Mumbai: American author Mark Twain once said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” Cricket too bears the same resemblance when it comes to age. Veteran Indian cricketers such as Ashish Nehra and Pravin Tambe, just to name a few, have given the adage of ‘age is just a number’ a whole new dimension.
Off the field too, there’s a certain individual, apropos to age, who is defying all laws of leadership —meet 24-year-old Keshav Bansal, director of mobile handset maker Intex Technologies and the youngest owner of Indian Premier League (IPL) new entrant this season, Gujarat Lions.
When an average-going youngster would be searching for a job to pay bills or chase another degree, Keshav, who took all of 20 minutes to buy the Gujarat outfit, is still yet to come to terms with the feat.
“Honestly speaking I didn’t expect all this. It wasn’t in my records that I want to buy an IPL team. It was a sudden surprise myself to get into this league,” the young business entrepreneur, who was recently honoured with the ‘Leadership Award for Business Excellence’ by Amity University said.
With its inception in 1996, Intex Technologies, founded by Keshav’s father Narendra Bansal, is an Indian smartphone, consumer durables and IT manufacturer based out of New Delhi.
Keshav studied at The Heritage School in Vasant Kunj and pursued management studies at IILM Institute of Higher Education in the capital after spending a year at the Manchester School of Business.
Bansal junior joined the Intex picture in 2007. Life at the start was a tedious one, as opposed to what many from the outside world would like to think, Keshav made it clear.
“I started with the most basic job in the logistics department. Wo dabbe hotein hai na, truck se load aur unload karna, wahan se shuruat kari thi, dilli ki garmi mein (I used to lift boxes from trucks and unload them in Delhi’s heat). I never used to go to the corporate office and was based out of the warehouse. I used to have lunch with employees and the labourers and spend some time with them,” Keshav recalls, while sitting on the 30th floor of his suite in a plush hotel in the city, overlooking the Arabian Sea.
Keshav carried on the rigorous work for about eight months and was then inducted into the marketing vertical. “I used to go to retailers and become the shop owner for that day. I used to interact with the consumers and understand their needs,” he explains.
While undergoing a steady training in his own backyard, the bloke realised that although his product, reach and pricing were in good health, the missing link was brand perception.
It was then that he made a distress call to Bollywood player Farhan Akhtar. Soon, Keshav announced Farhan’s association as a brand ambassador in his enterprise. He was 20 then.
The main objective of Gujarat Lions was to increase the reach of the brand and take it to a different league.
“In October, I had a discussion with BCCI for a long term on-ground association deal of Intex as a sponsor for cricket matches in India. These guys shared this idea that we are coming up with this thing wherein two new teams will be available.
“Sponsorship keeps going on. We have to take the brand image to the next level and do something different. The results are separate. We will only come to know that with time,” Kehav said, with a certain air of pride in his voice.
Gujarat Lions, who first played their inaugural match against Kings XI Punjab, already completed a hat-trick of wins.
Life radically changed after Keshav got hold of Gujarat Lions.
“After we won the match (against Rising Pune Supergiants at Rajkot), I was walking normally and there were around 200 people who were over me and who wanted to have a sneak-peak of me or click a picture. Six to seven security guys had to be called in along with another four to five policemen to stop them. I never expected this. People were actually almost ripping apart my clothes (laughs). I’ll take time to absorb this,” Keshav, who sported a dazzling white Gujarat Lions tee, his hair gelled to the point, said.
Sitting on the exclusive sofa, watching his work run into numbers on the cricket pitch, Keshav, who comes across as just another common guy, understands he now joins the company of owners from the likes of King Khans, Vijay Mallyas, Preity Zintas among others. But that doesn’t seem to bother him.
“It’s not about being in that same league, it’s about your personal goals, thoughts and visions. You’ve come to a level in the society but I don’t really benchmark myself or compare myself. This is a by-product that they get to know you more personally. There is no question about pressure,” he remarked.
And talking about pressure, the mere thought, as it stands now, of the franchise existing for the next two years seems to least worry him. “It doesn’t disturb at all. While we were bidding, we knew this from day one. Your mindset, calculations are as per two years, it is not something that we don’t know,” Keshav said. He also revealed Gujarat may be open to owning a team in the Indian Super League or Pro Kabaddi League.
However, hogging most of the spotlight also has its fair share of sweat. “When I came into the IPL, people were really sceptical. They wanted to understand what is this guy up to? There were a lot of operational challenges. People find it hard to digest that this is my brainchild because they don’t understand that when you have owners who are around 35-40, how at 23 he can do this. That is something people take time to realise,” Keshav explains.
But when it comes to home, the treatment meted out to the future Bansal boss hasn’t changed. “It’s just the same at home. We live in a joint family and there’s a lot of attachment with chachas, buas and cousins. I’m the eldest in this generation. Everyone from my generation in the family looks up to me. Three hours back, my mother was telling me not to work too much. In last three months, the routine has become such that I have been sleeping barely for a couple of hours,” Keshav said.
The young owner flaunts a stylish stubble with a diamond stud which adds to the fan following from all corners.
“Yeah, I get a lot of messages. I got a tweet recently. This girl wanted me to wish her and told me if I didn’t she wouldn’t have food for the next three days,” Keshav said candidly.
Ask him about his secret to young achievers, pat comes the answer. “Do what you love and not start loving what you are forced into. Personal attention, focus and determination is something which will definitely be required to drive things,” he said.
“India has a bright future and it’s up to us youngsters on how we take it forward. We have the energy needed in us and it’s just about transforming that challenge into opportunity. If you just face them there is a solution for everything,” Keshav asserted.
India looks up to a future of vibrant youth, who can take this country to a different league. Keshav’s Intex story is a minor example.
After all if you don’t mind the age, it doesn’t really matter!...