“We firmly believe that there are a lot of talented grassroots cricketers in India and the world”: Abhishek Desai, founder of CricHeroes

Abhishek Desai - Founder, CricHeroes (Image by Sportskeeda)
Abhishek Desai - Founder, CricHeroes (Image by Sportskeeda)

Widely-adopted products and successful companies often start out with entrepreneurs looking to solve their personal pain points. These products can then go on to serve a wider customer base and even turn into a viable business.

In the context of grassroots cricket in India, there are millions of Indians who play cricket regularly in social groups and amateur tournaments. The nature of these competitions is often casual and informal, but the animated discussions that ensue post-match certainly make for good banter with friends. So how does one go about identifying an opportunity and building a viable business in such a sector?

To find out, Sportskeeda caught up with Abhishek Desai, founder of CricHeroes, a product that set out to solve the pain points of the Ahmedabad-based serial entrepreneur. Starting out as a scoring app, CricHeroes has now built what it terms as a mobile-first platform that builds an ecosystem around grassroots cricket and enables e-commerce on top of it.

Reminiscing about the motivations behind creating such a product for the grassroots cricket community in India, Abhishek said:

“The idea was to solve our own pain points as cricketers. India is a cricket-crazy nation and the game is played across the country. Like millions of cricketers in India, I also play cricket regularly on weekends with my friends. After every cricket session, anywhere in the world, players will discuss the game."

Stressing the fact that the numbers and other data from most of these contests go unrecorded, he added:

"Sometimes these discussions become heated as well, but most of these discussions are without any proper recorded data like current form, performance, dropped catches, etc., as either the scoring is not done or is done on the paper-based score sheet.”

Based on his own pain points, Abhishek felt the need to gain meaningful insights based on data. Reflecting on how he initially went about trying to find a solution, he said:

“In the longer run, it is impossible to aggregate data and get meaningful insights from scores recorded on paper. To solve this, we started using existing scoring apps but I was not happy with their UX, and a lot of things were missing.”

After this experience with existing scoring apps, Abhishek explained how he noticed a gap, and an opportunity, in the market:

"At the same time, I did a little survey in my city and found that this is a problem faced by almost every grassroot cricketer. That is when I sensed an opportunity and designed a business plan for CricHeroes. I pitched it to my friends and family and secured the seed funding to build the first version, which was launched on 17 October, 2016.”

Going from a relatively straightforward scoring app to creating an entire ecosystem around grassroots cricket and integrating e-commerce into it is no small task. Touching upon how this evolution came about, Abhishek said:

“Once we established ourselves as a scoring app for cricketers and tournament organisers, we figured that we could help other ecosystem stakeholders like scorers, umpires, commentators, academies, grounds, etc. We gave them a facility to list their services free of cost on the CricHeroes app under the ‘Ecosystem’ section. They immediately started getting inbound interests from our existing users."

While presently, CricHeroes may not make any revenue from this service, the product has gone on to create an entire e-commerce platform on top of this existing ecosystem. Commenting on the integration of e-commerce into the app and how it will serve the business in the future, Abhishek added:

“At the same time, we launched ‘CricHeroes Market’, which allowed businesses around cricket to list their products for a small fee. Our users can interact with the sellers and purchase their products directly from them. We don’t charge commission on these transactions as we don’t fulfil the orders on our platform. These are some initial steps of building a much bigger e-commerce business in future.”

While CricHeroes seem to be in the process of building a robust foundation for a long-term sustainable business model, the business is also monetising by selling premium features such as CricHeroes Pro membership, live streaming, white label apps, promotions, and more, to players, organisers and associations. On the subject of CricHeroes’ monetisation timeline, Abhishek said:

“We plan to scale these channels further along with traction and also look to add a few more revenue channels in future. We plan to reach profitability in 1-2 years time.”

Highlighting the achievements of grassroots cricketers on CricHeroes

Given that CricHeroes is a product offering aimed primarily at the grassroots sector, it can have a notable impact on unearthing quality level talent from the vast number of people that play cricket in India. At the same time, it also needs to make sure that its users — the amateur cricketers — are being incentivised to perform better at the game. Admitting that they are big on recognition, Abhishek said:

“We firmly believe that there are a lot of talented grassroots cricketers in India and the world, but they are not recognized and celebrated enough. We started doing that by declaring ‘Player of the Match’, ‘Best Batsman’ and ‘Best Bowler’ of the match automatically after completion of a match. We also launched badges which get unlocked on a player’s personal achievements, like 30 runs in T20s, five wickets, three catches in a match, etc. Such small recognition attempts push them to do better every time they play cricket.”

Speaking further on the tools used by them to unearth quality talent from grassroots cricket, he added:

“We have ‘Top Performers’ (Leaderboard) where we identify daily, weekly and monthly top cricketers for each region and in the leather and tennis ball category. We (also) have ‘CH Leaderboard’, which is an all-time ranking of all the cricketers on CricHeroes on various criteria.”

In another commitment to their goal of helping shine a spotlight on quality players from the grassroots community, CricHeroes also recently organised the CricHeroes Awards 2021, hosted by noted host and commentator Jatin Sapru, where some of India's top talented cricketers were recognised for their achievements.

Acknowledging that this has been the biggest effort from their side in this direction, the home-grown sports tech brand is also aiming to do an offline award show next year with greater fanfare, as admitted by Abhishek Desai.

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CricHeroes’ funding-spurred growth and IPL aspirations

CricHeroes, which is based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, saw its consistent efforts to promote grassroots cricket rewarded with the faith of Games24x7, India’s leading digital skill games organisation that is well-known for popular fantasy platform My11Circle and fast-growing rummy platform RummyCulture.

Games24x7 invested an undisclosed amount in CricHeroes in August 2021. Speaking on how the influx of capital has helped the business so far, Abhishek said:

“The capital from Games24x7 has helped us do rapid growth experiments which we were not able to before. It has also helped us hire more team members. Not only that, they have helped us in every aspect of running a business, like product development, marketing, and infrastructure. We plan to continue growing and build a stronger cricket network in 2022.”

As most who have followed the major developments around IPL 2022 would know, Games24x7 has also signed up as the title sponsor for the Lucknow Super Giants on a three-year contract. When asked about how this association would help CricHeroes and whether he sees CricHeroes supporting a potential grassroots program by the IPL team down the line, Abhishek replied excitedly in the affirmative, saying:

“Yes, absolutely. We are also talking to at least one more IPL team for the same. We do see us doing some exciting stuff in this direction.”

Outlook and roadmap for sports tech in India on the back of Union Budget 2022

The Union Budget announced by Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister of India, on 1 February, 2022 saw the sports budget being increased to INR 3062.60 crore. Explaining how this augurs well for the development of sports tech startups in India, Abhishek welcomed the hike and rounded off the interview by saying in his closing comments:

“It definitely boosts morale as a sports tech entrepreneur. It is high time we take the sports industry seriously in India and support it to reach its full potential. The current government is already doing some fantastic work at the grassroots level in sports, and this gesture shows their commitment.”

With a solid foundation from their current product offerings for a long-term sustainable business, the backing of one of India's leading gaming companies, and the increased focus on the growth of the sports industry, the future certainly looks exciting for CricHeroes.

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Edited by Sandeep Banerjee
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