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Cricketer and vice-captain of the Indian team in Test cricket Ajinkya Rahane has donned the cap of venture-capitalist and is scouting for business ventures after investing in two startups. In an interview with Outlook, Rahane tells Jyotika Sood about the startup space he is exploring and his business pursuit interest after he hangs his boots. Edited excerpts:
1. When and how did you thought about investing in start-ups?
My cricketing career allowed me to travel to new places and interact with people from different walks of life. It is during these conversations that I got the idea of post-retirement planning. This is when I started having detailed discussions with my business partner, Akhil Ranade, on various ventures that can be explored. Post rigorous screening and evaluation of business opportunities we zeroed down on ideas and opportunities that have the potential to transform into successful businesses in the future.
2. What was your first investment in an Indian startup and why?
My first investment was in 2020 with MeraKisan – a venture-backed by Mahindra & Mahindra and a prominent leader in organic food and vegetables. It is my love for agriculture and farming that established an instant connection with MeraKisan. I decided to evaluate this opportunity with Akhil, who is actively involved in my business decision-making. After a detailed discussion and evaluation, we saw merit in the business and decided to go ahead with the venture.
3. What is unique about MeraKisan and Hudle?
I incline to work closely with companies that have a sustainable vision in place. MeraKisan was a venture that aims to enhance the income of more than 10,000 farmers by FY23 and thus positively influence their livelihoods. It is this vision and my love for agriculture and farming that struck the chord.
On the other hand, Hudle deals with making it easier for amateur athletes and sports enthusiasts to discover spaces to indulge in different sports. As a sportsperson myself, I relish playing sports like table tennis, football, badminton amongst others. As a passionate sportsman, I instantly connected with the thought and wanted to be a part of it. Moreover, the ongoing pandemic has made us realize the importance of physical fitness and I believe Hudle will encourage the youth to engage in sports regularly.
4. How do you help the companies apart from funding them?
I generally contribute to the creative process. My passionate team members are always available to extend their support when required. I too make it a point to get involved in the business whenever time permits. Akhil (my business manager) and I always discuss creative ways to take the project to the next level.
5. How do you handle a difference of opinion with the startup founders?
Be it cricket or my other interests, my life is driven by my passion. Initially, I believe in relating to the core business of the company and understand my possible contributions to its business. Naturally, I try to gather more information about the organization with my research. I believe it is important to personally meet the founders and understand their vision. When the vision and their expectations from me as a brand ambassador match the wavelength, I decide to go ahead.
6. What are the other areas that you are keen to explore in startups?
There are several sectors that I would be interested in delving deeper into going ahead. Gaming, kid’s nutrition, health tech, and education are some of the sectors that interest me. I always like to delve deeper into ideas revolving around these sectors and when I feel that the venture has great potential I decide to associate with it.
7. What are your other business interests?
As mentioned earlier, striking an immediate core to any business is very integral to my investment philosophy. Hence, what could I be more engrossed in than sports, or cricket particularly? I want to develop an exemplary setup for cricket through which I can actively contribute to the growth and enhancement of young cricketers. As a sportsperson, we are showered with immense love and support from fans across the country. Hence, this could be seen as a way of giving back something to the sport that has shaped up my life. Additionally, I wish to explore more wearable technology in sports!
8. Do you plan to don the hat of a businessman in the coming years?
It’s always paramount to focus on one’s topmost priorities in life and hence currently all my focus is on cricket. Hence, I can not give any tentative deadlines as such. Life is very unpredictable and hence one should take all the challenges and opportunities in their stride.
However, being an athlete, I am passionate about doing something constructive towards improving, helping, and ensuring the mental well-being of sportspersons. Today, multiple competitions and tournaments are scheduled in very short intervals. With sports being a performance-driven field, every sportsman has to give equal importance to mental fitness that keeps them in the right frame of mind to perform well. This is another area I would like to explore in the future.
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