It’s all in the game

M. Somasekhar | Updated on March 23, 2013 Published on March 23, 2013

Anil Kumar, Managing Director, Great Sports Infrastructure

The year was 2011. The venue was Salt Lake City football stadium. At the Mecca of Indian football, one of the greatest footballers Argentina’s Lionel Messi was in action in a friendly match against Venezuela.

It was the first FIFA international match in India. “After the match on September 2, I had a chance to meet the football great and other stars. It was music to my ears to hear Messi and others say that it was a good surface to play on. It was the biggest moment for me, a struggling entrepreneur, dabbling in giving a lift to sports infrastructure in the country.”

Recounting this rare encounter, Anil Kumar said it was a high point in his career. The reason was that the Hyderabad-based company had laid the playing surface for the match. The Salt Lake Stadium had opted for FieldTurf artificial grass for its 90,000 sq. ft. soccer field. The installation, at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore, was implemented by Great Sports in collaboration with FieldTurf Inc. This bolstered his resolve to do his best in creating better sports infrastructure, says this tall and lanky, first-generation entrepreneur. A sportsman himself, Anil represented Andhra Pradesh in athletics and made a mark in handball.

Son of a doctor couple, the 44-year-old Anil did his engineering from Osmania University. He went on to get an MBA from Symbiosis, Pune. He joined Wipro Infotech through campus placement and then joined Ramco Systems.

A break came in 1997, when Ramco wanted to expand into the US and started an office in Chicago. He worked there from 1997 to 2004. He also did a three-month Executive Development Programme in Kellogg’s Business School in Chicago.

In 2004, Anil and his wife Sujatha Reddy, also an engineer, decided to return to India with their young children. He wanted to be on his own from his engineering days. Initially, branded shirts attracted him.

While in the US, he researched, going through 300-400 companies for ideas and narrowed down on the right product. FieldTurf Inc appealed to him. It was not just for sports, but for landscape and other areas. Back in Hyderabad in the summer of 2004, Anil raised Rs 50 lakh from his savings, family and friends. In 2009, he wondered whether he had got into the right field and product due to the slow growth.

But, in the last three years, things have improved. The turnover has jumped to Rs 18 crore and the product lines are expanding. It has orders for three FIFA certified grounds in Meghalaya and Sikkim, as well as athletic tracks. GSI has tie-ups with six companies – two European and four in the US – for sports products. There is greater demand in non-sports segments, with over 4,000 installations done by his company, Anil says.

The business mix at present is two-thirds sports surfaces and the balance landscapes for commercial, residential buildings. The estimated market is around Rs 300 crore for sports surfaces at present, he says.

On his future, Anil said “I came into sports sector without much insight into the market, but our next big plan is to diversify into industrial coating. We are exploring a joint venture with one of our German partners. Here, the business potential is known and quite high”.

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Published on March 23, 2013
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