Premier Badminton League: Ex-players Bhat, Reddy live dream through Bengaluru Raptors
When Bengaluru Raptors reached the Premier Badminton League final at home, it was dream come true for a bunch of avid badminton lovers from the city, including Arvind Bhat.
Growing up in a city with a rich badminton heritage and home to Prakash Padukone, former international Bhat and his college friend Prashanth Reddy – both engineers by profession - wanted to do something big for the sport in Bengaluru. Bhat is former internationals who trained at the academy run by Padukone and Vimal Kumar. Reddy, less successful in the game, moved to the US and became a successful entrepreneur.
The two stayed in touch and Prashanth encouraged Bhat, who on retiring in 2015 was thinking of becoming a coach, to open his academy in Bengaluru. The next plan was to own a team and Prashanth again goaded Bhat to do that. And when the consortium that owned Bengaluru Blasters exited this season, the two joined a few others buy the team and rename it.
“I had a dream to own a team when the league started, but Prashanth is the driving force,” says Bhat. “He wanted to do something for the sport. He did well in his career as an entrepreneur and had enough connection to bring in people to invest.”
Bhat is both the head coach and co-owner. “It helps because I can bridge the gap between the owners and players. You cannot run a team like horses. The owners have to understand the players’ perspective and the players have to also understand the owners’ side because they are putting in so much money,” said Bhat, whose best moment as a player was winning the German Open in 2014.
He and Reddy have opened two training centres in Bengaluru. The main centre in Sarjapur Road has 12 courts. They also run an outlet selling badminton accessories.
“We have three verticals - coaching, retail business and the team. We’re also doing something with technology,” says Bhat.
“The grassroots programme has about 1000 kids. We have 30 kids in the elite programme, of which we fully fund five. It comes to Rs 30,000 per person per month. We want to push it to 30-35. We have to raise the money through funding. We’ve reached out to Abhinav Bindra, who is launching his foundation.”
Sponsorship is needed to keep Raptors floating as well. “We want to stay (as owners) but we need to make money. Spend is Rs 8 crore per year. What we get back depends on the connection you have to get the sponsorship.
“We are guaranteed R1.5 crore as prize money as finalist. It is R3 crore if we win. The central revenue coming from PBL is about R1 crore. So, the maximum you will make is R4 crore.”
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