Mukesh Ambani Bets Big On Sports,Reliance To Foray Into Basketball !


Basketball Really? Even i was surprised but when the name Reliance is involved it does not take long to believe, does it. RIL group has signed an agreement with sports agency IMG for the formation of Indian Professional Basketball League (IBL). Apparently, Basketball Federation of India has given the go ahead to this agreement which involves commercial rights to basketball in India right from broadcasting, sponsorship, merchandising etc.

Betting Big On The Success That Is IPL

Let’s face it. Even with all the controversies surrounding it, IPL indeed was a game changer of sports. The whole concept of professional leagues in sports germinated in India with IPL and has now become a phenomenon. Apparently, IMG was the sports agency which helped established IPL and is now trying to replicate the same model in alternative sports. Well, I have my skepticism of the choice of sport here because Cricket and Basketball in India is like comparing Apples to Oranges. However, with the financial backing of the RIL group, i think IMG can actually do wonders in making Basketball a well known game in India too.

basketball4Are You Ready To Dunk?

It is also interesting to see the new found interest in sports from the corporate sector. RIL group already owns Mumbai Indians and so do other corporate like GMR Group, Kingfisher etc. Moreover, UB Group has also made huge investments to put India on the Formula One map with its team Force India which may not have made a big impact is surely improving with time.Mahindra group already has a tie-up with the NBA for promoting basketball among the youth.

Could the venture really turn basketball from a hobby game to a game with mass following like Cricket. In my opinion, if basketball can get half as popular as cricket it would be nothing short of a miracle. There are reasons as to why the Indian Professional Basketball League might work for the better

  • A 30 year contract means that both the involved parties are putting long term commitments into making this venture a success. The focus initially is to help improve the infrastructure and develop the sport in India. So, both IMG and RIL group are expected to work from the grass routes to think of getting a return on the investment from the venture
  • New avenues for sporting talent in India: Over 1 Billion population and the only sport people are crazy about is Cricket. A lot of this is attributed to the lack of investments in developing other sports in India and obviously the fame and money that only cricket players enjoy right now. With new avenues opening up and enough financial backing, we might see a new breed of youngster picking up basketball as an option

All in all, a very good news and a welcome initiative to promote alternate games in India.Only time will tell if IBL would be able to replicate the success of IPL but the chances of basketball becoming a well known sport in India are ripe. Call it the world cup fever but i am wondering if Football will find any takers because as a nation we could definitely see some improvement in this particular sport too.

What do you think of the Indian Professional Basketball league? Do you think RIL has played the right cards by choosing Basketball as the next big sporting spectacle for India?

  1. ajeet says

    It is to inform you that i am a bona fide customer of Reliance communication for the last 8 years. I have noticed two instances in which
    your company has deducted money for some self activated services without my consent. Even after inquiry and request your customer
    care representatives do not return the deducted money. I have tried to inform Nodal officer on( tenth /feb /2011) whole the day but he didn’t received my call .

    Details of instances :

    1. Company has activated some service(morning tunes) and deducted Rs 30 on 5th January 2011 which was deactivated on 8th jan 011
    2. Company again activated some another service ( movie masala magic ) and deducted Rs 49 on 7th feb 2011 which was deactivated
    on 9th feb 2011

    These types of instances were occurring for the last one year which were not taken seriously or noted but this time i have noted with date.
    I had so much faith in your company but these acts are trembling my faith. This a wrong method of collecting revenue from customers. This is unwontedly forcing me to shift from your service . To restore my faith in your company return my money and ensure me that these acts will not be repeated again in the future.

    Ajeet Singh
    H.N.O 15 Nangli poona
    Po Alipur Delhi -36
    CDMA CONNECTION NUMBER (MOB. NO.) — 9350999037

  2. Nikhil Bhagia says

    @Arpan & Aniket: 1). diversification is essential for equality of opportunities & creation of more! we are a nation of around 1 billion peops & just 1 sport is way too much! it makes them very powerful, & hence such things happen in IPL! Ankit rightly said, “1 anar 100 bimar”
    2). we are talking of 30 years, which is quite long, & with reliance being into it, i assume, soon we would be having world-class infrastructure & global-experts coming as coaches. and in sch case, there would be many playing basketball since their childhood, with passion & enthu dropping in! [everything follows money! ;)]
    3). when it comes to advertisers, well……… is way too big & rich right now, so in a way companies who can’t afford cricket, might drop in here!
    4). in a way, i won’t mind it telling ‘being socially aware’……as sch initiatives by companies are very beneficial to society!

    1. Ankit says

      Hey Nikhil, thanks for the inputs there!! i echoed ur thoughts in the earlier comment.

