India lost the World Cup, but it was probably not a loss for the economy

The World Cup semifinals and the finals were festivals on par with Diwali.  REUTERS/Andrew Boyers      (REUTERS)
The World Cup semifinals and the finals were festivals on par with Diwali. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers (REUTERS)


It is indeed sad India did not win the World Cup, but the only clear losers here are those who hoped to ride a wave of nationalism

India lost the cricket World Cup, after powering through the tournament to reach the finals unbeaten. Then it lost, leaving millions of fans heartbroken. That said, there is no gainsaying that hosting the one-day cricket tournament, which takes place once every four years, has provided a boost to the Indian economy.

The World Cup semifinals and the finals were festivals on par with Diwali. This not just in the cities that hosted the matches, Mumbai and Ahmedabad, respectively, but for most of the country, wherever audiences gathered in front of a screen, often in large gatherings at restaurants and pubs, apart from homes, on the one hand, and, on the other, the specially rigged match-watching venues with large screens, large crowds, beer to be guzzled and snacks to be munched on for the duration of the match, if not wolfed down. 

Sweets were purchased in anticipation of victory celebration. Sugar sales went up, as did the sales of milk solids, nuts, dry fruit and flavouring agents that go into sweets and ice cream. Paper cartons, glossy covers to cover the cardboard also saw a surge in demand.

All tournament venues were spruced up, and given fresh coats of paint. Stadium seats that had been broken were repaired, those on which lewd declarations of love had been engraved thoroughly scrubbed clean of misplaced passion. All that generated revenue and employment for suppliers, and contractors and workers.

Business newspapers ran stories of quick service restaurants, quick commerce companies and food delivery businesses reporting record numbers of orders on match days. Match-hosting cities saw hotel room tariffs and restaurant bookings boom. Airfares to Ahmedabad for final soared. Ticket prices on the black market soared as well. Of course, higher fares do not directly create additional flights, unless people charter flights as an alternative, but the additional revenue raked in through higher prices for a finite supply of airline seats or stadium tickets leads to additional spending on the part of the recipients.

Team India jersey sales spiked throughout the tournament period. Television sales zoomed, too. Many chose this occasion to upgrade their TV sets to thinner, brighter, higher resolution models capable of showing darker blacks and truer colours. Some also upgraded to bigger TV screens. Retailers, cargo fleets, delivery agents, and technicians who visited homes for installation, demo and, if possible, to wangle an extended warranty, found additional business.

Those who provide retail finance, whether banks or non-banking finance companies, did brisk business, notwithstanding the dampener the RBI has smothered the sector with, seeking higher risk weightage and capital provisioning. The myriad agents who process loan documents saw brisk work.

Television advertisers saw hectic action. Those who managed to get time slots for broadcast during the match made commercial films, spending enough to make them high-impact affairs. Creative spirits at advertising agencies, copywriters, actors, models, make-up artistes, film crews saw demand that would not have been generated but for the World Cup and the audience attention it was guaranteed to generate.

Official sponsors advertised in multiple media to show off their sponsorship of India’s favourite sport. Those who did not get to sponsor the official tournament always dream of repeating Pepsi’s ‘nothing-official-about-it’ ambush marketing that left a greater impact on audiences than the official sponsor Coca Cola’s efforts. These efforts spill over across multiple media, benefitting all businesses that see advertising as a major source of revenue.

Telecom operators saw high data traffic as millions of people watched the matches live on television screens, tablets, computers, or phones. Many who did not have broadband connections over optical fibre secured them. 

The demand for routers, optical fibre, ducts for laying them, and the services of technicians who install the routers rose. Technology services that allow streaming on the scale a World Cup audience calls for saw additional demand even from cloud storage companies and vendors of software that provide distributed caches to minimize latency of signal reception.

The popular enthusiasm generated by the game and the blitzkrieg of advertising that accompanied it, all referencing the tournament, would have led to greater interest in cricket, leading to greater sales of kit. Those who make bats, balls and gloves of different kinds saw a boost in demand.

If the intense advertising of products and services that accompanied the match broadcast has any impact on purchase decisions at all, India should see a sales bump in sectors such as automobiles, home appliances, cosmetics, apparel and fancy phones. All associated businesses should benefit.

All this augurs well for future editions of grand events, particularly cricket. Cricket training academies, talent scouts and coaches would do brisk business.

It is indeed sad India did not win the World Cup, after the 2011 victory, but the only clear losers here are those who hoped to ride a wave of nationalism that a World Cup win would have engendered, for their own partisan gain.

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