Television

'There are several properties, both on the events and TV side, in the pipeline' : Ravi Krishnan - IMG/TWI - South Asia managing director

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For many in the industry, the demise of the Lakme India Fashion Week (IFW), the event that marks the high point of India's fashion calendar, from IMG's roster signals the end of the IMG decade as the dominant force in the sports and events management arena in country. Comment.



It is certainly incorrect to say “the demise of the event also signals the end of the IMG decade as the dominant force in the sports and events management arena in the country.” Over the 10 years that we have been in India, we have been involved in many successful projects, which for a variety of reasons have either evolved or been discontinued e.g. Sahara Cup was the highest profile event at its time but was discontinued for political reasons. At that time, events such as LIFW were created to tap the opportunities that existed in the marketplace.

It's also important that I clarify that whilst LIFW was the highest profile event that IMG conducted, in does not nor ever has represented the most significant income stream for us. IMG is proud of the success that LIFW has attained, and the role played by IMG in taking it this far. It has clearly established us as the commercial force in the fashion and lifestyle space in India. As our competitors attempt to enter this space by undercutting margins and therefore profitability, we will continue to achieve firsts with a focus on bottomlines. We are very clear that we are in business and will therefore make decisions on sound business principles, and will not make emotional decisions related to properties / projects / federations. We will clearly not be exiting this space and have several ideas that we feel will be commercially viable to implement in this increasingly evolving and fragmented market place.

It is necessary for rights-holders to be careful about accepting offers from organizations which may not have the requisite expertise to deliver. We have always been a company that focuses on over delivering rather than over promising. A wrong decision by a rights holder in choosing a marketing partner could set it and its event back many years if the terms upon which the representative are hired are not adhered to or surpassed.

IMG is in the business of sports, lifestyle and entertainment and had a profitable business right from its entry in India over a decade ago. As the market evolves, our approach to the business, as always, will evolve with reference to the opportunities in an ever-changing world. This dynamism will be exhibited by announcements in the future.

One reason for the decline in IMG has been ascribed to a succession of departures of key personnel in the last few years, particularly on the television side. What course corrections are being done to arrest the slide as far as talent is concerned.



Personnel movements have become a feature in many industries as the Indian economy continues to grow. Even in times when IMG was adding new properties to its portfolio, personnel changes were happening behind the scenes. It's simply a business reality in all industries.

We have never been more confident in the capabilities of our personnel than we are with our existing team and will be adding to this team based on the forthcoming needs as we see appropriate.

One would expect that after the death of Mark McCormack and the takeover of IMG by investment company Forstmann Little & Co, some tough questions will be asked from top management on these issues. What is the new parent company's thinking on the India story?



The Forstmann Little management has brought new thinking to our business and are very focused on India. They see much potential in a variety of our core businesses and in a variety of new areas where we can leverage our global strengths. Plans are afoot, but none that we can talk about right now.

What are the key properties in India currently on the IMG roster and are there any new deals expected in the near term that might make up for the loss of fashion Week.



IMG/TWI has proven its resilience in this space through the effects of the Asian crisis and 9/11 and their resultant effects on the Indian economy. Further IMG shone through the effects of the tobacco self-regulation e.g. when ITC decided to pull out of the sponsorships, it meant that 3 major properties were left without the presenting sponsor e.g. the Indian Cricket Team, the Indian Open Golf tournament and the ATP event in Chennai. It was IMG that successfully found new sponsors in such a crisis i.e. Indian Cricket Team (Sahara - please note that contrary to what is widely written about, it was IMG that bought the rights of the Indian Cricket team from the BCCI and sold them to Sahara via their agency), Indian Open Golf (Royal Challenge) and ATP event in the Chennai (Tata). With time, these properties have also evolved in their terms with the evolving market scenario.

Currently, two of the key properties in India are the Chennai Open and Scorpio Speedster as well as various TV productions such as the recent Sunfeast Open, the historic Indo-Pakistan series among others. There are several large-scale properties both, on the events and on the television side that have been in the pipeline, most of which will come to fruition in 2006. These will more than compensate for any revenue loss from LIFW.

While Fashion Week was a big event, it is our belief that it is in television sports properties where the real money lies. What is being done to ramp up on that front?



You are certainly right that television represents a key area of growth in the sports and entertainment industry. We too recognize this. In this context, one thing we have seen in the West is the demise of several companies in our business e.g. ISL, Sports World, and several others who paid exorbitant guarantees to compete in the sports and entertainment space and then realized both to their own detriment and to those that unwisely accepted these unsustainable sums, that they were indeed, unsustainable. It’s a lesson for all rights holders that sometimes the too-good-to-be-true deal is indeed too good to be true.

What are the key positives in the IMG story at the moment?



In the 10 years that IMG has been in India, we have been responsible for many firsts and path-breaking deals in the country. Some of these milestones are:

Cricket:

1. Sahara Indian cricket team sponsorship - Rs. 100-crore team sponsorship deal for the BCCI, the largest cricketing deal in the history of the game

2. Sahara Cup - hugely popular cricket tournament between India and Pakistan; the only official One-Day Internationals ever to have been played in North America

3. Samsung Cup - IMG secured the deal last year for Samsung during this historic tour, which was a great marketing success by all standards

4. Scorpio Speedster - India's largest non-match cricket activity, the hunt for India's fastest bowler

Tennis:

1. Chennai Open ATP event - is India and South Asia's only ATP International Series event, and one of only seven in all of Asia.

2. ABN Amro Tennis Challenge 2004 - which gives India's leading singles tennis players a golden chance to play in the qualifying round of the high profile ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament at Rotterdam.

Golf:

1. The Indian Open - South Asia's largest and most prestigious golf event

2. BILT Skins with Vijay Singh - a unique event developed for BILT, the event saw the World No.1 golfer play in India for the first time.

3. Other High Profile Corporate Events - these include the Standard Chartered Golf Day with Nick Faldo, HSBC Golf Day with Colin Montgomerie, and Deutsche Bank Golf Day with the Australian cricket team

Fashion/Lifestyle:

1. LIFW - A case study by itself, LIFW, conceived and created by IMG along with the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI)

What is evidenced by the above is that the space is dynamic and notwithstanding the fact that certain income streams come and go, which is a fact of life in our business, IMG and TWI have stayed ahead of the curve. This will continue to be the case in the future in the sports and entertainment business. Our depth and breadth of understanding of the local market and continued good relationships with key stakeholders and the buoyant Indian economy means we are very excited about future prospects. Our combination of global knowledge and our local experience will lead to several exciting projects in the future.

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