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Virat Kohli’s comments divide brands he endorses

A video post by cricketer Virat Kohli in which he asked an enthusiast of the game to ‘go live somewhere else’ has created a storm on Twitter and pided companies paying him crores of rupees to endorse their brands.

“The issue is being blown out of proportion,” said Abhishek Ganguly, managing director of German sports lifestyle brand Puma in India. “Anyone who has seen the entire video on Virat’s fan app will know that he was speaking in jest in a section called ‘Virat responds to mean tweets.’”

Puma had associated with the Indian cricket captain to launch his lifestyle brand One8 last year.

“People know the respect Kohli has for cricketers from across the world. AB de Villiers, for example, is not just a great buddy of his but as per him, the most skilled cricketer,” Ganguly said.

“It was an emotional outburst, which can happen. Virat has proved himself in all forms of cricket and he should not be judged like the way he is being,” said Shripal Morakhia, promoter of Smaaash Entertainment in which cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has invested.

Officials of other companies expressed disappointment at Kohli’s video statement. “We are living in the age of social media and he being a youth icon and making statements like he did puts our brand in bad light too,” said a senior official of a beverage brand that Kohli endorses.

“This was unexpected of Virat. Any statement like this by a responsible brand ambassador can also drag the brand into question – unfortunately, it does get linked to brands he is directly associated with,” said a top official representing another brand that Kohli backs.

Both officials asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Kohli endorses about 18 global and Indian brands and is said to command a fee of Rs 4.5-5 crore a day for one-off appearances. Kohli is the most valuable celebrity in India, with a brand value of $144 million, according to a December 2017 Duff & Phelps report. Kohli’s endorsements include cab-hailing platform Uber, sportswear company Puma, UB Group’s Royal Challenge energy drink, Manyavar ethnic clothing, GSK Consumer’s malt drink Boost, virtual sports entertainment company Smaaash, Audi cars and Tissot watches.

Email queries sent to spokespersons of Uber, RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, Herbalife, GSK Consumer and UB Group elicited no response till the time of going to print.

Brand experts said Kohli’s comment had crossed accepted lines.

“Nationalist jingoism in sport is not acceptable and Kohli will need to make amends for this in some way. Jingosim is okay in politics, but not in the world of sport,” said brand consultant Harish Bijoor.

“Someone of Kohli’s stature has to be careful of everything he says in public domain. It’s something that won’t be ignored or overlooked in today’s age of social media. However, unless such statements are made repeatedly, the person in question should not be judged,” said social commentator Santosh Desai.

Kohli tweeted on Thursday evening: “I guess trolling isn’t for me guys, I’ll stick to getting trolled! I spoke about how “these Indians” was mentioned in the comment and that’s all. I’m all for freedom of choice.”

His initial comment was in response to the tweet of a fan who said he preferred to watch English and Australian batsmen over Kohli. “Over-rated batsman and personally, I see nothing special in his batting. I enjoy watching English and Australian batsmen more than these Indians,” the fan had tweeted. Kohli responded by saying,

“Okay, I don’t think you should live in India then… you should go and live somewhere else. Why are you living in our country and loving other countries? I don’t mind you not liking me but I don’t think you should live in our country and like other things. Get your priorities right.”

His response is available on his mobile app launched on November 5. Kohli has over 27 million followers on Twitter.

Women cricketers score in brand arena

(This story originally appeared in on Nov 26, 2018)

NEW DELHI: It’s not just the playing pitch that Indian women cricketers are making a mark on. Off the field, too, they are raking in the moolah. At least three top players — Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur — have signed lucrative endorsement contracts. From peddling fruit juice and flaunting Australian diamonds to promoting cab aggregators and sporting shoe brands — they are doing it all.

