Over the last few decades, the world of sports has seen tremendous transformations globally and especially in India. Based on this backdrop Mr. Sundar Raman, former COO of IPL and CEO of Reliance Sports talked about the opportunities and challenges of Sports in India, on 17th March 2017. The Programme was chaired by Dr. Vijay Kelkar. The programme opened with an interesting quiz, conducted by Mr. Harish Kumar of ‘Choose to Thinq’ and the audience participated enthusiastically.

Mr. Raman began his talk by using the example of Jamaica, a country not bigger than Pune City, but which has won 33 gold medals in the last 3 years. “It doesn’t matter how big a nation you are from, how rich or poor you are, what matters is how big your ambition is”, said Mr. Raman

The size of the world sports industry is 600 billion dollars and India is a 6.5 billion industry. The challenge is to harness the power of the 1.25 billion people. 50% of India’s population is 24 years old or below and Mr. Raman emphasised that we have the highest base of commercialization in terms of opportunity. Conducting a revenue comparison between other countries and India, he mentioned that India is still just about scratching the surface. “So what can we do?” he inquired.

Mr. Raman recommended that we begin with focusing on improving our governance and infrastructure for Sports. A PPP model should be adopted, CSRs of companies must be encouraged to support sports initiatives, laws should be created to support athletes and federations should be equipped for commercialization.  The longest impact is possible only if we start building a culture for sports, even at the grassroot level.

Elite athlete support must also be provided consistently over a period of time to players and athletes. Identifying focus sports, is an aspect he threw much light upon. Citing the example of the UK as a country that excels in ‘seated’ sports such as rowing, cycling, equestrian, etc. he revealed the prudent strategy adopted by the UK to focus on ‘seated sports’ and how their National Lottery helped fund their endeavours.

The Best in class facilities must also be extended to athletes and we must enable them to participate in international tournaments. Speaking about the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mr. Raman elaborated on how the IPL brought in a wave of pro leagues for other sports in India. The Indian Super League (ISL) for instance, was the third highest attended football league globally, just behind the Bundesliga and the Premier League. The unique achievement of the IPL was the creation of a unified sporting entity, wherein people rivaled with each other based on the team they were supporting but at the same time, they came together for the sport.

Mr. Raman further talked about the sacrifices made by players to attain their goals and how logistical hindrances often dictate the fate of such dreams. Lastly, he highlighted Khelo India, Mission eleven Million and the efforts of the Reliance Foundation to promote Sports and change its landscape in the country.