The brand IPL is about highlighting performance
Last Sunday when the unknown Ajinkya Rahane scored 103 runs off just 60 balls at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, which helped the Rajasthan Royals to score a massive 195 runs at IPL season five, my mind went to just one ethos the IPL is all about – highlighting performance.
It is how IPL differentiates itself from the other forms of entertainment in the cricketing world. Credit must be given to its controversial founder Lalith Modi for giving life to this brand which incidentally is valued at $4.2 billion as per the latest estimates emerging from brand valuers.
Some can argue that the issues that Modi faced such as the Kochi issue and the Sony deal could have wrecked this brand but in my mind, that was a failure on the part of corporate India for not supporting this power brand by giving it an appropriate structure to drive IPL Inc. to greater heights. Let’s accept it – top entrepreneurs are not good managers.
IPL in my view not only launched a new brand in South Asia that has garnered a following that not even Coke or Pepsi has been able to do but it also made brand India young, vibrant and contemporary. The question is, what can Sri Lanka learn from this experience?
Pick-up one – being relevant
The real power of the four billion dollar-worth business can be highlighted by the increasing demand from even more brand names wanting to be a part of IPL. In season four, it attracted the Pune Warriors and Team Kochi which explains the power of branding in business if it’s relevant in the eyes of customer.
If I may draw a parallel to Sri Lanka, we tried on many fronts to build brand Sri Lanka. Be it the Commonwealth Games bid, Sri Lankan IPL or for that matter Expo 2012, let’s accept it; we fell short of the challenge. There are many reasons for this performance but what resulted was that Sri Lanka could not add value to brand Sri Lanka. It’s true that Sri Lanka’s economy expanded to $59 billion of GDP but we must also look at the brand value gain, given the many issues that is battering brand Sri Lanka after the fall-out in Geneva. It’s time that Sri Lanka starts working on earning a reputation with performance rather than trying to construct an image with pre-publicity advertising.
Pick-up two – player cap of $9 million
To regulate the brand IPL so that one team will not be able to grab the best talent, a player cap has been introduced at nine million dollars per team. This ensures that talent is evenly spread across the teams and that a balanced perspective is maintained by each team’s management.
The pick-up for Sri Lanka here is that we too need a push on one or two key initiatives that can propel Sri Lanka to the next level of development.
Ceylon Tea is very clearly one of them, with a communication budget in excess of one billion rupees. The good news is that on a novel private-public partnership, the bidding process is off the ground which augurs well for Sri Lanka. But the issue is that whilst hard work has been put into correcting the demand side, from the supply side we are falling part.
The most recent data shows that apart from the corporate sector production volumes of tea declining in the recent past, we now have the small holders sector that accounts for almost 60 per cent plus of the national volumes also reporting a drop to 184 million kg of tea in comparison to the 212 million kgs of tea that was produced in 2010. We must address this issue with urgency given that it is all about the senility of the tea stock in Sri Lanka, which is very serious for the future health of the industry.
Pick-up three – war on talent
At the IPL 2012 auction, the top three players were Ravindra Jadeja at two million dollars, Mahela Jayewardena at $1.4 million and Vinay Kumar who was bought for one million dollars which highlights the war on talent.
I guess the lesson for Sri Lanka is that we too need to introduce the best talent to be introduced to key public sector organisations as well as bring in a private sector operating structure to CPC, CEB, Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin so that performance will be the ethos of evaluation. But for this to happen, the political economy will need to lay off as if this does not happen, we will not be able to rebuild the Sri Lankan economy.
Currently all the above entities are running at a loss and are a drain on the Treasury. But a point to note is that the current poor performance is not a reflection of the talent in the organisation, given that it is a political economy at play.
Pick-up four – allow to innovate
Shilpa Shetty, the co-owner of Rajathan Royals, commented that even though teams have the individual players on contract, one must give them the freedom to innovate. If not, IPL will not be able to unleash the real talent of brand India.
My take on this is that whilst there is a lot of focus on tourism as a future growth industry, the reality is that it only brings in $0.8 billion into the country. May be 2012 will see it increase to one billion dollars.
On the other hand, the IT/BPO industry that is not highlighted much in the media attracts almost $0.4 billion. Hence, it is very important that whilst we focus on tourism, there must be an equal opportunity given to other sectors with strong support from policymakers, be it food and beverage, value-added rubber, cinnamon and may be even the handloom industry in Sri Lanka.
Pick-up five – know your consumer
IPL, just like any other consumer brand, targets consumers who have many other options to meet the same need, be it spending two hours at the gym, hanging out with a group of friends, chilling out in a night club or watching their favourite TV programme at home. Hence, the only way to lure them was by providing a carnival-like atmosphere with music, dancers and excitement with ruthless competitiveness that helped attract 80,000 spectators to a venue. In fact IPL has over taken the viewer-ship ratings of the Indian soap operas which ably explains the viewers captured.
The pick-up for Sri Lanka is that we need to understand the demands of superpower nations such as the US, Australia, Canada, UK and maybe France and develop a strong, sharp foreign policy strategy. The weekend papers carried an interview with experts like Professor Rohan Gunaratne who very clearly spelled out that the Geneva fall-out was a result of weak foreign policy. I guess we must address this issue given the ramifications that this can have on Sri Lanka in the future.
Pick-up six – not working on nostalgia
The 2012 auction sent a signal to the world that performance was more important than the world’s nostalgia. Some of the big names left out included Mark Boucher, Ajantha Mendis and Michael Neser which means that in today’s world, it is sheer performance that works.
The pick-up here for me is that all line ministries must be focused on the economic war that is taking place due the recent price hikes. Inflation is creating pressure on purses and the traders’ feedback from the New Year season reflects this very clearly. We now must build on the good work done on the Divi Negamu programme and focus on industrial estate development.
Pick-up seven – working with anyone
If we carefully examine the players in IPL season five, we see that until the auction was over, no one knew which team they belonged to which is very different in comparison to the traditional game of cricket where school, club and country were the routine divisions. This shows that any player had be ready to play the game with a new set of faces and this too will keep getting rotated as the tournament goes on. The pick-up for me is that in today’s economy, the world is moving at such a fast pace that there is no option but to learning to work with the world. Some can be sympathisers of the LTTE whilst other can be supportive of the Government’s efforts of reconciliation and peace building but the fact is that we must engage and work with every country. If not, the good efforts by the private and public sector towards economic development can be lost.
Whilst the IPL is a money-maker for the players, franchise owners and the government, the pick-ups to managing the economy or a country cannot be quantified. I guess the challenge for Sri Lanka is how we earn the reputation that the country deserves given that it is almost touching three years since the war came to a close.
The author is a marketer by profession and a public policymaker by practice. He serves on many private, public and international public sector management boards of the country. The thoughts are strictly his personal views and not the views of any organisation he serves in Sri Lanka or internationally.