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‘Golf Economy Helps GDP Both Directly And Indirectly’

Allocation of funds towards sports development in the union Budgets year on year is definitely a step in the right direction. We are currently working on projects across various states

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With increasing popularity of golf, golf economy isn’t just adding to our GDP but is also creating a lot of job opportunities. In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Anit Mehrotra, Director and CEO, Silverglades Development Company (SGDC), India’s foremost golf construction, maintenance, and irrigation company speaks about increasing penetration of golf in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, the contribution of golf economy to GDP and more:

Q. You have served as Financial Controller for the ITC group. How did SGDC happen?

I consider myself to be fortunate to have had the opportunity of working as the part of the team which made India’s first international standard signature golf course. The journey gave me enough exposure and learning on developing an international standard facility.

The next logical step for me was to make “My Passion My Profession”. I followed the vision of our chairman, Pradeep Jain, who brought this first international standard facility to India and there has been no looking back since then. We have successfully completed many prestigious projects of international caliber all over the country and will continue to do so.

Q. SGDC prepares ground and pitches for various sports but focuses more on golf. Why so?

Being the leading sports infrastructure company in India our emphasis is to build and create world class sporting infrastructure for the country. Our focus is always on upgrading all turf based sports facilities to bring them at par with international levels

SGDC team has been passionate about creating and developing golf facilities to enhance the experience to be at par with the world standards and has always been looking out for opportunities to either upgrade the existing facilities/recreate or make new ones.

Golf is a dominating force for us on account of the fact that the golf infrastructure is still in a very nascent stage in the country as opposed to the developed world. The game is progressing very rapidly in India and the potential for us is immense. As more and more people take to the game the need for having access to world class golf courses will also increase. We understand turf like no other!!! Be it golf or any other sport.

Q. Golf is said to be the game of the elites. Do you think with increasing per capita income, golf courses will emerge in tier 2 and tier 3 cities as well?

Golf is no longer a sport for just the elite. This has been well proven by the top level professional golfers emerging from common background families of India. This trend has been evident since the last decade which clearly shows that passion to play this sport is spreading and the aspirations are rising. These rising aspirations will definitely increase the demand for these facilities in both tier2 and tier 3 cities in the near future.

Access to golf courses only means that we will be seeing more and more recruits to the game. Several Indian golfers both male and female have done India proud by winning on the world stage. The fact that golf is now an ‘Olympic’ sport will also augur well for the growth of the game across India.

Q. The civilian golf courses in India have generated revenues worth Rs 524.4 crore during 2015. Why then do you think there is lesser attention towards the development of golf courses?

The primary reason for this could be the availability of contiguous land for construction of this facility. Land is scarce in developed cities and acquisition processes are lengthy and expensive. The feasibility for standalone golf courses, therefore, becomes grim.

Having said that the last decade has been good for the game as the number of golf courses has increased exponentially. As the game increases in popularity, the demand for courses will naturally increase.

Q. How can golf economy help create jobs?

Golf economy contributes to job creation and the GDP in several ways, both direct and indirect.

First is the creation of the golf course itself which provides jobs to the team associated with the development of the course for the entire duration of the project.

Next, once the golf course is up and running there is the need for the golf course maintenance and day to day running. There is a plethora of support staff like caddy’s, golf coaches, who are then associated with the game daily. This creates a rub off effect on the areas surrounding the course as typically such staff comes from nearby areas.

Then there is on course food and catering and many golf courses are around holiday destinations.

Unlike other sports, wherein, the infrastructure may only be used during a particular season or a game, Golf is played through the year.

Q. We are witnessing a trend that golf courses are being constructed as a part of residential communities. So, how has this helped the business?

Sometimes a golf facility is not sustainable if it is standalone but when complemented with homes and hotels, it turns into a profitable venture. Therefore, we are seeing a spurt in real estate being developed with a golf facility and even hotels being a part of a golf course. More and more golf gated communities are being developed in the country to promote both golf and high-end living.

It is a known fact that residential properties offering golf facilities within the premises can afford to charge a premium for the golf course.

Q. What are the challenges that you face in the development of these grounds and pitches and where do you wish for a government intervention?

Development of these grounds and pitches to bring them at par with international standards requires an easy flow of technology and hassle-free imports, and of course, intent and adequate funding.

Q. Do you believe that we are doing better in ease of doing business after Narendra Modi came into power?

Allocation of funds towards sports development in the union Budgets year on year is definitely a step in the right direction. We are currently working on projects across various states.

Delhi Development Authority is reconstructing their 18 holes golf course located at Lado Sarai New Delhi. Naya Raipur will see the first 18 holes Golf Course to be developed in the central part of India by 2019

Thenzwal Golf Resort-Mizoram is the first project developed by any state under the “Swadesh Darshan Scheme “by Ministry of Tourism India consisting of 18 Holes Golf Course, Resort, and a club house.

Q. Kashmir Golf Course was totally destroyed in 2014 floods. You are re-constructing it there. So, what are the challenges there and how working in Kashmir different from other states?

We had been awarded this contract in June 2016. The biggest challenge has been the unrest in the valley for nearly five months followed by severe winters which have given us a very small window for restoration and construction activities.

However, we have managed to keep a frenzied work pace and should be able to deliver a world class facility in a beautiful and picturesque setting.

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