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.

IPL in England

With the BCCI’s decision of shifting the IPL out of India, one would think that the chances of the Congress Party returning to office are diminished as a result of this one decision. Anything other than this is simply not comprehensible for the simple reason that cricket is religion in India. Or so it would seem..

IPL Commissioner – Lalit Modi’s ability to articulate and convey key messages has to be applauded, as I believe he recognised and stemmed any criticism by positioning the general election as being of paramount priority to India and for once, cricket needed to come second! In a land in which cricket is religion and Sachin Tendulkar is God, Lalit Modi’s played his master innings by rolling out personalities like Sachin and Shah Rukh Khan to reinforce his messages as he realises that the last thing he or the IPL wants to be accused of is being ‘anti-national’.

As we’re in an election cycle, It goes without saying that the Opposition is using this opportunity to paint the Congress as being soft on security matters; and the Congress realising that in a country where cricket is taken so seriously, it needed to get its rebuttals in quickly.

So, would the IPL work in England?

There’s no doubt that the ECB, like every other cricketing nation, was green with envy with what they witnessed last year in India. By rolling out the red carpet to the BCCI, the ECB would undoubtedly regain a central role in international cricket, and if it plays its cards well, would suggest that the ‘Indian’ is substituted by ‘International’ in the title of the competition.

With regards to the logic of shifting to England, Sachin was right in saying that whilst the Indian public wouldn’t have the same experience as last time, the larger Indian diaspora living in the UK would come out to support their teams, as they do everytime India tours here.

Even with our unpredictable weather, Easter weekend and May Bank holiday coming in between, I believe that having it here is for the greater good of the game.