The Indian Premier League 2018 has attracted over 70 crore fans from across the country, which is more than the number of 55 crores people who have voted in the Lok Sabha election. The comparison was drawn by the Star India Managing Director and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) National Committee Chairman Sanjay Gupta to put sports growth in the country in perspective.
“The biggest sporting spectacle of this country – Vivo Indian Premier League, which was already exciting more people than anything else, reached a new high. Over 70 crore fans came in to enjoy IPL – 70 crores! Compare this to the number of people who voted in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the biggest elections that India has ever seen, of 55 crores. And they all spent a lot more time, glued to their television sets or mobile screens, enjoying this spectacle. Such a growth in an established sport like cricket is truly remarkable,” said Sanjay Gupta, at the CII Scorecard 2018 forum.
“But what is even more remarkable is the talent that IPL has uncovered this year, right from our backyard. Rishabh Pant who with his 128 run knock surpassed the highest score that any Indian player has made in a T20 match. Mayank Markande who amongst the best performing bowlers this season. Shubman Gill who managed to get 200+ runs in just 13 innings. All of these home-grown cricketers, under 20 years of age, captured our imagination,” he added Gupta, delivering the CII Scorecard 2018 Theme Address, touched all the key aspects to highlight India’s surge and achievements towards becoming a sporting nation. Here are the excerpts of his speech as the Chairman of the CII National Committee on Sports:
The Khelo India School Games launched this year are perhaps the best marker of this shift. For the first time, the spotlight was on a grassroots sports program – and it took the country by surprise. 16-year old Nisar Ahmed from a Delhi slum, who missed breaking the world record in the 100m sprint by 0.2 sec and has now been selected as one of the 14 athletes to undergo training by Usain Bolt’s coach in Jamaica. Sumathira Balakrishnan, daughter of a farm labourer from Tamil Nadu, who completed the 400m only 1.38 sec behind the Rio Olympics’ gold winner. The kind of talent that it has thrown up is quite phenomenal. With scholarships being given to 734 young and upcoming sports stars in this edition itself, it has provided a template for shaping the future of these boys and girls.
While on the one hand grassroots sports got this incredible platform, this year was quite unique in that even cricket, which is arguably right at the other end of the spectrum, also saw such an upsurge.
Such brilliance in individual performances goes much beyond. Look at this year’s Commonwealth Games or the World Under-20 Championships – even against a set of such elite nations, a whole new range of new heroes emerged. Manika Batra in TT, Neeraj Chopra in the javelin throw, Manu Bhaker in shooting, Vikas Krishan in boxing and of course, Hima Das who got us our first gold in a global track event.
All of these young emerging stars, some who just started off at the school level and some who have already created a name for themselves in the international area, in sports ranging from athletics to shooting to cricket, from all across the country, are proving their talent and ability to be world class. They are creating the biggest disruption in the world of sports today. However for me personally, the most powerful takeout from this has been the change in narrative around sports. The achievement of these young heroes has forced our society to sit up and take note of the power of sports. Even at Khelo India, while we could all see these kids performing at their peak, giving it their all, what struck me was the support from these young children’s families and the pride towards their achievements from teachers, schools and society at large. It was really heartening to see the welcome they got when they went back home, the coverage in local newspapers, the felicitation by their schools. All this points to a palpable shift in the way people look at sports. I would like to congratulate our Honourable Minister Col. Rathore and the entire Sports ministry for driving this agenda.
This shift is laying the foundation for sports to become a much larger part of our national consciousness. Our respected Prime Minister has talked about the importance of sport on multiple occasions – about how critical sport is not only for physical well-being, but overall development of an individual, how it can serve as a means of national integration. Sports truly has the power to transform a society.
And while there is no contention that sport is good for society, private enterprise has proven that sports is good for business as well! Over the last few years, the kind of activity around the business of sports has been tremendous! There are now over 15 domestic leagues in the country – across kabaddi, football, wrestling, boxing, badminton – from just 2 five years back. They have overcome all roadblocks of infrastructure and training, put in staggering sums of money and collaborated, and in my many instances, created a whole new set of entities to build viable and scalable business models.
All these leagues have all managed to find a place for themselves with the people of this country. They are watching them in their homes on TV or on their mobile phones on their daily commute on buses, local trains, and taxis. Brands are coming in, starting to ascribe real value to the impact that sport delivers by putting in sponsorship money. IPL, our largest league, is valued at $5.3 bn today.
Even the sports start-up ecosystem is buzzing with activity. Entrepreneurs are building business models across the breadth and depth of sports – from eduSports that enables schools to adopt sports education, Anthill Creations that creates cost-effective play areas in unused spaces, ‘Sports For All’ to GoSporto that gives people access to playgrounds around them.
This has all resulted in a step change in the sports industry, which has grown from $1.3 bn to $2.7 bn in just a matter of five years. And in my mind, this journey has only begun. Sports is still at 0.1% share of our GDP, while globally the industry is sized at ~0.5% of GDP share. Given where we are, we have the momentum to become a $10 bn industry in the next 5 to 7 years.
This has been made possible only because of the commitment and investment by every stakeholder, in this room and beyond. Hats off to you all! But the journey is far from over. I still believe that to unleash the true power of sports, we need to get our children to play. And that this juncture, with the kind of excitement that I see around the sport, there is a serious opportunity to make this happen, here and now.
Today’s formal education system enables children to be able to choose a profession of their choice when they grow older. It allows them to choose from a multitude of options – a doctor, an engineer, an accountant, a journalist. But unfortunately, it doesn’t open too many doors for them to take up sports as a career. This is because neither do they find time to play nor do they get access to the right infrastructure and training from a young age.
The CII Sports committee has been working towards changing this state of affairs, by making sport and physical education an integral part of the schooling system. And I am truly humbled by the openness that all stakeholders we worked with displayed and the speed with which they have brought this project to life. In the last year, sports has been made a vital part of holistic educations at schools as part of the Samagra Shiksha program by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. We are partnering with CBSE as well to bring physical education to the mainstream by making it compulsory for 9th to 12th-grade students. I would like to thank Mr. Anil Swarup, Ms. Anita Karwal, Mr. Rahul Bhatnagar, your teams and the entire CII Sports Committee team for your efforts, commitment and belief in this cause.
However, while sports is set to become an integral part of education, the requisite infrastructure, tools and trainers are still lacking. Based on all the work done over the last few months, we have found that to implement this for every child, the investment required is a mere Rs. 500 every year. Such a small intervention can provide all the support needed for a child to play.
However, to make this real for all 30 crore kids, the quantum of investment needed is dramatic. And I believe that we are at a sweet spot to make this happen. Large corporates today are investing a significant part of their profits towards CSR activities, of which sports promotion is also a part. This provides a great platform for brands to engage and invest in building the sport. CII has created a “Making India Play’ fund, to enable corporates to explore opportunities to invest in the sports ecosystem. And large corporates have already shown interest and committed their support on this – some of whom are in this very room, from Tata Trust, HCL, Ambuja Cements, Bharti Foundation and ACC.
Overall contribution towards CSR is close to $1.8 bn or ~Rs. 12,000 cr. every year. Even if we invest half this fund, Rs. 6,000 cr. towards building this infrastructure and capabilities, we will be able to touch 12 cr. kids in the first year itself. Over the next few years, we will be able to reach out to every single kid in the country. It can truly catapult sports to another orbit.
I would urge all stakeholders here and across the country to invest their CSR fund towards building sports. We have managed to spark a change and now can really make it a movement by making young India play.