IPL 2011 kicks off with $ 42 million

Tuesday, 18 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

At a recent CEO forum that I attended, the President of Four Seasons hotel commented that the real test of success is when a business continues to perform once a leader has left the organisation. Given that I am a fan of IPL more from a brand marketing perspective than it being cricket, my mind reflected on the IPL brand architect Lalith Modi’s leadership.

I guess the mind boggling auction that took place last week where the players fetched 42 million dollars with Gautum Gambhir picking up $2.4 million, Yusuf Pathan $2.1 and Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardena $1.5 million announces that the IPL is on its way for another great performance in 2011 which endorses the leadership talent of Modi.

Some can argue that the issues that he left behind 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 an appropriate structure to drive a company for greater heights knowing that it has been proved that top entrepreneurs are not good managers. This is another debate that I guess can be debated separately but let me pick up some key lessons for Sri Lanka from this power brand IPL that has revolutionised brand India.

Pick-up 1 – Market yourself

The real power of the four billion dollar worth business of IPL can be highlighted with the demand increasing for more brand names wanting to get under the fray of the mother brand IPL

If I may draw a parallel to Sri Lanka, the pick up is that if we are to chase donor funding to re build the devastated Eastern province we will have to use the power of branding just like the times of tsunami. After all, floods are prevalent in all parts of the world due to climate change. I would propose that we use tag ‘La Nina might cost Sri Lanka 1% of GDP”. This will give identity to the event and also arouse interest levels for one to understand what ‘La Nina’ is, and how this differs from ‘El Nino’.

A point to note is that this decision must be made quick and a single minded communication campaign must be emanated. If not we really cannot get the benefit of the power of branding.

Pick-up 2 – Player cap of $9 m

To regulate the brand IPL where one team cannot grab the best talent a player cap has been introduced at 9 million per team. This ensures that talent is evenly spread across the teams and also that a balanced perspective needs to be maintained by each team management. The best example is Kolkota Knight Riders picking the top two names Ghambir and Pathan at a combine value of 4.5 million dollars and not bidding for the ‘Dada’ of the tournament Ganguly.

The pick up to Sri Lanka is that we also need to drive on one or two key initiatives that can propel Sri Lanka to the next level of development. In this perspective the budget proposal of setting up 1 million economic units in my view is one key strategy that can bridge the economic gap between the western province and the rest of the country. We need to drive this strategy with focus, passion and aggressiveness and link to the global market place. The good news is that a pilot project has already been done on a public-private partnership that has really worked well. All that is required is to roll this across.

Pick-up 3 – War on Talent

At last week’s auction the top two most powerful names - Lara and Ganguly had no takers. In fact Sharuk khan the co-owner of Kolkota Knight Riders finally said that a place will be found for Ganguly in the Kolkota in the team.

I guess the lesson for Sri Lanka is that we also need to have a balance in talent in the management of Sri Lanka’s economy. There has to be war on young talent. Specially, since the second line in waiting in the ruling party are very talented business personalities. They need to bring into the main stream so that Sri Lanka’s economic development can be moved to a new agenda. The seniors must play a supporting role for the greater benefit to the country. But I guess this requires level five maturity as universities spells out.

Pick-up 4 – Allow to innovate

Shilpa Shetty the co-owner of Rajasthan Royals commented that even though teams have contracted individuals one must give the freedom for the players to innovate.

My pick 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 a 0.5 billion dollars into the country. The BPO/IT industry that is not highlighted much on media attracts almost this same value from exports. Hence it is very important that whilst we focus on Tourism there must be equal opportunity to other sectors with strong support from policy makers be it Food and beverage, value added rubber, cinnamon and may be even tea to name a few.

 Pick-up 5 – 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 or spending time with a group of friends, enjoying an evening drink at a club or watching that favourite TV programme at home. Hence, the only way to lure them was to provide a carnival atmosphere with music, dancers and excitement with ruthless competitiveness that helped attract 80,000 eyeballs. In fact it beat the viewership ratings of the Indian soap operas that sure ignited another war.

The pick up to Sri Lanka is that we need to use the ‘La Nina disaster’ and get the GSP+ concession back on track with the EU. This is a single minded important fact that can give a strong impetus to the industrial sector of Sri Lanka which has been shocked with electricity tariff increase. Now we have a window of opportunity and we must take it.

Pick-up 6 – Not working on nostalgia

At last week’s auction there were no takers for the big names that had not shown performance. Be it Ganguly, Lara, Chris Gayle, Mark Boucher Gibbs. This means that in today’s world nostalgia does not work. It has to be sheer performance.

The pick up to me is that in the line ministries that I am associated with, I have noticed the passion to deliver with key action. The overall budget 2011 has been broken down to quarters with clear deliverables. There was a workshop where it has been clearly communicated to the owners of IPL, a signal that the Economic War is in action at the ground end. I guess now the challenge is to see how far the results were achieved.

Pick-up 7 – Working with anyone

If we carefully examine the players for IPL season four, we saw that until the auction was over no one knew to which team they belonged to. This is very different to the traditional game of cricket where school, club and country were the routine. Hence, the skill required is that any player had to be ready to play the game with a new set of faces and this also will keep getting rotated as the game goes on.

The pick up to me is that in today’s economy, the world is moving at such a fast pace there is no option but to learn to work with any organisation. We cannot wait for comfort zones. It’s all about performing with the people who are currently on a seat. Meaning the ethos ‘you are good as what you are now’.


Whilst IPL is a money spinner for the players, franchise owners and the government, the pick ups to managing the economy or a country cannot be quantified.

(The author is a marketer by profession and public policy maker by practice. The author serves the private, public and international civil service at the highest. The above thoughts are strictly his personal views.)

Recent columns