Arun Pandey: The man behind the rise of the brand 'MS Dhoni'

MS Dhoni (above) is managed by Arun Pandey — who has negotiated big endorsement deals for the Indian captain  © IANS

Mumbai: Jun 3, 2013

From tossing slow left-arm spin to Mahendra Singh Dhoni years ago to becoming the Indian captain’s confidante, manager and business partner, Arun Pandey has come a long way.

Pandey has been creating and clinching pay in a manner that has turned the Indian skipper into a Rs 100 crore-brand — the most valuable sportsperson in the country.

According to the Economic Times, Pandey is the anti-thesis of a sports agent, not always calculative in his approach and ways, and is also prone to let down his guard, be he gets the job done.

“You can’t compare him (Pandey) to the Percepts and World Sports Groups of the world…he’s not the kind to get into elaborate PowerPoint presentations,” said a head of a brand  of an Indian consumer-products firm, which snapped its ties with the Indian captain.

“But they (Dhoni and Pandey) dealt with us very professionally. They stuck to deadlines, to the mandate,” he added.

After bagging deals worth Rs 210 crores in July 2010 for Dhoni, Pandey, who runs Rhiti Sports Managment, had told the newspaper: “I’m a friend, well-wisher, family member. Aap jo bhi samjho (make whatever you want of me).”

Pandey was quoted as saying by Business Today, “Those days [before Dhoni and Rhiti came together] he used to get Rs 2.5 crore to Rs 3 crore per brand. Now [he gets] Rs 10 crore…. The total then was about Rs 40 crore. Now more than Rs 100 crore come. In India sports icons were so far exploited. You know how long their careers are. MS Dhoni as a brand has risen above all this. When you talk of MS Dhoni, you talk of India.”

Dhoni’s association with Pandey reaped huge benefits as the brand value of India’s one of the most adorable cricketers went up from Rs 40 crore to Rs 100 crore. The association had benefits for Pandey as well.

Rhiti Sports Management, a sports-management firm was started by Pandey in 2007 manages ace shuttler Saina Nehwal, and cricketers Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh.

The firm also owns the Rhiti Sports also owns the marketing rights for the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) controversial side Chennai Super Kings (CSK).  

Pandey played Ranji Trophy tournament alongside Dhoni, reports Business Today. But Pandey soon realised that he wasn’t good enough to make a career in sports and joined T-Series, which laid a launchpad for him.

In 2007, Dhoni allowed Pandey to negotiate endorsement deals on his behalf, and according to a person in the know, the latter struck four deals worth Rs 13.5 crores, and around same time, the cricketers’ other deals (about 15) were getting him about Rs 25 crores.