He is an entrepreneur. He is a sport fanatic. You cannot separate Raj Kundra from sport and enterprise. The rare medley gives India one of its most enterprising sports-entrepreneur. Who is not shy of taking risks. Who is not shy of experimenting. Who adds the entertainment quotient to the business of sports.
During the stint with IPL he was the virtual face of the Rajasthan Royals’ blue brigade. As the Super Fight League promoter he gave the vision to the nation that India is the growing market for combat sports.
Now, entrepreneur Raj Kundra and celebrity Shilpa Shetty Kundra promoted Viaan Industries Limited, a popular licensing, entertainment & wellness Company along with International Federation of Poker (IFP) have come up with a first of its kind- “Match Indian Poker League”.
Kundra’s latest sport venture is set to change the way poker is perceived in the country. Post the Match Poker, the sport will shed the stigma of a gambling sport. “I believe that the league (Match Poker) will enable us to get rid of the stigma that it is a game of gamble. It is clearly a game of skill,” says Patrick Nally, President, IFP.
In an exclusive interview with InsideSport.co, Raj Kundra, the promoter of the “Match IPL” and Mr. Patrick Nally, President, International Federation of Poker talked about various aspects of the “Match IPL”– the game, idea, commercial model and the vision behind. Here are the excerpts:
InsideSport: We have known Raj Kundra as a succesful businessman and his association with a sports has a certain degree of continuity. First it was cricket, then mixed martial arts and now the Indian Poker League. What makes Raj a sports entrepreneur?
Raj Kundra: I just love sports and we saw one of the first biggest investment within the sports on IPL. That was 10 year ago. Now, I am fascinated with the growth of sports. There is a lot of scope in India and this has been proven with the success of a lot of non-cricketing leagues like kabaddi league, hockey league, badminton league, table tennis league. I just noticed that so many poker players come around every year during Diwali. Poker has become a new game and it’s no longer Teen Patti. We were little wary to introduce Poker for legal acceptance. As a skill sport in India. That’s how sport poker came about with an introduction from Mr. Patrick Nally, who is the president of International Federation of Poker.
InsideSport: What is Match IPL – the ideation and planning around the same.
Raj Kundra: The idea came from IFP (the international federation), who has introduced this form- ‘Match Poker’. IFP to increase the popularity of the game is now promoting sport in more than 60 nations. It is a game of skill and mind.
In India, the league will feature 8 cities, represented by 8 players each. The final event will be held over the two days in Mumbai on 14th and 15th of October. A total of 75 hands will be dealt on Day 1, and 75 the next day and the collective points for all the teams will decide the winning team. The winners will be the Team India, to represent the nation, in Match Poker’s Nations Cup to be held in London, in December.
The “MATCH IPL” first eight teams representing the cities of Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Kolkata and Mumbai are being owned by leading figures in business and entertainment.
InsideSport: How do you see Match IPL as a commercial entity? What do you bring on to the table for all the stakeholders?
Raj Kundra: Franchisees can seek revenues in multiple areas. The team jerseys have five spots for sponsors’ logo. This is a televised event. The franchisees can get anything from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 25 lakh from the advertisers. Then, there is another avenue from offline and online tournaments. There is a prize money of Rs three crores. The winner gets Rs 1.5 crores. The franchisees get 10% share from the app revenues. Besides, 60% share of the Match Poker central revenue goes to the team owners.
InsideSport: For any sports or administrative setup it is very essential to have a unified command and a vertical control over the setup. As we have already seen a poker league in our country (Poker Sports League), how will you ensure Match IPL’s exculsivity?
Raj Kundra: The other league was entirely different format. It involved hard cash and cards. The Match Poker is a hardcore skill game. We are the league recognised by the national and internationa governing bodies.
InsideSport: Is there any broadcaster on-board for the league?
Raj Kundra: We feel that Poker is very much popular within the youngsters in India and thus we have signed up with MTV. It is a 3-year contract, as of now.
InsideSport: Celebrity quotient has been one of the factors in all your sporting ventures. Can we see any international star representing the poker league?
Raj Kundra: This time Harman Baweja, who is himself a very good poker player, is spearheading the Mumbai All Stars team. Then we have Rohan Gavaskar and many other well recognised faces. It is an Indian event. The winners get to represent India, so under the format we cannot have international stars.
IPL will establish poker as skill sport
InsideSport: How has been the corporate support for the league?
Raj Kundra: It has been pretty good, we have reached out to a couple of companies and they have been very positive. There are a lot of corporate whom I know they play poker. The cards will be dealt on the tablets and the tablets are being sponsored by a leading tablet manufacturer. But it is not that easy, it takes a little bit of time. We can take example of kabaddi, it didn’t have a single sponsor at initial stages. But then gradually it has got many sponsors now, which is good for the sport. It has great backing from the broadcaster and the celebrities. I think we are just the same, we have also got celebrities and a great channel behind us.
The league will offer India and ideal opportunity to establish itself on the global match poker platform. On home front, the competitive skills and exciting competition backed by innovative TV production and broadcast will broaden the mass base for the sport. An essence for a sport to succeed as a commercial model.