Aucklander Peter Robb, the inventor of a training net designed for cricketers, talks teaming up with former Black Cap captain Brendon McCullum and aspirations to sell the product in India, the world's fastest growing cricket market.
What does your business do?
I design and have manufactured, and wholesale, a portable batting unit for cricketers that is suitable for all ages and abilities. I started The V about four or five years ago, and we had our first manufacturing run in the middle of 2019. Our first product went on the market in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa in October.The V-shaped net, which is internationally patented, encourages core technical strength in batting.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I have a long history of involvement in cricket, I come from a family of cricketers. I have two young cricketers, and when I started to develop the product I was involved in coaching and umpiring at the North Shore Cricket Club. The motivation initially was extra batting practice for my two boys and I could see the potential for something like this.
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It evolved from a tradition in cricket where mums or dads put a cricket ball in a sock suspended by a piece of rope to a beam or branch of a tree and it allows players to practise technique for batting. I couldn't find anywhere to suspend my cricket ball in the sock and thought if we could have something that is free standing and portable then there would be a lot of people all over the world interested, there was nothing else like it.
How big is the team?
My wife Louise and I are involved in the day-to-day running of the business, working full time on it since last year, and we've got an advisory group.
How many units have been sold so far?
The product is sold in cricket specialists stores, in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. It is stocked in Cricket Express, Player Sports and Rebel. We have two batting units - The V Pro and The V Pro Elite, they retail for $199 and $299.
Brendon McCullum is the company's brand ambassador - how did you meet him and how did the working relationship come about?
When we were putting together plans to take this to market we approached Brendon. He is our ambassador for equity so we've allocated him a 5 per cent shareholding over a five-year period in return for his endorsement. He currently holds a 1.21 per cent stake in the company.
Brendon is involved with annual photography, packaging and promotion and helps us with marketing the product. In the future he will be involved in videos using the product, and he also offers feedback and his expertise for product development.
Somebody in our company had contact with him, which is how he we were able to build a relationship with him. He got involved in the beginning of 2018. Brendon is internationally recognised, he's got a very good reputation, a great batsman and this is a batting product [so it makes sense to have him involved]. I've shown The V to him and he's used it. When he was young, he and his brother had a cricket ball in a sock hung up for them so he could straight away see the benefit of the product.
What's the end goal and is it designed for grassroots or international cricket ?
The Black Caps aren't using the net, but it has the potential use to be put on the boundary as a warm-up device for anyone. The batting unit can be set up in a few minutes and put on the sideline and so, instead of just sitting thinking 'I could be in, the next ball, or I may have to wait three or four overs', it can be used to hit balls and keep an eye on the middle and warm up.
I've shown the product to a lot of coaches and a lot of buyers for cricket retailers and they all really like it, so we want to put it to professional coaches. The long-term plan is to make it available to cricketers of all countries.
What's the strategy for rolling this out worldwide?
In the next 12 months we are looking to get established and build more relationships with manufacturers, retailers and cricketers, and to continue product development to make products with improved performance. Over the last six to eight months I've been working with Auckland bio-engineering department with the aim of introducing technology to the product with a view of fast tracking player development.
Our first manufacturing run was last year, where we had 2000 made. About 1000 went to Australia and they almost sold out before Christmas which was really exciting. The second manufacturing run that's due to be completed next week is 2000, and half of those will go to the United Kingdom.
What's your plan to crack the market in India?
India is the fastest growing cricket market in the world. The plan is to get the manufacturing right and get our feet on the ground and established in New Zealand and Australia and South Africa initially, and then the UK. The plan for year three is to go to India, possibly through a relationship with a large Indian manufacturer that has retail distribution. We're working on those plans and to launch there in 2021.
What advice do you give to others who want to start their own business?
Seek expertise as soon as possible from people with experience on what you're doing.