Helmed once again by the venerable Tata Group, the enchanting Indian Premier League (IPL) is back for its 16th season in India.. The Tata IPL 2023 opener on March 31 will see defending champions Gujarat Titans (GT) go head-to-head with MS Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings (CSK) at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. As Hardik Pandya and Co. prepare to defend their IPL crown, all eyes are on the Gujarat-based franchise’s overall growth, fan base and public perception. In an exclusive interaction with Outlook Business, Col Arvinder Singh, chief operating officer (COO), Gujarat Titans, discusses the one-time winners’ revenue growth, scope of Titans FAM app, partnership with Viacom18, presence in the NFT space and more. Edited excerpts:
CSK, KKR and MI are among the most valuable teams in IPL. With Gujarat Titans already landing the trophy in debut season, what steps has the team taken to further boost the brand value of the franchise?
There are two aspects to this question – first, Gujarat Titans doesn’t consider itself to be a new franchise. Our players have played in the IPL before and folks like me have been around the IPL from the very beginning; so, nothing new in it. In IPL 2022, even though we started from scratch, we brought a new experience in terms of cricket, business and even marketing. It took us time as we barely had two months to set up Gujarat Titans as a franchise. So, from that perspective, we are a new franchise joining the IPL bandwagon but all the people behind it are not new. It’s just a question of doing things and doing them right.
Second, when it comes to the brand value, I think it is way too early to talk about it. If ‘what we achieved’ is translated into financial terms, we are definitely ahead of where we started. We do realise that there is a certain expectation from Gujarat Titans as a brand and this not only stems from ‘what we did’ but also has to with the brand we are trying to create. We are a franchise that knows what it is doing, is going about things in a systematic manner, and has a long-term perspective for everything. So, a lot of thought process goes on there and brand value will happen if we get things right, it is something that everybody appreciates and wants to align with.
In the last season, Gujarat Titans earned sponsorship revenue worth Rs 65 crore. What are your expectations from IPL 2023?
I’ve already stated that Gujarat Titans is sitting at a 35 per cent increase in revenue as compared to last year and more is in the pipeline. I would say that this would easily go beyond 85 per cent. We have also become very conscious of the brands that we associate with. I am not saying that money is not important; it is, but it also not the only thing. We sit with other brands and mutually try to understand each other’s objectives and ‘why’ we are aligning with each other. Like I said, we are here for a long-term proposition and we want to be the most entertaining and engaging franchise of the IPL. All this will take time and we are in no hurry; we will go about everything in a systematic matter.
The positioning of 'Titans FAM' app is largely in favour of creating a Gujarat Titans Universe. In terms of the app's scope, what exclusive content will it offer to users?
There are two aspects to this question as well (laughs). Titans FAM is going to be the hub of what Gujarat Titans is – if you want to associate with GT, all you have to do is download the free app. So, from entertainment to Gujarat Titans’ tickets, content, news, contests etc., everything that you associate with the whole GT ecosystem, is on the app.
Coming to the content on the Titans FAM app, it has some real content that Gujarat Titans is creating. What you see on our social media handles is only the teaser and please don’t think that I am making the app an aggregator; I am not. But it is definitely enticing people to download it and watch the content that GT has for its fans, especially when it comes to long-form content. So, all this is going to be exclusive for the app and if you really want to see Gujarat Titans, you have to come to the app.
GT has signed a partnership with Viacom18 to present fans insights into the franchise's campaigns. How do you plan to capitalise on this partnership?
From GT’s perspective, we have aligned with Viacom18 because it has the broadcasting rights for the IPL 2023 and it is in the digital space. We feel that there is a lot of scope on that front, especially in the long run. Now, when it comes to Viacom18, even they are coming as an IPL broadcaster for the first time. So, it’s a mutually beneficial agreement and nothing stops us from here. In terms of the ‘reach’ and the ‘IPL ecosystem’, even that gets higher. So, while it is a mutually beneficial agreement, we are also using this channel to further engage with our fans, even if it means using a third-party medium.
Gujarat Titans has a partnership with Rario. Even as the global NFT market faces turmoil, how does the franchise plan to expand its presence in the NFT space? What is the future of this deal?
(laughs) You are asking me questions for which answers need to be divided into parts. Anyway, we are with Rario because it aligns us with a player that is already in the field. Please understand that when it comes to Rario specifically, there are certain guidelines that have to be in place, especially related to how we get into the NFT space as it is not just that. So, Gujarat Titans’ deal with Rario is not a pure NFT deal; it also gives us access to a very large ecosystem that they have created. Moreover, it is also about the engagement that we can get by reaching out to people who would then, directly or indirectly, be related to Gujarat Titans.
We have tried to bring all this together even through our app. For instance, the more you engage with us, the more you earn GT points. As a user, you can redeem these points any way you like, even to buy tickets. So, if someone tries to buy NFT of Gujarat Titans which is available on Rario, a certain level of these are being transferred from one entity to the other. Now, even this activity gets you points. Even if you are doing all this, you are coming back to GT.
So, our deal with Rario is not just about presenting you a platform where you can buy GT’s NFTs, it is about engagement as well. The basic premise of doing this is to capitalise on the reach and engagement as much as we can. I can’t reveal all details right now but you can expect a lot more in the coming months.
Given that the biggest cricket stadium in India is your home ground, do you feel that you have an edge over other teams in terms of ticket sales and home advantage?
I think it’s a really unfair question, Pragatti (smirks). If the Ahmedabad stadium is the biggest one, from a ticketing perspective, we will definitely make more. But since it is the biggest one, we are also spending more. It works both ways!
Our overall plan is not just based on any whims and fancies; we discuss everything and then arrive at ‘what we need to do.’ Since the end of IPL 2022, we knew that we will be able to conduct our games in the home stadium which also happens to be the most iconic cricket stadium in the world. Add to this our last IPL’s win; this naturally brings a lot of expectations. So, a lot of work went into this and I am happy to state that this could be one of the better stadiums when it comes to experience for fans. I am making an open statement that we have gone down to the very basics – from how tickets are sold, how you come to the stadium, where do you park to how is the stadium going to look – we are going about all this very minutely. We have also aligned with the Metro authorities and they have agreed to increase the frequency and tweak the timings as this is the last station.
I am not saying that there are no issues, there are plenty but you got to find solutions. And this is exactly what GT’s team is doing. Touchwood, come March 31 and we will see how this effort translates!