When he helped India beat Pakistan in the final to win the Benson & Hedges World Series Cup in 1985, cricketer Ravi Shastri earned the sobriquet 'Champion of Champions', a tag that has defined his image all these years. It is this precious tag that Shastri, now official coach of the Indian cricket team, has lent to 23 Yards, a male grooming products line that he has launched in a 49:51 partnership with Ador Multiproducts Limited of the Ador Group, in his newest avatar as entrepreneur. Here, Shastri talks about his entrepreneurial journey, the brand proposition of 23 Yards and his wish to see Team India win another World Cup during his tenure.
Congratulations on turning entrepreneur! It's a month since you launched 23 Yards. What has been the traction so far?
It's great to get 23 Yards up and running so quickly. Though we are yet to advertise, the products are out there on all online platforms. The first report is very, very good. The important thing was to get the quality right, the pricing affordable, more than anything else, and of course get it out to the relevant platforms.
What kind of preparation went into launching 23 Yards and how long was it in-the-making?
It was born in COVID times. During the lockdown, I was approached by Ador Multiproducts, a company that's 100 years old and primarily into contractual manufacture and distribution of personal care products. They proposed a range of grooming products with my name associated with it. The name '23 Yards' came to me at once, because my entire life has revolved around 22 yards, that is the cricket pitch. As a player, I played on those 22 yards. As a commentator, I spoke everything around those 22 yards. As a coach, my job is to watch everything that happens around those 22 yards. But in my 40-year career, I realised one thing -what gives you job satisfaction is a challenge, when you are prepared to go that extra yard, which is the 23rd yard. Whether to get 100s, whether to win World Cups, to get double 100s, to commentate on big games, to see the Indian team doing really well as coach and win tournaments —it is that extra yard, which brings the fun. Hence the name 23 Yards. That is how it evolved and Ador was very quick to get it going.
You have the extremely challenging job of coaching the Indian cricket team. So how hands on are you at 23 Yards?
To be honest, I don't have to give it too much time now. I got fully involved and gave it a lot of my time during the lockdown months.
I made sure that the products are affordable for the masses. The products are chemical-free with a lemon zest scent – they have a feel-good uplifting factor. They are already on platforms like Amazon and Flipkart. I am a shareholder, but the major shareholder is the Ador Group. They have got experts in place and it is about delegating work and letting the experts do their job.
Your brand promise is 'going the 23rd yard to become the champion of champions' and that grooming is intrinsic to a champion. Well, a lot of women are champions too… Why didn't you think of them and women's grooming products?
I definitely thought about it and in fact, we are looking into it. We do have a couple of unisex products, which I am sure will be used by women as well. So you are not off the mark, we are very much there, thinking about you!
Are you a user of the products?
Yes, I like them! In fact, I gave the products to some of the boys in the team and they liked them too.
Personally, how did the lockdown treat you? What is your lockdown story?
Throughout my career, I had been on the road non-stop for 40 years. I had never got this much time to myself. Most of the time, I was at my farmhouse in Alibaug, reading, walking, swimming, doing yoga and things that I had always wanted to do. It was a time to reflect, see where you want to go, set goals for the coming years and plan a part of it. One story — and a scary one — is the cyclone. I had never seen a cyclone in my life and for the five hours that it lasted — with the wind at over 100km per hour —I had my fingers crossed, that the trees shouldn't fall on the house. Luckily, they didn't.
You are an all-rounder. So which of your roles did/do you enjoy the most - batsman, bowler, commentator, coach or entrepreneur?
I enjoy whatever I do, really! If you ask me, all the roles are pretty similar. I would rephrase it and say that the role that is most challenging is being the coach. It is a most responsible job, as you have all fingers pointing in your direction because in our country, patience levels aren't the greatest. We want to win every game that we play. So, you get the accolades as well as the brickbats.
Life often brings unexpected turns. What does it take to motivate yourself and get back in action when the chips are down?
It boils down to self-belief more than anything else. Failure is temporary, but giving up altogether makes it permanent, which is not right. So that is how you lift yourself up, by consciously telling yourself that Tuesday was a bad day, but come Thursday, you have another opportunity. But there was one instance in my life when I thought the world had come crashing down. In 1992, I got injured and underwent two operations on my knee. Suddenly at the age of 29, I feared my career was over. I didn't know what to do. But two months later, I got the opportunity to hold the mike in my hand for the first time. I told myself, 'Here you go, boy! This is your life for the next 20 years' and off I went. I never dreamt of being a coach, but I got the opportunity, so here I am, sitting in that saddle.
Behind the glitz and glamour and all your outstanding achievements, there must still be a Ravi Shastri who wishes for something more or different in life. What is that wish?
I thank the man upstairs for giving me this wonderful journey and the kind of exposure and opportunity to explore different things, to learn new things on the way, to experience great success, to experience failure, to realise at the end of the day that these ups and downs will happen in all walks of life. It teaches you to build character, which other people who rub shoulders with you would want to emulate. With the Indian cricket team, I would love to win them one World Cup under my tenure. That would be very satisfying, though I know I've had a great run personally and the team has reached #1 in all formats of the game. So, I can't complain. It has been one heck of a journey, but I say, keep enjoying what you do. Don't take life too seriously. Do the simple things right and the rest will follow.