of speedster Dale Steyn and the wily Jacques Kallis, Tendulkar didn’t lose focus even once, watching every ball and knocking down one record after another in a sublime display. It’s this mental weapon—focus, focus and focus—that he wields even now, over two years after his retirement, as he looks to play an entrepreneurial innings with similar gusto.
“When you play the first innings you don’t start thinking about the second innings. Only when the time comes, we will start thinking about the next step. We are focussed on today knowing where we want to be after five years,” Tendulkar tells Forbes India during the launch of True Blue, a joint venture between the cricketing great and Arvind Fashion Brands (a subsidiary of textile group Arvind Ltd).
True Blue, a premium menswear apparel brand, is Tendulkar’s ambition to create something special for the people of India. “Good brands grow on you. It is a long-term partnership, just like the ones we build in cricket,” he says.
The 2015 Forbes India Celebrity 100 List
On a cricket pitch, the bat was known to be an extension of Tendulkar’s arm. “With my eyes shut, I knew where it went. Good clothing is exactly like that. It is all about giving customers a second layer of skin,” says Tendulkar, who takes fashion tips from his 16-year-old son Arjun.
Tendulkar isn’t new to entrepreneurship. In 2002, he had partnered hotelier Sanjay Narang to launch two restaurants—Sachin’s and Tendulkar’s—in Mumbai. Narang, a hospitality industry veteran, recalls the time when he first met Tendulkar to show him the apron for the restaurant staff. “Sachin said, ‘Why don’t we do a piping along the edge of the apron and make it about a quarter inch thick?’ I hadn’t thought of this, but it looked really great. This gives you an idea of how he thinks of everything in detail,” says Narang over a call from London.
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The restaurants folded up in 2005 and 2007, respectively, but the 42-year-old continued to stay in the game through investments in Kerala Blasters, the Indian Super League franchise, travel portal Musafir, sports simulation venture Smaaash and celebrity merchandise and brand extension firm Universal Collectabillia. Recently, he has also invested in Smarton, a Hyderabad-based tech startup.
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How does arguably the best player of his time pick his horses when it comes to his business? Much like the way he chose to play his game. “Being an entrepreneur is not too different from being a sportsman. In sports, I learnt that things have to capture your heart and then slowly go to the brain, like figuring out various things on the field, learning how to score runs and take wickets. Similarly, in business, a brand has to be in your heart first. And then you start figuring out whether it makes business sense or not.”
True Blue will open its first exclusive store in High Street Phoenix in Mumbai by mid-May. A three-floor flagship store of 2,500 sq ft on Bengaluru’s Brigade Road is next in line. In the next three to five years, the brand will have 25-30 stores, typically around 1,200-1,500 sq ft, across India and also be available through multi-brand outlets and online partners.
Says Puneet Jain, COO of Arvind Fashion Brands, “True stands for authentic and Blue is the colour of the Indian team; it represents passion for India, patriotism, loyalty. The brand thus stands for a true Indian who is recognised at a global stage.” The exclusive stores too have been designed in keeping with the brand philosophy, representing the soul of India in a very modern context. Essentially, Indian arts, textiles and embroideries showcased at the store will be supplemented with elements of wood and jute, which are warm and international in their appeal.
The apparel range, targeted at the 28-40 age group, is priced at Rs 1,199 onwards. It will be manufactured in India and include a full range of menswear products—T-shirts, shirts, jackets, blazers, trousers, denim jeans—as well as accessories like footwear, belts and wallets. At present, True Blue will compete with brands like Van Heusen, Peter England and Allen Solly. In a couple of years, they also plan to launch women’s wear.
The overall retail market has the potential to grow from $630 billion in 2015 to $1,100-1,200 billion in 2020, according to a 2016 report by CII-BCG. And while Rajeev Mehta, CEO of Arvind Fashion Brands, is looking to build True Blue into a Rs 200 crore turnover within five years, ad guru KV Sridhar sounded a note of caution. “If any celebrity extends his equity, people will appreciate it and the chances of it being successful are far higher. For example, a cricketer starts a cricket academy, actor Hrithik Roshan starts a fashion line or yoga guru Baba Ramdev launches health products. But it is difficult when you get out of your expertise and try to build an equity,” says Sridhar, who is the chief creative officer of marketing and consulting company SapientNitro, India.
But then, the man in question is not just a celebrity. Will his entrepreneurial journey in fashion, too, assume super-human proportions?
Tendulkar is quietly confident, “I have worn blue for 24 years, so in the next 24 years, let’s add some more colours.”