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Tycoon Of The Turf
Gangesh Khaitan, Chairman – Rampur Fertilisers Limited & The Khaitan School, opens up about his six decade journey of golf in his quintessential magnetic style, read on
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It’s rare that you will find a Marwari tycoon invested in sports as much as business. Think about it, how many names come to mind? But Gangesh Khaitan, Chairman – Rampur Fertilisers and The Khaitan School, besides being a successful businessman, is one of the top names in the golfing world. He has rewritten the rules, broken stereotypes and continues to inspire at 70 with his youthful exuberance and fitness levels that will compel people in their 30s and 40s to rethink about vigour.
A man of fine taste, rooted in culture and a warm host, Gangesh Khaitan opens up about his six decade journey of golf in his quintessential magnetic style, read on:
How did you get into sports, as we see, traditionally, not many Marwari families prefer sports over business?
I was very fortunate, my father was a passionate sportsperson, and as far as the Khaitan family is concerned, we have been lovers of golf for a long time. I started the game at the age of 10 and fell in love with it. That is how the journey began, and when you start at that age, you just want to keep playing the game. Today it has become an important part of my life. God was kind and I became reasonably good at the game.
You have been playing golf for close to six decades now. How has the sport evolved in India?
When I started the game sixty years back, things were very different then. The fact is that apart from basic equipment, nothing else was available in India. I’m one of the few golfers in the world who doesn’t wear gloves, and the reason is when I started playing the game, gloves were not available in India. Getting it from abroad at that time was a problem. So I decided to play golf without gloves and it continues till date.
Today India is as advanced in terms of facilities for the game as any other part of the world. That is the reason we Indians are making waves all over the world as far as golf is concerned. That’s how the game has changed.
Golf is considered a rich man’s sport, do you agree? How can we open it up to more people?
There is a misconception that the game is expensive. Any sport that you do is time-consuming and expensive depending upon how seriously you take it. I have never found this game to be expensive even when I started playing it. Today, God is kind to me, but that was not the case throughout my life. It is more of a question of being in love with the game and being dedicated to it. As far as making this game open to more people is concerned, I believe the government has to come forward and make the current facilities easily accessible so that more people can be part of this sport.
Another important thing is that India should perform well in the World Series. The moment that happens, any particular game will come up. In our country, cricket is the only game which is regarded as a sport, and you have heroes only from that sporting genre. Only in the last few years badminton has come up. It’s a Catch 22 situation, you need good infrastructure to make good players who in turn will win big titles internationally, so yes, the government should take more steps to boost the game.
What are your top memories of the glorious six decade association with the sport?
There are so many memories associated with golf. My life has become wonderful because of this sport. Golf has taught me a lot. India has not been a golfing nation. India started playing golf after independence. But the kind of players we have produced, and the kind of infrastructure we have developed in this country is phenomenal.
To my mind, we are the best country in the world for everything. We don’t need to look at any other country for anything. Yes, there is scope for improvement too. The market of golf in the country is still restricted and needs to be opened up.
What is your advice to budding golfers?
I would say, fall in love with the game. The moment you start the game for the love of it, it lasts, and the moment you take up the game to just earn money, and if you fail to do so, you lose heart. Anyone who wants to succeed, not just in golf but in other aspects of life too, you have to fall in love with what you are doing.
What has golf taught you about life?
Golf is a gift of God to me. Words will not be enough to explain what all it has given me. I got married on the golf course because my father and my father-in-law took that decision on the golf course. If my health is allowing me to play the game at this age, it’s again because of golf. Going further, I have ensured that I stay a teetotaler and not enjoy my drink as I felt it could interfere with my game.
How do you ensure work-life balance and yet find time for your favourite game?
In my opinion, nature has its own order and in that order everything can play out in an organised way. I have never neglected business because of golf or golf because of business. It again comes to passion, if you are passionate and in love with what you are doing, you will find time for everything.
What is your advice to young business leaders?
When you talk about success in business, it is important to do something which you like. There are times when a person doesn’t have a choice, it’s okay, whatever you choose, make that into a passion. I have always believed, and even expected out of my children, that if you are paid for eight hours of work, you should work for 12 hours. Your passion should be work. The moment you are passionate about your work that passion will turn into love, into knowledge and it will lead you to success.
You have achieved the pinnacle of success, there is a special mention of you in the Limca Book Of Records, what keeps you going?
It’s the excitement to still improve my game and the excitement of winning that keeps me going. I realise that the evening of my golf is close by, but I still work hard to delay that evening as much as possible. Entering the Limca Book of Records is only because of the blessings of my parents, grace of god and good wishes from people around me. In India there has been no individual who has represented India in any sport for 50 years. You got to be only blessed and lucky to be able to do it.