Do Indian businesses really support sport?

I’m a big fan of all things related to sports, so it comes as no surprise when I say that the UK India Business Council put together a fantastic line-up of sports personalities at their gala dinner last week, which took place at the Royal Courts of Justice and should be congratulated. In attendance were Dame Kelly Holmes, Monty Panesar, Kapil Dev, and the guy who brought the IPL to the world – Lalit Modi.

Earlier in the day, I’d had the privilege to attend the baton relay that had been organised by Buckingham Palace to mark the start of the journey for the Commonwealth Baton, which will end up in Delhi next year. So, with athletics and sport running through my head that day, the cynic in me wondered whether Indian business actually supports sport – beyond Cricket.

We know of examples like Lakshmi Mittal supporting tennis stars, Vijay Mallya, TCS and ICICI being involved in Formula 1, but does support for athletics and other lesser publicised sports really run through the veins of India’s business leaders? In the UK, we have clear examples of corporate money from Aviva supporting athletics, is there an equivalent in India? Will the Commonwealth Games change this?

It was Dame Kelly who made the point most eloquently to me when she said that the benefits of supporting kids from the grassroots are huge. Without this investment, as a society we’re poorer for the simple reason that sports personalities have long been considered the best role models for future generations to emulate.

It’d be great to learn as to whether Indian businesses are opening up to supporting grass-roots sports. If you have a view, let me know.

Indian Entrepreneurship – Lakshmi Mittal, the trailblazer

Was invited to the Emerging India awards yesterday evening with global icon Lakshmi Mittal in attendance and Trade Ministers from India and the UK -Kamal Nath and John Hutton playing second fiddle to an audience comprising some of India’s best SME’s, who had flown all the way to this prestigious awards ceremony that celebrates India’s talent in nurturing entrepreneurs.

Lakshmi Mittal, in his keynote address, spoke of his challenges when he was first starting out in the steel business. He recollected how the production of his first tonne of steel brought a profound sense of satisfaction that even his 110 million tonne Arcelor Mittal doesn’t match.

In his address, Kamal Nath highlighted: “…with the internet and a Fed-ex account, SME’s are able to compete with some of the world’s biggest companies.” As the promoter of a SME myself, I couldn’t agree more.

India’s banker – KV Kamath, CEO of ICICI Bank paid a tribute to Indian entrepreneurship and highlighted that the number of SME’s applying for an award had gone through the roof. With 20,000 applications made in the first year, this year, a staggering 300,000 Indian SME’s had applied in 10 categories!!

We’ve all heard key statistics that make Indians tick – for example, India has a population of over 1 billion, a middle class bigger than the entire population of America, or more engineering graduates than all European countries put together etc, but the one fact about India that knocks me off my feet everytime is that India is a young country. Simply put, there are more young people in India than China and almost everywhere else.

I’ve posted a blog previously in which I explain that certain traits are built into our DNA. I believe that entrepreneurship is exactly one of those traits that is built into Indian people. I can confidently predict that the trend of Indian entrepreneurs taking on and winning global boardroom battles, like Lakshmi Mittal, has only just begun.