Meet Keshav Bansal, youngest IPL team owner
New Delhi: It took 24-year-old Keshav Bansal, director of mobile handset maker Intex Technologies India Ltd, all of 20 minutes to convince his father Narendra Bansal, chairman and managing director of the company, that he had it in him to run an Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise.
Today, Bansal is the youngest owner of an IPL team with his Gujarat Lions franchise from Rajkot playing its first match on Monday as part of the ninth season of the popular T20 cricket league. Gujarat Lions played against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali, winning by five wickets.
“Last year, I was in discussions with BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) for a long-term sponsorship association for Intex as an on-ground sponsor. That was six months before the auctions. Coincidentally, BCCI members bounced off the idea for bidding for a team. I got back to the office, researched and made a formal presentation to my father. It took us 20 minutes to decide and my father has supported me through this,” said Bansal.
For Bansal junior, IPL is a masterstroke in marketing even if it means an association that lasts only for two years. “Intex Technologies and IPL have the same target audience—the youth. We have been majorly focusing on cricket to fulfil marketing goals. With Gujarat Lions, we have further strengthened the association and made it more meaningful..,” said Bansal in an interview published in Mint last week.
He added that the team managed to get a lot of traction both from sponsors and fans. “IPL’s reach and popularity is unchallenged and it is the perfect platform for effectively reaching out and connecting with consumers. Even though we are a new team, Gujarat Lions has generated tremendous response...”
Bansal grew up in a 15-member joint family in Delhi. He studied at The Heritage School in Vasant Kunj and studied management at IILM Institute of Higher Education in New Delhi after spending a year at the Manchester School of Business. He started his career in the logistics department at Intex and eventually joined the company’s marketing team.
“I was actively involved in making ad films for the company. In the past 3 years I would have worked on close to 20 ad films right from strategy to ideation,” he said.
Bansal held his first press conference at 20 when Intex appointed actor-director Farhan Akhtar as its brand ambassador. “It was a packed house,” said Bansal.
Akhtar also happens to be Bansal’s favourite actor after Aamir Khan.
According to Anirudh Choudhary, treasurer, BCCI and member of the IPL governing council, Bansal has had a seamless transition into brand IPL.
“Keshav comes across as a down-to-earth, cool guy who is well aware of his responsibilities and someone who has embraced Brand IPL. He appears passionate about his team and is someone who gives due respect to cricketers who are with Gujarat Lions. So far he seems to have eased naturally into his role of a franchise owner,” he said.
Incidentally, both BCCI and the co-franchisees (including stalwarts like Nita Ambani, Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta) have taken note of his age and commented on it.
The ownership of the team is naturally linked to his interest in the game of cricket. However, he is equally fond of football, table tennis, swimming and squash. A fitness freak, he plays squash and enjoys yoga. “It’s important to be physically and mentally fit. It helps me survive the long working hours,”he said.
From trading in audio and video cassettes, which is what Keshav’s father Narendra Bansal starting doing in the 1980s, Intex has come a long way. Every time growth slowed in a segment, Bansal senior moved to capture the next big thing, moving from cassettes, accessories and IT peripherals to speakers, home theatres and eventually cell phones in 2007.
Mobile devices brought in explosive revenue growth for the New Delhi-based company and Intex reported revenue of Rs.2,000 crore in the year ended March 2014, doubling it to about Rs.4,000 crore in 2014-15.
Bansal was personally involved in the player selection for Gujarat Lions. The team is led by Suresh Raina as captain and Brad Hodge as the coach. Other key players include Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner and Dwayne Bravo. Arvinder Singh has been appointed as the chief executive officer of the team.
The young IPL franchise owner, who sports a neat stubble and flashes a diamond stud, claimed he wasn’t brand conscious but loved accessories. “You’ll always see me play around with men’s accessories, be it belts, shoes, sunglasses or watches...fashion and style for me depend on comfort and the feel-good factor.” Blue and orange, his favourite colours, are now a part of his team’s jersey.
Bansal loves to travel and enjoys adventure sports . “I did sky-diving in South Africa for the first time and then learnt scuba diving in Spain. Last year I went to Prague and absolutely loved the place.”
While Bansal’s a teetotaler, he loves his Dal Makhani and butter naan and can be spotted at Maurya Sheraton’s hot spot Bukhara at least once or twice a month enjoying his favourite dishes.
While acting has been a hobby he has nurtured since childhood, he has no immediate plans of getting into movies. “As far as my career is concerned I clearly love what I’m doing. I’m here to do serious business. We keep hearing people say ‘do what you love and not the other way around.’ I’m living that. I’ve learnt from my father that you need to be a visionary,” he said.
Ask him about his plans after the two-year stint with IPL is over, and Bansal’s eyes gleam with ambition: “I want to take Intex global. It’s the right time to show and play on India’s strengths.”