Second innings: Sachin Tendulkar gets into his stride

Leveraging on his personal values as a cricketer, the master blaster continues to flourish as a covetable brand five years after his retirement

Give Sachin Tendulkar a bat and you can’t tell that he hasn’t held it for the past five years. At least not in the way we’ve known him to. Even now, as he plays a mock hook for the photographer, he knows precisely when the blade will be low enough to expose his eyes to the camera. “Three, two, one,” he counts down, as he swivels, just like he would have done to Australian pacer Glenn McGrath. The camera shutter might lag for a fraction of a second, but Tendulkar doesn’t. It is enough to know why this 45-year-old owns the benchmarks of cricketing excellence.

Milestones like a hundred international centuries, the first double century in One Day Internationals (ODIs), and the highest runs in Tests as well as ODIs have given him an equity that is as timeless as Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci’s perfect 10 score, and one that extends beyond the boundary lines. Over 24 years, they have hiseled the transformation of a diffident boy-next-door—at 16, he had folded up his first TV interview with Tom Alter with a few one-liners—into Indian sport’s most visible brand.

Through Tendulkar came cricketing perestroika in 1995, when celebrity agent Mark Mascarenhas signed him up for a five-year contract valued at ₹30 crore, making him the world’s richest cricketer. In 2001, as revenues, broadcast fees and player salaries exploded, Mascarenhas amped it up to ₹100 crore. Neither Tendulkar nor Indian cricket has looked back since.

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It’s been five years since the Master Blaster’s swansong at Mumbai’s Wankhede. But with earnings of ₹80 crore in 2017-18 from 17 brands, Tendulkar is the only retiree to feature in Forbes India’s Celebrity 100, despite not taking either to commentary, like his peers Sourav Ganguly or VVS Laxman, or coaching, like Rahul Dravid. [Tendulkar is an icon player for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.] At No 9 on the list, he commands an endorsement fee of around ₹8-10 crore per year for about 2-3 days of engagement, third only to Team India captain Virat Kohli’s and former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s per day fees of ₹4.5 crore and ₹4 crore, respectively.

While Kohli’s on-field form since 2016 may have cast a shadow on Tendulkar’s cricketing records, the latter’s retentive aura has elevated him to the stature of a statesman who lends credibility to everything he touches. Santosh Desai, a veteran marketing professional and the MD and CEO of Futurebrands, says, “Sachin’s aura can perhaps be compared to Amitabh Bachchan’s. He isn’t there yet, but represents the same idea of someone who transcends his arena of achievement and becomes a repository of trust outside of it.” Translated to brand endorsements, it embodies a universal appeal cutting across products and target groups.

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With reduced proximity to the message that it represents, the value of a brand wanes over time. For Tendulkar, it would mean that his image as a world-beater would weaken with every passing year of his retirement. But, according to data from SRT Sports Management (SRTSM), the company founded by the cricketer and wife Anjali in 2016 to represent him, Tendulkar’s revenues from brand associations are estimated to rise 2.3x in 2018-19, from 2014-15, the year after he retired, despite a dip in the number of endorsements. During this period, his per brand revenue will have quadrupled.

CLICK HERE to view the 2018 Forbes India Celebrity 100 list

“Sachin as a brand will generate value for many decades. He holds so many records that every time a public discourse refers to any of these, his name will appear and earn him a few new followers,” says Arvind Sharma, ex-chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett. “However, beyond records, Sachin’s brand has been rooted in a special bond. He represented the hope of India winning as long as he was on the field. With the Indian team routinely winning in all formats, this bond has been losing its special meaning. If his revenues are going up, I would credit this to smarter management strategies to plug revenue leakage rather than to improving brand equity.”

If it is indeed astute management at play, Tendulkar can feel vindicated about setting up SRTSM, bringing together seasoned managers to chart the growth trajectory of his second innings. At a time when he could have continued to be represented by an external agency, he decided to start his own company to transform ‘Brand Sachin’ into ‘Enterprise Sachin’. “While I was playing, I never focussed on anything else. Now that I have some more time, I want to have my own organisation that would reflect my values,” he says.

