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Dilip Jajodia: man who makes English bowlers swing

Several Indian-origin entrepreneurs have, over the years, built little empires in Britain. One of the best examples of Indian diaspora making waves in the world of British trade, industry and commerce is Dilip Jajodia.

business Updated: Nov 21, 2013 01:10 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
British companies

Indians taking over iconic British companies has often hit the headlines in recent years – Tatas’ acquisition of Jaguar Land Rover being the most read about – but the trend is not exactly new.

There are several lesser known Indian-origin entrepreneurs who have, over the years, built little empires in Britain often combining passion for making the moolah and their personal interest.

One of the best examples of Indian diaspora making waves in the world of British trade, industry and commerce is Dilip Jajodia.

The fit as a fiddle 69-year-old has successfully combined his love for cricket, that began at the Bishop Cotton School in Bangalore in the 1950s, with his winning entrepreneurial formula that focuses on "heritage, quality, evolution".

Jajodia, who came to England in 1962 to study and went on to become a chartered insurance practitioner and pension fund manager, bought the legendary Dukes company in 1987. The company was established in 1760, when production began in the Tonbridge area of Kent.

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Better known for making the Dukes cricket balls, that have been used in Ashes over the centuries and other matches across the world, the Jajodia-owned business today offers the full range of cricket equipment used by the likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni and other international players.

“Cricket has always been a passion for me. I think I have served cricket well over the years. I played with Brijesh Patel in school in Bengaluru, but could not take it further than club cricket in England. But, we have welcomed top Indian cricketers at our Woodford Wells Cricket Club, including Ashok Mankad, BS Chandrashekar, G Vishwanath and Abid Ali,” a seemingly content Jajodia told HT at his modest office in east London.

Belonging to a business family with roots in the Marwar region of Rajasthan, Jajodia says he had a privileged upbringing and came to England to study where his father had business connections. His father once supplied uniforms to the British Indian Army.

He arrived in London with 5 pounds and was met by family and friends but soon moved ahead to strike out on his own. At that time, Indians faced several challenges in England he recalls, but is happy that now "people take you for what you are and it is an advantage now if you are an Indian".

After initial years in insurance, Jajodia bought a company off the shelf called Morrant in 1973, which too is a major company manufacturing cricket gear today, particularly the ultra-light pads used by Tendulkar and others.

The customised wicket-keeping pads (preferred by Dhoni), with the above-the-knee flap removed to ease movement, was conceived by Jajodia.

His two main companies – Morrant and Dukes – enjoy a dominant position in the market of cricket equipment but also supply hockey and rugby gears.

He focusses on the Dukes cricket ball and personally prepares the polish and ensures its quality by selecting the best available raw materials, alongwith his five full-time employees in England and associates abroad. Former England player Bob Taylor looks after the company’s sales.

He describes his management style as "definitely hands-on".

The price of Dukes cricket balls ranges from 10 pounds to 45 pounds, he says and adds that he sells over 1,00,000 balls every year in various countries, many of them tailored to local conditions and surfaces. Most of the Dukes balls are hand-stitched abroad.

Jajodia, who has family in Delhi and Kolkata, says the market for Dukes balls in India is "huge", and has plans to set up a unit in south India in 2014.

"A lot of people want to buy my company now. I can take the money and run, but in two years the new company will close. It is not easy to ensure the quality, it is not easy to develop the technical know how and the experience to turn out the required quality," Jajodia says

Two of his three children – Nina, 38, and Sunil, 34 (named after Gavaskar) - work with him in the company. He has another daughter Geeta, 36, and three grand-children.

"I adore my children," says Jajodia.

Jajodia is a strong supporter of the England cricket team, except, of course, when they play India.

For someone who rubs shoulders with the great and the good of world cricket (he counts Gavaskar and Brijesh Patel as his close friends), Jajodia, who will turn 69 on Wednesday (November 20), retains the simplicity of his origins.

“My philosophy in life is to be modest, balanced, not overdo anything."

"Tomorrow if I go, I will have no regrets. I think I have served cricket well and I have had a good innings."