New IPL franchises tell where are India’s growing markets

The Indian Premier League (IPL) recently awarded franchises for two new centres, Pune and Kochi from 2011 onwards. The Pune franchise has gone to the Subrata Roy led Sahara Group. The Kochi franchise has gone to a little known group which goes by the name Rendezvous Sports. The amounts paid by the 2 team owners are staggering and is 25% higher than the amounts paid by the 8 teams paid in the first auction.

It is interesting to see the cities chosen for the second round of auctions, Ahmedabad, Pune, Nagpur and Kochi. Bidding the same amounts for Ahmedabad, Nagpur  and Pune, the Sahara team chose Pune.

Pune is the second city in Maharashtra to have an IPL franchise. It is very close to Mumbai, which already has an IPL team. Mumbai being a commercially important city, it can as well have a second franchise. Already Mumbai is hosting IPL matches in two stadia, Brabourne and D.Y.Patil. Pune is like the second franchise for Mumbai, much like Manchester City and Manchester United in EPL. Subrata Roy has mentioned that the Aamby Valley being close to Pune has made them chose Pune over the other cities.

IPL may appear to be cricket. But it is much more than that. It is the convergence of Advertising, Bollywood and Corporate Power (ABC) . (In a highly critical piece on the Indian TV and media, P.Sainath wrote an editorial in The Hindu carrying the same title ‘Advertising, Bollywood, Corporate Power’ ). The cities which have the biggest markets are likely to attract most advertising. Bollywood glamour is essential to attract the non-cricketing enthusiasts like women and children to watching IPL matches, forgoing their soaps and cartoons. Corporate Power is essential to bring in the big money. Corporate groups are attracted to IPL possibly because the access it gives to fame, glamour and even access to politicians. Cricket is just incidental.

Kochi and therefore Kerala getting an IPL franchise is quite a surprise. Kerala is never known for its cricketing skills. Sreesanth is perhaps the only test level player Kerala has given to the Indian team. Kochi is the fourth team from the South to have an IPL franchisee.

It is not surprising that big states like UP and Bihar have no IPL franchise. UP is a Ranji finalist and has several players who make it to the T20 India team like Suresh Raina, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh to name a few. Sahara group head quarters is also at Lucknow and Subrata Roy is a virtual maharaja in the Sahara City. Yet, there is no IPL franchise, because it is low on ABC score.

The entire East India has just one team from Kolkata. The eight states of North East is totally unrepresented through any IPL franchise.

Many years ago, Jairam Ramesh had said, when he was not a minister, that if one takes the map of India and keeping Varanasi in UP as a reference point draw a line  one will find a huge contrast between  the entire region to the West of Varanasi to that of its East. The East lags behind and the gap is getting bigger every year.

The economic progress and the market growth made by Western and Southern India is reflected even in the choice of IPL centres.

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