While the easy part was doing the maths of whether to pay a percentage of his income as commission to an agency or channel it towards SRTSM, the tough question was: How do you enhance the value of a brand that is already larger than life? Mrinmoy Mukherjee, a marketing professional with over two decades of experience, was thrown the challenge as he came on board as director and CEO. “Commercially, if you just look at endorsements, you can lock brands for two-, three- or five-year periods. They are finite in nature. If you can create value through building businesses and brands, and ensure cash flows through equity, joint ventures and royalty, you can sustain it over a long time. Rather than look at here-and-now, we decided to explore channels of legacy-creation,” says Mukherjee. Just like basketball legend Michael Jordan did to reportedly earn over $100 million in royalties alone from Nike, nearly 15 years after his retirement.

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To ensure continuity between his two innings, the edifice of Tendulkar Inc had to be representative of the values he stood for on the field: Excellence and hard work, yes, but also honesty and transparency, the kind that propelled him to walk off against the West Indies in the 2011 World Cup after the umpire failed to detect an edge caught by the keeper.

World over, such soft values have been the cornerstone of commercial appeal. A case in point would be US golfer Arnold Palmer who, according to Forbes, was the second-highest earning deceased celebrity in 2017, after Michael Jackson, notching $40 million a year after his death. In a survey conducted by E-Poll in 2011, in which athletes and other high-profile individuals were ranked on 46 attributes, being sincere and trustworthy among others, Palmer scored 95, the highest for a golfer, ahead of Jack Nicklaus who won 11 majors more than him.

For Tendulkar too, SRTSM benchmarked brands against their commercial potential and values. “We decided to rationalise our portfolio on the key criteria of brand value, social relevance and commercial appeal. Brands would continue to stay basis these,” says Mukherjee. The team decided to go deep instead of wide, with a handful of brands that would give them more salience. Accordingly, Tendulkar’s brand endorsements have reduced to 17 as of October 2018 from a bouquet of 25 two years ago, but his revenue has doubled during this period. “We have seen a 40 to 60 percent year-on-year increase in revenue,” adds Mukherjee.

Even with such a matrix, Tendulkar has an absolute veto over what he associates with. No tobacco, alcohol or gambling endorsements, for instance. “When I started playing, I had promised my father I wouldn’t endorse these, directly or through surrogates. If you remember, in the mid-1990s, two tobacco brands had sponsored bat stickers. The entire team was playing with them, except No 4. I played with a blank blade,” he says. “Around 2010, too, an alcohol company literally offered me a blank cheque and I refused. I hadn’t done it then, and I still won’t do it.”

Mukherjee reveals that during their initial strategy planning meetings, Tendulkar made it clear that his portfolio had to deliver value socially. That resulted in partnerships with the government on key initiatives, such as Swachh Bharat, Skill India and road safety, and extending his association with Unicef (which started in 2003); he has backed Unicef’s polio prevention programmes and hygiene and sanitation campaigns for children, has been appointed the UN ambassador for South Asia, and the Unicef and ICC Cricket for Good ambassador for the Women’s World Cup. These enabled advocacy on issues that he held dear: Healthy living for kids and the propagation of sports among women.

“His involvement has never been on a one-ad or one-engagement basis,” says a Unicef representative. “He was always genuinely interested. Whether that meant asking relevant questions to understand the efficacy of our campaigns or driving to Ratnagiri to hold a handwash awareness session at a school for visually-impaired kids.”

“If you look at many of his brand endorsements,” says Prakash Iyer, former MD, Kimberly Clark, and author and leadership coach, “Sachin has turned them into social messages. He’s taken the right strategy here. We don’t dissociate brands from our experience with them. On the field he was seen as a selfless performer, so if he can associate himself with larger causes, it bridges the gap that time creates.”

