Mahesh Bhupathi firm bags ICC merchandising rights

India continue to dominate the world cricket. One the field. In market space as well. The latest in the list is a…

India continue to dominate the world cricket. One the field. In market space as well. The latest in the list is a deal between Indian sportswear brand ZEVEN and International Cricket Council. The Mahesh Bhupathi firm, jointly owned by former Nike country head Hemachandra Javeri, has inked a deal for the ICC merchandising rights for 23 markets, including India. This is the the biggest multi-geography bet on cricketing gear till date.

The four-year contract gives Zeven exclusive license rights to apparel, accessories and select footwear, including replicas and lifestyle ranges of ICC, says a Times of India report. The deal is a boost to the two-year-old domestic brand fashioned on the lines of China’s sports goods giants Li-Ning and Erke, which have successfully challenged the global sportswear heavyweights.

Zeven, a brand of the Bengaluru-headquartered SX Sports, is eyeing the Sri Lankan and Pakistan markets for expansion. The company will take the cricket route. Leading cricketers-turned-businessmen will associate to build the business in markets.

The merchandise will also sport Zeven logo except in the case of replicas.

“This deal is quite unprecedented in the world of cricket goods, which has hardly evolved beyond replicas and fan merchandising. There also exists huge opportunity to develop cricket-inspired lifestyle merchandise like in football and in tennis,” Zeven director Bhupathi said. The geographical scale of the merchandising deal is probably the biggest in cricket, where the business has been heavily fragmented despite a $5-billion opportunity globally. Zeven has bagged the non-exclusive rights for some other markets like the US, which interestingly has more than 2,500 active cricket clubs.

The co-founders Bhupathi and Javeri, along with a couple of angel investors, have pumped in Rs 50 crore into the company already, with plans afoot for a fresh round of fund-raising from institutional investors. The deal is expected to deliver almost one-fifth of Zeven’s revenues projected at Rs 250 crore in the next four years, up from about Rs 30 crore estimated in the current year.

“There is a big gap between exorbitantly priced authentic replicas and cheap counterfeits. Zeven will service this need with our reasonably priced offerings at great quality,” Bhupathi said. “This relationship is also the first step in Zeven’s plans to dominate cricket products across the world in cricket-playing emerging markets. We perceive a ‘cricket gap’ in sports merchandising globally,” he added. The UK-based Gray Nicolls, which specialises in cricket kits, remains strong in the traditional markets but hasn’t aggressively expanded into the game’s most popular and emerging markets. Zeven is the kit market for IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), and has Indian players like Ravindra Jadeja using its products. Tennis player Rohan Bopanna and cricketer Jadeja are among the other Indian sports people endorsing Zeven currently.

In its second year of operations, Zeven is ramping up distribution mostly through modern retail channels and multi-brand outlets, though it would operate flagship exclusive stores in the top six metros. The Zeven catalogue — which mostly offers performance products across cricket, football, tennis, walk and gym segments — has also tied up with leading online marketplaces as it hopes to build on unique Indian needs to take on global giants such as Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Puma. In doing this, it hopes to replicate the success of Chinese brands like Li-Ning, Anta and Erke in the past 10 years. Gymnast-turned-entrepreneur Li-Ning’s eponymous company is publicly listed with a market value of around $4 billion.

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