The Managing Director of Star India and Chairman of CII National Committee on Sports, Mr Sanjay Gupta, has delivered his theme address at CII Scorecard 2017, being held in New Delhi today.
Sanjay Gupta has asserted that Sports is witnessing a massive surge today, which until a few years ago was in the doldrums and insisted the need for major change in the approach and mindset of the people to treat it as a mandatory aspect of everyday life.
He compared his initial days of stepping to sports business and the kind of development it has witnessed till date and said, “I remember 5 years ago, when Star got into the business of sports, the number of conversations just answering the question, why? Everyone used to be tentative around associating with and investing in the business of sports. And understandably so. The traditional wisdom was that this industry has nothing to offer, it will struggle with dilapidated infrastructure, little funding and almost no focus from any stakeholder.
“And just look at how far we have come!”
“If you were at the Kochi stadium last year at ISL’s final, you could experience this new excitement first hand. The 60,000 strong stadium was packed to the hilt two hours before the match was even supposed to begin. And at one point in the match, when a local boy scored a goal, there was so much excitement that the entire stadium started shaking! I faced such a surreal experience myself during the first season of the Hockey India league. I was at Ranchi for the final, and imagine my surprise when I found that a stadium capacity of 7,000 wasn’t enough for the crowd that had gathered to watch the match. They had to actually hire a 15,000 strong football stadium next door and put up big screens there to get the people of Ranchi to feel that excitement firsthand”he added.
He expressing his views on Cricketing sports and said, “Cricket – the mainstay of sport in this country has actually gone from strength to strength. There are more tournaments and newer players coming in. From IPL, to now local leagues in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, cricket has become more local than ever. And most importantly, this new young team, both men and women, has brought a fresh zeal to the game. The viewership of cricket today is at an all time high. The 2017 Champions Trophy was watched by 42 crore Indians! This is 2.5 times the number of people who voted for the largest party in the 2014 LokSabha elections”.
He spoke on increasing Marathon events across the country that is breeding the fitness culture among Indians and said, “Every morning as I step out of my home in Mumbai, I see hundreds of people running. I am sure each one of you experience the same in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and many large and small citifies. Each of these runners are training for marathons, half-marathons, 10k runs, 5k runs! Today, I believe there are more than 3,000 organized events, almost 10 events per day where people are running marathons or half-marathons. Who would have thought that in a country where fitness is not a big priority, running – not for recognition, not for a medal – could become so popular? And this is despite having no running tracks, and in most cases, no pavements. But people are finding a way, running on tar roads, on dusty maidans, just to follow their passion or be fit”.
He highlighted the transformation achieved by Pro Kabbadi League and said, “I remember when we were trying to kick start the Kabaddi league, the kind of challenges that faced us were quite bizarre. Although this sport already had a strong following in states like Punjab and Haryana, we couldn’t add teams from those states just because they didn’t have a single indoor stadium to host any matches! There were almost no professional trainers, coaches, technical crew, commentators – it seemed like a bottomless pit. And look at where the sport is today. It has become the second biggest sport of the country. But even bigger is the fact that kabaddi players are feted and recognized, and their stories have found their way into every corridor conversation”.
“This isn’t an isolated example – almost all the leagues today, from hockey to football to wrestling to badminton – their starting point has been pretty much the same. And they have all managed to find a place for themselves with the people of this country. People are watching them in their homes on TV or on their mobile phones on their daily commute on buses, local trains, and taxis. In fact, even within sports the lingo has changed – people no longer only talk about runs and wickets, they are talking about raids, goals, points and rounds too”he added.
He claimed that the whole movement is creating value across the ecosystem and becoming more & more self-sufficient. More and more brands are now starting to ascribe real value to the impact that they are delivering.
“When we were going to launch the first season of Pro Kabaddi League, I remember having a conversation with the head of a company and asking them to put money on kabaddi and telling him about the potential of the sport. However, there was little belief that any sport beyond cricket will ever take off in a country like ours. Today, I am proud to say that our partner Vivo is putting in mega multi million dollars on kabaddi for the next five years. This deal is the second largest sports sponsorship in the country after IPL”added Gupta.
Mr Sanjay attributed that the logic-defying leap that sport has taken – despite no change in infrastructure, or public fundsis due to the power of young, enterprising India giving sports a new lease of life. He also exposed the volume of difference in Sporting events between India and other countries, “Despite this glitz and glamor of viewership and money, the reality remains that sports as an industry is just at a $2.5 bn size today. Whereas in a country like US, this sector is over $80bn! We have all been celebrating the leagues that have come up, but again – US has more than 30,000 league games happening in a year and we aren’t even at a 1/50th of that number”.
“We have reached the size of $2.5bn just on the back of just about 10% of young kids playing and participating in sports. In a recent survey done across the country, we found that kids in India on an average play 20 to 30 mins in a week. This means that they spend 3 to 5 mins in a day playing sport. Compare this to kids of the same age in more developed markets like US and Europe who play roughly an hour a day. Herein lies the problem”.
Sanjay took a dig at the mindset of parents, the mindset of schools and the mindset of businesses that refuses to treat Sports and Academics equally for prospering in life.
Pointing the Society he said,“The narrative in our society, parents & communities has always been that academic study is the only pathway to success and play is a waste of time. Parents in this country right now look at education as a means to a better life. And playing is okay only until it doesn’t interfere with their academics. What we don’t realize is that today, academics alone is no longer a guarantee to success. Sports is equally important and needs to accompany and complement formal education to power success”.
Pointing at Schools he said,“Our educational system is no better. They assign sport the status of an “extracurricular activity” which is a euphemism for dispensable activity. Most schools’ curriculums have no place for sports in them, aside from this subject esoterically named “physical education”, and many of the students that I talk to these days consider that to be a free period, meant as a break to kids. Even teachers encourage kids and parents to let go of sport to focus on academics”.
“Let alone the social narrative – the thinking in businesses is no different. In this country, large corporates are investing a sizeable part of their profits into CSR activities. But despite promotion of sports now coming under the ambit of CSR, sports have barely seen any interest or support from corporates”.he added.
He insisted the need to challenge the current mindsets of parents, schools and businesses that has been shaped over many decades. It needs serious effort to get 30 cr kids in India to play an hour every day.
He also highlighted the initiative by the sports committee of CII where they are working with a group of 1000 schools, to redefine the perception of parents and school administration toward sports and invited the private enterprise to again come together and rally behind the cause to unleash the power of sport in this country.
CII Scorecard 2017 witnessed the participation of Honorable Minister, Mr. Goel, Mr. Aayogi, His Excellency SaeedHareeb, Mr. Watal, Mr. Srinivas, Mr. Dani, and many illustrious guests here from the world of sport.