Goenka’s Growing Interest in the Sports Business | Locust


Red lights are necessary irritants, but stopping at just one gave Sanjiv Goenka a moment he hadn’t known in years as President of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka (RPSG). Goenka was traveling to Salt Lake City Stadium for a game featuring Atletico de Kolkata (ATK), a football team in which he was the majority shareholder. They were the reigning Indian Super League (ISL) champions, but after losing two on the rebound, things weren’t going well at the start of the second season in 2015.

His car was spotted by a group of young men on motorcycles and they shouted his name before saying to him, in Goenka’s words, “don’t worry, you will win, we pray for you”. At this point, Goenka paused – he did this a lot between speaking softly in measured sentences. “Such spontaneity,” he said, his voice rising just so. “This kind of connection is amazing. How do you assess this in monetary terms? Said the man whose group of companies has, according to his website, an asset base of $ 6 billion and revenues of $ 4 billion.

Now the owner of Lucknow’s new team in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Goenka told the story one morning in late December after securing the rights to the Pune franchise from IPL. By then ATK had recovered and reached the semi-finals and Goenka said the Salt Lake stadium was full for the return leg.

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We were in his old office in central Calcutta, on the fifth floor of Victoria House, home of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC), the group’s flagship company that supplies most of Calcutta with electricity. East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, Maidan’s iconic sports clubs, were within a 20-minute walk, but despite having lived in Kolkata all his life – Goenka is comfortable speaking Bengali – sport was really not his thing until April 2014 when he, businessmen Harsh Neotia and Utsav Parekh joined Sourav Ganguly to successfully bid for the ISL team in Kolkata.

By 2014, when he became the owner of ISL, Goenka had developed an interest in sports affairs, spurred by the interactions he had with students shortly after being appointed President of IIT, Kharagpur , for the first time, in 2002. ISL came at a time when Goenka had consolidated its business lines almost four years after Rama Prasad Goenka wanted to divide the empire between his sons Sanjiv and Harsh. The spark that began with his association with bright young minds in Kharagpur was heightened at the red light in Kolkata.

The Pune franchise followed months after ATK won ISL1. The RPSG Sports Business now has ATK Mohun Bagan, a team formed by the merger of the ISL and I-League champions in 2020, a franchised table tennis league team and two awards programs, one of which is with the Virat Foundation. Kohli.

Sport, Goenka said, is a combination of four Cs: business, connection, communication and CSR (corporate social responsibility). “But, it all has to be financially viable even if we lose money to start with.” Like now, where he explained why the offer of ??7090 crore — almost ??2000 crore more than the next high for Lucknow – not that outrageous as almost 50% of returns are from television rights. “It’s an opportunity (even if it’s for two years). The opportunity comes at a cost. Is the cost worth it? The answer for all of us was yes, ”he said, explaining why he made an offer for Pune.

With football and table tennis, where the money spent is only a fraction of the IPL, brand promotion may not be that important, although Goenka said the experience of ‘having CESC on the ATK jersey in 2015 “was more than the investment”. Along with cricket, it could well be an important vehicle for the group’s myriad of business interests in energy, fast-moving consumer goods, media and entertainment, retail, services. computer and carbon black manufacturing.

Goenka hit some bumps but didn’t bail out unlike many corporate titans once associated with football. The Pune franchise finished seventh in 2016. “The first season was a disaster and I wanted it to end as soon as possible, with our dignity intact,” he told HT in a two-day interview. before the IPL 2017 final. Eleven players have been changed; the captain’s position was changed from MS Dhoni to Steve Smith and the team finished second to the Mumbai Indians by one point.

After winning two of the first three iterations of ISL and making it to the semi-finals in another, ATK dropped to ninth place among 10 teams in 2017-18; owners fumbling with players and coaches after the end of the partnership with Atletico de Madrid, which held a 25% stake from 2014 to 2016. For two seasons, ATK floundered due to poor recruitment before that Antonio Lopez Habas does not return as a coach in 2019-2020 and win again. A big part of the victory is that Goenka didn’t hesitate to put together an expensive first team.

“The vision is that the new club will strive to be successful not only in Bengal, not just in India but in Asia over a period of time,” Goenka said by telephone on January 16, 2020, after the merger with Mohun Bagan. has been announced.

It will take a lot of work before this vision comes true and just as much work to get the Lucknow franchise up and running in the IPL. But then Goenka said he was not an impatient man.


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