20 Nov 2017
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Kids’ participation is key to sports industry’s growth: Star India’s Sanjay Gupta

MUMBAI: The growth of the sports industry is directly linked to the participation of kids. The more the participation, the bigger the industry will grow in scale and size.

Star India MD Sanjay Gupta called upon the industry stakeholders to work together to get all of 30 crore kids in India to play at least one hour every day. This, Gupta believes, has the potential to unleash the true potential of the Indian sports industry, which is currently valued at $2.5 billion.

Speaking at CII Scorecard 2017, Gupta said that Indian kids only play 3–5 minutes a day or 20–30 minutes a week currently, as per a recent survey. While kids in matured sports markets like the US and Europe play at least an hour a day which reflects in the size of their sports industries.

As a comparison, Gupta noted that the sports industry in the US is worth over $80 billion. He also pointed out that the US has more than 30,000 league games happening in a year and India does not even have 1/50th of that number.

“We have reached the size of $2.5 billion just on the back of just about 10% of young kids playing and participating in sports,” he noted.

He conceded that getting kids to play sport for 1 hour every day is not an easy task. “We need to challenge the current mind-sets of parents, schools and businesses. This is a mind-set that has been shaped over many decades. It needs serious effort and it will take time,” he said.

Gupta lamented the fact that increasing participation of kids in sports in not on anyone’s agenda. He then pointed out the initiative being run 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.

“But we can’t expect such initiatives alone to move mountains. Such a mammoth shift in mind-set and behaviour requires a movement,” he added.

He attributed the mentality of Indian parents to allow kids to play only till the time it doesn’t hamper their academics as one of the main reasons behind low participation in sports. The schools, he said, have also done their bit in keeping kids away from sports by assign sport the status of an ‘extracurricular activity’.

The corporates have also been indifferent towards sports. “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 said.

While problems abound, the sports industry has indeed come of age in the last few years with the emergence of sporting leagues like the Indian Super League, Pro Kabaddi and Premier Badminton League.

These leagues, Gupta stated, were created with painstaking efforts despite the absence of perennial problems like lack of infrastructure, professional trainers, coaches, technical crew, and commentators.

“Each and every one of these leagues that I was talking about have been created not on the back of policy or public funding, but by a bunch of young, enterprising people—people sitting in this room—coming together. All of them—businessmen, entrepreneurs, league owners, team owners, bankers, media—have put in staggering sums of money and collaborated with and in many instances, created a whole new set of entities to build viable and scalable business opportunities. They have overcome all these traditional roadblocks—both in the mind and on the ground,” he stated.

Gupta noted that kabaddi is the second biggest sports after cricket. Earlier brands were reluctant to invest in non-cricket sports however brands are increasingly finding value in non-cricket leagues. Vivo has become the title sponsor of Pro Kabaddi for five years for a pay-out of Rs 300 crore.

Reminiscing his conversation with a company head at the time of launching the kabaddi league, Gupta said, “When we were going to launch the first season of the 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 the .”

He further gave example of the Indian Super League which saw fans thronging to the stadia in droves to catch a glimpse of their teams.

“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,” he said.

Recollecting his experience at Hockey India League finals at Ranchi, Gupta said the stadium with a capacity of 7,000 was packed and the organisers had to actually hire a 15,000-strong football stadium next door. The organisers had to put up big screens in the football stadium to allow the spectators to watch the match.

While non-cricket sports are growing, Gupta asserted that cricket is also going from strength to strength. The sport is going local, thereby giving opportunity to more cricketers to play.

“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 Lok Sabha elections,” he averred.