Classy Raj has inked a deal with New Zealand-based bat maker Laver & Wood apart from playing brand ambassador for US cab-hailing company Uber and Rio Tinto’s Australian diamonds. Sources said the bat deal is worth Rs 20 lakh. Her teammate, 22-year-old Mandhana has the country’s largest bike maker Hero MotoCorp sponsoring her bat and European footwear retailer Bata has picked her as a brand ambassador. Mandhana, sources said, could be charging anywhere between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 50 lakh per year for an endorsement.

That’s not all. Kolkata-headquartered conglomerate ITC chose Indian T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur as the brand ambassador for its juice brand B Natural to push deeper into Punjab. Kaur, who hails from Moga in the northern state, charges around Rs 10 lakh a day for ad shoots and Rs 15-20 lakh per year for endorsing apparel and footwear, sources said. Tyre maker Ceat, which is one of the heavyweight bat sponsors with top cricketers such as Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane on its payroll, has also signed up Kaur.

Even teenaged batting sensation Jemimah Rodrigues has signed up with the Kiwi batmaker Laver & Wood.

“The team’s top-class performance at the global level has made women’s cricket popular among the game’s fans in the country,” said a Hero MotoCorp spokesperson. “Thanks to their consistent performances and the live telecast of the matches, players such as Mithali, Smriti and Harmanpreet have become household names, in the process immensely enhancing their brand value.”

There could be more deals in store. “We already have several inpiduals from the Indian team being recognised by brands as fit to endorse their products,” said Bunty Sajdeh, CEO, Cornerstone Sport, which manages Virat Kohli.

Companies are finding new ways of cashing in on the grassroots popularity of these cricketers. “A campaign featuring Kaur, which ran as a state-level contest, became a platform to identify and celebrate honest talent among girl children across Punjab in the cities of Bhatinda, Patiala, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh,” said an ITC spokesperson. He added, “There was an overwhelming response with 6,431 students participating in events across domains like knowledge, arts and sports. Winners will now compete for becoming the final ‘Harman XI’ in the state-level finals to be held next year.”

The riches did not come overnight. In a country dominated by male cricket lovers who enjoy watching the men’s team play, these women had to up the ante to compete for eyeballs. “The girls have taken a lot of effort off the field,” said current fielding coach of the Andhra Pradesh team Munish Bali, who has spent time training the Indian women’s national cricket team. “They are much fitter now.”

ICC ropes in Royal Stag as official sponsor

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has roped in Indian alcobev brand Royal Stag as official sponsor for the next five years. The partnership, which runs through 2023, will cover international events, including the upcoming big-ticket calendar events – the ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC T20 World Cup and ICC World Test Championship.

“In India cricket transcends from being a sport to a religion, with an ever-increasing set of devoted cricket lovers. Our journey with cricket started in 2000 and since then we have only strengthened our brand associations with the sport, creating a huge impact on cricket fans across the country,” said Kartik Mohindra, CMO, Pernod Ricard India.

While Mohindra refused to share financial details of the deal, industry experts estimate the deal size to be in the range of #25-30 million for five years. “It is safe to say that this is a large association and our brand is taking a leap with it. To me, there is a cost to such association, but in return, we are getting a 360-degree amplification,” Mohindra said.

The company has also roped in seven cricketers – Faf du Plessis, Ben Stokes, KL Rahul, Andre Russel, Kane Williamson, Mitchell Starc and Angelo Mathews for its new campaign. Created by Ogilvy & Mather, the campaign is directed by Llyod Baptista and will be rolled out shortly.

Last month ICC had announced a similar association with Bira 91. ICC currently also has Nissan, Oppo, MRF Tyres and Emirates as global partners, Moneygram, Uber and Bira 91 as official partners, Hublot as timing partner, Wolf Blass as wine partner and Dream11 as fantasy partner. Star Sports is the broadcast partner of ICC.

David Richardson, CEO, ICC, said, “Cricket is a sport full of passion with one billion plus adult fans across the globe. We are excited about this partnership with Royal Stag and are keen to see their involvement in our upcoming events. Over the years, Royal Stag’s association with various cricket series and the world’s top cricketers means they’re already an integral part of our sport and now we welcome them to the ICC family.”

