When we talk about sports in India, majority will coil themselves around one, ‘Cricket’. Not to forget the movie ‘Lagaan’, which in a simple manner depicted how we adopted the sport from the British. But among most things that Britishers took from India, they also admired and promoted one sport globally – ‘Polo’.
With its origins traced to the royal herds of 3100 B.C. from ancient book of Manipur/Kangleipak called “Puya”, Polo has seen its ups and downs in India, but has never lost its regal status. Once restricted to royals and Indian army, the game of horses and sticks also known as Sagol Kanjei, is now open to all.
Jai-Veeru’s Polo Story
Jai Singh and Vikramaditya Barkana, got their first stint with horses at their school – Mayo College, Ajmer. “It was at Mayo that we first discovered our love for horses and we would spend hours and hours at the stables,” reminisce Jai. However, what itched them was the inability to find good polo equipments and gears like their friends. “At school, we would admire beautiful imported riding gear that some of the students had. But what we found frustrating was that quality polo equipment and gears were not available in India, and if one had to buy, imported products were the only option,” added Vikramaditya.
After school Vikramaditya went on to work in New Zealand in the tutelage of Ross Ainsely, a leading polo pony trainer. He spent six years there learning more and more about horses and realised that the equipment one uses makes a major impact on the psyche and the body of the horse and therefore affects the performance of both the rider and the horse.
After a six year stint abroad, Vikramaditya came back and teamed up with Jai and laid the foundation of Polofactory in May 2013. “Our frustration from School time was the reason Polofactory was born,” says Jai.
The Growth Curve
Polofactory is a Jaipur-based lifestyle company with a focussed philosophy for all round development of this magnificent sport. It runs an online retail division where users can order polo equipments and lifestyle merchandise, inspired by polo and horses.
The company organises Polo holidays around the world including U.K, India, New Zealand, Argentina and more. Polofactory also offers end to end solutions to patrons and corporate houses through consulting support on team management, tournament organisation, off-site polo events, and polo infrastructure development.
Currently working with a team of 21, Polofactory’s revenue model revolves at 360 degree with a mix of direct online retail and wholesale supply to teams, clubs and stores.
There are around 90 products, sold both offline and online along with services such as Polo tourism, professional team, event and tournament management and poly pony training, sales and rentals.
As claimed by the founders, they have grown over 18X in terms of revenue since their launch. “We started with supplying Polo gear to one team -Sahara Warrior, and by the end of last year, we supplied Polo gear to almost all national teams and clubs, including some international ones such as Sona Polo, Jindel Panthers, Jaipur Polo, Jodhpur Polo, Mundota, Central Academy, Mumbai Polo Club, MicMar Polo & Surrey Polo etc.,” adds Vikramaditya.
The venture has global operations with products supplied to over ten countries including UK, Germany, Zambia, Australia, USA, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Kuwait, Kenya, and Qatar. “In the last financial year, we supplied equipment for over 300 horses and to over 100 players and polo professionals. Our product offering has increased from one product to 50 unique products and various bespoke activities around the sport. Our products are available in five luxury stores in the country,” chuckles Jai.
In 2016, they also gave out their first franchise – Polofactory, Australia which operates out of Sydney.
The Road Ahead
Initially, they found it difficult to convince artisans to work in a particular way, stick to the design given, and use the best leather, quality threads, rivets and other raw materials. “We would reject most of what was made. Consequently, our final product cost much higher than what people were used to paying,” says Jai.
He further adds, “However, we were sure that the quality and durability wasn’t something that we were willing to compromise. It worked, we changed the market. The polo fraternity were more than willing to pay more for the advanced quality.”
Going ahead, the founders aim to achieve bigger global presence and building one stop shops for the best in polo – equipment, fashion & services. On the polo front, they want to collaborate, provide support, co-brand with the biggest polo events in the world.
A Charles Kettering quote aptly sums their journey as,
“There exist limitless opportunities in every industry. Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.”