Despite what we may think, Indians play a fair amount of sports. From wrestling to wushu, kabaddi to cycling, there are large numbers of people actively engaged in virtually every sport you can think of. The problem is, no matter how good many of them may be, or how much potential they may have, there isn’t much they can do with it. A PSU job, with a decent salary, is the pinnacle of achievement for most of them.
The ‘rich list’ of Indian sports cannot be compared to a similar list of international sportspersons. Michael Schumacher, before his comeback season, had reportedly made over 650 million dollars in his Formula 1 career, through salary and endorsements.
Tiger Woods, before his rampant and somewhat kinky sexual appetite was revealed to the world, made about 100 million a year. Compared to that, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni are minor league players. Still, for those who are on Indian sport’s rich list, it is a huge achievement, and one that they richly deserve, pardon the pun. The list is naturally dominated by cricketers, because it is the richest sport in the country, and the one that affords the most space for endorsements.
Two concurrent phenomena allowed Indian sportsmen to make as much money as they do: Sachin and TV. Sachin’s national appeal is perhaps unparalleled in any sport, anywhere in the world, and with television penetrating into the hinterland, marketing bosses realised the power of that appeal. He opened up the endorsement world for Indian sports. Before Sachin, even big cricketers didn’t make big bucks.
For the non-cricketers on the list, the achievement is even bigger. They have succeeded in sports that have not been given much attention in India, and, like in the case of Viswanathan Anand, have achieved more on the world stage than most cricketers. They are an inspiration for youngsters looking at sports other than cricket. And then there is the tale of those at the other end of the money spectrum: winners at the Asian and sometimes even the world levels, but nobodies in their own homeland.
Stories of Arjuna awardees dying lonely deaths in penury appear regularly in the pages of Indian newspapers, and for most people who take up a sport as anything more than a hobby, that is the reality. Forget about the kabaddi and kho-kho players. Even in the so-called rich sports like tennis and golf, only a minuscule fraction at the very top earn a living thanks to their sporting prowess. The vast majority still languishes in neverland, struggling to make ends meet.
Will things always be this gloomy? Fortunately, the answer to that is a very certain no. The processes may be slow, but many Indian sports are moving in the direction of professionalisation. Sport is also being looked at as a viable business proposition. There is an ever growing number of companies involved in sports management, promotion, marketing and events. Reality TV has made the field even wider, and it will continue to grow.
There is already tremendous interest in sports like football, badminton and boxing. The message from investors is clear though. For sports to grow and make money, federations have to be professional. If federations clean up, the money will come. It may not be in the hundreds of millions, but enough to afford sportsmen the chance to live a life of dignity and continue to bring glory to the nation.
1. M S Dhoni,Cricket
The India captain has reportedly nosed ahead of Sachin Tendulkar in terms of net worth in the last fiscal. Having led India to their only World T20 title in 2007, he became the most expensive buy of the first IPL auction.
“Dhoni is the man of the moment…. And can overhaul Sachin in the volume of work because the volume of advertising is more now,” says ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar. “I find Dhoni very similar to Tendulkar in a lot of ways. He is quiet, understated and shy. Like Tendulkar, he is also extremely clear about his opinions.”
Dhoni in figures
From endorsements: Rs 37 crore
From IPL: Rs 7 crore
From match fees for international fixtures: Rs 75.6 lakh
Some products he endorses: Orient PSPO, Aircel, Micromax mobiles
2. Sachin Tendulkar, Cricket
Like Dhoni, the ‘Boss,’ as Ravi Shastri referred to him at the IPL inauguration, earned between Rs 35-40 crore between April 2009-March 2010. When the late Mark Mascarenhas of WorldTel signed him reportedly for Rs 100 crore for five years, sports branding got a whole new meaning in India. That even in the sunset of his career, his brand worth is nearly as expensive as Dhoni’s tells its own story.
