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We Play To Win, Says Rajesh V Shah, Owner, Patna Pirates

Rajesh V Shah, owner of Patna Pirates speaks to Ashish Sinha on the journey so far. Shah is also the Co-Chairman & Managing Director, Mukand a leading steel manufacturer

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Patna Pirates is a Kabaddi team based in Patna, Bihar that plays in the Pro Kabaddi League. They are champions of season 3 and season 4. They become the first team to retain their title after defeating Jaipur Pink Panthers in season 4 final. Rajesh V Shah, owner of Patna Pirates speaks to Ashish Sinha on the journey so far. Shah is also the Co-Chairman & Managing Director, Mukand a leading steel manufacturer.

Edited Excerpts:

What has been the response for Pro Kabaddi League since its launch?
The response has been wonderful. The Pro Kabaddi League has been growing Season on Season. It became the 2nd most watched sport on TV from Season 1 and has held on to this position until now.

Patna Pirates is playing the fifth season of PKL as an incumbent champion. What are your expectations?
Our expectations and focus have remained the same in every Season. We play to win. However, it is easier said than done. The competition is fierce and the teams are formidable. Usually, there is just a thin line separating winners from losers, more so in team events where planning, strategy and coordination are paramount.

What kind of preparations goes behind the scene for a successful sports league franchise?
Once the team is selected, they are called in for a strenuous coaching camp. The task then is to transform the players, coaches and other staff who perhaps had little or no connection with each other into a cohesive fighting squad. Our aim is always to create a fully charged unit that works together and plays for each other and not only for individual stardom. The first principle is always to constantly motivate and provide focused attention to develop each individual’s special capabilities as well as to capitalize on the skills of the outstanding players. The second is to establish the management’s confidence in a player’s talent to gain his trust in the management’s judgement and to ensure he believed in the competence of his team mates. The third is to prevent and eliminate errant behaviour either by gentle counselling or if required a drastic action of removal of any player from the team who imagined himself above the team. Everyone is encouraged to play, practice and exercise with great discipline and spend time enjoying themselves together.  

Kabaddi has always been a popular sport and widely considered as a sport for rural youth. What trends do you see that is playing a role in shifting this narrative?
A sport is a sport. I would not classify sport as rural and urban. It is true that Kabaddi was played outdoors and because of the limited space in urban areas, the game was mainly played where one found enough space. But now the game is played as an indoor game, in a stadium. Kabaddi was played indoors since the Asian Games. However, star sports popularized PKL and brought it to the drawing rooms of every Indian through their live telecasts and huge promotions that it has now been accepted as an indoor game that can be played anywhere at any time. PKL is played in cities and the stadiums across the country go full. The viewership on television is high in rural and urban areas.

As a franchisee owner what are your challenges and how do you plan to scale up these challenges?
Well frankly, the challenge is how to stay at the top, season after season. This is no mean feat for anyone. It is a constant endeavour and one needs to be on the top of things all the time. While the team management, players and technical staff strive to achieve this, the marketing and promotions team continue to build and manage the ever growing fan base.

How successful is Patna Pirates as a business entity for you?
Being a successful business entity is as important as being successful on the mat. We managed to break even in 1- 3 seasons. We need to make it profitable without losing our focus on the game.

How have the revenues grown over the past five seasons? Can you share season wise breakup?
Sorry but this cannot be discussed. But I can say that the total revenue is under Rs 20 crore for a 5 week season. From Season 1, we were able to get sponsors. Some of our sponsors have been Bajaj Electricals, Revital, Manpower, Navratan, Volini, Sun Eddison, Nanhi Kali, Surya LED, TT Garments, Himalaya Men, Prayag and now Birla Gold Cement.

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