So enamoured was he by the gentleman’s game that he chucked his thriving advertising career to give cricket a shot
Any successful business needs passion, trust and risk. Phani Kishore Gutala got in to the business with a passion towards cricket, trust towards the partner and above all risking his promising advertising career. It was this zeal that helped shape Leverage Appliances, and also an indigenous cricket bowling machine, which has taken 30 per cent of the world market share in five years time.
“I was playing cricket with my partner, Parthasarathi, at a mall in Mumbai with an imported bowling machine. We wanted to try different bowling styles, but the operator said that it wasn’t possible as the machine had limitations. It was then that we decided to create a machine that can work seamlessly with no limitations,” says Kishore, co-founder, Leverage Appliances.
The move came at a price – Phani had to give up his lucrative advertising career. He however, had no qualms. “I joined Parthasarathi (my maternal uncle) to start the new venture. Initially, we didn’t know the investments needed to create a bowling machine. It took two years of research and development to create a prototype. We invested Rs.2 crore with the help of family and bank loans,” he says.
Kishore is confident about the strength of Leverage Appliances. He says, “Many of us believe that Indians cannot produce great products. Our challenge is to break that stereotype and expand in to both Indian and international markets. When we told people our machine was better than others, nobody believed us.”
However, there were a few who were willing to back this duo. He says, “VVS Lakshman has given us immense support by being the first international player to test this new machine. He did not know who we were or what our product was like, but he still tested the machine. It meant risking his career — if the machine didn’t throw properly, he had to sacrifice his career. His acknowledgement that the machine was better than all imported ones was a big boost for us. Rahul Dravid helped us by introducing us to international players. Sachin Tendulkar even had Leverage install the bowling machine at his house and uses it to practice along with his son.”
The machine is offered at `79,000 compared to `3.5 lakh for an imported machine with similar specifications. “We didn’t limit ourselves by manufacturing a single machine like our foreign counterparts. We further developed 12 machines offering various features like increasing the bounce and pace,” he says.
The top line of the company is increasing significantly. It began with a `1 crore in 2008-09 and has gone on to achieve 200 per cent growth and reached Rs.3 crore in 2009-10. In the last fiscal it recorded Rs.5 crore and is aiming at Rs.8-10 crore this year.
The company has other new projects in its kitty. Leverage is developing a transparent indoor cricket stadium for the first time in the world. “The idea is to create natural turf (grass), natural light and wind that give feel similar to an outdoor cricket stadium. It can also simulate the weather conditions of different countries like Australia, West Indies and England. This will help the player experience and get accustomed to the weather conditions of different countries that he is going to tour. He can further practice according to the preferred country timings and can even escape the jetlag,” Kishore explains.
“We are aiming to make Leverage one of the most reputed brands in the country with revenue of Rs.500 crore by 2015. The company is already enjoying 70 per cent market share in bowling machines in India and is planning to expand to other areas like manufacturing shoes according to the foot pressure and also a machine to check ball chucking by bowlers,” he adds.
However, it’s not all about work for this entrepreneur. In his free time, Kishore likes to play cricket and table tennis, and spend time with friends. He also loves reading books and travelling. His favourite novel is The Day of the Jackal (1971).
He says, “The Day of the Jackal is still fresh in my mind and I want to drive an Alfa Romeo like the protagonist in the novel. I currently own a Hyundai Elantra and Mahindra Xylo.”
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