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The key quest for every brand is to anticipate the future audience and stay agile for them. Brand Tendulkar, too, wanted to be identified with emerging values resonant with Gen Z and beyond. He found his sweet spot with fitness and health. It was the subject of Tendulkar’s only Rajya Sabha speech—he was a nominated Member of Parliament—on December 21 last year, which was disrupted by Congress MPs protesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The House was adjourned, but Tendulkar posted his speech on social media to convey his concerns about how non-communicable diseases were going to cost India about $6.3 trillion between 2012 and 2030.

One of his portfolio picks was IDBI Federal Life Insurance, which, instead of instilling the fear of death and financial insecurity, invoked a message of health and wellness by sponsoring marathons in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi and Kochi, four of its top markets. Since 2016, Tendulkar has been an ambassador for the marathons, flagging them off as early as 4.30 am, and staying on for prize distributions in pouring rain, like for the Mumbai half marathon in August 2017. This October, the company expanded his role and signed him on as an ambassador for the entire brand. “Our marketing needle has moved since roping in Tendulkar,” says Vighnesh Shahane, CEO and wholetime director of IDBI Federal Life Insurance.

Tendulkar’s choice of signing up for Apollo Tyres a few months ago, despite his association with rivals MRF for many years during his playing days, also hinges around the philosophy of creating a lasting influence. Its tagline ‘Going The Distance’ is in sync with his brand vision and, as an Indian multinational, the company represents what Tendulkar stood for. “When we look at Sachin, he is not just a cricketer, but a sporting icon. He still inspires Indians. His premium positioning and global journey are similar with Apollo’s. His image is sticky, and appeal ageless,” says Satish Sharma, president, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa region, for Apollo Tyres.

Vipul Sabharwal, managing director, Luminous Power Technologies, agrees. “Luminous took on Sachin as a brand ambassador in 2010 and we have extended our association to 2024. What he is today is a sum total of his 24 playing years, plus exemplary conduct after it. Has any Indian sportsman ever stayed relevant for as long as Sachin?” he asks.

The future of branding lies in the digital space, in its social and participatory prowess, and it’s an aspect even cricketing gods can’t turn a blind eye to. Besides endorsements, SRTSM has had to rewire its strategy to focus on digital platforms as a second stream of revenues. Part of building a captive audience comes from SRTSM’s 51:49 joint venture with JetSynthesys, a digital entertainment and gaming company, to develop 100 MB, an online platform that aggregates multi-format content like chats, quizzes, and auction of personalised merchandise. Launched in March 2017, it recently broadened its horizon to include other cricketers such as Mithali Raj, Ganguly, Colin Munro and Ish Sodhi. “At this point, it’s a 2.2-million community, which we are looking to grow to 5 million,” says Rajan Navani, its vice chairman and managing director.

Tendulkar’s digital footprint, meanwhile, has doubled in the last two years with a current combined following of over 70 million across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and 100 MB, up from 38.6 million in April 2016.

But digital engagement may be a tricky terrain for a cricketer who belongs to a generation not entirely comfortable with social media, which digs those with a natural temperament of visibility. And Tendulkar is no Virender Sehwag, who can ramp up digital presence through a Twitter duel with British journalist Piers Morgan. This is where second-hand interactions help in building a legacy. To that end, JetSynthesys is developing the Sachin Saga Cricket Champions, a free 3D game where gamers can play as the legend in virtual reality. With high-end graphics and animations derived from flying down Tendulkar to the UK and motion capturing his shots, Sachin Saga has about 7.2 million downloads since its launch in December 2017.

Another prong of Tendulkar’s second-innings strategy is entrepreneurial forays, through equity investments and joint ventures. How does he pick his horses? Values, of course, and instinct. Even during his playing days, Tendulkar claims to have had an intuition about how brands should connect with people.

