In 2008, an aggressive young man, led the Indian U19 cricket team to the title, since then, there’s been no stopping this man and the name is Virat Kohli, for his fans he is King Kohli and now he is one of the best On-field and an Off-field player in Indian Sport.
After defeating Bangladesh in the home series, Kohli became India’s most successful captain in the longest format of the cricket. His winning record of 60% takes him past accomplished leaders MS Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly.
For Kohli, going where few have ventured before is a way of life – off the field, too. Some 10 months before the England series began, Kohli was readying to make a major splash in business. Brands weren’t alien to him, after establishing youth fashion label Wrogn with fashion startup Universal Sportsbiz in 2014.
He was also endorsing a slew of big-ticket brands from Audi and MRF to Uber and Hero. Now, though, was the time to push the entrepreneurial envelop.
The idea of launching one’s own brand in collaboration with a sportswear maker may appear fairly straightforward; after all basketball legend Michael Jordan did just that with Nike in 1984 with the launch of Air Jordan. Still, there was no precedent in India.
What is more, Indian sportspersons- cricketers, in the main- tend to dabble in business towards the end of their career.
When Kohli joined hands with Puma for One8 with footwear, backpacks, caps, training bags and recently, kids wear, there were enough sceptics. Although Indian sports is littered with celebrity brands, the concept of co-crating a label in partnership with a sportswear firm was virtually alien.
Among the players, there’s Sachin Tendulkar who has a joint venture with clothing brand. Dhoni has lifestyle brand seven, which has been created by a firm promoted by Rhiti Sports, a company backed by the former captain himself.
For most other sports celebrities, individual endorsements is the name of the game, off-field.
Ahead of Kohli, Hrithik Roshan’s HRX launched with Exceed Entertainment in 2013. And there’s Mandhana Retail Ventures, which sells superstar Salman Khan’s Being Human label.
Kohli has these labels in his sights. The frenetic pace of growth he has set isn’t alien to a cricketer with a rash of ‘fastest’ and ‘first’ under his belt. He has a loads of records in his kit.
While an energy drink and water have been launched in a tie-up with Ocean Beverages, the One8 range of fragrances has been rolled out with Scentials. Then there is One8 innerwear with Artimas Fashions, an arm of listed hosiery firm Lux Industries.
Globally tennis champion Roger Federer and soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo are two active sportsperson who’ve met with tremendous success with their fashion brands RF and CR7.
When it comes to parallels between cricket and entrepreneurship, Kohli sees many. Starting with risk-taking and going by the gut. Then, there’s the matter of starting steadily, gauging the nature of the pitch and getting into the groove.
And there are the partnerships, perhaps the only difference being that in business Kohli can decide who to partner with, and who not to. Whether it’s on the field or off the field, partners matter a lot.
Given that celebrities have a limited shelf life, and sportspersons an even shorter one, investing behind one’s own brand at a relatively early stage is a smart move.