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Gayathri Venugopalan woman entrepreneur of Chennai Super Kings IPL merchandise

She wanted to start a kennel for dogs in Gurgaon but changed her mind and is now selling merchandise of Chennai Super Kings (CSK), one of the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket teams.

Thirty-year-old Gayathri Venugopalan, a first generation entrepreneur, is gung-ho about doing handsome business, selling CSK merchandise like key chains, binoculars, wallets, sports bottles, caps, T-shirts, mugs, fridge magnets, wrist bands, flag horns and other things with the CSK 'lion' mascot embossed on these.

"I am an ardent fan of CSK and I am happy to be the official merchandiser for the team for five years," Venugopalan, CEO of Oceanbed Gifts and Merchandise, told IANS in an interview.

The CSK merchandise are available in the price range of Rs.60-Rs.600.

A commerce graduate from Madras University and an MBA degree holder, Venugopalan decided to start her own business and floated Oceanbed in 2005, after a brief stint with TVS Motor Company and ICICI Bank.

Oceanbed is largely into corporate gifting space. The five-year-old company decided to get into merchandising and the CSK deal is the company's first contract, which was inked after a year of negotiations.

"With 27 items, we have the broadest range of merchandise, including novel items, compressed T-shirts that expand to original sizes when immersed in water for five minutes. The initial reaction (of buyers) is good," she said.

It was in the last IPL series in South Africa that people realised the true potential of merchandise as most of the spectators were having one item or another.

According to Venugopalan, the IPL as a whole may do around Rs.12 crore merchandise business.

"Around 80 retail outlets will be selling our products. We will be supplying the merchandise to Yog Capital who will set up the stalls inside the stadia," she said.

"While some products like T-shirts are sourced locally, items like binoculars, sports bottles, key chains and fridge magnets are imported from China," she added.

Oceanbed has also tied up with retail chains like Mega Mart, Peter England and Landmark for vending the products.

About the merchandise business, she said it is different from gifts as the buyer has to be convinced about the value the product provides.

Apart from marketing here and in Gurgaon, Venugopalan plans to sell the CSK merchandise overseas where there is a good concentration of Tamils.

Also, she hopes to sell the CSK merchandise beyond IPL. She agrees that it is going to be a challenging task as the brand owner has to keep the brand alive for her products to move.

"We have been keeping the CSK brand alive throughout the year by participating in different events like marathon and others. And we will continue to do that after this IPL also," Rakesh Singh, marketing head of India Cements, owners of CSK, told IANS.

"With a wide variety of items this year we are hoping to do a business of around Rs.3 crore," he said.


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