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'Need To Develop Holistic Sporting Culture, Not Just Cricket And Football'
Siddharth Shriram, President, Delhi Golf Club and promoter Usha International, spoke to Ruhail Amin of BW Businessworld on the need to develop sporting infrastructure at the village level to attract talent
Photo Credit : Tarun Gupta
In an exclusive with BW Businessworld, Siddharth Shriram, President, Delhi Golf Club and promoter Usha International, spoke about the need to develop sporting infrastructure at the village level to attract talent and his plans for making golf more accessible and more profitable in the long run. Excerpts :
Given the limited access to golf clubs in terms of membership, how are you trying to make this game more accessible?
It is very difficult at this moment for clubs allow entry to everyone. However, there are municipal clubs in every town that anybody can go and access. I have a proposal of allocating about 10 hectares of land and developing that into a sporting venue, this plan doesn't involve large layouts of money. The idea is to develop holistic sporting culture and games like golf and not just cricket and football. If we go out trying to promote golf, it's difficult to succeed, but if we go out promoting this holistic, healthful approach and also golf within that, success is possible. This is the line I'm trying to take. Moreover, it's possible to build more golf courses using very little water, pesticides and that model needs to be attempted t make this game more accessible.
How can India become a hub of sporting talent?
I believe that unless you take the sports down into the villages, it will not be easy to develop the right sporting talent. All over the world talent spotting is done in sports but in many of the villages in India, we don't even the playing facility. We may be number one here and there in cricket, but in no other sport are we number one. As far as the country goes, if we don't take sports down to the village level, we won't get the right talent. Even now almost 70 per cent of population lives in the rural areas and there are scant sporting facilities available. Unless you formally take it down there, without all that bureaucracy etc, and let the local community manage it, and don't do just cricket, football and hockey alone, it's will be a challenge to get the right sporting talent.
In your view, how can golf become more attractive for sponsors and how can it generate more revenue for organisers?
Currently, Rolex is a great supporter of golf in India because they have figured that aspiring persons, Indians in this case, will also buy Rolex at some point of time. The government of India, especially the tourism ministry, has on its official calendar stated about development of golf tourism, it's a policy which can generate employment. This game can employ hundreds of thousands of people if taken across the country. Also, there is no golf industry in India, meaning nothing related to golf is made in India, the ecosystem doesn't exist. So there are immense opportunities which can be tapped to develop the game and its business aspect and it's high time that we started doing it.
Where does India stand currently as far as golf as a tourist attraction is concerned?
India is not so much on the calendar at this point. There are golf tour operators who take tours from here to Thailand, Ireland, Scotland and even Africa and all this is so well organised. Now, this is what the tourism ministry is now looking at. Look at Kashmir, you have got three wonderful courses — Pahalgam, Gulmarg and Srinagar, I will say make that as a circuit. Delhi has five courses which can be developed as a circuit; there is also Kerala, Andhra & Karnataka. So it's possible to develop this game as a tourist attraction and also get rid of the notion that golf is for the rich only.
As promoter of Usha International, how has the brand been associated with development of sports?
Usha has been supportive of numerous sporting initiatives in the country such as Ultimate Flying Disc, IPL, Football, Marathon, Ladies Amateur and Junior Golf, and Cricket for the deaf and our endeavour is to keep working towards building a robust sporting culture in the country and providing opportunities to develop more sporting talent.
What are some of the big plans that you have envisioned as President of Delhi Golf Club (DGC) for this year?
One is proposing DGC Masters type tournament which will be a property owned by DGC. Second is about redesigning the golf course to make it tougher, it's an easier course right now. The third is to make DGC among the top 100 courses in the world.