Innovative Entrepreneurship & IPL— They Have A Lot In Common
Twenty20 cricket was a planned insertion by cricket administrators, dismissed by purists and lauded by youngies. With growing shorter attention span, cricket needed to “stick” with the younger generation. One-day match took almost a day to deliver the result. Twenty overs a side match, proposed by England and Wales Board (ECB) marketing manager Stuart Robinson in 2002, was therefore accepted. T20, as it was called, became a regular fixture in international cricket from 2005. A rebellious streak by Kapil Dev and Zee Entertainment in 2007 to host an Indian Cricket League (ICL) outside BCCI drew undue attention and despite its imminent death was a huge success. This T20 tournament in 2007 to 2009 provided a new entertaining aspect to cricket.Stung by ICL’s success, BCCI drew up a league format like game of T20 largely on the lines of English Premier League football. A new Indian Premier League (IPL) apparatus with a Commissioner (Lalit Modi) was launched in 2008. Four players from overseas could be present in franchisee teams (owned by individuals), which were split city-wise, and the teams were chosen by franchisees on an auctioning system. For the first time ever, cricketers drew worth in dollar terms. Naming of the teams took the line of battles of kingly yore, but this one on the field of cricket. Daredevils and Chargers looked like first division names but others such as Knight Riders, King’s XI, Super Kings, Royal Challengers, and Royals took on a princely title and the national fervour was injected into the name Indians (Mumbai team). Eight teams in 2008 sweated it out under floodlights, with the start of some of the matches as late as 8 pm, dinner time at most households. The white-flannel, red cherry cricket that slightly changed into coloured clothing and white ball underwent a complete transformation with glitzy sportswear and colour accompaniments, and still the white ball survived. Probably colour sense was lost on the ball. Else we would have had slightly creamy or striking yellow balls (resembling tennis balls). With festive look, blasting music emanated from the cricket ground, where cheer girls with skimpy clothing and attractive bodies adorned the podium. It was a sensuous insult on a puritan, gentlemanly game, unwelcome by traditionalists of Neville Cardus variety who think of the game in its glory because of its slow pace and devoid of any female invasion or intervention with a glamorous intent. But seriously, how many young lads came in there just to watch these “chicks” is another matter though. Whatever, the ticket sales soared and filled up the stadia to capacity.
What do we learn from IPL from an entrepreneurship point of view?
Innovation. Thinking of a new format in a league like form was an innovation that provided glamour to the sport. It attracted new fans, especially younger ones. Entrepreneurs should constantly innovate to add new customer base to their product or service.
New look. The whole look of the game changed in this format. Right from clothing to dugouts to cheer girls, the game lost its puritan form to become a sport of attraction, delivering instant results in under 3 hours. This is a sort of a new brand of cricket. Constantly inventing new branding is essential to sustainability of a business. Such new branding should vibe with the predominant customer base (young people are new customer base for cricket).
Multifold revenue. Phenomenal rise in revenue was one of the side-effects. Right from player compensation, ticket pricing, to availability of paraphernalia for a premium price were not revolted by the fans. They embraced it readily. From an entrepreneur perspective, packaging for multifold revenue drives phenomenal growth.
Entertainment. Unlike an occasional six or a nail-biting finish in a one-day game, IPL meant wholesome entertainment right from the word go (or “Play” if you wish). From cheer girls to fluctuating fortunes in a matter of a few balls, the fans were in for a thrilling entertainment. It didn’t have a precedent and that attracted the fans. An added surprise element in a product or a service would draw customers like honeybees.
—Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist