India’s dashing opener, Shikhar Dhawan, opened a new innings last week with the launch of DaOne Home, a home décor brand that will sell upholsteries and soft furnishings designed and manufactured by an in-house team in Delhi. Launched in partnership with wife Aesha Dhawan, this is Shikhar’s first entrepreneurial venture, and the brand is supposed to be a natural extension of the personalities of the promoters, a reflection of their refined and eclectic preferences and tastes.
DaOne is what Dhawan’s team mates lovingly call him. And that is where the brand name comes from. The DaOne range currently consists of cushion covers, quilts and shams. On offer are some interesting collections, with even more interesting names: Boho Blue, Boaster Flicker, Feminine Neutral, Heirloom Natural, Honey Grey, Moonstruck and White Marvel. A cotton duck cushion with medallion ari embroidery is priced at Rs. 2,150 while a cotton slub cushion with amiba beaded work and piping puts you back by Rs. 4,200. Quilts range between Rs. 9,000 and Rs. 27,000. An Insignia blue cotton gauge slub Aztec print quilt is available at Rs. 9,500 while the Vintage rose pink cotton sheeting wool dori embroidered quilt is pricey at Rs. 26,800. All of the retailing will currently be done through an online portal but there are plans to take the brand to a larger distribution in the days to come.
I have a special soft spot for the Delhi southpaw as I share my birthday with him. Shikhar Dhawan shot to fame after an unprecedented run in the 2004 U-19 World Cup, where he scored 505 runs garnished with 3 hundreds. Dhawan’s carefree attitude and his explosive off-side shots make him a darling of cricket crazy crowds wherever he plays. His upturned-twirled moustache and his famous ‘thigh-five’ victory jig make Dhawan an interesting character amongst today’s line-up of cricketers.
The launch of DaOne could just be an effort to keep the better-half busy and engaged while he notches up centuries in a cricketing calendar that today easily extends to 300 days a year. Or, at 32 years of age, Dhawan could well be planning for life-after-cricket and using his current popularity to launch his personal brand, while still on a high.
Dhawan is not the only one with entrepreneurial ambitions. Yuvraj Singh, post his fight against cancer, and when he was edging towards retirement in 2015, launched YouWeCan, an endeavour to combat cancer by spreading awareness about the disease and fighting the stigma attached to it. YouWeCan also became a shop-for-a-cause brand that encouraged you to buy good, look good and feel good. He launched a sports and casual wear brand that mirrors Yuvi’s personality – fighting, sporty and inspiring. YouWeCan has also been acting as an angel fund for start-ups. There is not much data available publicly on how these Yuvi-funded ventures have been performing.
The rags-to-riches former Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, has been as successful in business, as on the cricket pitch. He launched his entrepreneurial journey by buying a Supersport World Championship team, Mahi Racing Team India, which is co-owned by Akkineni Nagarjuna. Later, he became co-owner of Chennaiyin FC with Abhishek Bachchan in ISL and also owns Ranchi Rays in Hockey India League with Sahara India Pariwar. Dhoni launched a lifestyle brand, ZEVEN, and actively promotes the footwear part of the range. Recently, he joined hands with an app Run Adams by buying 25% stakes in the startup.
Indian captain Virat Kohli got into business very early on in his career. His first business investment was a stake in FC Goa in ISL. In 2015 he became co-owner of IPTL franchise UAE Royals, followed by co-ownership of Bengaluru Yodhas Franchise (owned by JSW group) at the Pro-Wrestling League. Then came Wrogn, a casual wear brand for men. Kohli also holds a stake in London based tech startup, Sport Convo, which is a social networking site for sports lovers to talk about their favourite stars. Virat also owns Chisel, a chain of gym and fitness centres all over India. Recently he also invested in a children fitness venture, Stepathlon Kids.
Former Indian pacer, Zaheer Khan started his first venture way back in 2005 with the launch of ‘ZK’ restaurant in Pune. A sports lounge ‘Toss’ followed. Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Ravindra Jadeja, Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag have all tried their luck with restaurants, with mixed success. Tendulkar’s failed despite the restaurant being run by the Narangs who are veteran restauranteaurs. Sehwag, in fact, turned to a safer investment option by opening an international boarding school!