  3. Aniket Ray says

    My fear is that Basketball may not work out in India and as a result advertisers would then shy from other non-cricket sports which may otherwise have worked.

    1. Ankit says

      Aniket, even i have my doubts but come to think of it. The JV has everything one can ask for Financial Muscle+Branding+Execution capabilities. So even if Basketball is not popular in India , advertisers will get a chance to shell out lesser cash and yet attract the eye balls.
      Its a 30 year contract so there is ample time for developing the sport as well as developing the brand in my opinion

  4. Arpan Kar says

    Why do people need the feel to diversify in to areas which is not their core competency? This may turn out to be one big flop. The core of the IPL magic was weaved by people who understood cricket, to say the least..

    1. Ankit says

      Arpan, valid thoughts!! Even i was wondering if Reliance is actually going to start its own ‘Sports’ vertical :-)
      But, i doubt if Reliance is primarily using its financial muscle and the branding power, the execution and the management of the whole thing is with IMG. Given the long gestation period and the benefits this could have for the youth i think it is a prudent move from all perspectives.

  5. Altaf Rahman says

    Nice post Ankit,
    The idea of professional leagues in all sports is a very good development for India. May be after the concept settles down in India for Leagues for diff sports, I hope may be after 20 years the developed India will see some youngsters choosing sport as a profession as happens in West. Then only we have any chance of compiting in games. Till that happens we are a one sport nation. Till now we are fed the idea by movies, media that if you want to grow rich instantly either play cricket or become an actor. This outlook has to change. (Have you seen Banty aur Babli? Why Babli comes to city?)
    I hope some day we have IKL (Indian Kabaddi League) and IKhL (Indian Kho Kho League) too to promote Indian national games.

    1. Ankit says

      Exactly Altaf, initiatives like these will open new avenues for youngsters for whom the only choice of making sports a career is cricket which creates a ‘ 1 anar 100 bimar’ .

      Like the Bunty and Babli reference and it symbolizes the need for an equal oppurtunity platform. I have my doubts with promoting the national games because if Corporate sector is invovled they would rather put their money in a global sport (More bang for the buck and global branding)

  6. Viral says

    Hello Ankit,

    Nice posting on sports. Wonderful write-up.

    After reading your last line (the one luring the comments from readers), I was reminded of a promotional Ad with slogan as “MTNL hai, to sahi hai”. I am tempted to use the same slogan over here as well, modified as “Reliance hai, to Jarur Sahi hoga“.

    We saw how mastermind of Reliance venturing into one of those IPL teams clicked and most of these IPL teams are being valued at dizzying valuations, irrespective of whether most of these groups have reached a break-even point or not. People are sensing value in such teams going farther into future.

    Similarly, we can as well presume that Reliance could have yet again made a right decision by venturing into Basket Ball sports – at a time when it is not-so-popular sporting event in India. Once the infrastructure develops and the particular sport catches craze and ‘M’ power, Reliance is expected to benefit from its First mover advantage.

    1. Ankit says

      Thanks for the kind words.

      The name Reliance does have a ring to it , doesn it. However, i cant say the same for MTNL :-)

      But, agree with the part that Reliance is entering a game which there is literally no presence at all and that provides them with the opportunity of making a big impact (Something is better than nothing analogy) :-)

      Lets see how this works out and hope someone adopts football too

  7. Madhav Shivpuri says

    Hi Ankit,

    Good to see your post after a while.

    I am pleased to learn of this development. Irrespective of whether this is good news for Reliance’s shareholders, it is a good opportunity for Indian youth to make a career in sports.

    My guess is that basketball is probably a good choice over football because of the space needed for the stadiums. So RIL can put up may be 5 basketball stadiums instead of just 1 football field. Also, the nature of the game – professional basketball games are indoor so one could put basketball stadiums in hot or cold areas without having to worry about grass etc. If nothing else, the hope that an Indian player could someday play in NBA and signing multi-million dollar contracts of which a significant portion could go RIL etc., could all be factors.

    Just a thought – RIL may buy or start a TV basketball (or sports) channel and generate revenues off that. Sell rights to games, sell merchandise, advertising in stadiums etc. Lots of revenue streams can be thought of.

    1. Ankit says

      Thanks for the warm welcome Madhav. Have been caught up with lots of work and going through my brain freeze days, hence the decline in frequency of posts.
      Like the infrastructure comparison angle in the favor of basketball, but then again popularity factor is something that tilts the score in the favour of football. But then as they say, Money has the power and Reliance=Money. Who knows IMG might as well pull it off like IPL. As for the revenue stream, the gestation period might be on the higher side but Mr.Ambani is in this for money and he will obviously generate revenue out of the deal

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