Our aim is to create an indigenous brand that is renowned across the world for its quality – Arindam Aggarwal, M.D at A2 Cricket

In a country like India where cricket is a religion, a cricket bat is more than just a piece of wood that is used while playing. For many, it’s the ultimate gift of passion, a license to follow their dreams of making it in the cricketing world and an acknowledgement of one’s skill and talent. Some of the most iconic bats, such as Sachin Tendulkar’s MRF, Ricky Ponting’s Kookaburra Kahuna, MS Dhoni’s Reebok Centurian are viewed less as ‘tools’ or ‘sporting gear’ and more as an extension of the player themselves. For those who look up to their favourite cricket players, playing with the same bat is a fantasy that will make them more like their idols.

In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Arindam Aggarwal, Managing Director at A2 Cricket speaks about what started it all, Mithali Raj as brand ambassador, overcoming challenges, future goals and more!

Q 1) You have established a successful business at a relatively young age, what about crafting cricket bats led you to start A2 Cricket?

It's quite a long story to be honest, I've been a professional cricketer for quite some time. I played cricket for more than 10 to 15 years, and in my team I was always the one who would handpick the bats for my friends and I was the one repairing them. I used to travel to different factories and I used to be a bat collector, long before I even thought about starting my own business.

I'm a mechanical engineer from the University of Bristol. The plan was to continue in that direction and go for Masters and do something in the automotive industry but, what struck me was when I was playing in the UK. I was using the bat for 10,000 Rupees and when I went to one of the shops for repair work, I saw that a similar quality of cricket bats was priced at around 200 pounds – 300 Pounds, which equates to 20 to 30,000 Rupees and that really stayed with me. The same product is being sold for way too much money and most of it is made right here in India.

I started to research cricket bats on my own time, just for fun. I was really passionate and I used to collect bats from around the world. The major problem was that the Britishers would call the Indian products ‘cheap Asian imports’, That’s really interesting because most of the cricket equipment that we see around the globe and on TV is made in India and a lot of foreign brands that claim to be made in England or Australia, really are made in India..

In my second year in college, I got an internship at a very big company which I ended up leaving very quickly because I couldn't do it. I didn’t see myself in a job position, working under someone else. That was the very day that I was looking at cricket bat videos and topics related to that. On a whim, I told my parents I’m going to start my own cricket brand. They just said, ‘Fair enough.’

The next day, without any background or any relation in the industry, I traveled to Meerut with little cash and my driver. We went through every nook and corner of Meerut and found a factory in some village who were able to supply me with plain bats. I handpicked the bats myself. We took 10 bats from an estimate of 250 – 300 bats and that's how the journey started.

It started as a mere option for an internship, I just thought of giving it a shot and that's how it began. I was doing sales while I was in the UK, while in college. I was promoting it on social media and getting decent sales. In my last year of college we received an email saying that there was an entrepreneurship award by the University of Briston for the engineering students. I wasn't confident at all because I knew there were people much smarter than me.There were students from MIT and Harvard and people with their own patents. Here, I was doing a pretty traditional drop strings kind of thing with bats. My friends forced me to apply for the award.

I graduated and came back to India. I wasn't happy with the product I was buying and selling because the bats were breaking, the performance and quality of the bat was not good enough to associate my name with. After a couple of days of coming back to India, I got the email that I had won the award, because I had done certain sales and ad sites someplace through social media.

That was the moment when I decided that it doesn’t matter that I don't know what is going to happen or how it's going to happen. I had no experience in business. I decided that I would start making my own product, because I want a better quality. That day A2 was born. That was the moment when I went all in, worse comes to worst I'll fail but by God's grace, I belong to a family where they could afford to support me. They were able to spend a large capital on me, and I was able to take the risk and I gave it a shot. It's been more than three and a half years, and we certainly established ourselves in the international market and have grown from there.

Q 2) As a manufacturer of cricket bats for over 35 international players and for 30+ premium brands, what sets you apart from the other bat manufacturers?

The traditional way of manufacturing is the same around the world. Most machines are the same, there's slight differences in the way they’re crafted. I did a lot of research and experiments being from an engineering background to find what works best for us. We took bits and pieces from Australian, British and Indian styles of bat making. We started traveling to factories in India, to see how they work and we developed a system where we are checking these bats 17 times during the process. The other thing we've perfected is the art of pressing the bat which is what gets the performance of each piece of willow. Now, I can claim that our bats worth 7000 Rupees can outperform any bat in the world that is worth 10,000 Rupees. It's the exclusivity or the speciality of the attention to detail. We're not a mass manufacturer. This is not a generational business, I've started from the ground up. The product we've developed is far superior.

It's right up there with the biggest bat because of the way to the overall quality and finish. The way they are crafted and the performance is the reason we've been so successful. A lot of international players are actually our customers and they are sponsored by other brands, they get their bats made by us because they get exactly what they want, and the performance of our bats is unreal.

inside-the-article-july-01-2 Our aim is to create an indigenous brand that is renowned across the world for its quality - Arindam Aggarwal, M.D at A2 Cricket

Q 3) How much of a boost has it been for A2 Cricket to have Indian women’s national team captain Mithali Raj as a brand ambassador? What about her makes the perfect representative of A2 Cricket?