Richardson added that the partnership with Royal Stag is a natural fit. “We’re both committed to celebrating our sport and its fans. With this association, we aim to share the excitement of the game with cricket fans around the world.”

Restore 4% export sop: Electronic companies

New Delhi: Reinstatement of a key export incentive to 4%, lowering of goods and services tax (GST) on entry-level mobile phones and support to local phone manufacturers topped the budget wishlist for the IT and electronics industry. Representatives from Apple, Uber, Paytm,


, Reliance Jio Infocomm, IIM and ISB, and associations including MAIT and Nasscom attended finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s pre-budget consultations. “Electronics industry exports will be highly dampened; (this will) have a negative impact on investments. Reinstating the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) is the need of the hour,” said George Paul, chief executive, MAIT.

The government has reduced MEIS benefit to 2%, from 4%, from 2020, which the industry said would have an immediate crippling effect on exports. The ministry of IT and electronics has also sought a reversal from the finance ministry. “Good coordination between ministries on policy measures is required to ensure quicker resolution of industry issues,” Paul added.


“Incentives package for global value chains in production – so as to bring India at a par with the likes of Vietnam – were also brought to (the ministry’s) notice,” said an executive who did not want to be named. Sources added that companies such as Uber have sought for removal of the 1% deduction in tax on payments to suppliers under the GST regime, while demands were also made for allowing setoff through input tax credit (ITC) of the 5% GST levied on transport companies.

The finance minister has also sought recommendations for the upcoming budget from the general public through the MyGov app. Other issues included using big data for SME technology, public governance and tax sops to startups. Suggestions regarding incentives for encouraging setting up of data centres and fiscal incentives for data localisation were shared. “Discussions around incentives for pushing digital penetration in rural areas, credit guarantee and tax exemption to startups for competing with other nations, rationalisation of minimum alternate tax rate, besides creation of specific agency for looking after crossborder financial crimes, also took place,” said a statement.

Millennial mindset of using Ola, Uber adversely affecting auto sector, says Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday said the slowdown in the automobile sector was due to many factors like the change in mindset of millennials,who now prefer taxi aggregators like OLA and UBER instead of committing for monthly installments to own a car.

Sitharaman said the automobile industry did have its “good times” till two years ago. “It was definitely a good upward trajectory for the automobile sector”, she told reporters.

The minister said the sector had been affected by several things, including movement towards BS-VI norms and registration related matters and (also) change in mindsets.

She said some studies had revealed that there was a change in the the mindset of the millenials not to commit any EMIs (equated monthly installments) towards buying an automobile and instead taking OLA, UBER or the Metro (train) services.

“So, a whole lot of factors are influencing the automobile sector. We are all seized of the problem. we will try to solve it”, she said.

The Bharat Stage VI (or BS-VI) emission norm will come into force from 1 April 2020 across the country. Currently, vehicles conform to BS-IV emission standards.

On August 23, in a bid to address the slowdown in the auto sector, Sitharaman had announced lifting the ban on purchase of vehicles by government departments and allowed an additional 15 per cent depreciation on vehicles acquired from now till March 2020.

Also, the government clarified that BS-IV vehicles purchased up to March 2020 would remain operational for the entire period of registration, while also considering various measures, including scrappage policy to boost demand.

( Originally published on Sep 10, 2019 )

In Video: Millennials’ preferrence for Ola, Uber is affecting auto sector: FM Sitharaman

Millennials using ride-hailing service would mean more demand for cars: JLR

Millennials depending more on ride-hailing service providers for commuting would mean more demand for cars rather than affecting sales in mega cities, including those in India, according to JLR chief executive Ralf Speth.

Amid automobile sales slowdown in India, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had recently said one of the reasons for the downturn in the industry was millenials using more of ride-hailing services Ola and Uber instead of buying new cars.

