Kabaddi is undoubtedly growing as a popular sport. But, it is still in its early days and consistent efforts and backing would be needed for it to grow to further heights. What it has established is the fact that the audience is hungry for more and has embraced a makeover-version of a traditional homegrown sport.
We interviewed Mr. Anupam Goswami, Chief Executive Officer - Mashal Sports and League Commissioner - Pro Kabaddi League, to know his thoughts and vision on the future of Kabaddi. Along with him, are the views of Mr. Debraj Tripathy, Ex. Managing Director, Mediacom South Asia and Ms. Shilpi Tibrewal, Senior Vice President, Vizeum India.
Kabaddi has been seen as a homegrown sport. Now with its urbanization, it is becoming popular in metros and among millennials. What are your views on it?
We are gratified by this makeover and also cognizant that these are still days of early success for Kabaddi and PKL. This success owes so much to massive ambition and effort that our stakeholders have brought to the sport, but the next round growth will call for even greater vision and effort by all stakeholders and partners in PKL in particular.
With the addition of four new teams in season 5, PKL became India's biggest sporting league in terms of geographical representation with 12 franchises from 11 states on board. How would you predict its growth trajectory?
There is firm evidence of an appetite for more Pro Kabaddi among sports-loving fans as well as investors. Pro Kabaddi is the standout sports league in India for a season-on-season increase in television viewership with very impressive engagement levels. Our expansion to 12 teams in Season V is a clear growth benchmark for sports leagues in India. Significantly, there were more applicants than the four new teams that we selected. All teams of Pro Kabaddi are doing well for valuation. So, there will be strong and sustained market interest for next round expansion of the league. The actual decision to do so will, of course, a strategic choice for Mashal, in consultation with all its principal stakeholders including Star. In the meantime, the team will continue to be augmented on several counts - players, formats, quality of the event, and much more that already make it an exemplary value proposition in Indian sportscape.
PKL is attracting bigger brands on board now. Is it on its way to becoming the IPL for brands? How has it become more marketable over the years?
IPL has fantastic equity and following in our country, as does its sport overall. We do aspire to it, and some of our early success does give a basis for our ambition. On the other hand, it is already evident that different sports leagues will offer different meaning and engagement to diverse brands in India. Eventually, and not too far off, brands will identify and associate with variegated equity and values amidst sport in India. The PKL proposition is already offering its own distinctive value and efficiency of association. That is the key reason why its bouquet of brand association has steadily improved for spread as well as depth.
A league like PKL offers brands an opportunity for some unique activations, how can brands take advantage of such opportunities by doing customized activations?
Customized activations will always be the pathway for unique association and yields from PKL and Kabaddi, and any other emerging sport for that matter. PKL will always offer its own unique cost efficiencies and asset yields (such as players) compared to most other leagues in the country. It has a unique Indian sentiment for vast demographics. Of course, this potential needs to be built and exploited in a honed and focused way.
What could be, in your opinion, the ways to keep the popularity of Kabaddi growing? And with the growing popularity, what will make it a more attractive option for future sponsors?
We will continue to ambitiously expand the geographies of passion for the sport. This itself offers tremendous fertility for PKL's communication, content, and experience for fans, spectators, and viewers. This also is a pointer to PKL's biggest strength - that Star plays such an affirmative and path-breaking role as the principal investor in the League; as well a truly world-class broadcast partner for scale and quality of content as well as its unmatchable consumer base across its traditional and new-age platforms, including Hotstar.
Where do you see the league in the next 3 years?
It will fantastically be stronger for its competition, fan and sponsor engagement, and uniqueness as India's gift to the world of sport.
Points Of View
Kabaddi is now a popular sport among kids and is growing in scale, even in Urban Markets, will it still continue to attract the tier 2 and tier 3 markets? How does that work for you?
Ex. Managing Director, Mediacom South Asia
Thanks to the Pro Kabaddi League, Kabaddi has become a game that kids have begun to play in urban areas, particularly large towns and cities. The game was anyway always popular in rural areas. I see the popularity of the game only growing, across town classes with a new generation of kids learning the game (it is a new game for their generation). The contemporary imagery that has been built around the game is helping hasten this growth.
Senior Vice President, Vizeum India
"Rise like lions after slumber" Percy Shelley, a renowned poet couldn't have been more correct when he wrote about the giant revolution which rose from the ashes to conquer the heartland - such is the case with the Sport of Kabbadi.
Traditionally known as a rural sport, this game had a significant fan base in the past, India's past dominance in Kabaddi across all international competitions left a solid foundation.
The advent of Pro Kabaddi League has revolutionized and reinvigorated the game, which started just about 5 years ago, The Franchise Model, from Celebrity Owners to Packed Stadiums, the league has witnessed tremendous traction not only in tier 2 and 3 cities, even in the urban areas. Citing the immense popularity of the tournament & its future growth potential to be a global sport , the league has managed to attract large sponsorships year after year
The rise in viewership is not only organic, but disruptive, PKL has managed to touch a staggering 40% of the total TV viewership which again is coming from different prop starta, an astounding increase of 51 % from the viewership it gained over the course of its first four seasons, With 84.4 mn followers & engagement across various digital platforms the digital impact is equally massive and worthy of a celebration.
A Combative Team Game for the masses, by the masses has managed to also garner adequate fan base even amongst the children, continues to display its growth Cycle and will soon overtake the likes of being the most watched alternative game in India other than IPL. The Rise of Pro Kabaddi League has paved the way for other sporting events / leagues to garner, enough traction levels in curating interest for sports other than cricket not only in the Metros but across pan India making people believe and realize the tremendous opportunity this game is offering to the players and the excitement and adrenaline rush it offers to its viewers.