Kade makes his name

Kade makes his name

When Karan Dhar's school football team needed a new kit he volunteered to make one himself. Now the budding entrepreneur's brand is in demand

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Karan Dhar makes his sports kits at his uncle's factory in India.
Karan Dhar makes his sports kits at his uncle's factory in India.
Photo: Jonathan Wong/SCMP
Many school sports teams have a hard time searching for a new strip, but West Island School's football team didn't have to look far. They had designer in their team.

Karan Dhar, a Year 13 student, launched his own sports gear brand, Kade, named after himself, last year. "Kade is how my friends pronounce my name for short," he says.

When his school team said they were looking for new suppliers for their strip, Karan suggested the idea of developing the kit himself. "My uncle runs a sports gear manufacturing business in India, and I saw an opportunity for us to work together," he says.

"The response from the football team was great. Soon the school's squash team and hockey team were also using gear under my brand," he says.

Karan, 17, is passionate about product design, and keen to include exactly what people want when creating products for them. "I love design and technology, and I am taking it as a subject for my IB [international baccalaureate]," he says. "Design and technology class taught me about the property and function of different materials. Using suitable materials is the key to making great sports kits.

"The hot and humid weather in Hong Kong makes it tough to play sports, and players often feel their clothing getting heavier and uncomfortable if the kit is soaked with sweat.

"My kits use a very light fabric, siliconised polyester, which helps sweat to evaporate quickly. Some of my friends found the material so comfortable that they wear the kit not only in games, but also to the gym and to practices."

Some parents might see operating a business as a distraction from his school work, but Karan says his parents see it as helping his studies.

"I am making use of the knowledge that I learn in design and technology and in economics to run my brand," he says.

"I'm doing my IB Extended Essay on sports fabrics, and I'm able to apply economic theories that I have learned in class to my business.

"I manage my time carefully. I put studies first, and I only handle business-related issues during my free time. Sometimes I have to give up time I could be hanging out with friends because I have a business meeting with clients, but I don't think that's a problem."

Whatever time Karan has left after being a student, businessman and soccer player is spent refereeing youth rugby tournaments.

"I qualified as a rugby referee when I was 14, and have been refereeing under-12 and under-14 tournaments since then," he says. "During the games, I have to speak up and let all parties know my decisions. I think that kind of experience has helped me become a more confident person when communicating with clients."

After graduating this summer, Karan must decide where to study, whether in Hong Kong or Britain. But he is determined to keep Kade going. "No matter where I'm studying, I'll continue with my business," he says. "My goal is to make it a global brand. Currently I am working with some youth sports clubs in Singapore, and hopefully that will be the first step toward taking the brand outside Hong Kong."

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