“We should not always see it in black and white. I look at a little differently. If you look at experiences of mega cities, like London, this kind of trend will create demand for more cars,” Speth said here.

He was responding to a query on how the so-called trend of millennials not buying new vehicles and instead going for ride hailing services is affecting the auto industry.

For younger people, Speth said, “Living in these mega cities, parking is expensive, transport services are not adequate. Then you recognise public transport is not capable to deliver the mobility people need. If I see the trends in India, it is quite similar in mega cities.”

He further said women hesitate to travel in underground in tubes in London, because of the crowd, youngsters don’t want to take the tube.

“It is better for them to call an Uber or any other such service. It is quite cheap especially with the pool options emerging. You don’t have to travel inpidually, you can even travel with other people. There will be even more vehicles on the street. This kind of mobility is easier, more comfortable, safer and there will be more cars on the road,” Speth asserted.

When asked about the future of internal combustion (IC) engines in the wake of electric vehicles gaining traction, he said, “I am absolutely sure that we need IC engine vehicles in the future as well for a very long period.”

He said the industry should not only think about passenger vehicles but also about commercial vehicles and the role IC vehicles will play going forward.

“The need to deliver high quantity materials over long distances…the battery powered electric vehicle is not the right solution. And whether it’s us or our peers you need IC engine vehicles.”

That is why, he said JLR is investing in both and “we have just set up assembly for latest 6 cylinder engines. We have to do simultaneously the renewal and refinement of IC engines and also define a new world and invest in new world of electrification”.

On JLR’s performance in China, Speth said, “I guess we are going forward in a right way. In China we are on track. The last three years we have grown in double digits.”

He, however, added, “It is also clear that we don’t know how economy is going to turn up and how China will manage it. We can’t predict how it will be in the future.”

( Originally published on Sep 29, 2019 )

Badminton: India get decent draw in Thomas and Uber Cup

Indian badminton teams were on Wednesday handed comfortable draws in the rescheduled Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, slated to be held between October 9 and 17 at Aarhus, Denmark.

The Indian men’s team has been clubbed alongside defending champions China and minnows Netherlands and Tahiti in Group C, while the women’s side will be challenged by last edition runners-up Thailand, Spain and Scotland in Group B.

The draw ceremony was held by the game’s governing body BWF at Kuala Lumpur.

The top two teams in each group at the end of the group stage will make it to the knock-out round.

The Indian men’s and women’s teams had failed to reach the knockout stage in the last edition in 2018.

The Indian women’s team had lost to champion China in the semifinal stage in the 2016 edition of Uber Cup. They also reached the semifinal in the 2014 New Delhi edition.

Hosts Denmark, who had claimed the Thomas Cup trophy in 2016, were put in a challenging Group B with Korea, France and Germany.

Indonesia, who have won the Thomas Cup a record 13 times, are in Group A with Chinese Taipei, Algeria and Thailand, while last edition runners-up Japan are in Group D with Malaysia, Canada and England.

In Uber cup, defending champions Japan are in Group A with Indonesia, Germany and France, while Group C features Korea, Chinese Taipei, Tahiti and Egypt.

China, who have won the tournament 14 times but failed to make the final in 2018 for the first time since they started participating in the 1980s, are in Group D with Denmark, Malaysia and Canada.

The event was originally scheduled to be held from May 16-24 last year but was postponed to August 15-23. Later it was further delayed to October due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a wave of withdrawals by top teams, including Indonesia, South Korea, Thailand and Chinese Taipei, amid the health crisis, the prestigious tournament was postponed again last September.

Wall Street shakes off election night wobbles to rally; tech and healthcare stocks lead

Technology and health care companies drove stocks sharply higher Wednesday as Wall Street embraced the upside of more gridlock in Washington.

The S&P 500 was up 2.4% and on pace for its best day in more than five months, as of 3:26 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 457 points, or 1.7%, at 27,935, and the Nasdaq composite jumped 3.8%.