Remember that Pepsi ad during the 1999 World Cup in which actor Shah Rukh Khan disguises himself as Tendulkar to enter the dressing room, only to be told by then captain Mohammad Azharuddin, “Pad up, you are on?” As Khan totters towards the ground with a bat and a can of Pepsi in hand, the real Sachin catches him at the entrance and assures him that he will take it from there. “As per the original script, I was to take the bat and head out, while Shah Rukh would go back into the dressing room. But I suggested that the ad makers could add a spin by sending Sachin inside with the can of Pepsi, and Shah Rukh out to bat, since the fight was over Pepsi and not who would bat. They liked it, changed the script and that’s how it was aired,” recalls Tendulkar.

He must have had a similar finger on the pulse when, in 2015, he got into a business partnership with Smartron, a Hyderabad-based company founded by Mahesh Lingareddy that deals with the Internet of Things, and builds smart gadgets for everyday use. Tendulkar has a 5.5 percent stake in it, according to data from Tracxn. Or when he backed a 23-year-old Anjana Reddy in 2012, when the Deccan Chronicle scion launched Universal Sportsbiz Private Limited, which sold sports memorabilia and autographed merchandise. He stayed invested even as the company pivoted to fashion clothing end-2013, and started selling Kohli’s Wrogn in February 2015. As of October 2018, Tendulkar has a 7.2 percent stake in the company (Tracxn data) that has recently raised about ₹100 crore in Series E funding and is valued at ₹1,200 crore.

But despite Tendulkar’s endorsements and engagements as a cricketer, entrepreneurship is a new game. Does he have it in him to hit it out of the park here as well? “Today, brands are built on authenticity. The core need is not to sell a product but a story. Marketing is being replaced by nuanced engagement. You won’t find a brand more authentic than Sachin Tendulkar,” says Kulin Lalbhai, executive director of textile manufacturer Arvind Ltd, with whom Tendulkar has a joint venture apparel line called True Blue.

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Will Tendulkar’s statesman-like stature be as compelling to a generation that won’t see him play? Will Kohli snaffle the legend of Sachin with his era-defining success? The debate is on. But, while, like every generation, this one too is inching towards claiming Kohli as the greatest ever, the 30-year-old’s biggest test will be to surpass the longevity of Tendulkar’s career and the weight of his records, even if he eclipses them, says sports writer Sharda Ugra.

And the values he stood for, adds Richard Goatley, CEO of Middlesex County Club, which has tied up with Tendulkar to roll out the Tendulkar Middlesex Global Academy (TMGA), in which the cricketer and coaches of the British club have drawn up a curriculum. “His values of playing with honesty and integrity go far beyond just being a good batsman or bowler. They will continue to stay relevant because they outlive the cut-throat aspects of life,” says Goatley.

What will benefit Tendulkar’s persona to a certain extent is the way his doughty spirit was housed in a polite and almost-unassuming exterior, far from the flashy and in-your-face personalities that contemporary cricket has come to be associated with. During his playing days, Tendulkar barely ever took a misstep or spoke out of turn; and while his reticence over key issues, like match-fixing, has sometimes come in for criticism, it’s also true that he comes from a pre-digital socio-cultural milieu where barely any Indian athlete took a public stand.

“Besides,” says Desai of Futurebrands, “there are brand ambassadors who get chosen because of a specific type of personality, and some others because of the absence of it. Sachin and Jordan fall in the latter category. These are also the kind of brands that have a greater longevity because you can throw them into any mix without altering their fundamental character.”

However, the danger with such personalities lies in indiscriminately accepting brand associations, once they hang up their boots, to remain visible. And the real temptation is to go down the food chain and continue to generate money. “The best thing would be to approach the coming decades with grace instead of peddling your old achievements. And that’s exactly what Sachin is doing: By not telling the world that he was a hero, and not doing too many things to hold on to his power,” adds Iyer.

But most important is to accept that, beyond a point, you can’t do much to bump up your equity. That, just like Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, arguably Indian cricket’s greatest heroes before him, Tendulkar too will one day become a celebrity that was. “There is nothing that Sachin can do today that will be construed a bigger achievement than what he did during his playing days. That’s true and that’s life,” says Desai.

