Banking on Mumbaikar pride
R. BALAKRISHNAN, Head, Mumbai Indians
For Mumbai Indians, IPL is serious business as well as a platform to strengthen the connect with the masses. Balakrishnan talks to ‘Mint’ about the team’s plans. Edited excerpts:
Mumbai is a metro. Won’t it be difficult to build city pride among people who come from different regions?
Mumbai, historically, has had a strong cricket culture. India’s national cricket team has always drawn talent from Mumbai and Maharashtra. The city has (the) maximum number of cricket associations. Ranji Trophy and many other such prestigious events and associations are from Mumbai. Cricket runs in the Mumbaikar’s veins. Then, Mumbai has a strong city culture. Mumbaikars are known for their performance-oriented and winning culture. And we are going to tap into this strong ethos and spirit. There are successful examples of metropolitan cities having powerful teams, such as The New York Yankees in the US and Real Madrid in Spain.
Mumbai Indians (Graphic)
Reliance Industries is a hard- core business group driven by profits and revenues. What explains your investment in a sport?
Our association with cricket is more than two decades old. We had sponsored the cricket World Cup in 1987. And, that was the first time the World Cup moved out of England to the subcontinent. It was called the Reliance World Cup. So, it is not really a new association. And, why cricket? Because cricket is a big leveller in India. It is discussed with the same intensity and passion in boardrooms as it is on roadside tea stalls. It is a great property to build a mass connect.
IPL Calendar (PDF)
But sponsorships are different from buying a team. We are talking about an investment of $112 million (around Rs448 crore).
Well, Reliance’s own connect with consumers runs very deep. It is, without doubt, one of the biggest brands in India. And, I think that is where the resonance between the brand and the game comes from. Both stand for a strong connection with the common man. So, IPL is not just a marketing initiative. It is, in fact, a multifaceted opportunity, which involves serious business as well. IPL is a going concern. It is for perpetuity. We will definitely be looking at numbers. It will be driven like any other business. (Archna Shukla)
Bets on enjoyment quotient
CHARU SHARMA, CEO, Bangalore RoyalChallengers
Sharma tells ‘Mint’ the? Twenty20 format, the star power, the entertainment quotient, will make IPL a big success. Edited excerpts:
What key aspects will drive the success of IPL?
It is poised to be successful. The Twenty20 format will contribute to the success of the IPL model. Additional elements such as music and Bollywood entertainers will boost the enjoyment quotient. The Bangalore team has engaged seven high-profile artists who will perform at the beginning, during intervals and at the end of the matches. We can’t disclose their names right now, but I can say they are stars of national repute. Such entertainment bits will draw crowds, both at the stadia and on TV.
Also, seeing international players of great repute slugging it out with domestic players will be exciting. All these put together will ensure IPL’s success.
On what basis are you planning to fix ticket rates?
The basic ticket rate will be significantly lower than that of a one-day international cricket match. The lower-end price will be around Rs200 but, of course, there won’t be any hospitality. There are various other categories, and prices go up to Rs7,000 per head per match in the very restricted pavilion area.
Bangalore RoyalChallengers (Graphic)
Mature leagues around the world thrive primarily on season tickets, and we are planning to promote the culture for IPL.
What are the seat-sharing arrangements planned with state associations?
Seat sharing is a diktat from IPL. The ratio is 80:20—80% to the franchise owner and the rest to state cricket associations. For premium seating, the ratio is somewhat similar, but there might be minor negotiations. By and large, this will be the ratio for all the matches.
Does Bangalore Royals look at IPL as a business proposition or a marketing investment for the UB Group’s own brands?
It is a massive brand-building exercise. There is a lot of interest in the tournament. But, having said that, it is a clear business opportunity as well. Operationally, all teams will tend to be in the black from the very first season. The returns will eventually increase with each passing year. (Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan)
There’s a real opportunity
J. KRISHNAN, President and CEO, Deccan Chargers
This CEO is confident of making it big with the combination of media and sports. In a conversation with ‘Mint’, he shares his views on the success of IPL and his own team. Edited excerpts:
Why did Deccan Chronicle bid for an IPL team?
For a media company, it is a natural step. Internationally, media and sports have gone together. Our entry into sports is well thought out and synergistic.
What’s your revenue model?
It would be a combination of the share in the central sponsorships, local sponsorships and gate revenues. The first year will be more about learnings for us. We will see how much each stream can contribute to the kitty. Based on our learnings, we will think of our future strategy.
What is your take on the rivalry between IPL and ICL? Is it good for the game?
I think every league is catering to a certain fan base. I am not sure if the rivalry does exist. All I can say is, IPL is a wonderful initiative, with the mix of international and Indian players.
Deccan Chargers (Graphic)
IPL digresses from the usual sentiment of one nation-one team and, instead, promotes a particular city, a particular region. Do you think this will be able to establish an emotional connect with people?
