Indian Premier League 2016
Meet the 24-year-old in charge of the Lions
With the IPL season just days away, cricket.com.au caught up with the owner of one of the competition's newest franchises
Sam Ferris is a Sydney-based journalist for cricket.com.au. He is the host of The Unplayable Podcast and co-creator of the hit web series In Case You Played And Missed It.
From the outside looking in, the Gujarat Lions training session on Tuesday evening was nothing out of the ordinary; batsmen were batting, bowlers were bowling, coaches were coaching and the few fans in attendance were watching the Indian Premier League's newest team practice before their eyes.
But there was something separating this session from the usual routine.
Patrolling the boundary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium was a rockstar-like figure – a young man with Bollywood looks and an air of confidence which clearly betrayed his birth certificate.
Surveying the field and mixing with the players and coaches was Keshav Bansal, the Indian entrepreneur, philanthropist and Director of tech giant Intex Technologies.
Oh, and the youngest owner of an IPL team in the tournament's nine-year history.
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Bansal bought the franchise last year as a 23-year-old (he turned 24 earlier this year) as another strategic move to raise the profile of his father's multi-million dollar company and continue its domination of the telecommunications industry on the subcontinent.
Intex was founded in 1996 by Keshav’s father, Narendra Bansal, who started out selling keyboards, mouses and speakers and developed the enterprise into India's largest mobile handset distributor, with more than three million phones sold each month.
But before Bansal Jr could begin buying IPL teams and signing the country's biggest celebrities as ambassadors, he had to earn his stripes.
At the age of 19, he was given his first job at Intex. It wasn't an executive position. It didn't pay much. He wasn't even allowed to enter the main corporate office.
"I started with logistics, loading and unloading boxes into the trucks," Bansal told cricket.com.au in an exclusive interview in Rajkot.
While he wanted to keep his identity a secret, it didn't take long for his colleagues to discover they were working with the son of the big boss.
Eight months later it was time to move onwards and upwards, Bansal getting out of the warehouse and into the shopfront, where he sold the merchandise he was formerly packing direct to the consumer.
"My family strongly believes we have to start from the ground, not top to bottom," Bansal said.
Another grounding in life came when Bansal travelled to Manchester in England's north-west to attend the prestigious Manchester Business School and complete a Bachelor's degree in Management, specialising in accounting and finance.
It was there where the teenager had to fend for himself.
"It was the first time I was based out of my country,” Bansal reflected. "You are all by yourself, cleaning your room, cleaning your bathroom, cleaning your toilet, cooking your own food, washing your own clothes.
"It was a new experience.
"It grounds you – all these small steps, getting into the brand at the ground level.
"I'm blessed to have an amazing family. Father has always taught me to stay grounded."
While it was smart business buying the two-year IPL license in the wake of the suspensions of foundation franchises Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royal, there's a family connection at the heart of the acquisition.
Bansal was born and raised in Delhi, but his mother hails from Ahmedabad, 215km north-west of Rajkot and the largest city in the state of Gujarat.
Bansal would visit the region twice a year in his adolescence to visit his mother's family, and despite describing himself as a "hard-core Delhi boy" he will be wearing the orange and blue colours of the Lions with pride this season.
His cricketing idols include the almost mandatory Sachin Tendulkar, swashbuckling opening batsman Virender Sehwag and the hottest player on the planet at present, Virat Kohli, who shares a startling resemblance with the Lions owner, or as he puts it, "Virat looks like me".
Cricket is only one of the humble young man’s passions.
He's spends three to three-and-a-half hours each morning exercising, and says he is "addicted" to playing squash, where he was a state-level player in his formative years.
"Sports definitely help you become a stronger person, both physically and internally," he added. "It does release your stress. It makes me a better individual, a better person."
As an owner, Bansal believes in delegation, and is confident he has the right people in the right positions for the team to succeed.
In Brad Hodge as coach and Suresh Raina as captain, Gujurat have two of the most experienced IPL players at the helm, and with Bansal's business acumen behind the scenes, season 2016 is already looking promising.