But, like the eternal optimist that he claims he is, Tendulkar isn’t thinking that far: “The current generation remembers me because they saw me play. It took me around 30 years to build up that reputation. I am merely into the fifth year of my second innings. Hopefully, you and I will be sitting across this table 25 years on and judging this.”

Sachin Tendulkar and Middlesex Cricket join hands to launch “Tendulkar Middlesex Global Academy”

July 18, 2018, Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar, the legendary cricketer, today announced an association with Middlesex Cricket to launch “Tendulkar Middlesex Global Academy” (TMGA). The academy will provide young girls and boys between the age of 9 and 14 an opportunity to learn from the two major institutions of cricket – Sachin Tendulkar and Middlesex Cricket in England. TMGA, a joint venture between SRT Sports Management Ltd and Middlesex Cricket will begin by launching its first cricket camp at Merchant Taylor’s School in Northwood from 6-9 August 2018 followed by other locations in Mumbai and London.

Middlesex Cricket has played an instrumental role in world cricket, having produced great cricket talent such as Andrew Strauss, Mike Gatting, Denis Compton, John Emburey and Mike Brearley etc. The comprehensive training curriculum, developed by the professional coaches at MCCC and the Master himself, will help young and budding cricketers with various aspects of cricket including insights into athletic development, sport psychology, tactical development and technical modifications, etc. With talent identification at the core of the academy, TMGA will also provide 100% scholarship to talented underprivileged children.

Commenting on the launch of this initiative, Sachin Tendulkar said, “I am delighted to be partnering with Middlesex Cricket on this new venture. The objective is not only to produce good cricketers but also good global citizens of the future. Through this association, Middlesex and I are focused on providing the very best in cricket education, as much as possible, for our students.’

Richard Goatley, CEO, Middlesex Cricket said, “It has been a great privilege over the past six months to work with Sachin Tendulkar and his team in developing what we believe will be the market leading coaching programme in the world. Our established academy programme, twinned with the unique insight, knowledge and ability of the most successful cricketer of all time will provide kids with a unique experience that they will never forget.”

For more information about TMGA please visit http://www.camptendulkarmga.com or contact enquiries@tendulkarmga.com

About SRT Sport Management Pvt. Ltd (http://www.srt10.in/)

SRT Sports Management Pvt. Ltd. (SRTSM) is a premier sports management organization that represents one of India’s most-reputed cricketers, Sachin Tendulkar. Founded by Dr. Anjali Tendulkar and the Master Blaster himself, Sachin Tendulkar, the organization manages all commercial engagements and social initiatives involving the Cricket icon. SRTSM exclusively represents Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. No other entity or individual (globally) has the authority or license to represent Sachin Tendulkar in any capacity. 100MB Pvt. Ltd. is authorized to represent Sachin Tendulkar in the digital world.

Sachin Tendulkar launches BMW India’s Skill Next initiative

Sachin Tendulkar has launched BMW India’s “Skill Next” programme to impart hands-on expertise and to automobile engineers across the country.

The initiative will help the engineering students in gaining theoretical and practical knowledge as the car manufacturer would provide 365 BMW engines and transmissions to various engineering and technical institutes across the country free of cost.

“Skill Next is a vision which we are extremely passionate about. Apart from the theoretical knowledge, the aspiring engineers and the youngsters will have a special opportunity for practical training as well. It is like me playing book cricket without a bat,” Tendulkar said, after launching the initiative at the factory.

Tendulkar, the brand ambassador of the German luxury car manufacturer, has launched the initiative by assembling an engine and a transmission unit along with the students of Anna University’s College of Engineering at the company’s factory in Chennai.

“The learning experience would also be a fantastic opportunity for the students to chase their dreams ,” Tendulkar added.

“There is going to be a big shortage of technical skills in the next 10 years and under this initiative, thousands of students will get access to the technology,” BMW India’s president Vikram Pawah said.

