CEO JSW Sports

Meet The Member: “Current Scenario Provides The Sporting Industry A Good Opportunity To Accelerate Adoption Of Technology & Innovate” – JSW Sports CEO

June 22, 2020

iSportconnect spoke with Mustafa Ghouse, Chief Executive Officer, JSW Sports. JSW Sports, the sports vertical of the JSW Group, owns and operates franchises in three of India’s biggest leagues — IPL (Delhi Capitals), Indian Super League (Bengaluru FC) and Pro Kabaddi League (Haryana Steelers). The JSW Group has also led the establishment of the Inspire Institute of Sport, India’s first privately funded high-performance training centre for future Olympians, in Bellary, Karnataka.

How different and difficult it is going to be for the sporting realm in India amidst COVID19?

The impact from COVID-19 is being felt across the board and sports is no exception. In fact, the sporting industry relies heavily on events and therefore, there would be a definite financial impact that would be felt throughout the sector. Besides the impact on professional sports leagues and Olympic sports, there is a massive group of allied industries, semi-professional and amateur athletes, grounds staff and other professionals who have been impacted by the pause in sporting activity. To use an example, the Sports Good Manufacturing Industry is massive in India and a significant portion of the products are exported (bats, footballs etc). This industry alone does business of close to $1 billion annually an employs 500,000 people. Given the extent of India’s lockdown, it’ll be key for the industry as a whole to address these aspects as we move towards some sense of normalcy. I do not think we can really say sports is well and truly back until the maidans (fields) in Mumbai and Kolkata are back with kids playing cricket and football all over.

So yes, it is going to very different for sure, but it also provides the industry a good opportunity to accelerate adoption of technology and innovate in terms of improving the sporting experience for everyone involved.

How drastic has been the impact on your business as IPL/PKL may get cancelled this year as JSW Sports owns franchises in these leagues?

There will be a definite impact on business due to the postponement/cancelling of events. Globally, there are reports that sponsorship rights-fees are expected to fall around 37% year-on-year. While it is too early for us to be able to quantify this in exact terms, we are bracing for a 25-30% impact on our topline for this year. This would, of course, be subject to how the situation normalises over the coming months. For instance, all our conversations with the leagues we are involved with seem to suggest that there is a possibility for the IPL, PKL and ISL to go ahead in some form this year. So while it is almost certain that it won’t be like a regular season, the finer details of how the matches do go ahead, what sort of travel, staff and spectator restrictions are in place etc will all play a role in sponsor interest and consequently, on the financial conditions of the franchises.

What are the brands JSW Sports teams currently work with? How do you narrow down on brands you want to be associated with?

At JSW Sports, we work with 80+ brands from different segments across our sporting properties, which include the 3 franchises (across cricket, football and kabaddi), our roster of Olympic talents and the Inspire Institute of Sport- the High Performance Training Centre we’ve led the establishment of. Through our assets, we feel that we are well positioned in the Indian sports ecosystem to cater to a range of brand marketing needs. For example, we’ve been able to drive some milestone partnerships with Kia Motors, for their first sports marketing association in India through Bengaluru FC, and Bridgestone, an IOC TOP Sponsor, who have partnered with the Track & Field Program at IIS part of their CSR initiative. The common thread across all our sports properties is a focus on professionalising sport in India and developing young sporting talent for the nation. We’ve found that brands looking to reach the aspirational youth of India find such partnerships very effective. Similarly, with non-cricket sports getting more attention in India and more Indians becoming competitive at the world stage, we’ve seen a lot of interest from brands wanting to associate with our Olympic talent.

We know Bengaluru FC is one of the top teams in ISL. What is the future of football in India? Like LaLiga is being broadcast on Facebook, you reckon the ISL can follow suit?

Bengaluru FC was started with a hope to bring about a change in the way football teams are run in India and the journey so far has been extremely satisfying for us. That being said, football is a long-term play for us as management and we’re working on building on a strong foundation that we have been able to set so far through strategic partnerships such as the one we signed with Rangers FC last year. On the broadcast plans and mediums, that is a call for the league to make. The broadcast partner is a key stakeholder in any league and I think Star has done a great job in helping ISL get the visibility it has through its broadcast platforms and Hotstar. As franchise owners, we are in constant touch with the league management and would welcome any move which can unlock value for the league and its teams.

Any plans of venturing into eSports? Is the eSports scene growing in India?

eSports is an interesting space we’re observing closely. Online gaming platforms have seen incredible growth and this has accelerated even more during the past few months. India’s demographic advantage, increasing disposable household incomes and access to data and internet make the online gaming and eSports market an attractive proposition and while we aren’t planning on entering the space at this moment, it is an area we are keeping a close eye on for the future.

CEO JSW Sports