"We want to be a team that is able to reach out to different demographics", says Tamil Thalaivas CEO Viren D' Silva
For the Tamil Thalaivas, their debut season in the Pro Kabaddi League was an emotional rollercoaster - with some massive highs blighted by residual disappointment, where they ultimately finished in the standings. Their second season is likely to see the team develop further and try and make a strong run at the playoffs.
Although Season 6 of the PKL is still a few months away, the Tamil Thalaivas have been busy right through the summer, kick-starting a number of initiatives the last few months. In Chennai as part of the official launch of the Tamil Thalaivas Children's Kabaddi Challenge and Tamil Thalaivas Corporate Kabaddi Fest, Thalaivas CEO Viren D'Silva opened his address today saying, "A new team, new season, new beginnings."
Sportskeeda caught up with D' Silva on the sidelines of the launch to talk about the team's new initiatives and the rise in popularity of kabaddi in recent years.
What do you think has led to this explosion of popularity for PKL and its teams in such a short span? The pace of the game and the short duration have surely been major advantages...
Appointment viewing always helps, but I think there are a few factors that have been important. For any league around the world, a representation of its success is the ratings that it gets. So if you look at kabaddi, by far it's the second most popular sport across the country which is a fair indication. The ingredients I talked about are one, the players are of the highest level. We are world champions; that's a very key ingredient.
There's mass participation and easy access to play, that's the second ingredient. There is a very strong broadcaster behind it. There are these three or four key ingredients and then there's corporate participation. So I think it's a heady mix of factors that have helped propel kabaddi ahead of the other sports. I think Star Sports has recognised that connect and pushed it even further. That's the main differentiator I think.
You were with the ISL outfit Kerala Blasters earlier. Do you see any parallels with football being big in the state of Kerala and kabaddi being a hugely popular game in the state of Tamil Nadu, urban centres aside?
In both cases there is undying passion and love that needs to be ignited, that needs to be given a platform. I think Blasters gave the whole of Kerala a platform and Tamil Thalaivas aim to do the same thing. When I see the passion in fans it makes for a great atmosphere to work in. And the corporates and the schools getting behind it adds to it.
Could you tell us about the genesis of this idea about having a tournament for schools and corporates? What went into it?
From an ecosystem point of view, we don't want to be a team that is active only during the PKL. We want to be a year-round proposition through the calendar. We want to be a team that is able to reach out to different demographics. We saw that the corporates were a completely under-indexed group of people and they were very excited to participate, both men and women. That's the reason we thought about rolling out this initiative.
While results may not have gone entirely your way the first season, the interest and excitement drummed up by the team has surely provided a good platform?
The interest was a major positive, an indication from the masses that watched at home and those that came to the stadium. It was a major motivation for us. We got the team only two months before the league started. In all fairness, we were not prepared at many levels, but we can only look at the year gone by and change things strategically off the field and try as hard as possible to develop.