USPL raises Rs100 crore, crosses $100 million valuation

Bengaluru: Fashion start-up Universal Sportsbiz Pvt. Ltd (USPL) has raised a fresh round of investment of over Rs100 crore from existing investor Accel Partners.

With this round of funding, the valuation of Universal Sportsbiz Pvt. Ltd has crossed $100 million, the company said.

The funds will be deployed for expansion in product portfolio and retailing capabilities. “With this investment we will be able to accelerate our growth in this high potential, fashion retail space,” USPL founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Anjana Reddy said in a statement in Bengaluru.

Founded in April 2012, USPL’s portfolio of brands include WROGN, a men’s casual wear brand inspired by Team India Captain Virat Kohli.

Imara is a contemporary women’s ethnic fashion brand and Ms Taken, a signature women’s western wearline. Kohli, who is also curator of USPL’s brand WROGN, said, “I am keenly looking forward to taking WROGN to all the right places in India and beyond.”

USPL brands are presently available in Shoppers Stop and online fashion portals Myntra, Jabong and Flipkart, besides exclusive brand stores.

Pursuing its omni-channel distribution strategy, USPL has recently opened company owned outlets in key metropolitan cities of the country. “We are delighted to support USPL’s future plans as they seek to maintain leadership position in India and expand globally,” Partner at Accel Partners India, Mahendran Balachandran said.

Sports Entertainment Company Smaaash Raises $44 Mn Funding From ECL Finance, Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar backed virtual reality gaming and entertainment company Smaaash has raised $44 Mn (INR 280 Cr) in a round led by Edelweiss Group’s non-banking finance unit, ECL Finance. The funding has been secured through a combination of debt and equity.

According to sources, the investment will be utilised for overseas expansion and acquisitions. Out of the $44 Mn, ECL Finance has contributed $40.2 Mn (INR 258 Cr). The remaining amount of $3.4 Mn (INR 22 Cr) has been raised from Smaaash founders.

Commenting on the development, a source said, “On the international side, Smaaash has been looking to set up centres in the US and in the Middle East. They already have one centre in the US. They have been looking at cities such as Dubai and Jeddah in the Middle East.”

The development comes nearly seven months after the entertainment company announced plans to raise $31 Mn (INR 200 Cr) from private equity investors for expanding its operations globally. At the time, it was reported that the investment would take place in Q2 of this year.

Smaaash: Marrying Food, Music, Sports, And Virtual Reality

Established in 2012 by film director and producer Shripal Morakhia, Smaaash is a gaming arcade operator with multiple digital entertainment centres for cricket, football, go-karting, bowling and other recreational activities. The centres are currently located across Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Gurugram and Noida, in addition to centres in the US. Smaaash is co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar, who is also one of the investors in the venture.

Currently, Sachin Tendulkar, along with badminton player PV Sindhu, her coach and former badminton player Pullela Gopichand, are in talks with Hyderabad-based healthcare services aggregator CallHealth about investing $6.2 Mn. In the past, Tendulkar launched his premium men’s wear brand, True Blue, on Flipkart-owned Myntra.

In April 2016, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar invested in Bengaluru-based Internet of Things (IoT) company Smartron India, and also became the brand ambassador of the company. He also holds stakes in brands like S Drive (healthcare and fitness products maker), Sach, and Universal Collectabilia (India’s first celebrity-commerce company).

Smaaash originally raised $10.8 Mn in May 2014 from Mauritius-based FidelisWorld through its FW Sports Investment Fund. As part of the deal, FidelisWorld acquired a 39% stake. Later in August 2016, the company was reportedly in talks with Piramal Enterprises Ltd’s Structured Financing Group for securing another $23.4 Mn (INR 150 Cr).

Towards the beginning of August, Smaaash took over bowling company bluO Entertainment, which was conceived as a joint venture between PVR Ltd and Major Cineplex Group of Thailand. The acquisition was made as part of a $13.4 Mn (INR 86 Cr) all-cash deal.

