In sport as in entrepreneurship – apna kaam karo.
They say that hope and courage to ‘never give up’ are qualities that are consistent between both – a sportsman and a founder. The risk appetite in both types of people is huge. And more often than not – they deal with a zero-sum game between success and failure.
Last week in ‘Against all Odds’, Jatin Paranjape (former India cricketer and founder of KheloMore) shared interesting career and locker-room stories from both sunny and rainy days of Indian cricket. Post his Ranji debut, Jatin spent almost a decade on the field playing for Bombay; and later – the Indian cricket team. Jatin always had the entrepreneurial bug which led him to pursue opportunities with sports companies such as Australian Sporting Frontiers (where he worked with Steve Waugh), and later on – Nike. After gaining years of diverse experience in Sales and Marketing, Jatin started his own venture – KheloMore – in the field he loved the most – Sports.
Having navigated both these professions, Jatin says (and we couldn’t agree more) that sports and entrepreneurship are very much alike. Furthermore, he shared FIVE mantras with Blumiers that has helped him stay resilient during testing times.
1. Know yourself, know your domain.
Jatin believes knowing your domain well helps you decipher and unbundle the right opportunities in relatively broad segments. Over two decades of experience in Sports helped him adopt better models of execution at KheloMore.
2. Have genuine respect – for your competition as well as key stakeholders.
Jatin fondly recalls a BOM – AUS match when Steve Waugh was leading the Australian pack. Tugger warned his playing 11 that while this is a warm-up game, he has played the Men in Blue before. And that the team should put their best foot forward, or they will have you before you know what’s happening. In essence, never underestimate your competition.
3. Be like a sponge.
Kohli’s first 18 months were Sachin’s last 18 months in international cricket. Realizing that the great man isn’t going to be around much, Kohli would often shadow Sachin everywhere. Kohli knew that Sachin was a living Bible of international Cricket and wouldn’t leave even the tiniest of chances to soak in these learnings – he once followed Sachin to even a massage appointment!
4. Edit to amplify. Obsess on value creation for your customers.
Just like lakhs of other businesses, KheloMore did not anticipate how hard COVID would hit its business. But as soon as it did, the platform started Zoom streaming with international coaches as an additional revenue channel – they had to (re)act and innovate to keep going!
It is easier to edit and amplify if you ask yourself – What would add value to the consumer? What are some of the key pain points? For e.g., at Khelomore, they noticed that parents are anxious that their otherwise active children are sitting at home. Thus, the Zoom hack worked wonders.
5. Be on the offense. Always.
Be on the offense. Always. As a child, Jatin played for Dadar Union – one of the most attacking teams. And the reason it has produced legendary cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar is because it continues to remain one of the most attacking teams in the country.
It’s not just one’s exploits on the cricket field that Jatin bats for. The net sessions at Dadar Union are today followed by a series of stories about Mahi’s calm, Kohli’s rise, India’s World Cup comeback, and so many more nuggets from the dressing rooms of different cricket teams.
Some of which we’d like to document in this blog article (given their parallels to the world of entrepreneurship).
Comebacks are highly fantasized – it doesn’t take miracles but meticulous planning and effort!
After a fantastic victory against West Indies in a practice match (just 2 weeks before the 2007 World Cup), India had suffered a borderline embarrassing defeat at the hands of Bangladesh – the cricket-obsessed nation was crestfallen and fan sentiment was at its ugly low. In the next two matches, India would be knocked out of the World Cup – the team would not leave the dressing room for 2-2.5 hours – everyone shellshocked with what had happened. Suddenly, one of the players would say it out loud – that they had lost a very important tournament. The team had to recalibrate and come back stronger. We all know how the story ended – with India lifting the World Cup in 2011.
To this story, Jatin highlights that it isn’t necessary that the founder / captain will only sow the seeds to this realization – it comes from someone in the team who wants to win badly! The leader should simply channelize this energy to the entire team.
Leaders exhibit compassion in the toughest scenarios.
At a time where survival of your company rests on tough decisions (such as letting go off your people) – it is important for the founders to be empathetic as well as clear. Jatin compares this to choosing the playing 11 in cricket. He quoted an incident from his cricketing days where Jatin was told clearly by Sachin that he won’t be playing a few subsequent matches (even though Jatin had scored a couple of 100s in the previous games). Sachin however gave Jatin a clear path to improvement and mentored him closely.
Thus, your team will accept and support your decisions in an appropriately handled scenario. Professionals will not only take criticism well but also hone themselves into better team players.
Finally, it all comes down to #AKK – Apna Kaam Karo.
The interaction with Jatin was special to us in more ways than one! At Blume, we have a 200+ community of founders very active on a Whatsapp group, and the group is called Blumiers #AKK. Why AKK, though? The name ties back to a story Jatin had narrated to us in Blume’s early offsite –
Mumbai was playing Punjab for Ranji – Siddhu was hammering the team to all corners of the park. The team was under immense pressure and during the game, Sachin noticed something strange on the field – small breakouts of fielders mid-game – in what looked very much like a casual watercooler conversation. While Sachin maintained his silence during the game, he probed the team during dinner. Towards the end, Sachin simply stood and said, “Meri Suno, Apna Kaam Karo!”
The seemingly simple message hit a chord with most of the team members so much so that anytime anyone got even a bit distracted, another player used to go – “AKK!”
The term got popularly used in international Cricket too – and to this date, it remains an internal mantra at Blume as well!