Why COVID19 is a blessing for Indian Sports Industry?

Sijin B T, Sports Management Guru and the founder of Sports & Management Research Institute (SMRI) writes “Why COVID19 is a blessing for Indian Sports Industry?”


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It is the time for the stakeholders of the sports industry to decide whether the COVID19 is a curse or chance. In 2017, we wrote an article titled “Why Sports is the next big industry in India?” based the studies of Sports & Management Research Institute (SMRI). Now, Covid19 gives us more confidence to declare that the Sports Industry is the next big industry in India. In the earlier article, we highlighted 8 reasons for the fast growth of the sports industry in India. The COVID19 situation validates the 4 reasons we mentioned in the earlier study.

  1. INDIA IS WEAK AND DYING- In the earlier study, we mentioned Lifestyle diseases as the cause for India’s weaknesses and cause of death for the untimely death of many Indians. Now, CORONA virus is another cause of untimely deaths. Majority dead due to corona, have low immunity and were suffering from other diseases, especially lifestyle diseases. So, to increase immunity and manage or prevent lifestyle diseases, many will engage in sporting activities and fitness programmes. That is a great chance for the sports industry. 
  2. DECLINING FOREIGN JOBS & INDIAN JOBS- COVID19 is a global phenomenon and drastically affected all businesses. There is a sharp decline in local and global jobs due to job cuts and business closures. It will continue at least for a year. It is a chance for the Indian sports industry, which never ever explored as an employer. India can create millions of new jobs in the sports industry by professionalizing Indian sports. 
  3. INDIANS ARE NOT HAPPY- Even before the onset of COVID19, Indian’s were not happy. India ranks 144 in the World Happiness Index. In 2017, India was in 122. Pakistan ranks 66. (A good reason for India’s worries!!) COVID19 will make Indian’s more and more unhappy and Indians may need more dopamine boosters to make Indians happy. Sports is the best dopamine booster. Spectator sports, leisure sports and recreational sports.. chances are plenty. 
  4. RETURN OF HERITAGE SPORTS- In his recent address to the nation, Shri Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India insisted Indian’s be the VOCAL FOR LOCAL brands. It is applicable for Indian local sports also. Many Indian local sports have the potential to grow as a global sport. American Football, Baseball and Ice Hockey, the local sports of the USA are in the top 10 richest global sports. If Indian’s believe in Indian local sports and be the vocal for Indian local sports, it is easy to promote globally. The professionalization and commercialization of Indian local sports will also bring more revenue and employment. 

Stakeholders of the sports industry must think differently to use this challenge as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Our earlier article will you more insights on Why Sports is the next big industry in India?” Like a footballer who scores a goal by beating all the obstacles, the sports industry must win this situation through innovative ideas and teamwork. Morethan that every tough time is a strategic break to do the SWOT analysis and to resume the game with more energy and new strategies.

“Why Sports is the next big industry in India?”

“What is the next big industry?” Good investors always try to find an answer to this question. For them, a flourishing industry is a golden opportunity to gamble their luck. Growth of an industry depends on various factors of organic and inorganic nature. In India, now the sports industry is in the right track of growth due to several factors that our economists don’t notice yet. For our governments (national and state levels), sports is just winning a few medals in Olympics and Asian Games. So we spend billions on getting a couple of medals in the Olympics rather than spending anything for the development of sports industry in total. There is no meaning in blaming our administrators for their ignorance or negligence. Fortunately, the Indian sports industry is growing at a rapid speed without the support of any specific government policy. We would like to explore these growth factors for the good of everyone in the sports industry and for the investors who are looking for the next big industry.

Based on the research by the Sports Research Team of Sports & Management Research Institute (SMRI), the following 8 factors are accelerating the development of the Indian sports industry.

sports in india


Shocked. Yes, India is weak and dying. The following facts will substantiate our statement

Lifestyle diseases are on a hike in India. Today our country has a higher death toll from common non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart diseases, diabetes, overweight/obesity and cancer than any other country. India has the highest number of people dying from heart diseases. As per various reports 1) 60 million Indians will die prematurely of chronic diseases in the next 10 years, 2) 213.5 million Indians will live with hypertension in 2025 and 3) 57.2 million Indians will be diabetic patients by 2025.

Reason: Inactive lifestyle is considered as one of the major causes behind these issues.

India has the highest number of preterm births with 3,519,100 preterm births every year. India, being the second-most populous country is with a large number of infants is born annually with birth defects. Congenital anomalies (also referred to as birth defects) affect an estimated 1 in 33 infants and result in approximately 3.2 million birth defect-related disabilities every year. An estimated 2,70,000 newborns die during the first 28 days of life every year from congenital anomalies. Congenital anomalies may result in long-term disability, which may have significant impacts on individuals, families, healthcare systems and societies.