IPL is going to be a geographical and territorial kind of a tournament. While promoting Deccan Chargers in the last two or three months, we have seen a huge interest among cricket consumers. This model will create a lot of polarization. Fans getting fanatic about a team will add to the excitement, and we may see fans following their teams to watch the matches.
Is IPL a business venture for you or do you look at it as a brand-building initiative for your existing business?
It is definitely a business proposition. There is a real opportunity; a large arena for sports leagues, sports franchises. But, at the same time, brand-building is also a part of this business. We believe there is significant opportunity that we have for a lifetime.
Internationally, sports clubs have earned around $300 million (around Rs1,200 crore) and, with the huge cricket fan base in India, a similar opportunity exists here. (Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan)
For the sake of the brand
RAKESH SINGH, Marketing head, India Cements
R. SRINIVASAN, Joint president, finance and accounts, India Cements
For the Chennai-based firm, IPL is all about building its brand and striking a connect with the Indian masses. In an interview with ‘Mint’, Singh, who is overseeing the Chennai team, and Srinivasan speak about how cricket fits into their overall business strategy. Edited excerpts:
With so much talk of the kind of revenues and money involved in IPL matches, do you feel the spirit of the sport is getting lost somewhere?
Unless there is enough money, there would be little motivation for anybody to get involved. In the case of hockey, the sport is dying because it hardly gets any money. One cannot wish away the money factor in sports.
In fact, the amount paid to the Indian players is much lower than (that paid to) others in the international arena of sports. What the Indian (cricket) players get is much less than those participating in motor sports such as Formula One, or soccer or baseball.
Internationally, sportspeople are paid very well.
Chennai Super Kings (Graphic)
Do you think IPL is going to be a blockbuster for TV?
I would like to quote another franchise owner, Preity Zinta, in this regard.
It seems she has asked her producers not to release her films during the IPL season. So, going by that, I think it is going to be a big hit. The matches would attract the family as a unit, and I think IPL matches have all the masala to make them a big success.
Do you view IPL as a business opportunity orbrand-building tool?
We invested in IPL because of the scope it offers in terms of brand-building, and also for our love of cricket.
India Cements has been involved in this sport for quite some time. We are a south Indian company growing at a fast pace, and going beyond the boundaries of south. We view IPL as a good way to build our image and promote our name across the country. We are looking at riding on cricket to promote our brand.
So, making money out of IPL is not the basic intention?
The way things are going, I think we will be profitable from the first year itself. IPL will offer good revenue streams from Day 1. There is a lot of revenue support from BCCI as well.
But, the driving force for us was to build the India Cements brand. (Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan)
YOGESH SHETTY, CEO, GMR Sports
This CEO tells ‘Mint’ about the strategy for creating a fan base for the Delhi Daredevils, and building on the business opportunity. Edited excerpts:
Delhiites do not idolize their city as much as, say, Kolkatans or Mumbaikars. How do you plan to generate city pride for your team?
Delhi is like any other metro. It is no different from London or Sydney. A city, today, is a very transient entity. Its people landscape keeps changing. So, it is not that a Bangalorean will only support a team from Bangalore.
Affiliation to a team is surely emotional, but it is also very personal. One city can have many teams and various fan bases. And, the sense of association with a team is not only because of iconic players, but also for other reasons. It could be (based on) sheer performance or because a family member supports the team.
What will your strategy be to build city pride?
In terms of investing, everything we have done is for the city. We have invested in players from the city and at the grass roots levels—in stadia upkeep, fast-bowling clinics, etc. After the tournament, we have sports academies planned for the city.
We understand that the connection with a team does not end with one performance. It is an ongoing process and, to establish a connect, there has to be continuous momentum on the field.
Delhi Daredevils (Graphic)
What is your take on doubts expressed by some about IPL’s business viability?
If somebody says there is a business model that can generate profits from Day 1, and which has captive and passionate customers, I think it is IPL. Cricket is one such model in India, and I think IPL will be a big success.
Any professional sport relies on two primary sources of income—through corporate sponsorship and gate receipts. But, as an ongoing business model, it has the opportunity to complement this through various other add-on income streams, such as merchandising and affiliate marketing, among others.
Is IPL a new business stream for you or is it a marketing investment?
We see it as a business opportunity from a sports management perspective. The marketing opportunity is a by-product. (Rajeshwari Sharma)
The format is brilliant
NEIL MAXWELL, CEO, Kings XI Punjab
In an interview with ‘Mint’, Maxwell says IPL presents a new opportunity for local talent, and the game, to grow . Even better, it will be a wholesome entertainment package. Edited excerpts
Is IPL a business proposition or is it more of an image and brand-building initiative?
We believe there is significant value in being associated with a league over a period of time. If you look into the background of the promoters or franchisees of the various teams, you will see that they were cricket fans before they went into its business with IPL.
