We want Kolkata Thunderbolts to lift the trophy - Vineet Bhandari
Following one’s passion and believing in oneself has been Vineet Bhandari’s life motto. One has to face failures to get on the path of success, Vineet has had his side of experience in the business world and is now changing the scenario of Volleyball in India. He is the co-owner of Kolkata Thunderbolts who are on top of the points table in the Prime Volleyball League.
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, Vineet Bhandari shares his views on the Prime Volleyball League, investing in Kolkata Thunderbolts, challenges faced in the sport and plans for the future.
Q 1) As owner of the Kolkata Thunderbolts, what motivated you to invest in the team?
There are various factors when it comes to taking a call on such a decision. The whole process depends on your background, how you come into this sport and who you want to be. I've been an investment banker for 2 decades and I understand that if you want to enter an industry early that is where you get to create values. If you do your research and understand things better, then your reward can outweigh your risks. To cover our risks we brought in other co owners so the risk gets divided and decades of experience comes into play and everything gets covered. If there are losses ,we're able to bear them because a new sport in a country like India will take a lot of time to develop and to give any kind of financial return. You have to be capital intensive to get into it.
Along with that another factor for us to do this is that the baseline team has done it in the past and they have a very good background on branding and marketing, so that gives us a lot of confidence. They brought in Joy Bhattacharjya as the CEO of the league which was a very big plus because he has successfully run cricket and football teams in the past. That was a big factor for us as investors or people wanting to buy a team and build on to a sport to know who we are partnering with. Also, I've been playing Volleyball for over a decade now so I have an understanding of the game. You get to know how addictive the sport is if you have played it.
Q 2) What are the various challenges you have faced in the promotion and visibility of Volleyball in India? How can they be overcome?
Volleyball as a sport has been there for over a hundred years and is the 2nd most played team sport around the globe after football. In India, it is the third most played team sport after cricket and football but there is still a lack of recognition. There is no central recognition from the government to promote the sports on a huge scale, there are national teams but the visibility is still a cause of concern as the players are relatively unknown.
The league will overcome many challenges, all these players are getting an opportunity to play with increasing pay scale according to performance. It is going to reach out to much more people, brands and advertisements will also be on the rise. Sony, being a partner and telecasting it live will spread the league even more; we can watch it on all major social media platforms around the world. As the viewership numbers are on the go, people would also start playing and the cycle will start slowly growing. We hope to make Volleyball a national obsession in the next few years.
Q 3) What are your objectives for Kolkata Thunderbolts in the ongoing 2022 Prime Volleyball League?
For the Kolkata Thunderbolts we have a lot of objectives but the main goal is to support the league alongside the teams and being the shareholder in the league we want to see growth. The Prime Volleyball League is the first privately owned league which is streamed on different platforms, if you see the American leagues like NBA and MLS, these are all privately owned leagues with owners having stakes in the team which in turn help the league grow exponentially. The second objective is that the team performs as we have got the best coaches and players to play for the Thunderbolt franchise. For me personally, fan interaction is important as there are currently more than 50 hoardings all over Kolkata promoting the league and also having social media interaction with the Kolkata Thunderbolt franchise will not only help the teams but also help the league to grow even more.
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Q 4) Do you think the Prime Volleyball League can be as big as other leagues such as the ProKabaddi or even the Indian Premier League in the future?
IPL has managed to raise the standards and is in a league of its own. It has taken a long time for leagues like ISL and Pro Kabbadi to reach where they are now. The journey has been tough for the franchisees and players. The difference in Prime Volley League is of the ownership, since its a private league which helps in quick and smooth decision making. The decisions are always in the favour of the league along with the franchisee owners because they are also the owners of the league. The league can make changes accordingly, make sure they get profits which will help it reach a wider audience.
The numbers at the end of season 1 can be compared to the other leagues and it will be clearly visible. As an owner in the league as well as a franchisee, we are very hopeful to make it to the peak in the next 5 years.
Q 5) What are your goals for Kolkata Thunderbolts in the short and long term future? How do you plan to achieve them?
As of now we have been able to build a strong team and want to win the inaugural season as it is important to get off on the right foot. In the future, we plan to take the sport to every nook and corner of the state. We have also been approached by people in Odisha, Jharkhand to create academies, we are primarily focusing on building the academies in Assam, Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand in the next 24 months.
As more and more people start playing it as a recreational sport then the region will add onto the value of the national team. Hopefully we will have Indian players representing the country at the Olympics in the coming years.
