Point of View

Service providers should be scrambling to digitally transform the Indian cricket market

March 9, 2020

Service providers digitally transforming a sport is a common press release headline, but the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament has yet to see any real attention from providers, despite a $7 billion (and growing) annual revenue and a 2.5 billion-strong global fanbase. Enterprise sponsors of the IPL are plentiful, and if providers’ recent activity in the sporting world is anything to go by, the opportunity to be the digital partner of the IPL won’t be around for much longer. The IPL has become, quite frankly, massive —and many providers’ roots are set deep in India; it’s not just an opportunity for sponsorship or a platform to demonstrate a technology capability. In the world’s biggest base of cricket fans and players, being the IPL’s main digital partner will help one lucky provider to better-attract local technical talent, as well as tapping into the IPL’s huge and growing international interest.

 

Providers are embedding themselves as the digital partner throughout the sporting world, but they are missing a massive opportunity at the IPL

 

Last year, we noticed HCL partnering with Cricket Australia to develop its digital experience for fans, players, partners, and employees. Although estimates vary, cricket has a fan base of up to 2.5 billion worldwide, but only about 2 million in Australia. India is by far the biggest contributor to the worldwide fan base, and it is a massive market opportunity for the right service provider to take. The two-month domestic Indian Premier League tournament was valued at $6.8 billion in 2018, up from $5.3 billion in 2017. In 2015, it contributed $183 million to the Indian economy. Despite this, service providers, many of which have deep roots in India, haven’t managed to dictate the sport’s digital scene.

 

A Capgemini report on the use and future of emerging technology in sport found India to be the leader in adoption and acceptance, with 88% having experienced sports-related technology in stadiums (versus around 50% for most European countries) and 71% willing to pay more for technology-enhanced stadium experiences.

 

It’s not just HCL that has made waves in digitally transforming sport, either, which makes the apparent lack of activity in the Indian cricket market even more surprising:

 

  • Infosys has been dominating the digital side of tennis, recently at the Australian Open but also with Roland Garros (the French Open) and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) more broadly. A new app, AI-led highlights, and a VR “moon tennis” experience formed part of Infosys’ Australian open package.
  • DXC Technology’s digital fan experience was on display at an INDYCAR race in Texas last year, including immersive VR and an AI game for fans to encounter strategists’ in-race problems.
  • Capgemini published its take on emerging technology in sport, and it is also the partner of HSBC’s World Rugby Sevens Series.
  • Unisys extended its sponsor partnership with pro golfer Ryan Palmer.
  • HCL has also partnered with Manchester United Football Club to provide a digital platform and app for improved fan engagement and experience.
  • The Bundesliga—Germany’s top-tier football league—recently went all-in on AWS to improve its in-game insight and provide personalized experiences for fans.

 

The Bottom Line: Make haste and come to the Indian cricket market’s digital rescuebefore someone else takes the platform to show off their capability and attract technical talent from a religious global following.

 

Vivo, the IPL’s sponsor since 2015, has increased its smartphone market share in India to 15%, grabbing the third spot among its competitors. Tata Communications helped the tournament’s broadcaster to customize its feed in multiple languages—this branch of Tata is also the digital partner of choice for Formula One and MotoGP.

 

Enterprises are scrambling to sponsor the IPL tournament and its teams. So why don’t service providers deliver the technology to improve and manage the game (cricket’s Decision Review System [DRS], for example) and to also reinvent the fan and player experiences? The Indian national team also commands a large following, presenting a parallel opportunity for a provider who can crack the IPL.

 

Talent, however, is a critical factor that many might overlook—the provider that can position itself as the IPL’s digital partner can add “attracting local and international talent” to its checklist—and show off its technology toolbox.

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