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BW Businessworld

Time Ripe For Sporting Revolution In India

Corporate social responsibility spends in sports can ignite sports development in India, if incentivised with marketing and strategic business driven benefits, towards a common goal by the administrators

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The importance of sports in harnessing the power of the youth towards nation building and economic development has been evident ever since the 1896 Olympic Games and has been firmly established during subsequent international sporting events across the world. The last few years have seen a surge in the development of sports properties in India and although at a nascent stage, the Indian sports industry presents substantial opportunities.

Just like the market in developed economies, there is a growing convergence between sports and entertainment in India over the last decade as both rise to the challenges of leveraging new digital platforms and technologies. India's sporting calendar in this time has seen the emergence of at least twelve recognized sports leagues across nine different disciplines, giving unparalleled visibility to businesses and access to unseen opportunities to the Indian sporting talent.

Clearly, the marriage of sorts and entertainment, culminating into 'Sportainment' has not only lent heavily in favour of businesses but also helped improve by each league what it takes to capture the imagination of the end-user of this product. The big bonus has been the good use of existing infrastructure facilities, crafting immersive fan experience through digital mediums and most importantly enabling the development of a talent gene pool that otherwise would probably have taken much longer to incubate. However, it is now the responsibility of not just individual corporates but more so the apex bodies of respective sports disciplines to adapt fast and shed the age-old inertia to capitalize upon these leagues and create qualitative grassroots programs that aid deeper penetration in rural India for talent hunting.

As per industry estimates the Indian sports industry grew a robust 10 per cent in 2015 from Rs 4,372.5 crore in 2013, a reflection of the corresponding growth of the myriad industries within the sector. The protagonists in this story though cover a spectrum of showstoppers, spearheaded by corporates (the investors) and broadcasters (media barons that transpired from stages of market scoping to becoming massive investors), the not-so-reticent-anymore sports bodies, Bollywood (from being pure entertainers to stakeholders) and of course the Gladiators themselves - the athletes and sport stars.

Globally, sport is a major contributor to the GDPs of developed and developing nations. The global sports industry is estimated to be worth around $480-620 billion comprising a range of associated businesses such as sports manufacturing, retail, tourism, sports medicine and education, venues & infrastructure, media & hospitality and merchandising. India's ports sector has seen a steady, if not mercurial, rise from a CAGR of 5 per cent, from $1.53 billion in 2011 to potentially end in 2015 with CAGR $1.89 billion.

Sports organizations of today are embracing their roles as entertainment providers with the realization that their product is unique and with the understanding that development of a sports ecosystem will only sublimate to a greater success if the end-user is kept in mind - the 'fan'. The Pro Kabaddi League is one such example that rose, literally from the heart of rural India to the urban masses, unveiling a utopian political dream - a seamless bridge of common interest between the hinterlands and modern India, affecting a 'RURBAN' sporting revolution.

It has been a fairytale start, but without the primer of its preceding leagues this too may have fallen on the wayside. Does that mean Indian sports has arrived? No, far from it! There is massive gap between India's talent hunting systems and the required technical support systems (covering infrastructure, sports education, IT know how, coaching etc) compared to global sports powerhouses. Yes, we have a start but it should be the ambition of the sports authorities to join hands, learn and adapt quick, effectively with an unfettering will as an administrator, corporate or not! The dream of an athlete to lift a league cup or adorn an Olympic medal has to be a shared endorsement of involved stakeholders, and one that follows a well calibrated approach of unearthing the best Indian talent backed by diligent 'governance'.

Corporate social responsibility spends in sports can be one such tool to ignite sports development in India, if incentivized with marketing and strategic business driven benefits, towards a common goal by the administrators. The gestation period for realizing return on such investments may be long, but global experience shows us that it could be potentially rewarding.

There are plenty of lessons to learn from our current business influencers, whether China's precision-oriented sports awakening or the Japanese J-league transformation of football, technology has to be the foundation of a modern day sporting revolution.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
sports entertainment Indian sports industry bollywood

Karan Ahluwalia

The author is senior president & country head (Media & Entertainment, Fine Arts, Luxury & Sports Banking Group), Yes Bank

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