Mumbai: At 24, Keshav Bansal, director of Intex Technologies, is not just the youngest owner of an Indian Premier League (IPL) team, but perhaps younger than most players in the team he commands. The owner of Gujarat Lions, making its debut in the 2016 season starting 9 April, has been faced with a question multiple times: Why buy a team that will play the league only for two years?
While Bansal admitted at a session of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Mumbai last week that profit does not look possible, he said this was one way to increase faith in a brand as opposed to the traditional method of sponsorships. “We have done our homework,” he told the audience.
He is certain of one thing—the venture’s future in leveraging and monetizing Gujarat Lions depends on how well the team does. In an email interview, Bansal laid out the plans for Intex and Gujarat Lions over the course of the next six weeks.
Where does the IPL fit in the company’s overall growth, brand and marketing plans?
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. It’s a marketing masterstroke; we expect IPL to not only strengthen our connection with the target audience in India and the world, but also catapult the perception of Brand Intex beyond the realms of technology.
What is the overall marketing and promotion spend? Is a sports platform like this a part of these spends?
For the financial year 2015-16, the marketing budget of Intex is Rs.250 crore and we plan to take it to Rs.700 crore in the next two years. Marketing spend has risen (from Rs.10 crore in 2007-08). We have increased visibility by being part of sponsoring events like IPL 2014, India-South Africa 2015 series and others.
What are the annual sales of Intex? What are your growth and investment plans?
In FY 2015-16, Intex sold nearly 30 million mobile phones (till December 2015). We have reached a peak of one million smartphones per month. In 2015, we became the No.1 Indian mobile handset brand with an overall market share of over 12%, as per an IDC report, and are among the top three smartphone players in India. The company has grown at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 69% over the past three financial years.
The present investment in manufacturing is Rs.1,000 crore, which will be raised to Rs.5,000 crore by 2020. We have already begun the process for manufacturing components used in mobile phones and developing an entire ecosystem of ancillary units feeding the main unit. In 2016, we will expand our wearable product range along with 4G/LTE and VOLTE-enabled smartphones.
Considering the IPL deal is only for two years, as of now, why did the company decide to get involved? Is there ample scope for brand visibility and maybe even profit on investment?
Gujarat Lions is the right step in taking Brand Intex to the next level. Nothing sells better than cricket in India, it will be the best platform for us to strengthen brand visibility. We are confident that the initial two-year association will give the brand the desired connect and extensive reach with youth and other audience across the globe, thereby making us more than just a technology company. Scope for brand visibility is exponential in a platform like IPL. In two years, the best part is you get a taste and a feel of how the operations and economics of running an IPL franchise are.
Considering you would not be part of the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s central revenue sharing, what is the plan for creating revenue?
Revenue generation is surely important for sustainability, through sponsorship, merchandising, ticketing and others. The strategy is to give our best and win matches and increase our fan loyalty base that will further strengthen Gujarat Lions merchandising and brand equity.
Who are going to be your team’s principal sponsors and how much do you hope to recover from these sponsorships?
We have already signed up the leading digital payment solutions company, Oxigen, as title sponsor for the upcoming season. We recently closed the deal with TVS Tyres. Gujarat Tourism is also sponsoring our team for this season.
The IPL, since inception, has been a controversial platform, starting with Lalit Modi and now the suspension of two teams, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals. Did this ever concern you?
Controversies have always been a part of every business, be it IPL or any other. I am confident that the senior officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India will come out of it soon and ensure that unethical practices don’t occur in future. We are here for “cricketainment”.
How do you plan to build on fan loyalty?
The name Gujarat Lions was chosen by the fans through a Twitter campaign and this reflects the keen interest for the game. We are engaging with the fans through various digital campaigns as well as on-ground activities.
Are you happy with the side you have? Do you feel it is balanced?
Our foremost objective was to strengthen the core team that we achieved via the first players draft comprising Suresh Raina, Ravinder Jadeja, James Faulkner, Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Bravo. The entire pack of 24 with young and energetic talent is a formidable team.
Your side is heavy on all-rounders. Was that a strategic move?
Our thought and strategy of all-rounders meant a mix of cricket stalwarts who will be leading the team. Gujarat Lions’ squad has the right balance.