Hima Das just like her domination on track is making big strides in the brand world. The 18-year-old Assam girl is hitting newspaper headlines with more consistency than any of her fellow medallists from the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang.
The commercial success story for an 18-year-old paddy farmers’ daughter, who would run barefoot in her formative years, has started immediately after her IAAF World Under-20 Athletics Championship 400-metre gold in Finland.
Much before the world would rise to recognise the potential of India’s first world champion in track competition, IOS Sports and Entertainment CEO and Managing Director Neerav Tomar has recognised and tapped the potential of the rising star. Before Hima left for the Asian Games in Jakarta, she had in hand a multi-crore rupee management deal with IOS.
“With all our experience, IOS team was confident about what future holds for this teen sensation. We had realised that potential with her (IAAF U-20) World Championship performance. That was a remarkable achievement. No Indian athlete had ever done that ever (a gold at an IAAF track event). Scripting the rare first in any field and following it up with hard work and more success transform into guaranteed stardom,” says Neerav Tomar.
“This girl (Hima) replicates Mary Kom in success and the burning desire to excel. Having worked with Mary Kom for so long, we noticed those striking similarities between these two girls. They came from a similar background, pursued their passion amidst adversities, were not carried away or content with what they have achieved.
“We knew that Hima is not going to stop here and media will be compelled to portray her very highly for what she was going to achieve. A new sporting hero was in the making for the brands looking of a fresh face for a distinct identity,” adds Tomar.
Hima did not rest on the laurels of her world championship feat. In July Hima had won the Under-20 World Championship 400-metre gold clocking 51.46 seconds. A month later she ran the distance in 50.79 seconds in Jakarta for an Indian national record and the silver at the 2018 Asian Games, where the Indian athletics latest sensation also teamed up for the 4×400 women’s relay gold and 4×400 mixed relay silver.
Back home, praise, prizes and commercial deals were raining. Hima has made headlines with a certain consistency ever since her return from the Asian Games last month. An Arjuna Award, State honours from Assam, an employment as Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officer (the public sector Maharatan company as an exception has relaxed its tough guidelines to appoint an undergraduate as an officer) coupled with brand endorsement deals with the German sports brand adidas and financial services company Edelweiss have kept Hima in the news almost every second day.
A nationalised bank and a leading cement brand from North East have also signed the “Dhing Express”. Announcements are expected soon. Her managers IOS Sports and Entertainment are engaged in negotiations with more. An expected list of six to seven brands this festive may well make Hima the No. 1 celebrity for singing the maximum commercial deals after the Asian Games.
However, in spite of her three medals Hima was not India’s biggest success story in the Jakarta and Palembang Asian Games. It is the promise of a long glorious future and better brand management that has driven her apart from the likes of Neeraj Chopra, Tejinder Pal Singh Toor and Dutee Chand. There were bigger names like Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat. However, Hima’s humble background, struggle and rise to stardom made a better narrative for the brands.
“If you see Asian Games, there have been remarkable performances for India in track and field. There were better performers than Hima. Dutee Chand and Neeraj Chopra have been more impactful. There were various others. Hima stayed in the limelight as the hype around her world championship had made her a bigger star attraction. She did live up to those expectations to justified her top billing right under the spotlight,” says Neerav Tomar.
“Hima’s journey from Dhing to the World and Asian Games glory was a natural fit for our kind of business as we precisely knew what we have to pitch for our athlete after having worked with Mary Kom for ten years. We had charted a certain plan for Hima shortly after the World Championship. With that belief, we signed her up and results are already there for everyone to see,” he adds.
The recognition is going far beyond the corporate world and endorsement deals. Hima an OGQ athlete now also has Femina (women’s magazine) cover honours. Besides national (Arjuna Award) and Assam State honours, she has been on the dais with Nita Ambani and Abhishek Bachchan as national anthem played at the Indian Super League opening ceremony in Kolkata last Sunday.
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In a frenzy that would put an athlete in a different zone, Hima is well aware that her priorities lie in training and performance. “Personally, I don’t think much has changed, neither do I want life to change so soon. I only want to think about training and running in my next event. Yes, when I go back home, people try to touch me, hug me… that’s when I get the feeling that I have achieved something,” she had recently said.
Her managers IOS Sports and Entertainment, who have specialised in managing non-cricket talent since 2005, also as their business policy are ensuring that the athlete’s training and performance is not compromised even if a signing has to wait or one off commercial appearance opportunity is missed.