"Sports business sector can grow three times in as many years," says SportEx Asia chairman Raghvendra Madhav
With the SportEx Asia summit set to bring some of the biggest administrators and entrepreneurs from around the country and abroad together, the Indian sports ecosystem is looking forward to a big boom in the foreseeable future.
Dignitaries like Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and avrious other top entrepreneurs who run the business of the sport in the country are set to grace the event.
We caught up with SportEx Asia chairman Raghvendra Madhav a few days before the meet, to discuss the potential the the sports business has in India.
Q: You have a very vast background and experience in media, television and sports, was this the basis of your motivation to start SportEx Asia?
A: The Sports sector over the years has evolved from a leisure and recreation activity to one that is associated with huge pride for nations at one level, and the evolution of Sports as a business at another level.
My Own background has been in media and telecommunications and I have worked in the UK, India and Southeast Asia, and have sat on the boards of several large companies in media and telecommunications and digital.
In today's context, I find that sports and entertainment are closely interlinked and lot of sports are now projected as spectator sports. The role of mass media and in particular, television and digital streaming has helped in the evolution of sports in a major way.
With the growth rate of the Indian economy has consistently been between six and eight percent, the time has come for sports in India to become a valuable sector. The concept of SportEX.Asia was mooted by some of us to help provide a neutral platform for the sports sector in India and in particular to focus on the business of sports and investing in sporting assets in India.
Sports is also a great stimulant of discipline in the youth today and they need to be directed towards sports so that other distractions are not at the forefront . This is a social cause for me and I am therefore helping to catalyze sports in India together with several other people.
Q: Who are the other people supporting the Sportex.Asia Movement ?
A: The Sportex.Asia Platform is a neutral platform for networking between the various stakeholders and its key objective is to evangelise sports in the country. To that extent, everybody who wants to pay a part is welcome to join the Sportex.Asia movement . Some of the key people who are supporting us through the ideas and connects and to help spread the message are Mr Sanjiv Sachar, the founding Partner of Egon Zehnder international India Practice , Mr Jugjiv Singh who has helped build various brands in India and is also a Harvard alumnus and Mr KRS Jamwal who is the executive director of TATA industries and who has helped with his time and ideas in order to evangelise sports .The Young energy in the team is provided by Arvind Narayan who is based out of the US and has worked in sports and in particular soccer across Asia US and Europe .
Q: What is the ultimate aim of SportEx.Asia and what do you expect to achieve from this?
A: SportEX.Asia is a decision makers' conference and is attended by the top policy makers in the Government, sports owners including leagues and teams, sports infrastructure owners, corporates, advertising agencies, funds and potential investors etc. Today it has become the definitive and most prestigious sports conference in India.
Hence, SportEX.Asia provides a great networking platform for the investors, policy makers and other stakeholders to interact with each other and with the sports assets owners i.e. league owners, team owners , sponsors and sports infrastructure owners.
We believe that sports has to be looked as a self standing, self sustaining economic model.
It goes without saying once ecosystem for sports gets created across different sports and across different geographies there will be twin benefits. First, the youth would actively be involved in activities which help build discipline, team spirit and value systems. Secondly, provide employment opportunities just like any other sector.
Q: How do you see the sports marketing industry in India at the moment and what you expect from it in the coming years?
A: With the proliferation of sports In India in general and rapidly rising popularity of various leagues - the Indian Premier League in cricket, the Indian Super League in football, Pro Kabaddi League are already getting hundreds of millions of television impressions. Several new leagues including in wrestling, hockey, futsal, badminton, boxing and MMA are also gaining traction.
We believe that the sector which is worth USD 1 billion currently is Likely to grow to USD 3 billion within the next 3 years or so. Interestingly, as far as television advertising is concerned the advertising in sports programming and events has already overtaken the total advertising on all the news channels. Cricket - IPL has already matured into a big spectator sport and the football, league is pursuing hot on the heels of cricket.
Q: Do you think it will be successful for leagues like Pro Kabaddi League, Super Fight League, Premier Futsal League in the long run?
A: The overview is that there is a scope for various sports and various formats to flourish. Kabaddi has been on for four years now and has broken even this year. Futsal and Super Fight League are very recent initiatives and have started well. Premier Futsal League last year had the semifinals and finals in Dubai as well and this year are looking at a longer season as well for the league. SFL has partnered with a young channel MTV and are reaching out to the youth sector in particular.
Those entities that are adequatly funded employ quality professionals to educate the market with regard to sport and build a strong footprint will definitely succeed in the medium and the long turn. I have no doubt that since India has a large market and many niches, there is a wonderful opportunity to grow out sports brands in today's market.
Q: What are your thoughts on the OTT platforms who are pushing hard to buy big sports broadcasting rights - like Amazon and Twitter have done. We have seen an influx of many brands like FloSports, DAZN, Veqta, and Turner now launching their own platform as well - do you think it will be successful in india? Or linear television will still be the main?
A: There are over 200 million households in India and over 180 million cable and satellite homes. Linear television has created the base for mass markets in cricket and football. IPL had a reach of almost 420 million and ISL, PKL and PWL have already reached almost 280 million viewers.
It is to be noted that thanks to the OTT platforms the reach and impressions are likely to jump up significantly. Sony, STAR, EROS NOW, AMAZON and NETFLIX and other OTT platform are showing keen interest in other sporting assets. This boards well for the financial health of the Sporting assets and also would be a significant revenue earner for the Linear and Digital distribution platforms.
The distribution of wireless broadband has significantly helped in this process as over the course of the Last 12 to 18 months 4G platforms have proliferated and nearly 400 Million wireless broadband subscribers are there in India today and this number is expected to increase to 530 Million by the end of 2018.
Q: What do you think about the potential of football in India?
A: Globally, football is extremely popular and people remain riveted to the screens when their favourite teams are playing . In India, ISL has already helped the game to reach 280 million viewers for the season. But in my view this is only the beginning weather it is football or its is short form futsal, there could be several competitions around it and there will be more money in the game which will encourage an ecosystem to be built out providing opportunities to play as well as employment opportunities.
Ofcource once this becomes a mass sport and a spectator sport, corporate sponsorships and other monies will flow in to this game. Globally, as you know, some of the biggest names in the banking and finance sector and the FMCG sector are associated with football and football related activities .
Q: Lastly can you say a few words to all the sports enthusiasts out there on what they can expect from SportEx Asia, where they can follow it etc.
A: SportEX.Asia will have several topics of discussion which would be of interest to both the decision makers, investors as well as sports enthusiasts and followers of sports. We will be active on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and on our website, as well as the Youtube channel of SportEX.Asia.