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How Gujarat Fortunegiants owner Adani Wilmar forged a winning formula in the Pro Kabaddi League

Akshay Gupta
2.65K   //    17 Nov 2017, 17:25 IST

The Gujarat Fortunegiants had a sensational debut campaign in the PKL
The Gujarat Fortunegiants had a sensational debut campaign in the PKL

Newly formed Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) franchise Gujarat Fortunegiants stunned one and all with their stellar performances in their debut PKL season. The team finished top of Zone A at the end of the league campaign before becoming the first team to qualify for the final, where they lost to Patna Pirates.

Ahead of the season, they were written off and were supposed to be fodder for other established teams in the Zone like U Mumba, Jaipur Pink Panthers, and Puneri Paltan. However, the Fortunegiants, not only defied expectations, but they did it in style, wowing one and all with their exploits on the kabaddi mat.

But how did Gujarat Fortunegiants defy the odds? 

Ever since it was announced that 4 new teams will take part in the tournament, Adani Wilmar began formulating plans of having a team in Ahmedabad, their headquarters, and the venue of the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, the tournament which exposed Gujarat’s thirst for the ingenious sport to the world.

The hard work started after they won the rights to form Gujarat Fortunegiants. Having no experience of being part of a sporting event, the odds were stacked against them from the beginning with vultures circling around waiting for a single slip-up to rip into them.

The management, however, had already crafted their plan and followed that to the T. Appointing a ‘rookie’ coach in Manpreet Singh and giving him the reins of the team for the auction, the owners gave the former PKL winner the necessary confidence, which served as the catalyst to the formation of a young and vivacious squad, that would go on to rewrite history.

With the tournament lasting nearly 3 months for the very first time, keeping the motivation levels high among the squad is key and that is where the owners get involved the most. By paying attention to the microscopic details like ensuring adequate rest to the players to keeping the morale up in the team, Adani Wilmar’s hands-on approach struck gold and that could be seen by the bubbling energy with which the team entered the mat every match.

The Fortunegiants’ management approach was unlike any other seen in the PKL. By being with the team throughout, they were constantly aware of the needs of the team and the owners strived to get them the best of the best to ensure the squad’s thoughts never wavered from their target.

While everyone took the conventional path, Fortunegiants took the road less traversed. An example of that was the appointment of the only foreign and woman physiotherapist in the league, Oliwia Witek.

Cometh the hour, cometh the.... WOMAN!

Physiotherapist Olivia Witek in action during the PKL Season
Physiotherapist Olivia Witek in action during the PKL Season

The 28-year-old Pole, just like the team, had to battle perceived notions and continue learning along the way. Coming from a non-kabaddi background and not knowing Hindi, the language spoken by 16 of the 19 players in the team, it was set to be a difficult ride for Oliwia. However, her background in sports and ability to grasp things (read: Hindi) quickly made it a seamless transition for her.

The vision to appoint Oliwia reaped rewards for the Fortunegiants as the Adani-owned team were one of the fittest teams in the league, suffering the least injuries out of all the 12 teams.

The owners’ vision, however, is not limited to just the PKL. They want to establish a kabaddi culture in Gujarat, helping it become one of the leading states for the sport in the country. This is exemplified by their efforts of improving grassroots kabaddi in the state, inspiring youngsters take up the sport and developing a framework for an effective transition from academy to international kabaddi to ensure the state sees more stars like Kiran Parmar (of the Kabaddi World Cup fame) on the international stage.

With Gujarat getting more than just a taste of kabaddi off late, thanks to the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup and Gujarat Fortunegiants’ successful sojourn in the 2017 Pro Kabaddi League, it is fair to say that the electrifying sport of kabaddi is here to stay in the land of legends and lions.

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Akshay Gupta
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