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Friday , April 16 , 2010
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Failed auto man’s hunt

Solapur, April 15: For a failed auto dealer and dabbler in films, Shailendra Gaikwad’s would be an astounding success story if he indeed organised the Rs 1,533-crore bid for the Kochi IPL team on his own steam.

Jayant Kotalwar, an investor in the franchise, credited its chief promoter and his close friend with finding the investors as he spoke to The Telegraph today.

“Shailendra worked ferociously in the past six months to put it all together,” Kotalwar, an NRI techie, said over the phone from America’s Silicon Valley.

Kotalwar, who played cricket with Shailendra from their student days in Maharashtra, said that after graduating in electrical engineering, his friend had dabbled in various businesses, including a Mahendra auto dealership.

“Unfortunately, the automotive business shut down. He also acted (in) and directed a Kannada version of Priyadarshan’s Malamal Weekly. He also ran an art film-making company and started the Pushpa cricket academy in Solapur,” Kotalwar said.

The idea of bidding for an IPL team came to the duo after it was announced that there would be two more teams in the league.

“We began discussing. You would be surprised but a lot of people in Silicon Valley follow cricket passionately. And almost every company in Silicon Valley has started in a garage. I have worked with multiple start-ups, and my last start-up was worth $150 million. So we have a fire in our belly and the IPL business model is keenly followed in Silicon Valley,” Kotalwar said.

He said he began hunting for investors in the US, and found two. “However, they eventually backed out. The credit for finding the other investors goes entirely to Shailendra.”

Kotalwar was present at the meeting with Lalit Modi in New Delhi, where the joint venture document was signed, before flying back to the US.

“It was the day KKR played Delhi Daredevils (the game was played on March 29),” he said. Kotalwar was also present at the March 28 media conference in Mumbai, when Gaikwad and the others faced the media for the first time.

Kotalwar holds 1.6 per cent of the 25 per cent free equity, valued at about Rs 5.8 crore. “But what use is sweat equity if the venture is not profitable? I have worked in the technology field and was part of the Internet engineering task force. But I am willing to give all that up and return to India to make this franchise profitable,” Kotalwar said.

He expects the franchise to start making profits from the third year after two years of losses. “I feel there is a place for creativity (as an entrepreneur) in the IPL model,” he said.

Kotalwar, brother of an IFS officer who is a director at junior foreign minister Preneet Kaur’s office, spoke of his and Shailendra’s shared passion for cricket.

“I met Pradeep (Shailendra’s pet name) when both of us were playing school cricket in the late 1980s. I was a left-arm fast bowler for my school in Latur, and he played for a Solapur school. We met during an inter-district tournament and became friends for life,” Kotalwar said.

Kotalwar completed his computer science course from BITS Pilani and shifted to the US in 1998. “But my friendship with Pradeep continued, and so did our passion for cricket. In the Bay area and Silicon Valley, cricket is not just followed but played regularly. I play for a team formed in Alcatel Lucent where I currently work,” he says.

On the controversy over the funding and shareholding of the Kochi franchise, he said: “It is unfortunate, but we will face it.”

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