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Dhoni’s extra innings: How MSD plans to carry his bat after retirement
Jyotindra Dubey and Himani Chandna, Hindustan Times

From time to time, the country’s cricketers have doffed the India cap in favour of the entrepreneur’s hat to secure their lives after retirement.

But not cricketer has had as diversified a portfolio as India’s limited overs skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has business interests in real estate, security solutions, a chain of gyms or the recently-launched sports apparel chain, SEVEN.

SEVEN is not Dhoni’s first business venture, however. He also owns SportsFit World, a fitness centre chain, which is a joint venture with Rhiti Sports Management Pvt Ltd — the company that manages his brand endorsements and communication. Dhoni holds 65% in SportsFit World, while Rhiti Sports Management holds the rest.

Besides, Dhoni also has stakes in Hockey India League (HIL) franchise Ranchi Rays, Indian Super League (ISL) franchise Chennaiyin FC and Supersport World Championship team Mahi Racing Team India.

Apart from sports and fitness businesses, Dhoni has also invested in real estate through Amrapali Mahi Developers Pvt Ltd, a joint venture with Amrapali Group, in which his wife, Sakshi Dhoni, holds 25% stake, according to the latest filings with the Registrar of Companies (ROC).

Last month Dhoni resigned as the brand ambassador of Amrapali, after residents of a housing project in Noida launched a social media campaign asking the cricketer to dis-associate himself from the builder or force the company to ensure completion of pending work.

Amrapali CMD Anil Sharma had said then that the decision was taken by mutual consent, as the company did not want Dhoni’s image to be affected.

Dhoni is also a majority stakeholder in Optimum Vigilance Solutions, a company dealing in security and biometric systems. He is also co-producing a biopic, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, scheduled for release this year.

“The concept of investing in various sectors has been a successful trend in western countries since 70’s,” said Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions, which manages the endorsements of several celebrities. “For instance, George Foreman, the American boxer, used his brand value by investing in businesses that were related to him in some way. We are replicating the model here.”

“Dhoni is already a brand name and it automatically creates a pull. He is effectively using his brand value by not doing too many advertisements,” said Navin Khemka, partner at media house Maxus, an arm of GroupM. “The life of a sports star is short and insecure. Product endorsements start fading away once you retire. It is important for a sportsman to invest intelligently and secure his future.”

Dhoni currently endorses 17 brands, the highest number. He is also the highest paid. Forbes ranked him 23rd richest sportsperson, with $31 million earnings — $4 million in salary and the rest from endorsements — in 2014-15.

“Dhoni is a major brand... we need no promotion, no advertisement campaigns,” said Arun Pandey, chairperson of Rhiti Sports Management.

According to industry sources, the SEVEN brand has sold products worth Rs 8 crore in the two months since its launch, with hardly any promotional activity, and is targeting Rs 20 crore in one year.

Cricketers usually turn commentators or cricket coaches after retirement, or open restaurants. Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan ventured into restaurants. Only Zaheer’s restaurant is operational.