Hyderabad: The Venkateshwara Hatcheries Group, or VH Group, the Pune-based $770 million (Rs3,426 crore) poultry farm and hatchery conglomerate that’s set to acquire English Premier League (EPL) club Blackburn Rovers, wants to boost its financial health and sporting performance. Anuradha Desai, the 48-year-old chairperson of the VH Group, said in an interview that the company plans to spread operations overseas and felt the need to promote its corporate image and brands globally by associating with popular sporting events.
Football, the most popular sport across the world and No. 2 in India, was the obvious choice, she said. Edited excerpts:
Game plan: Anuradha Desai believes the team’s performance will add value to the firm’s brand and image.
Why are you investing in an EPL club?
Our core business is the production of wholesome and nutritious food: Nutrition and good health are closely associated with sports and have a natural, symbiotic relationship with each other.
Having established the VH Group as the market leader in the Indian poultry industry, we are now planning to expand our horizons into the global markets.
We have already set up a vaccine manufacturing unit in Switzerland, poultry feed manufacturing unit in Vietnam, and marketing operations in South Africa.
Soon, we will be establishing a broiler breeding unit in Bangladesh.
In this scenario of global outreach, we felt that, apart from the usual product-specific advertising, there is a need to promote our corporate image and brand name of VH Group globally, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by associating our name with a sporting event that is loved by millions across the world.
Football was the obvious choice, as it is the most popular sport all over the world, and in India too, it is the second most popular sport, after cricket, and its popularity is growing rapidly, especially among the younger generation.
Why did you choose to invest in Blackburn Rovers when there are other EPL clubs available for sale?
Blackburn Rovers is one of the oldest and among the most reputed, not only in the UK, but also in the world.
I am sure it will perform well in international tournaments, and add value to our brands and image.
Do you look at making profits from this acquisition?
In the long run, yes. But right now our focus would be to turn around the club, in terms of its financial health as well as its performance on the field.
What is the game plan behind this acquisition?
As I already said, the idea is to enhance the VH Group’s corporate image and brand equity in global markets, through this association with a popular sporting event and a well known sporting club. In past also we have been associated with the Mumbai Cricket Association. NECC (National Egg Coordination Committee) is the sponsor of the Mumbai team.
We have been associated with cricket, tennis, even in the past. Venky’s has sponsored some players abroad, and basically we sponsor sports because we are a “protein company”. It makes sense to us.
Do you have a major business presence in the UK and Europe, or are you looking at expanding there?
We have just registered our presence in Switzerland, Vietnam and South Africa. In the future, we plan to expand our interests not only in Europe, but also in other parts of the world.
Who will be on the board of Blackburn Rovers from your side and what kind of management structure are you planning to put in place?
These decisions will be taken in due course and announced at the appropriate time.
Are you also looking at acquiring Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket teams in India or other sports clubs?
As of now, we have no plans to acquire any IPL cricket team or any other sports club.
What are your plans on bringing EPL teams to India either for promotional purposes or for matches to increase the visibility of your group and products?
Blackburn Rovers will, of course, play in India also. The timing and other details will be worked out in due course.
How much did you agree to invest to acquire Blackburn Rovers?
We are investing close to £46 million.