We intend to create a team which will be extremely valuable, and we will give all it takes—time, energy and resources—for the love of the game. Fans do not care about balance sheets; they only have the glory of the game at heart. The real challenge lies in balancing the act: to make sure that each club is free to run as an efficient business unit, while protecting the fabric of the sport. Spectators are at the heart of this game and, without them, there can be no business.
Kings XI Punjab (Graphic)
Do you think IPL will change the face of domestic cricket?
IPL marks a new phase in Indian sport—a liberalization of cricket, with the entry of individuals and corporates in the direct running of the game. Youngsters and local talent will get more exposure than before and also get an opportunity to learn and play with international champions. IPL will offer more opportunity to cricketers coming up the ladder, and more choices to viewers.
Glamour and star quotient seem to be taking over sportsmanship. Is it a disconcerting change?
The Twenty20 format is brilliant, and it is the format that binds sport and entertainment, classically. Considering the country thrives on this sport, our intention will be to significantly add value to the game and create an environment where the combination of sport and entertainment will be considered priceless by a typical Indian family.
The Indian Premier League marks the beginning of a new era of ‘Cricketainment’ in India. It is not at all a disconcerting change. We believe it is, and will be, a great fusion—the possibilities are endless. In fact, entertainment is a part of sports worldwide.(Vidhya Sivaramakrishnan)
Building on the atmosphere
INDERBIR SINGH BHANDARI (ROMI), Head, Kolkata Knight Riders
He has his task cut out. Bollywood heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan has entrusted him with the responsibility of managing his pet project—Knight Riders, the Kolkata team. Right now, Bhandari, who spoke to ‘Mint’, is working on giving the Eden Garden stadium a facelift, and tackling the teething problems related to the league’s launch.
Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla are from Mumbai. What explains their investment in the Kolkata team?
It doesn’t matter. Remember, whatever Shah Rukh does, he gives it his best. He is basically from Delhi, he is based in Mumbai and, now, he has bought a team in Kolkata—but his fan base is all across the country, even the world.
Also, backing the Kolkata team was but natural for us. I think, as far as people are concerned in Kolkata, or even those with links to Kolkata, there is a huge interest in sports—it cuts across all ages.
We have a stadium with a huge capacity. We have the atmosphere. The way it (the interest in the team) is building up, it is going to be huge.
Kolkata Knight Riders (Graphic)
Will the celebrity factor in your team make the mass connect easier?
The celeb factor (Shah Rukh Khan and Sourav Ganguly) certainly helps. All across the world, there is a huge merger between stars and sports. Maybe it is happening only now in Kolkata but, in another five-six years, I foresee greater involvement of stars. Shah Rukh is the one who has taken the lead, and he will go down in history as the first man to have done so.
Is IPL a business opportunity for the owners?
As far as Shah Rukh is concerned, I can say his heart must have spoken first (on the question of investing in IPL). He’s the first man in the world to make a movie on women’s hockey. Nobody would have even dared to think about it. But yes, naturally, when you do something, you also look at it commercially…then leave it to fate.
What about Shoaib Akhtar?
We will go by whatever the IPL authorities decide on the Shoaib Akhtar issue. As a franchisee and part of IPL, we will have to follow their decision. (Anik Basu)
A ‘derisked’ business model
FRASER CASTELLINO, CEO, Emerging Media
Ultimately, Castellino tells ‘Mint’, team performance and the sporting experience will be decisive in IPL’s success. Edited excerpts:
Many fortunes are riding on IPL. What if it bombs?
In the worst-case scenario, if the tournament fails to live up to the hype and frenzy, there could be loss of face to an extent, but the business venture won’t fail because it is a pretty ‘derisked’ business model, at least from a franchisee point of view. Even for the two other stakeholders, BCCI and the broadcaster, business risks are minimal.
What are the crucial factors for IPL’s success?
Where we really need to step up on the gas is in building a connect between our respective teams and the audience. To do that, we need to perform well because, barring a few thousands, most people will come to the stadium for the game. Thus, we are aggressively investing in building talent and infrastructure. I believe in investing in the whole experience of the game rather than in Bollywood stars because, to my mind, the true brand ambassador is our team—the cricketers playing for Rajasthan Royals.
Rajasthan Royals (Graphic)
How do you see IPL in the coming years?
I think the next 44 days are going to be very interesting, for mainly two reasons. First, it will be exciting to see how competitive cricket can be. The IPL matches are about leagues, superstars, cricketers from all over the world and, most importantly, cricketers playing against erstwhile team members. It will be great to watch, say, Sourav Ganguly play against Sachin Tendulkar. Second, it will be interesting to see how franchises balance cricket and entertainment. There’s growing talk already about this. It is also exciting because this is the first step in the world of Indian sports that is innovative and bold.
What’s your take on the Twenty20 format?
We as a company have always backed it. We’ve been in discussion with BCCI since 2005, when we launched our national talent hunt programme, Cricket Star. In 2006, we began looking for cricket talent for Twenty20. Its emergence and popularity reflects changing consumer behaviour. The format offers cricket in a condensed form.