On the surface, sports may seem to have little to do with the information, communications and technology (ICT) sector. But Bobby Gupta, a vice president of the ICT company Mahindra Satyam and head of its operations in the Middle East, Turkey and North Africa, says he has good reason for examining opportunities in this region's sports industry.
Mahindra Satyam was involved in the football World Cup in South Africa. How?
The Fifa committee came with a huge tender to manage the World Cup … six or seven years back … and they wanted to manage the event, [to] do things like the ticketing, event management, money management and the IT command centre. We fought the likes of IBM and, because of our technical skills and capabilities, we got the [contract] to manage the Fifa World Cup last year. We had a team of around 4,000 people who worked for two years on it.
Was that the first time Mahindra was involved in sports event management?
Why did you bid for the tender?
We are very strong in IT … and it was a major leap forward. The good thing is, since we did that we built a lot of traction in the soccer area with Fifa, but also the work that we're doing with Qatar.
Is the project related to the World Cup in Qatar?
No, the World Cup is premature. Right now we're working with Aspire Academy [for Sports Excellence], which is a sports school … It takes these kids when they're eight or nine years old and then they do a proper physical check-up in terms of how these kids will perform in five years' time … The money they're spending is huge, so we're … designing solutions for Aspire for the sports institute.
Would you say there are any opportunities in the Middle East sports industry?
The Middle East has traditionally been very strong in government and banking, but sports is also a key niche … We see a lot of opportunities, and we want to leverage our excellence and expertise [from] the Fifa World Cup.
Are you working on any projects in particular?
We are working on something, and I can't go into details, but we have identified at least 1,000 sports events happening every year in the region, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait … Whatever we have done, whether it is the Fifa World Cup or events in Qatar and the UAE, we are taking the best practices and coming up with a solution on a shelf that you can packet, and you can buy it.
Can you give any more details about it? Who are you talking to?
We're talking to a few partners … to go in a big way in the sports industry, and that would be starting with events management, money management, the whole IT part of that. We're talking with companies but also some government bodies … Governments in the Middle East are spending huge money to buy stadiums or bring players here.