MIT Sloan professor offers unique game plan for India to expand horizons

Creation of new cricket league would prove nation's ability to innovate

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Nov 15, 2007 — India has established itself in software, component exports and other sectors, but an MIT Sloan School of Management professor has a novel suggestion for how the nation can prove to itself and the world that it is truly open to innovation: Privatize cricket.

While little appreciated in the United States and elsewhere, cricket is wildly popular in India, notes MIT Sloan Professor and Deputy Dean S.P. Kothari. But the monopoly that controls the game, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has failed to capitalize on either the sport's success or market potential.

“A privately owned cricket league is exactly the kind of investment that India needs to become a developed economy and to prove to the world that it is open to innovation, especially in its service sector,” said Kothari. “A small but non-trivial part of India's population is quite well off now and it is time to start thinking about creating more outlets for them to enjoy the wealth they have in a way that would also benefit the rest of society through the trickle-down effect.”

Currently, the BCCI, which was founded in 1929 during India's colonial period, controls all aspects of the sport, from player selection to facilities. Kothari says the great success of privately owned professional sports teams and leagues elsewhere in the world shows the untapped potential of a privatized and maximized cricket league playing in many more cities in India than under BCCI.

“A competitively organized and effectively marketed cricket league made up of privately owned teams would promote economic growth nationally and serve as an important source of revenue locally,” said Kothari. “This would require substantial investments in stadiums, coaches, players and other areas, but it's hard for me to imagine why such a league would not be a success within a few years.”

Kothari has even suggested his cricket league idea to Indian officials, including some at the highest levels of the government. “Some of them like the idea, but ultimately, they just don't do it. An organized, private cricket league would certainly be an example of innovation, but it's not a tangible product innovation like a semiconductor chip utilizing advanced technology. It just doesn't excite them. And, because it's somewhat risky, they tend to be wary of investing in it. It's very frustrating.”

“Exploiting ideas like a privatized cricket league does not mean that India should deemphasize its success in software, pharmaceutical research and other areas,” Kothari said. “But India needs to complement such industries with vigorous investment in the service sector, especially the leisure and entertainment services sector. Such orientation would immensely diversify India's basket of goods and services. And it would send an important message, internally and to the world, that India is ready for the next level in economic development.”

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