THE BLOG

The Curse of the Indian Premier League -- And the Lesson It Brings

While I don't believe in curses and the like, I couldn't resist the title.

The sale of the Deccan Chargers by ailing media conglomerate Deccan Chronicle to Mumbai-based real estate company Kamala Landmarc, and the non-bailable arrest warrant issued to the Royal Challenger's team owner Vijay Mallya by the Hyderabad court today, brings to light the fact that almost every team owner and personality associated with the Indian Premier League (IPL) are in some kind of trouble.

Delhi's GMR is struggling with tax-avoidance issues and under the scanner of the CAG, Mumbai's Reliance Industries has been the most under-performing stock on the Sensex over five years (that's not as grave as the others, but within Reliance it's unheard of), Sahara -- which has flourished, unquestioned, despite its dubious sources of funding for over 20 years has been ordered to return Rs. 24,000 crores to its investors, not a single of Rajastan Royal's owner Raj Kundra's new businesses of the past five years have succeeded and Shilpa Shetty hasn't had a hit (or even a major release) since the IPL started. The same with Preity Zinta. And Kolkata's Shah Rukh Khan, known for his commercial salience, has been outdone at the box office by contemporaries Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan (the first to start the 100-crore trend). Kochi -- IPL's failed franchise -- put Anchor in fix and its brand ambassador (not team owner, but team owner's to-be-husband) Shashi Tharoor, who was once touted as the next Foreign Minister, is wiped off the face of Delhi. The less said the better about Hyderabad and Bangalore team owners Deccan Chronicle and Kingfisher, and until recently, the only exception to the rule, India Cements, is now facing a minor 187.48 Cr setback as its share of the fine levied by the Competition Commission of India to all major cement companies. And it's not just the owners. While DLF still struggles to put together the money to pay last year's sponsorship dues, they have been dragged in the middle of the dangerous "KGB": The Kejriwal, Gandhis and the Bureaucrats of Haryana due to the national attention a flat it sold to Robert Vadra has gotten. And the cherry on the top: the man who started it all, Lalit Modi, is virtually under house arrest.

So why's this all so relevant?

The IPL isn't just about cricket and cheerleaders -- the owners, too, are a crucial ingredient to the IPL circus. Ask yourself: how many times have you engaged in a post-match conversation that didn't revolve around the cricket but about the owners? How often have you heard questions like "which Ambani child was sitting at the dugout?"

"Did Priyanka Chopra show up in SRK's box?"

And my favorite: Did Siddharth Mallya really kiss Deepika!?"

Truth is, the Indian Premier League is the most unapologetic display of wealth independent India has seen. A country once afraid of the evil eye and the neighbor's envy was seen embracing, and aspiring, to a culture of flamboyance and glamor never seen before in Indian businesses. These team owners became symbols of success of India's new economy that had been growing in double digits for several years. The message to the public was clear: these ten companies bet aggressively on India. And now, they are so successful that they can afford to buy their own cricket team knowing that it would never make money unless sold for a higher valuation. And they'll do it with fanfare that would put Richard Brandson and Donald Trump to shame.

If there's anything we can learn by today's developments, it's the lesson of humility.

We should remind ourselves to succeed without gloating, to set examples that inspire longstanding values, which every young, impatient hard-working son of post-reform India, desperate for economic growth, can relate to. We've chosen our economic path as one that thrives on aggressive investment, one which rewards those who bet on India. So pick businesses based on merit, create wealth where there is a measurable value proposition, and not a quick buck.

Because to really ride the India wave, is to be rewarded without ever having to cash out.