Reason: We spend a lot of time to decide which dress to wear to attend a marriage. We spend one year preparing for the entrance exam. But during procreation, we never plan, think or decide. We say, ‘it just happened’. Our unhealthy approach towards procreation and inactive lifestyle leads to increased preterm birth, congenital defects, abortion, learning disabilities and many more.

Around 80% of the Indian population has Vitamin D level less than normal level. However, the bigger concern is that the population at large is not even aware of Vitamin D deficiency and its consequences. The research has established the strong association of vitamin D deficiency in diabetes, immunity, asthma, TB, high blood pressure, neuromuscular function etc.

Reason: Sunscreen lotions, staying indoors, clothing habits, pollution and minimal exposure to direct sunlight (during the period of 10 am to 3 pm) are the major reasons of such widespread Vitamin D deficiency in the Indian population.

 About 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India. Suicide rates show a peak among the young and the elderly. Youngsters in the 15-29 years age group accounted for the highest rate of suicide.

Reason: Failure is a stepping stone for success. A winner must experience and accept failure and must fight back to succeed. But, our education system doesn’t give an opportunity to fail.  All pass system and a reduced number of sports competitions keep school children out of failure. Most of them face or experience the failure during their SSLC or Plus two public exam. It leads to disappointment, depression and ultimately suicide.

The risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and lifestyle diseases is very high in Indian woman. The rate of suicide has been found to be higher in women as compared to men in India. If a woman is unhealthy, the next generation will also be unhealthy.

Reason: Indian women are forced to live a sedentary life due to various cultural, religious, sociological and economic reasons. This sedentary lifestyle is the major reason for the increase in these complications.

Rising infertility rate. The rising number of fertility clinics in India doesn’t represent the growth of Indian society. It’s the right indicator of another crisis India is facing. Rocketing infertility and impotency. Rough estimates suggest that nearly 30 million couples in the country suffer from infertility, making the incidence rate of infertile couples at 10 per cent. A medical survey conducted in various cities in India revealed a shocking truth that rate of infertility is increasing in urban India. This is more among IT professionals. According to the survey, about 15 out of 100 couples from this sector faces infertility and 40% of such cases are related to male infertility.

Reason: Increasing infertility rates are based on the lifestyle changes resulting in stress and obesity caused by lack of physical exercise, changes in eating habits and pollution accompanied by medical disorders like diabetes.

This issue will soon reach unmanageable levels unless necessary interventions are made at the apt time.

Once, China was considered as the ‘Sick man of East Asia’ due to its unhealthy and inactive citizens. But, China changed its image and grown as a superpower with a series of serious initiatives in sports and physical education. Their initiatives not only improved public health but also their performance in major sports events such as Asian Games and Olympics and ensured better diplomatic relationships with various countries.

Like China, India needs to take a series of serious initiatives in Sports and physical education to save its citizens from premature death and unhealthy living. These initiatives will surely make India a Sports Superpower. Our ministers are started talking about including sports in the school curriculum. Good. Indian administrators took more than 50 years to understand the value of sports. But good indeed. Now, Indians are more conscious of health and using sports as a tool to prevent or manage lifestyle diseases. These elements will enhance the growth of different segments of the sports industry such as school sports, physical education, fitness equipment and services, sports infrastructure and sports goods manufacturing.


‘Who cry the most when any country initiates workforce nationalization? Who else than Indians? A great sovereign republic we are, and having such a great platform it’s a pity to go on our knees behind other countries to save our future. Why can’t we employ our citizens?’ (From the book SPORTS CAREER by Dr Indulekha R)


We believe that the objective of the Indian education system is to create employees for foreign countries. Once Gulf countries, Europe and the USA were the paradises for the Indian job seekers. But the scene changes. A decline in foreign jobs (new and existing) started reflected in our unemployment rate. “Unemployment in India is projected to increase from 17.7 million last year to 17.8 million in 2017 and 18 million next year. In percentage terms, the unemployment rate will remain at 3.4 per cent in 2017-18,” 2017 World Employment and Social Outlook Report of the United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO) says.

IT is overThe next wave of job losses is expected to happen in certain prominent industries, which gave maximum employment in past. Experts expect the three key industries— IT and IT-enabled services, telecom and BFSI (banking and financial services) — to shed nearly 1.5 million white-collar jobs in the 12-18 months. This trend has already begun.

What will the Indian government do to tackle this unemployment issue? Requesting Donald Trump is not the solution. The government will be forced to create jobs in India. How?  The government will realize the significance of the Sports industry soon. In developed countries such as USA, UK, Canada and Australia, sports is considered as one of the biggest industries. It is showering them billions of dollars and other supplementary benefits. American Sports industry is worth $422 billion and employs 1% of the population! Sports industry employs 1.5% of the population in the UK and 4% in Australia. The case is not different from other developed countries. A good share of the population finds their daily bread from sports.


