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CricHQ.com's grand plan for Indian cricket

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MUMBAI: Kiwi cricketers Stephen Fleming and Brendon McCullum have been the nightmare of many a rival team captain and bowler on the field, thanks to their ability to consistently notch up big totals and fast. But for the past two years, the duo - along with a bunch of other international cricketers, and tech entrepreneur Simon Baker -  has been working on CricHQ.com (a technology platform that offers  live scoring and competition management solutions via cloud and mobile technologies) which seeks to redefine how cricket is administered, shared, analysed, and followed. 

So far their Wellington-headquartered firm CricHQ Ltd has managed to sign up more than 140 official cricket bodies worldwide to its live cricket scoring and competition management solution platform (both cloud and mobile). Partnerships or endorsements have been forged with the International Cricket Council and the Federation of International Cricketers Association. It has also inked agreements with content and distribution partners Samsung, Nokia and Blackberry. And finally, it has attracted more than 750,000 users to its cricket social network globally, of which more than 250,000 are from India.

Thanks to this, it had managed to get a valuation of around $17 million by March 2014 if reports in the New Zealand business press are to be believed. It had even attracted investments to the tune of $8 million from international shareholders including 20 cricketers (Ravi Ashwin, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, George Bailey, Albie Morkel, Faf du Plessis, Brad Hodge feature among them) and the New Zealand government.

For the past three years, CricHQ has been working to get acceptance from various cricket boards, associations and clubs for its technology platform. ?We are trying to bring new technology to a very old sport where there is a lot of paper interaction, facisimile, phone calls, ? Baker ? who is CricHQ CEO, told Sky News First Business in April this year. 

The online competition management dashboard, CricHQ, says, allows administrators to have a single location to create, edit and publish competitions, leagues and draws all of their other administrative duties. Its dedicated scoring apps are fully integrated with its competition management system, so scorers at the ground can download fixture details, broadcast matches live and upload final results with the click of a button.

The advantage of the technology platform, Baker, in an interview to a digital website,  revealed is that ?it allows one to keep track of even smallest-level of games and players. The network provides comprehensive data, which includes information about non-international cricketing career as well. CricHQ will help identify talents at a very early stage, which wasn?t possible before this. With more cricketing boards joining the platform, CricHQ could be of great help to the game and talents across the country.?

Those who sign up for the tech platform pay a subscription or service fee to the company.

Among its clients figure:  the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, New Zealand Cricket, Kerala Cricket Association. The national governing bodies at the ICC, EBC, PCA, Cricket Ireland, USACA, NZCPA, and ACA, are the technologies official endorsers. Partnerships have been formed with ICC Europe, and ICC East Asia Pacific, Cricket Canada, SACA.

 

Baker is looking to change the pace now that cricket administering bodies have come on to the tech platform.  The company has been pursuing plans to raise  $5.2 million since April 2014, according to last available reports, in order to fund product development, accelerate its expansion in cricket crazy India, hire more staff and also build brand awareness.  

The idea, according to Baker, is to gradually reach CricHQ to fans and associations and clubs in  smaller cities in India.  Said he:  ?India is our biggest growth market and we are bullish about the Indian market opportunity. We are building a strong team to take full advantage of the opportunity.?

Currently, it has three offices with 75 staff. This number is slated to go up to 500 within the next three years, according to a PTI report. CricHQ?s  corporate office is based in Bengaluru and global development and operations offices are located in Chennai and Kochi respectively.

The company recently appointed Karthik Ramanujam as director of digital sales and marketing in India.  He will be leading the company?s go-to-market strategy which includes user acquisition for online and mobile properties in India, and supporting the global sales efforts.

The fact that CricHQ has so many cricketers as shareholders should work in Karthik?s favour as he goes about building the brand along with chief marketing officer Jarred Sewell. During the recently concluded IPL, the company  ran a campaign called ?Meet your Heroes.? Sewell says, ?Users could win free match tickets and travel with free VIP transport facilities. One lucky user daily was given the opportunity daily to meet cricket stars.? No prizes for guessing, who these stars were: its shareholders.

While CricHQ.com is available on the web, the major thrust for India is the mobile, because of the vast populace of 800 million plus hand phone users. That means making sure the CricHQ app is downloaded by as many as possible. 

So far it has managed to lure 250,000 users in a country, which has more than 100 million Facebook users, 66 per cent of whom are accessing the social network on their feature phones.  The CricHQ app is available on Android, IOS, and the Blackberry platforms in India.  The company is aiming to take its global cricket fan and user base to 6.5 million by April 2015, most of these coming from India.

The app allows users to follow their favourite players and receive notifications whenever they play cricket or share social updates, just like Facebook.



It works on the premise of following players from international stars to the grassroots level.  The app also allows fans to post texts, photos and video updates and offers live cricket scores from around the world with ball-by-ball updates along with statistical insights.

Teams and players in turn can review their performances with run worms, graphs, instant calculations of key stats and visual representations. Most of the uploaded content on the player profiles comes straight off their mobile handsets. The app is currently available only in English.

Baker earlier this year told Sky News First Business that he does not fear running head to head with long-existing cricket providers such as ESPNcricinfo and cricbuzz.com. ?They are established big players in terms of the websites around cricket,? he said in the interview. ?We are not seeking to be an editorial web site around articles around cricket. We are looking for the social media, networking engagement, the fans, the players and the participants ? we are going for a different sort of way of engaging with consuming of content as compared to a traditional web site.?

The CricHQ business model requires revenues to come in courtesy sponsorship and run of site advertising, which hopefully will ramp up as users and their consumption of pages on the site rise. Another revenue stream that it is going to go for is paid subscribers on its social network, which may not be that easy in India. Revenues according to one investor presentation made in April were $631,000 last year. The target for the coming year: $8 million.

It looks stiff indeed. It will be up to cricket fans in India to oblige.

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