India's Growing Sports Biz Opportunity.........


By Rounak Majumdar


In a country known for its religious virtues, sports was never meant to be an ingrained part of living. But ever since British Raj, cricket is one sport that India breathes.

THE ORIGINS OF INDIAN SPORT

Sports in India dates back to the early 1500 AD. With Chess and Kabaddi being the most ancient and famous, the country is home to around 100+ indigenous sports.


Over the years, sport in India has slowly shifted from becoming a favourite pastime to a serious livelihood. Various approaches helped commercialize and develop sporting activities

and Indian conglomerates have accelerated it. MNCs like the Reliance Group, JSW, TATA,

RPSG Group and others have invested in India’s sporting infrastructure, leagues, grassroots

development, high performance and other verticals.



The industry, which was valued at over 91 Billion USD in 2019, had its firm beginnings in 1983 when India lifted its first-ever cricket World Cup title, defeating West Indies in the finals by 43 runs at the Lord's Cricket Ground. Cricket was always a popular sport, but the world cup win changed its importance. Until then, superstars in Bollywood were making all the money. The World Cup victory set the tone for Indian cricketers to be converted into lucrative brands. ​ In 1993, the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI) received its first broadcast rights fee from Trans World International to telecast an India-England series. Till then, astonishingly, the BCCI was paying the local TV channel, Doordarshan TV, to telecast the games. As of today, Star India pays around 945 Million USD over a five-year deal to the BCCI for telecasting only the domestic cricket matches.

THE NEW CRICKET FESTIVAL

In 2008, the advent of the Indian Premier League, a franchise-based T-20 Cricket League changed the dynamics of sports business in India. The IPL was the brainchild of Lalit Modi, a business tycoon and the International Management Group (IMG), a reputed sports

management firm.


The amalgamation of Cricket, Bollywood and Business led the property to soar unbelievable

heights. It is one of the very few sporting leagues in the world where all the stakeholders churn considerable profits each financial year. As of 2020, the IPL is currently valued at an

astounding 4.4 Billion USD (Around 45,800 Crores INR). For a league spanning 2 months in a year with 8 participants, the rise within 13 years must pique curiosity.

RISE OF PRIVATE LEAGUES

The IPL was an umbrella for other leagues to mushroom in India. Over the past decade, 20+

sporting leagues kicked off. Amongst them, the Kabaddi (Pro Kabaddi League), Football (Indian Super League) leagues gained momentum. The latest addition to the roster amidst

the pandemic was Ultimate Kho Kho League. Another popular indigenous sport, with its origins in the early 20th Century.


The rise of sporting leagues increased opportunities in sponsorship. In 2019, sports sponsorship investments topped 1.2 Billion USD with cricket owning the maximum share. It

was followed by Kabaddi and Football. The key investors who put the money are from the

Fintech, Automobile, Steel, Real Estate, FMCG industries. Recently, Ed-tech and Fantasy

Gaming companies have invested as well.


Apart from the IPL, most leagues operate on a lean financial model with a core focus put on

developing the game and increasing reach.

THE GAMING AND ESPORTS OPPORTUNITY ​ India over the years witnessed phenomenal growth in technology, and telecom has become

cheaper. It has led to the rapid rise in fantasy gaming and E-Sports activities in the sub- continent.


One of the Indian gaming companies, Nazara Technologies, filed its Initial Public Offering

(IPO) document with the Indian market regulators on January 15, 2021. Recently, another

Indian fantasy gaming giant, Dream Sports, is seeking to list their company via a Special

Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) listing in the US markets by early 2022.


Even though sports betting is illegal in India, there are certain loopholes within the law.

Fantasy gaming companies have leveraged it to mint money. Companies such as Dream

Sports grew phenomenally amid the pandemic with a 5 Billion USD valuation.


In the last few years, not only has fantasy gaming and e-sports grown significantly, it is

regarded as the future of maximum investments alongside cricket.


ROLE OF GOVERNMENT ​ A country can only do well in sports when it receives support from its government. The

Indian government has started to perceive sports as a powerful tool for sustainability.


The Narendra Modi led office launched the Fit India Movement in 2019. It is a nationwide

initiative in India encouraging people to remain healthy and fit. Fit India’s motive is to

encourage physical activities and sports, and make it an integral part of daily living.


Alongside it, the Khelo India initiative, a grassroots school and university sports program

launched in 2018, has grown year on year in participation and investments.


The support from the government has led Sports Management organisations like

Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, KiteTalks, SportiFan and other companies to find their way into the market, and create scalable business opportunities.

TURMOILS IMPOSED BY PANDEMIC ​ The raging pandemic, which in its second wave devastated innumerable Indian lives, has

impacted the sports industry direly.


The Tokyo Olympic bound athletes are having a hard time completing their final

preparations. Most of the athletes failed to get adequate training sessions, and work in a

structured manner considering the changing trends of the virus and the ever-evolving

quarantine norms.


The Tokyo Olympic bound athletes are having a hard time completing their final

preparations. Most of the athletes failed to get adequate training sessions, and work in a

structured manner considering the changing trends of the virus and the ever-evolving

quarantine norms.


The lockdowns have forced various businesses related to sports to discontinue operations.

Sectors such as Sports Retail and Sports Tourism have been massively impacted. As per reports from GroupM ESP, the entertainment, esports and sports division of GroupM

India, sports sponsorships dropped 35% in 2020 due to Coronavirus.


The IPL 2021 season stands cancelled as of May 9th, after completing 29 out of the 60

matches in total. The resumption of the league remains highly unlikely due to COVID-19 and

the cricket calendar of 2021.


Apart from the IPL, India is slated to host the ICC T20 World Cup in October alongside Sri

Lanka and New Zealand in between. They are also scheduled to tour England for a Test

Series.


THE WAY AHEAD


The rapid rise of investments within 20+ years has put India’s sports industry on the global

map. Despite the raging pandemic and huge losses, India’s sports industry is expected to

grow in the near future.

IPL continues to dominate the Indian sports landscape alongside esports and fantasy

gaming picking pace. In the future, initiatives from the government will have a significant

role. It will determine whether India can truly harness its potential in sports.

However, for a country of 1.3 Billion people, where estimates state only 5.56% of the

population actively engage in sports, the possibilities remain manifold.