How many opportunities did our sports industry offer? The Ministry of Sports has not updated the data yet. Nowhere could we find accurate data. It is approximately around 0.05% in India. Suppose if it becomes 1%, double the number of people could be employed. Sports industry provides not only job opportunities but health, happiness and a sort of empowerment. Giving due importance to the industry can cut down our health care expenditure as well.

The reason behind why our government neglects this industry that can offer immense possibilities in money-making and creating jobs is unknown. It is really fortunate that Indian Sports industry is growing without any specific policy support from our government. Indian Premier League, Indian Super League, Pro-kabaddi etc and private sports institutions like Tenvic, Edusports etc are the best examples for the rising trend.


India ranked 122nd, behind terror-riven Pakistan and poorest-of-poor Nepal in the global list of the happiest countries, according to World Happiness Report 2017. Reasons are many. But the solution, India must learn from Norway. Norway is the best in the UN Human Development Index. Norway tops in the World Happiness Index. All because of their involvement in sports. Norway is the world’s best sporting nation. So sports is directly linked with overall human development and performance.

Bollywood and other regional film industries can’t make all Indians happy. The rising movie ticket price will make people unhappy. TV serials can’t make people happy. It will just add more stress to people. Sports events are going to be a great choice for entertainment in India. Whether people involve in sports as players or spectators, it is going to accelerate the growth of the sports industry in India.

Remember, if India fails to be a sporting superpower, it will be an economic superpower with dead citizens!


Many sporting clubs and sporting leagues are entering in India market. We believe that they are coming to India to support sports development in India. No, they have just pure business interests. They want more television viewers for their games, more customers for their merchandise and more enrolments in their academies. Over, their interest in India is over. But, their entry generates new jobs in the Indian sports industry. The franchisees they promote in India promotes new business ventures in sports.


Our sports administrators used to blame cricket for the poor performance of other sports in India. It may be due to their constant imprecations, the glory of cricket is declining. The world cricket revolves around India. More and more cricket with the limited number of international teams and IPL teams makes cricket highly predictable, repetitive and boring. ISL has given a new boost to Indian football. Olympics medals or notable individual achievements in Badminton, Wrestling, Tennis, Chess and Boxing attracts more people to these games. Cricket is also trying new ways to retain their supremacy.  Stakeholders of other sports are also started thinking about strategies to reach to more people and places. Good. It will create more and more business opportunities. Across India, we can see a handful number of sports academies of different sports. Yes. Coaching business.


Years back, badminton was a commoner’s game. Less expensive and can be played anywhere. Now, badminton is an expensive game. A standard racket costs Rs.2500. The shoe costs the same. Apparels cost the same. What about the playground? Now most of us need an indoor wooden badminton court to play badminton, even if it is just for the workout. What is the average hourly rental for your slot? Who created this scenario? Sports Engineering innovations. Take all the sports, the advanced sporting gears, modern sports infrastructure and innovative sports apparels make sports expensive and create new business opportunities. People have good disposable income and they are willing to spend it on sports for exercise, entertainment and for luxury. Going to an indoor badminton stadium wearing exclusive sportswear with an expensive badminton racket in an expensive bicycle is a status symbol today. Sports engineering makes sports a real business. Use the opportunity.


It is not about self-reliance, but about Indian corporate Reliance Industries. They are very brilliant business people. They know well, where to dig to get money. Oil, telecom, football, basketball, table tennis and so on, they are digging deep to get money. They are backed by the world’s first professional sports marketing company IMG. Great. We believe in copycat. At least some businesses or sports organizations will try to imitate Reliance like IPL was imitated in the formation of other leagues. Even if others don’t imitate Reliance, they will involve in a majority of sports. Great for sports.


The people protest for Jallikattu and Kambala (bullock race) signals the return of heritage games in a big way. Most of the modern sports (Olympic sports and Cricket) were just street games/village games once. But, they got the status of modern games due to the conscious or unconscious efforts of some people or organizations. India was always poor in promoting Indian treasures. The scene is not different in sports. Prokabaddi took India’s heritage game Kabaddi to the next level. Professional tournaments of Goti shows simple ways to transform heritage sports to professional sport. Global media attention Jallikattu got recently will attract sponsors to Jallikattu. Good. Many Indian games are started thinking about reviving themselves and some others are waiting for a saviour to guide them to the land of prosperity. For the investors who think low investment-high return proposition, heritage sports is the best avenue.

Whether the government supports sports with favourable policies or not, whether we invest in sports business in or not, Sports industry will grow in India at a rapid speed. We just need to decide, whether we want to be a part of it or just want to be spectators, who wonder what is happening.


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