's interview with GroupM ESP managing partner Hiren Pandit
'Course correction will happen from a commercial, team management, and player angle'
Posted on 7 June 2008

For franchisees the inaugural edition of the IPL has been a learning experience. The Hyderabad franchise is no different. While Deccan Chargers finished at the bottom of the table, the franchisee is confident that the investment will pay of in the long term. At the same time, the event was more difficult logistically and also physically than anybody imagined.

GroupM ESP acts as a consultant for the Deccan Chronicle, which owns the Deccan chargers. Ashwin Pinto caught up with GroupM ESP managing partner Hiren Pandit to find out his views on the event



How has the IPL experience been for Deccan Chargers?
It has been a big learning curve. At the same time companies that did not get in will be furious at having missed out. The franchisees have all seen the potential of this event. We now know that this can be built up over the years. The IPL will be of the biggest benefit for those who want long-term gains.

Overall what have the learnings been?
There have been many. Sponsorship needs to be approached in a more effective manner. We were not able to do this earlier due to time constraints. Most of these deals have been for one year and so plans can be revised depending on what the team's standing is. It is still early days. The way television has taken to it has been big. Next year, sponsorship rates will go through the roof.

I believe that the IPL is looking for $ 7 to 8 million for ground co-sponsorship rights. Pepsi will go in for associate sponsorship as they want to block out Coca Cola. Each franchise and sponsor has had more than his fair share of learnings that will have to be put in place.

A lot of course correction will happen. This will be from a commercial angle, team management angle, player angle.

For the next three weeks people will lie low and detox from the IPL frenzy. Then they will start addressing issues. There will be a session with the IPL governing body to do a Swot analysis. Teams will look at their overall structure and check to see if all is right or if it needs to be re-looked at. Some problems may be common.

What were the logistical challenges?
The travel schedule was awful. I had no idea about the days. There was no concept of weekdays and weekends. It was just one haze of cricket matches and cities.

Hats off to the players for performing. We played a match against Chandigarh. The next day we reached Hyderabad at 9:30 at night. The next day there was a match. Where is the time for player recovery? Players luggage also became an issue. It has to be at the airport. These logistics were more complex than had been first imagined.

Then there is media pressure. Several people want to interview a certain set of players at any given point of time. This needs to be scheduled better.

'The trading window will be key but the guidelines are not clear'

For Hyderabad what have the learnings been?
There have been many. Right from stadium management, which we managed well. The ticketing part was an experience. We were not sure initially as to whether we would have 46,000 seats or 38,000. The stadium was under construction. We had to keep in mind media sessions.

Not just us, but everybody will handle this differently next time. We sold out tickets for many matches but we have to still understand the pattern in which ticket sales happen. With sponsors there was confusion due to outfits not being ready on time. For the first week we struggled to get a comprehensive photo of the team. Clothes designs and delivery were a challenge. It took us 15 days to do this. If we had time this would have been planned better.

Is it fair to say that the ones who did well did not have big stars?
I don't think so. The ones who did well played as team. They looked up to one individual. Rajasthan looked up to Shane Warne. The passion with which they played as a unit was terrific. Dhoni inspired Chennai. If a team came together it struck.


Did attitude play a role?
Yes! There were some players who acted as though the IPL was a holiday. So the franchise had a problem. Some players who were in a high profile position prior to the event were stripped clean. The trading window will be key but the guidelines are not clear. Franchisees can get rid of some players and acquire others. The support staff structure will also be looked at in terms of coaches, physios etc.

Why did Hyderabad not fare better?
We had a weak bowling attack. We went on past performance. Some players let us down here. This put additional pressure on the batsmen to add 20 more runs. A team like Rajasthan had the perfect batting and bowling balance. With Delhi we always felt that if the top three batsmen failed we were in with a chance. However they constantly fired until the semi final. Sehwag and Gambhir got out cheaply and they collapsed against Rajasthan.

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