Signing Mithali Raj was quite a tricky thing. We signed her early in 2020 so the deal was underway from 2019. The funny thing is that we were already making Mithali’s bats before she even signed with A2. While she had endorsed a couple of different bats in the past, she was using ones that we had manufactured so she was aware of the quality of A2.

We met her towards the end of 2019 and we found out that her previous endorsement had reached an end. We saw the window of opportunity and to be very honest, we were not big enough to afford her as our brand ambassador. She is a huge celebrity and financially, we were not in a position to bring her on board. We went ahead anyway because it was a big opportunity. She is the best female cricketer in the world and she has a crazy fan following. She is also a very well respected player in the cricket community.

Funnily enough, she was about to sign on with one of the biggest brands in the market. We told her that there she would be one of many other players that they have on contract and at A2 she would be marketed along with the product and that she would be the front and centre.

Unfortunately though it hasn't been as fruitful because of the pandemic and everything that came with that. Cricket matches have not continued normally for the last 2 years. Having said that, Mithali has given us that international stature that we didn't have otherwise. We are taken more seriously now because one of the greatest cricketers uses an A2 bat. That boosts us in the form of trust from our customers and our dealers. They see us as a brand really willing to grow and promote themselves.

We are proud that she uses A2 bats and just yesterday she scored a 50 and it was with our product. She places us up there with the big brands. We obviously do not have a gambit of International players using our bats because at the moment we haven't reached the scale to be able to afford that many international players. There are so many bat manufacturers around the world and so few actual brands that find any success especially at the big level. The same big brands have been up in highlights for 50-60 years and we are trying to break that barrier and having Mithali has given us a big push in that direction.

Also read: 22 Not Out – Mithali Raj's remarkable legacy in Indian Cricket

Q 4) Who are some of the international cricketers that A2 Cricket manufactures bats for? How do the requirements vary from one cricketer to another?

Naming all the international cricketers would not be possible because many of them are sponsored by other brands, it would be unethical for me to say that they are using bats made by A2. What I can say is that until early last year, at least half of the Singapore national team were using A2 made bats, Dilruwan Perera in the Sri Lanka test team is using A2 bats, Farveez Maharoof and Dilshan (Munaweera) have used our bats. A couple of players from the Zimbabwe national team, a couple of players from the South African women’s team, who are sponsored by others are using our bats. We are making bats for some players in the New Zealand national team and some of Mithali Raj’s teammates are also using A2 bats as well as some big names in the IPL. The requirements vary from one cricketer to another because of different playing styles, some want a different type of wood, whether its finer grain or thicker grain, some want different size edges and handle sizes. Mithali Raj uses cricket bats that weigh 1140 to 1150 grams and it has a specific shape that we copy in our factory. We map the handle to the millimeter, on the contrary there is another big name in the women’s team who uses very heavy bats (1250 grams) and the shape is completely different. Tall crickets use longer bats, so all cricketers are different, but international cricketers generally prefer lighter bats because they face fast bowlers around the world.

whatsapp-image-2021-07-03-at-101024-am Our aim is to create an indigenous brand that is renowned across the world for its quality - Arindam Aggarwal, M.D at A2 Cricket

Q 5) What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your journey so far? How did you overcome them?

One of the major challenges that I have faced is selling. While selling cricket bats is easy, I can sell all of my stock tomorrow as plain cricket bats, but selling them as A2 cricket bats is a tough job. In India it is a monopolized market with 4-5 big brands that have been in the industry for 50-70 years and breaking that monopoly and convincing the customer that our product, if not better, is on par is a tough task. People have been using the same products for 20-30 years and if one person experiences what we are offering, others start using the product. This brand is three years old and we don’t have investors on board, so convincing people to experience the brand is a major hurdle that we face. Having Mithali Raj helps in that aspect and increasing our social media marketing budget helps us educate the people about how our product is better and what our brand can offer. We are competing against some very big brands whose marketing budget is 20-30 times bigger than ours and investing that kind of capital is a step by step process. We are in no hurry to get many big names and are focused on growing organically at the moment and when more A2 bats become a part of the industry, the more enquiries we get.

Q 6) What are your goals and ambitions for A2 Cricket in the future? How do you plan to accomplish them?

A2 Cricket is ‘cricket’ for now, we want to scale up the brand. Even though we have experienced 100% growth in the last three years, the pandemic has shakin things up a bit. We have moved into a bigger factory, twice the size of the previous one and our aim in the next three years is to move to an even bigger factory. The production and demand is increasing, what we’re looking for is to get A2 Cricket to a certain level and then expand to other sports as well. The ultimate target is to get A2 as a performance enhancing premium sports brand. We want to enter other sports where there is a gap in the market for good quality products. The biggest sports brands are either American or German, our aim is to create an indigenous brand that is renowned across the world for its quality. We are already on that path and are increasing our valuation, next year we might get advisors and investors on board so that what is done in 50 years takes 10 years. We want to become a global sports brand based on R&D or design and be an indigenous brand. There is a lot of talent in India that we need to explore, get experts on board and use technology to develop products at good prices and provide to sports people around the world.


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