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Trilok Varia Entrepreneur And Sports Innovator

Trilok Varia Entrepreneur And Sports Innovator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY CAINE CORREA

COVER PHOTO BY FABIAN OTHUON

Good to meet you Trilok. Where does your story start?

I was born in Jamnagar in the State of Gujarat in Western India. My father was the First District and Session Judge during the rule of the British Raj in the 1920s. My mother, far from being the staid housewife, the traditional role of women in those days, was an outspoken activist, in fact the President of the Women’s Rights Movement for over 40 years. Both my parents were staunch Gandhians, clamouring to wrest independence for the subcontinent from British rule. My maternal grandfather was also a pioneer of sorts in the Indian entertainment business. He had set up Ranjeet Studios which went on to produce 100 ‘silent movies’ in Mumbai. His younger brother was awarded with the title of Sardar Chandulal Shah for his making of popular Indian films of the day.

What about your personal life Trilok?

I married my wife Bhavna and we had a loving family life blessed with a daughter and a son, Hetal and Jay, now well settled in Nairobi with families of their own. Disaster struck when Bhavna passed away 15 years ago, victim of a sudden brain hemorrhage, an event that shook not just the family but society at large. My love for her still burns eternal!

What about your other loves? What was your passion as a youth?

From an early age I realised I was happiest when I was competing in sports. It started with table tennis where I proved my prowess when I became the Open Sauvrastra junior champion for two consecutive years, as a lad of 15 and 16. I graduated to contending at the All-India University Championships. Not long after that, I was lured into India’s favourite sport, cricket. I discovered I had a flair for the game especially as opening bowler when I merited a spot on the team owned by local potentate, His Highness of Jamnagar. By the time I got to play in the prestigious Ranji Trophy, I saw my future set for me. Despite strident opposition from family members, I spurned a proffered admission into medical college. I had decided to devote my life to playing cricket! I moved to India’s bustling commercial hub, Mumbai, to further my career with bat and ball. That’s when my life really took off!

I’m all ears Trilok. Tell us about your exciting life in the city your maternal grandpa was such a success in.

Well Caine, it really all started happening when I was recruited by the Central Bank of India as the first professional to play on the team. At the same time, I also joined Mumbai’s PJ Hindu Gymkhana. Oh, the sheer thrill of getting to play alongside the national Test players of the 1960s and 70s. Names like Sunil Gavaskar, Mansoor Ali Khan, ex India skipper and Nawab of Pataudi, Ashok Mankad and another ex-national captain Ajit Wadekar. I got to fraternize with so many others, even

Hanumant Singh, who was to become Kenya’s cricket team coach.

And playing amongst those stars that emblazoned India’s cricketing galaxy, how did young Trilok perform?

Caine, I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but I was Hindu Gymkhana’s top wicket taker for 12 years.

I’d have thought by then, you’d have been ripe for selection into Team India as a Test player

I’ve often imagined that myself, Caine. The opportunities were in the offing, but fate instead brought me to Kenya. At the beckoning of my elder brother Ramesh, who’d emigrated and was already established as a prominent lawyer in Nakuru, Kenya, I pulled up stumps in 1979 and moved to what was to be my new homeland, like so many others from India before me. Ramesh needed my help in starting up his brainchild, an insurance brokership agency. Based in Nakuru, us two brothers and a partner’s ‘Rift Insurance’ was that province’s first full time insurance

agency.

Now the fully fledge successful businessman hardly had the time to take part in sports, right? 

Far from it. I needed the comforting familiarity of active physical competition to balance out my cluttered business life issues. That need was ideally provided by Rift Valley Sports Club. And later Nairobi Gymkhana.

Rift Agency had gotten so big, you had an agency in Nairobi?

Whilst still residing in Nakuru, I inaugurated my very own ‘Tee Vee Insurance.’ A more

professional, dynamic insurance brokership.

Was your personal venture into business

successful?

I am proud to tell you that Tee Vee became one of the top three brokers in all of the country. Some of the agency’s elite clientele included supermarket chains Nakumatt, Tuskys and Naivas. Also Kingsway Tyres and the Village Market Mall and Tribe Hotel graced its list of clients.

An impressive log by any standards. What was the secret of your success, Trilok?

Sheer perseverance and hard work. I physically visited each and every shop on the high street, literally door-to-door, painstakingly explaining to customers why insurance was part of their needs.

And the cricket, sir. Was it still part of your itinerary in Kenya’s busy capital? 

No, I instead started playing golf after retiring from cricket. Putter and golf club in hand, I also emerged relatively successful, my handicap soaring to a single digit relatively quickly. At a unique ‘54-hole’ tournament the Bendor Trophy, I excelled amongst elite players from all over the country – at the venerable age of 65. That year I also clinched the Rift Valley Golf Championship.

From table tennis, to cricket, to golf. Lucky you. You excelled at them all …

There’s another special side to my sports life too, Caine. My success as a sports administrator. When I was elected cricket Chairman of Rift Valley, I had this dream to revive the fast-fading glory of down-in-the-doldrums cricket in Kenya. A dream cherished since 1983 when I played in the Nairobi League turning out for Nairobi Gymkhana. The A division of the League at that time was packed predominantly with players of Asian and European origin. I realised a change was long overdue. So, aided and abetted by my son Jay and sponsored by Zuku, we created ‘Cricket Wars’ ostensibly Kenya’s answer to India’s IPL. The event would literally throw open the doors to budding local talent of 800 school boys and girls, I still have my file on them. Imagine them playing alongside the game’s icons like Andrew Symonds, Ian Harvey, Chris Cairns and Damien Martyn, plus so many more of the world’s elite. It did happen, albeit with many incoming internationals warned off and without Kenya’s burgeoning talent. It was unfortunate that this great event did not enjoy the support of the country’s governing body, Cricket Kenya. As a true patriot and for elevating the rapidly dwindling status of cricket, I still aver local talent must be showcased, perhaps my son and I could be convinced to organise Kenya’s very own IPL. The world awaits the decision of Kenya’s cricketing powers that be.

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