Docu series 'Down Underdogs' will leave Indian cricket fans in nostalgic tears
(Cricket news) It's been almost a year since the Indian cricket team against all the odds defeated Australia in an away Test series. Now Sony Sports has released a 4 part docu series on India's triumph where they won 2-1 away against the mighty Australia despite numeral setbacks. The series is available to watch on SonyLiv
In the docu series, viewers will see players Hanuma Vihari, Mohammed Siraj and Marnus Labuschagne talking about their experiences. Former cricketers turned commentators Sunil Gavaskar, Sanjay Manjrekar, Nick Knight, Isa Guha, Vivek Razdan, Lisa Sthalekar, Micheal Clarke, Jason talked about the series and also their own experiences in similar situations. Journalists Harsha Bhogle, Ayaz Memon, Joy Bhattacharjya, Gaurav Kapoor and Rajdeep Sardesai highlighted several points about the series and the historical context of it.
The topic of the documentary was such that fans of Indian cricket would enjoy it regardless of the quality of the end product because it is still fresh in people's mind and the memories of it would trigger the nostalgic factor in people's brain who have experienced the series even if it is through their T.V screens. Each episode focused on the 4 Test matches titled Adelaide Aberration, Melbourne Magic, Sydney Siege and Brisbane Breached.
Throughout the series there were stories and anecdotes about players like Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, T Natarajan and Washington Sundar. The series brilliantly portrayed important parts of the series like Virat Kohli leaving after the first Test, Ravichandran Ashwin's battle with Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane's hundred, India's multiple injury woes, racist abuse, the unexpected debuts of inexperienced Indian players and Tim Paine's sledging.
The main thing missing was that Marnus Labuschagne, Hanuma Vihari and Mohammed Siraj were unable to enlighten the viewers about their mindset during and before the games. What the atmosphere was inside the changing room was not really talked about. The main takeaway from the series was that it depicted the beauty of Test cricket and why it is the best format of the game and must be preserved. Overall the series is definitely a must watch for all the cricket fans. The high drama along with the ebbs and flow of the Test series is highlighted and enhanced in the docu series.
Fourth edition of GamePlan announced by FIFS - India’s only Annual Fantasy Sports Conference
(Sports news) India’s first and only Fantasy Sports regulatory body, The Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS) is back with GamePlan 2021 - the fourth edition of its annual conference. The event is set to be held on August 25th, 2021 and will launch an industry report on online fantasy sports (OFS) ), ‘Online Fantasy Sports: Creating a Virtuous Cycle of Sports Development’ and will feature discussions revolving around the potential, growth and impact of the industry.
The event GamePlan 2021 will feature keynotes from Justice A N Mittal, Chairman, UP Law Commission; Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary of the Industries & Commerce (I&C) and Information Technology (IT), Government of Telangana; Deepak Bagla, MD and CEO of Invest India; and Justice (Retd.) Arjan Sikri. . The conference will host a ‘CEO Roundtable on leadership Lessons from Founders’ with Harsh Jain, Co-Founder & CEO, Dream11 & Dream Sports; Sai Srinivas, Co-Founder & CEO, MPL; Bhavin Pandya, Co-Founder & CEO, Games 24x7 and Vinit Godara, Co-Founder & CEO, MyTeam11. Besides the report launch and keynotes, there will also be 3 highly engaging panel discussions on ‘The Economic Impact of OFS in India’, ‘Fantasy Sports: Fuelling Sports Consumption and Fan Engagement’ and ‘The Evolving Legal Landscape of Fantasy Sports in India’.
Eminent dignitaries speaking at discussions include Bhavit Sheth, COO & Co-Founder, Dream11 & Dream Sports; Joy Bhattacharjya, Indian Quizzer, Orator, Writer, Sports Producer & Vice President at Baseline Ventures India Pvt. Ltd.; Nikhil Vyas, Managing Partner & CEO, ITW Mediaworx; Siddharth Chury, AVP- Global Partnerships, NBA India; Jeet Banerjee, MD, Gameplan Sports; Kishore Taid, Co-Founder & CEO, enJogo; Gopal Jain, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Vaibhav Kakkar, Partner, Saraf & Partners. The panel discussions will be moderated by Santosh Mathew, Founding Partner, Ninan & Mathew; Prashant Rao, Partner, TMT Consulting, Deloitte; Girish Menon, Partner, Deal Advisory and Head, Media and Entertainment, KPMG India; Rameesh Kailasam, President & CEO, IndiaTech.org and Nandan Kamath, Principal Lawyer, LawNK.
Commenting on the conference, Mr. Bimal Julka, Chairman, FIFS and FSRA, and Former CIC, Govt. of India said, “We are delighted to be back with the fourth edition of GamePlan where, together, we will deliberate on the impact and potential of the Online Fantasy Sports industry. With the right guidance and regulations, the Indian OFS industry will certainly have a far more positive impact on the Indian economy and sports ecosystem.”
Over 1500 delegates attended the 2020 edition of GamePlan, witnessing industry-related report launches and engaging panel discussions. The event included leaders from organizations such as technology platforms, financial institutions, game developers, sports, leagues, media agencies, consulting firms and legal advisory firms.
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