The one set of cricketers who have made a big success in the food business are Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra who jointly invested to create 'Ministry of Crabs' with Sri Lanka's well known chef Darshan Munidasa. The restaurant is today among the top seafood restaurants of Sri Lanka, and is also listed as one of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in 2018. Hard hitter Chris Gayle also runs a very successful restobar in Jamaica called Triple Century 333.
Why are more and more celebrities getting into business? The simplest answer is that they are all making a lot of money through their professional careers, and raking in a lot of moolah from brand endorsements. Not all the money earned can be sitting in investment bonds and equity shares, or real estate. Getting into business is one more way of investing the mountains of cash coming into their personal coffers.
But this would be a simplistic answer. A lot of these celebrities actually do not themselves look to create these business opportunities. Most times these business ventures come from their circle of friends and associates looking to encash the brand equity of the celebrity. So, most of the ‘investments’ that are hyped in media are actually not real cash being put into launching businesses by Dhoni or Virat. The acquisition of stake is normally a barter for visible association and endorsement by the celebrity. The likes of Dhoni or Virat are rarely involved with the businesses in any day-to-day capacity, and there is invariably a partner who owns majority of the business, and actually runs it leaving the more famous partner to continue to build his celebrity brand and enhance the value of the invested businesses in turn.
This is not always true, of course. Sunil Gavaskar launched Professional Management Group (PMG) in the 1980s so that he could share his expertise gained over many years in the game, across a much broader canvas. PMG were the first to syndicate sports columns by retired cricketers in newspapers and magazines. Kapil Dev followed suit with Dev Features, doing just about the same stuff that Gavaskar’s company was doing. Gary Kirsten changed course post his retirement from cricket to mentoring company CEOs on strategy, using his vast experience of playing different options and combos in cricket.
But it is the increasingly popular trend amongst sports persons and Bollywood stars to launch private fashion labels that begets a debate. Virat Kohli’s Wrogn has many peers. Shahid Kapoor’s private label is called SKULT; Hrithik’s brand is HRX; Sonam and Rhea Kapoor sell as Rheson; Anushka Sharma has Nush; Deepika Padukone flaunts ‘all about you’; Sachin Tendulkar recently launched True Blue; Yuvraj Singh as I said above has YouWeCan; Wrangler has a special line named after John Abraham; Shilpa Shetty sells under SSK; and Bipasha Basu sells her wares under The Trunk Label. Not all of these celebrities have done a great job with their branding. My personal belief is that if the private label brand has no connection with either the name or the fame of the celebrity, then it is really not deriving any much value from the owner-endorser. It is easy to make the connection between Hrithik and HRX or Nush and Anushka or YouWeCan and Yuvraj. Or DaOne and Dhawan. In the rest of the cases, making a connect between Wrogn and Virat or True Blue and Sachin is somewhat of a stretch and requires as much advertising effort as any other third party brand. Also, there is something somewhat personal when Gayle calls his bar 333, in remembrance of his highest ever score or Yuvraj brands YouWeCan as a spirited slogan-like reminder of his fight against cancer.
DaOne has atleast broken new ground … it has gotten into home-décor rather than create a fashion line. This path so far has been the domain of superstar wives like Gauri Khan, Suzanne Khan and Twinkle Khanna. And this is where I have an issue with DaOne. Gauri, Suzanne and Twinkle are well profiled for their personal aesthetics, their opulent lifestyles and picture-perfect homes. Shikhar Dhawan with his ‘shahi’moustache and thigh-five antics has always been more earthy, more coarse. His spouse is barely known … she is mostly glimpsed on TV with the other WAGS cheering for her husband and clapping for Team India. No one really knows much about Aesha Dhawan, or that she has an impeccable style quotient because during the matches she hardly shows any signs of elegance, style or refinement.
Celebrities cannot become good businessmen just because of their fame. They have as good a chance of success, or failure, despite the helpful crutch of a celebrity reputation, and a famous face which guarantees initial hype, but little beyond that. My belief is that most of these private labels or entrepreneurial ventures don’t quite do as well because the celebrities and their backers are invariably inexperienced. Also, while the backers initially bank-roll the ventures with stars in their eyes, some of that glitter bedims with the passage of time, especially as the businesses flounder, and sputter.
I hope DaOne fires on all guns, much like its famous owner. As I said before, I have a soft corner for Shikhar. Next time you are looking for something nice for the home, do give the Dhawans a visit on the net. It may just be worth your while.
(Dr. Sandeep Goyal is a PhD in celebrity brands and writes extensively on issues and subjects related to famous names.)