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On The Front Foot: Sanjay Bangar, The Entrepreneur
BW Businessworld got in touch with Sanjay Bangar, ex-Cricketer, Cricket Pundit, Coach and Co-founder at Cricuru, to know about his entrepreneurial vision, the business of cricket and more
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Sanjay Bangar, Ex-Cricketer, RCB Coach & Co-founder at Cricuru
Sanjay Bangar’s legendary knock of 68 runs in 236 balls at the top of the batting order in the Headingley Test (2002) set up one of the most famous wins for Indian cricket. The match is often credited to have ignited the belief that India could win abroad. Bangar’s influence on Indian cricket has been unprecedented, even more so, as he donned the cap of a coach after retiring from professional cricket. The likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane have always credited Bangar for contributing to their growth as batsmen.
But that isn’t all Bangar’s good at! He’s even aced the art of cricket commentary and punditry over the years. With Cricuru, an online cricket coaching platform, Bangar has now stepped into the arena of entrepreneurship and business.
BW Businessworld’s Rohit Chintapali got in touch with Sanjay Bangar, co-founder at Cricuru, to know about his entrepreneurial vision, the business of cricket, partnership with Virender Sehwag and more. Read on for excerpts from the interview.
Sanjay, what got you started with this venture? Could you tell us about the backstory?
My dear friend, Virender Sehwag and I used to open for India together. Over the years, we've continued to cherish our friendship. He had come over for dinner after my India stint to enquire about what was going on in my mind. And I said that I feel there is going to be a need for a coaching app in India. While BCCI is doing some amazing work by educating players and coaches through the National Cricket Academy (NCA), they have their limitations because every state association can only nominate two or three candidates to undergo these courses. Hence, the output of qualified coaches is pretty limited. If you compare the player to qualified coach ratio – it’s pretty high.
Viru (Virender Sehwag) also said that he had exactly those things in mind in 2003-04, when he was still playing and at the peak of his powers. Aspiring and professional cricketers alike, all wanted to approach him to learn his mindset towards the game. While he wanted to share, it was practically impossible for him to interact with everybody interested. Although he had invested in a tech company, the technology hadn’t really developed yet, back then.
But now, the technology is available and we have some like-minded people who are willing to support us and our vision to help cricketers and coaches in every nook and corner of India through the app. So, we thought – why not do it?
Is it a good time to be an entrepreneur and a sportsperson in India?
It is indeed the best time to be an entrepreneur because the mindsets of people have changed. Today, parents are okay to let their children choose any field and they back them. They are extremely proactive and want the best possible education and academies for their children to give them the best chance to succeed. So, the stigma doesn’t exist anymore. Overall, the society has always been appreciative of sportsmen. Now, they have started being extremely appreciative of the entrepreneurs as well because it's happening all around us. The differences are felt. And the very fact that people are in a position to take more risks is something that is going to propel the spirit of entrepreneurship in our society.
What kind of learnings do you derive from your experiences in the cricketing world to apply it to your entrepreneurial journey?
Cricket is a game of failures because you succeed and you lose too. The most successful players in the history of the game have succeeded maybe once in every four innings or so. Whether it is bating or bowling, they would've had a great day and many bad days too. But what cricket has taught us is that we have to persevere. We have to learn from failures and face our fears. And it's not different for an entrepreneur because you have to constantly face the fear of “what if something doesn't work out” and you always have the fear of whether you will be accepted. You also may have a quarter, when your sales are not doing well. In cricket, it’s important for a player to have a belief in himself and his game. Similarly, entrepreneurs need to know about how much faith or belief they have in their venture and how passionate they are about it. You always have to stand up again when knocked down and work with the same zeal which was present at the beginning.
We see a lot of active players also now taking on the entrepreneurship and partaking in startup/business investments. Do you think IPL has had a big role in bringing this thought-process about amongst the players or is it something else?
Good question. This change has set in with the economy, slowly and gradually, doing well and the general uptick in the standard of living and our own expectations. It's a reflection of the society and cricketers/sportsmen are no different from the society.
Also, financial independence or financial strength has become important due to various leagues too. What happens today is that they want to lead a particular lifestyle, but they also understand that this sort of a lifestyle may not be sustainable if they do not generate a similar sort of revenue stream in years to come. Hence, a lot of these players now have managers who guide their investment decision-making. So, it's a mixture of both and players are looking at generating a revenue stream for 20 years down the line.
Coming back to Cricuru, what do you want the platform to achieve on the long term?
The full vision is to make it multilingual and not restrict it to India. We want to take it international as well, because the sheer amount of love cricket receives across the globe. Beyond the game, we also plan to target education around careers associated with the cricket ecosystem, as people may want to become more than just a player. They may want to become a broadcaster, an umpire or a video analyst, physical trainer, or a strength-and-conditioning coach. The possibilities are endless.
Your favourite lesson on Cricuru?
It’s hard to pick a favourite. We’ve had 33-34 cricketers, who have done some fabulous work. But for me, Sehwag’s simultaneous batting and singing was one of the most interesting lessons that I had directed. And that's a fabulous way of approaching batting, being away from all pressures while taking the crease the way he did.
Do you see yourself getting more involved in entrepreneurship and undertaking other ventures in the near future?
Why not? I'm an optimist. I like to challenge myself and once this venture gets settled, I might divert my energy towards other opportunities that may come within the sports ecosystem. I wouldn’t restrict myself to cricket, sports in today's time is at a brilliant point and the country is headed in the right direction. Sports is going to be of huge interest in times to come.