The fate of the U.S. presidency remains undecided as neither President Donald Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden has secured the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win. But after a tumultuous overnight session in global markets where Trump prematurely declared victory, Wall Street acted as if the occupant of the White House might be secondary.

Analysts said the gains came as markets focused on the benefits of the country’s political control remaining split between Democrats and Republicans. With Republicans edging closer to retaining control of the Senate, prospects dimmed for the tax increases and tighter regulations on businesses that investors expected if Democrats scored an electoral sweep, although a big stimulus effort for the economy that some on Wall Street say is needed now seems unlikely as well.

“The first information that people are digesting is that a split government is OK, and we can deal with this,” said Melda Mergen, deputy global head of equities at Columbia Threadneedle. “No big changes are expected anytime soon on the policy side.”

She cautioned, though, that the initial moves for the market may not last. “It’s a very quick reaction without knowing the final results,” she said. “It’s emotional rather than rational.”

Much of Wednesday’s strength for Wall Street was due to big gains for technology stocks. Investors have increasingly seen these stocks as some of the safer bets in the market, able to grow their profits even in a pandemic as more of daily life shifts online.

They don’t need a big stimulus effort for the economy as much as other companies, and the likelihood of Washington approving such a package dropped with the chances of a Democratic sweep. That led to the much better performance for the tech-heavy Nasdaq over other indexes. Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google’s parent company all rose at least 5%

Other areas of the stock market, where profits are more dependent on the strength of the economy, lagged behind. Financial stocks in the S&P 500 fell 0.7%. Companies that make construction materials and could have benefited from a big infrastructure plan under a Democratic sweep were falling.

Some of the market’s sharpest moves overnight were in yields for U.S. government bonds, which had earlier risen on growing expectations for big economic stimulus.

The 10-year Treasury yield swung from 0.88% late Tuesday up to 0.94% as polls were closing. It then sank as low as 0.75% after Trump made premature claims of victories in several key states, Republicans held onto Senate seats and a couple economic reports came in weaker than expected. It sat at 0.77% in afternoon trading.

All the swings are a bit reminiscent of four years earlier, when Trump surprised the market by winning the White House. Markets initially tumbled after polls and the market’s expectations proved to be so wrong in 2016, but they quickly turned around on expectations that Trump’s pro-business stance would be good for corporate profits.

The difference this time is that the uncertainty seems set to linger. It may take days for a winner of the White House to emerge, and professional investors say they’re bracing for sharp market swings in the meantime. Trump said early Wednesday that he’d take the election to the Supreme Court, though it’s unclear exactly what he means by that as states continue to tally all their votes.

A drawn-out court battle “just adds more and more uncertainty, and the last thing the market needs is that,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.

In the end, though, many fund managers suggest investors hold steady through the tumult in large part because one person can’t singlehandedly move the economy and stocks tend to rise regardless of which party controls the White House. What happens with the coronavirus pandemic will have a much greater effect on markets than this election’s results, many fund managers say.

“It’s really about the solution to the health crisis and how do we bridge between now and that eventual period of time,” said Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

Uber and Lyft both soared more than 11% after the ride-hailing companies won a vote in California allowing them to continue classifying their drivers as contractors instead of employees and preserve their business models.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX recovered from early losses to gain 1.9%. The CAC 40 in Paris rose 2.4%, and the FTSE 100 in London climbed 1.7%.

Besides the election’s impact on Trump’s enthusiasm for tariffs, European investors are also watching what it will do to the U.S. dollar’s value. By making additional stimulus less likely, a pided U.S. government could force the Federal Reserve to do even more on its own to support the economy, which could send the dollar lower against the euro and other currencies.

The Fed will announce its latest decision on interest-rate policy on Thursday. Its moves earlier this year to slash interest rates to record lows and prop up bond markets have helped Wall Street soar since March.

In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.7%, South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.6%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined 0.2% and stocks in Shanghai added 0.2%.