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Star's Sanjay Gupta on India’s booming sports ecosystem

Gupta believes India's sports industry has momentum to touch $10 bn over 5-7 years.

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MUMBAI: In 2017, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) had set a goal envisioning 30 crore kids playing at least one hour a day. This vision had to battle the mindsets of parents, schools and businesses, the main roadblock that would have come in the way.

A year down the line, the CII Scorecard 2018 forum saw Star India MD Sanjay Gupta praising the thought and vision to make India play. He said, “It has been a year since then, and I cannot express how proud I am of the magnitude of change in just one year.”

Gupta also compared the IPL viewership with the number of people who voted in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, stating, “Over 70 crore fans came in to enjoy IPL – 70 crore! Compare this to the number of people who voted in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the biggest elections that India has even seen, of 55 crore. And they all spent a lot more time, glued to their television sets or mobile screens, enjoying this spectacle. Such a growth in an established sport like cricket is truly remarkable.”

Five years ago, the Indian sports industry only had two domestic leagues, but now there are over 15 leagues across kabaddi, football, wrestling, boxing and badminton.

He believes that the Khelo India school games, launched this year are perhaps the best marker of this shift. For the first time, the spotlight was on a grassroots sports program. 16-year old Nisar Ahmed, who missed breaking the world record in 100-metre sprint by 0.2 seconds, has now been selected as one of the 14 athletes to undergo training by Usain Bolt’s coach in Jamaica. Another athlete is from Tamil Nadu named Sumathira Balakrishnan, who completed the 400 metre, just 1.38 seconds behind the Rio Olympics’ gold winner. With scholarships being given to 734 young and upcoming sports stars in this edition itself, it has provided a template for shaping the future of these boys and girls.

Gupta believes that while there is no contention that sports is good for society, private enterprises have proven that sports is good for business as well. The sports start-up ecosystem is buzzing with activity. Entrepreneurs are building business models across the length and breadth of sports – from eduSports that enables schools to adopt sports education, Anthill Creations that creates cost effective play areas in unused spaces, ‘Sports For All’ to GoSporto that gives people access to playgrounds around them.

“All the startups have resulted in a step change in the sports industry, which has grown from $1.3 billion to $2.7 billion in just a matter of five years. And in my mind, this journey has only begun. Sports is still at 0.1 per cent share of our GDP, while globally the industry is sized at ~0.5 per cent of GDP share. Given where we are, we have the momentum to become a $10 billion industry in the next five to seven years,” Gupta added.

Large corporates have already shown interest and committed their support to CII’s “Making India Play” fund. The companies are Tata Trust, HCL, Ambuja Cement, Bharti Foundation and ACC.

“Overall contribution towards corporate social responsibility is close to $1.8 billion or approximately Rs 12,000 crore every year. Even if we invest half this fund, Rs 6,000 crore towards building this infrastructure and capabilities, we will be able to touch 12 crore kids in the first year itself. Over the next few years, we will be able to reach out to every single kid in the country. It can truly catapult sports to another orbit,” he added.

In the end, Gupta urged all stakeholders present at the event and across the country to invest their CSR fund towards building sports.

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