“We See Huge Potential For Borussia Dortmund In India” – Suresh Letchmanan, Borussia Dortmund
By Community | September 11, 2020
Suresh Letchmanan has been working as the head of Asia Pacific for Borussia Dortmund with special responsibilities for the business sectors Sales, Marketing and Business Development since October 2014. Previous to this task he headed the legal and business affairs of Dentsu Sports Asia as the company’s Vice President. Suresh specializes in strategic planning, business development, legal and general management across many areas. iSportconnect spoke with him about BVB’s APAC strategy, virtual tours and latest partnerships. Excerpts:
What’s the strategy behind BVB venturing into the India market?
Borussia Dortmund is following the developments of the Indian football ecosystem latest since the U17 FIFA World Cup which was hosted by India in 2017. Beside the massive socio-economic potential of India, we see a steadily growing interest for football. The quality of the Indian Super League is constantly improving and more and more (young) Indians start to play football in addition to the consumption of the same on TV, which makes India a very interesting market for Borussia Dortmund. We want to reach as many Indian football enthusiasts as possible in order to increase the number of our fans and followers. At the same time, we want to give back to our fans which means that we want to be as close as possible to them in order to make them feel like being a part of the BVB family.
On the technical side of things, we at Borussia Dortmund feel that we can support the further development of the Indian ecosystem especially in terms of sustainable and successful youth development. Therefore we partnered with the ISL club Hyderabad FC to increase our local footprint and to underline our long-term commitment in India.
What is BVB’s current India fan base? What are some of the fan engagement activities the club has undertaken for its Indian audience?
Back in 2017 we had one officially registered fan club founded by a group of passionate BVB fans in Pune. Today we can count on the support of eight official fan clubs spread all over India, from Delhi in the North to Chennai and Kerala in the South and from Mumbai in the West to Kolkata in the East. This makes us extremely proud. Beside the absolute number of Indian fan clubs, we are very happy to see how the clubs are getting more and more connected within the country and how they support each other in their activities. Thus, little by little a network of Indian fans in all major Indian cities is developing and growing which is extremely important and helpful for our future on-ground activities, once the pandemic is over.
In terms of fan engagement activities, we are of course trying to run as many activities online as possible due to the pandemic. The online meet & greets with former players but also with club officials are well received by our fans around the world and we are planning to have some new formats around the start of the new season. But of course, we all hope that the Corona-situation will end soon so that we can organize events on site again, just like we did before the pandemic. Especially the visits of our legends to cities like Kolkata and Bangalore, the watch parties in Cochin, Mumbai and Delhi as well as our football clinic in Mumbai were highlights for us and our local fans and we are hoping to bring this kind of activities back to India soon.
Tell us about your latest partnership with Hyderabad FC. Can we expect similar partnerships in future?
As already mentioned by Borussia Dortmund’s managing director, Carsten Cramer, we are really proud to have Hyderabad FC as our official club partner in India. The colors are obviously a perfect match but what is even more important to us is that we see many similarities at both clubs, e.g. in terms of a sustainable and holistic youth development and the importance of fans for the overall club culture.
Hyderabad FC is BVB’s first and exclusive club partner in India and the fourth international club partner beside the existing ones with Thai Premier League Club Buriram United, Australia’s NPL Club Marconi FC and Iwate Grulla Morioka in Japan.
What are the challenges of working in a complicated country like India where football is still not as popular as cricket?
The predominance and tradition of cricket in Indian is of course challenging for international football clubs but we see huge potential for Borussia Dortmund in India. Especially the upcoming generation seems to be pretty much into football and other sports beside cricket. In addition to the famous Yellow Wall and the overall thrilling atmosphere in Germany’s biggest stadium, the Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund is internationally well recognized for its success to bring young and highly talented players, like Jadon Sancho, Erling Haaland, Christian Pulisic or Gio Reyna, to the next level, which helps us a lot to attract new fans and football lovers in India, especially among the growing community of (young) Indians who enjoy playing football themselves and who are looking for young idols to identify with.
Any plans to focus on women’s football in India?
All of Borussia Dortmund’s grassroots activities are of course open and available for girls. In our first football camp in Mumbai in December 2018 we had a good proportion of really talented girls and we also participated in a conference called ‘She Plays All Win’ which explored opportunities to empower women and girls through football.
But since Borussia Dortmund has no girls and/or women teams in Germany yet, it would be presumptuous to say that we want to focus especially on this topic in India. However, we are absolutely aware of the importance of this topic and we will definitely continue to involve as many girls as possible in all our grassroots activities in India.