Kapil Dev: An all-rounder even in his business ventures

Kapil Dev’s business ventures include Kaptain’s Retreat (restaurants), Dev Musco Lighting (stadium lighting), and he holds stake and is on the board of several firms


Kapil Dev likes to keep his investments low-profile. Photo: AFP
Kapil Dev likes to keep his investments low-profile. Photo: AFP

Indians best recognize Kapil Dev as the cricketer who led the country to its first World Cup win 33 years ago, when the team pulled off a momentous victory over the then favourites, West Indies, in the final at Lord’s, England.

His unbeaten 175 versus Zimbabwe in the World Cup’s group stage helped India qualify for the semi-finals, perhaps forever changing the fortunes of Indian cricket. Former Australian cricketer and commentator Ian Chappell described Dev as “the captain who took India from the brink of an embarrassing defeat to the world title”.

Dev, now 57, is undoubtedly one of cricket’s greatest all-rounders. He was named Wisden cricketer of the year in 1983 and Wisden Indian cricketer of the century in 2002. He was conferred the Padma Bhushan in 1991 and entered the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame in 2010.

He scored more than 5,000 runs and took more than 400 wickets in Tests—a feat achieved by no one else in the game’s 140-year history.

The World Cup win and on-field success opened up off-the-field opportunities—brand endorsements, autobiographies (three), cameo roles in Bollywood, even business ventures. And Dev has managed these with the same dexterity with which he drove and hooked the ball on the cricket ground.

Months after the World Cup win in June 1983, Dev and his family opened a deluxe hotel-restaurant called Kapil Hotel (now known as Kaptain’s Retreat) in the heart of Chandigarh. The idea was to ensure financial security after his cricketing career came to an end. It worked.

In 1987, Dev, his wife Romi and journalist-turned-business partner Lokesh Sharma started Dev Features, a media and communications firm that syndicated columns by well-known writers and commentators and produced sports-related programmes for Doordarshan. It was fully acquired by Sharma in 1993 (and renamed Twenty First Century Media).

"I saw a fellow cricketer-cum-manager not very financially well-off.... It occurred to me that I do not want to face such a situation.... That’s how I decided I should invest some money. "- Kapil Dev

Dev says the idea of investing in and owning a business came to him in the 1980s, when he saw some cricketers struggling to make ends meet at a time when the sport still had the “amateur” tag.

“My thought process changed during my cricketing days. I saw a fellow cricketer-cum-manager not very financially well-off. At one point of time, he also captained the Indian team. I felt very bad to see cricketers depending on the job of a selector or manager to earn their livelihood. It occurred to me that I do not want to face such a situation... That’s how I decided I should invest some money,” he says in a phone interview.

Dev has invested in multiple businesses and ventures. He is a director in nine companies and two limited liability partnerships, according to the information available on the ministry of corporate affairs website on 3 November.

His first major business was a field and sports lighting company that he set up in 1995—a year after he retired from cricket. Called Dev Musco Lighting Pvt. Ltd, a tie-up with American lights design and manufacturing firm Musco Sports Lighting Llc., it is now owned 100% by the cricketer.

His flagship company undertook the first project about 19 years ago—developing the lighting infrastructure at the Punjab Cricket Association’s IS Bindra Stadium in Mohali, near Chandigarh. That led to contracts from other cricket venues, such as the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai, the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad, the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack and the Nagaland Cricket Association Stadium in Dimapur.

The fact that Musco was a recognized name helped, says Dev. The American company had installed lighting at venues such as the Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York City, that hosts the US Open tennis tournament, the Emirates Stadium that’s home to the Arsenal football club in England, and the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi that hosts Formula One racing. And, of course, it installed the lighting that illuminates the Statue of Liberty.

“Being famous or well-known helps you get better opportunities much quicker than ordinary people. There have been instances where I have invested money in the businesses of other people who are doing well. But Dev Musco was my first big venture and my first big investment. I own 100% in the firm. I saw a good opportunity in the business and projects,” says Dev.

He incorporated software firm Tap Fox Dot Com Pvt. Ltd in November 2015, along with partners Sunil Kumar Gupta and Nivedan Sahani, and gaming company Pandemonium 360 Games Pvt. Ltd in July 2016.

According to a Hindu Business Line report in January 2005, Dev had picked up a 5% stake in Zicom Electronic Security Systems Ltd.

Business aside, he was always intrigued by the stock market. In 2015, he bought a minority stake in discount brokerage firm Samco Ventures Pvt. Ltd. Samco was incorporated in March 2015 to organize a competitive league—the Indian Traders League (ITL)—for traders who invest on bourses. Dev teamed up with Siddharth Mehta, the founder of London-based investment management firm Bay Capital Partners, and others to invest $3 million (about Rs20 crore) in Series-A funding.

“It started when I became the brand ambassador of ITL a couple of years ago. When I heard details about the project, I really liked it and rather than being just a brand ambassador, I preferred to invest in the company and hold some equity,” says Dev.

He explains that he saw an opportunity in India’s under-penetrated stock market, in which, he says, just 2-3% of the population invests. Dev believes Indians should invest in companies to support good business ideas and talented entrepreneurs.

But he doesn’t like talking too much about his investments or those made by other celebrities.

“I like to keep the information relating to investments very low-profile. Also, I don’t like to be considered a celebrity. God has been kind and I represented my country but there are millions of people like me who work harder than me,” he says. “As far as my investments are concerned, I like to invest money (in avenues) that give good returns. Anything more than a 15-20% return is wonderful, especially in a scenario of volatility and rupee depreciation. Of course, one can be greedy and wish for 100% return but not every project or business can give you immediate returns,” says Dev.

He believes in a slow but steady approach. “If you ask me about the idea of being part of a particular company or running a business, then I would say I would like to see companies grow slowly. Too fast is not very good. You should have a plan for five, seven, 10, 15 years. Set timely objectives for its growth and valuations,” Dev says.

Jimeet Modi, chief executive officer of Samco Ventures, says Dev was a pioneer of sorts among Indian celebrities with his investment philosophy and business interests. “Unlike the past, I now see celebrities like to make money in addition to their respective professions. They are willing to invest in good projects and trustworthy people,” says Modi.

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Kapil Dev. Photo: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times
Kapil Dev. Photo: Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times

Name : Kapil Dev

Age: 57

Business interests: Media and communication, lighting infrastructure, discount brokerage

Investment philosophy

‘If you ask me about the idea of being part of a particular company or running a business, then I would say I would like to see companies grow slowly. Too fast is not very good.’

Investment success

‘As far as my investments are concerned, I like to invest money (in avenues) that give good returns. Anything more than a 15-20% return is wonderful, especially in a scenario of volatility and rupee depreciation.’

Investment advice

‘You should have a plan for five, seven, 10, 15 years.’

Ankit Doshi used to work for Mint.

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