With the acquisition, the footprint of the entertainment company in India is expected to increase from 276,000 square feet to over 600,000 square feet. As per reports, the newly acquired centres will operate under the Smaaash brand.

Most recently, in the second week of September, the sports-based entertainment company acquired 100% stake in SVM Bowling & Gaming, which will, in turn, enable Smaaash to expand its reach across Hyderabad, Mysore, Madurai, Vijayawada, Mangaluru, and Pune.

Banking On India’s 310 Mn Gamers And Emerging Markets In Middle East
According to Inc42 Datalabs, India currently ranks among the top five countries in the world for online and mobile gaming. As per a Google KPMG report published in May 2017, the online gaming industry in India is estimated to be worth over $360 Mn. Poised to grow to $1 Tn by 2021, the industry will likely reach more than 310 Mn gamers around the country by then. Virtual reality gaming is a fast-evolving vertical in this country.

Recently, Mumbai-based Nazara Technologies revealed plans to offer an IPO towards the end of FY18, making it the first public listing in the Indian gaming space. According to sources, the public offering is expected to raise a total of $156.5 Mn (INR 1,000 Cr) at a valuation of somewhere between $469.7 Mn-$548 Mn (INR 3,000 Cr-INR 3,500 Cr).

Earlier in July, Bengaluru-based online gaming startup Hypernova Interactive secured an undisclosed amount in Seed funding from Kae Capital. The funding will reportedly go into building an e-sports ecosystem for mobile. The online gaming startup also plans to scale their current games in markets like China and the US.

Another online gaming startup Baadshah Gaming raised an undisclosed amount from Casino Pride in June 2017. The funding was raised against a 30% stake in the startup. Back in April, mobile gaming platform Mech Mocha raised $5 Mn in Series A round of funding led by Accel Partners, Shunwei Capital, and Blume Ventures.

In the beginning of the year, Udupi-based gaming startup 99Games secured investment from Japanese investment firm Dream Incubator, along with participation from existing investors Kalaari Capital and Ascent Capital.

Other active startups in gaming space are PlaySimple, Flixy Games, GameXS, RedMonsterGames and more. Amidst increasing competition, Smaaash’s decision to expand operations to the global market is likely a wise one. With the newly-raised funding from ECL Finance and Sachin Tendulkar, Smaaash is looking to accelerate its growth by betting on emerging gaming markets like the Middle East.

Sachin Tendulkar-backed Smaaash raises Rs 40 Cr funding

Sachin Tendulkar-backed sports-based entertainment startup Smaaash has raised ₹40 crore (about $6 million) from a clutch of high-net-worth individuals, including Ravi Modi, founder of clothing brand Manyavar, Lakshmi Narayanan, former vice-chairman of Cognizant and Vijaylaxmi Poddar of Balkrishna Industries.

The investment was reported by data research platform Paper.vc and will see Smaaash furthering its physical presence in both domestic and international geographies.

The round comes four months after the firm raised capital from consumer-focused investment firm Sixth Sense Ventures, had reported earlier. At the time, Smaaash was expected to have been valued at about $100 million.

With this, the total capital raised by Smaaash Entertainment stands at about ₹762 crore, including equity and debt so far.

Founded in 2012 by serial entrepreneur Shripal Morakhia, who was behind institutional brokerage firm SSKI and retail brokerage firm Sharekhan, Smaaash owns and operates digital entertainment centres for sports such as cricket, football and go-karting and also virtual games in 30 centres across India along with the US, China, and the Middle East.

The firm currently manages over 600,000 square feet of area in India. Its operating revenues almost doubled to Rs 103.26 crore in FY17, while losses widened by a third to Rs 32.88 crore, according to regulatory filings made with the registrar of companies.

Shareholders of the company include Tendulkar, sports-focused investment firm Fidelis World and BCCL, which publishes The Economic Times.