Tendulkar in figures
From endorsements: Rs 35 crore
From IPL: Rs 5.1 crore
From match fees for international fixtures: Rs 43.6 lakh
Some products he endorses: Aviva Life Insurance, Jaypee Group
3. Jeev Milkha Singh, Golf
Worthy son of a worthy father. He showed India that is was possible to make it as a golfer just as five decades ago, his father had earned the title of the ‘Flying Sikh’. Jeev now leads a pack of Indian golfers who’ve made it on the European, American, Asian and Japanese circuits. He’s sparked an Indian tee party.
About Rs 3-4 crore changed hands when he signed the deal with Kensville. Along with it came a villa overlooking the course on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
Jeev in figures
Earnings: Rs 22 crore (Rs 12 crore as endorsements and Rs 10 crore as prize money).
Some products he endorses: Callaway, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Golf in Dubai, UPS, Societe Generale Private Banking, Rolex, Jaguar and Kensville Golf Living.
Note: Other golfers
Earlier this year, Hero Honda got on board Gaganjeet Bhullar, Shiv Kapur and Anirban Lahiri. While Shiv was paid Rs 45 lakh, Bhullar and Lahiri pocketed Rs 30-35 lakh each. Bhullar has also been signed by apparel maker, Indian Terrain. His appearance fee for a day is Rs 3 lakh while Lahiri charges Rs 75,000.
– Robin Bose
4. Yuvraj Singh, Cricket
The Prince began regally, hit six sixes in between, but injuries, being dethroned by his IPL team and off-the-field controversies have taken some sheen off the image that was once kingsize.
“Yuvraj started with great aplomb and with style. A lot of people started liking him. But then he started performing better off the field than on it. People realised that wasn’t a cool thing to do,” says ad filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar.
Yuvraj in figures
From endorsements: Rs 8-10 crore
From IPL: Rs 4.3 crore
From match fees for international fixtures: Rs 58 lakh
5. Harbhajan Singh, Cricket
In Kolkata recently to inaugurate a spa, Harbhajan bluntly stated he didn’t really have time for beauty treatments. The feisty Sardar has his own brand equity though he bowled himself a doosra over Andrew Symonds and the monkey episode and slapping Sreesanth in IPL 1. But women love him and he is a complete family product, says Sangeet Shirodkar, his agent.
“Funnily Harbhajan was one of the few cricketers who signed endorsements and made money during the recession. We signed Movado (a Swiss watch company) and we got him Neo Cricket. One of his clients renewed him at a 250 per cent hike…. His aggression, passion and performance are his selling points,” says Shirodkar. While Dhoni and Tendulkar go solo, he is part of that group of cricketers who figure in endorsements.
Harbhajan in figures
From endorsements: Rs 8-10 crore
From IPL: Rs 3.9 crore
From match fees for international fixtures: Rs 67.6 lakh
6. Virender Sehwag, Cricket
It was the way he answered his Ma’s call that endeared the Najafgarh Nawab to India. Two Test triple centuries and the kind of swashbuckling batting only he is capable of keeps Sehwag in business. “Apart from his unmatched cricketing prowess, it’s his boy-next-door image that makes him endearing and highly saleable,” says a representative of Collage Sports Management which manages the cricketer.
Sehwag in figures
From endorsements: Rs 8-10 crore
From IPL: Rs 3.4 crore
From match fees for international fixtures: Rs 49 lakh
Cricket reporting by Atreyo Mukhopadhyay and Bivabasu Kumar
7. Bhaichung Bhutia, Football
This season, the legs let down the face of Indian football. Injuries meant he was off the field more than on it. Leading India to another Nehru Cup title, winning a reality dance show, falling out bitterly with Mohun Bagan and joining East Bengal meant that he was in the news even though it wasn’t for his usual exploits in front of the goal.
Bhutia in figures
From club (East Bengal): Rs 50 lakh
From endorsements: Between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore
Reportedly charges between Rs 2-5 lakh for a day-long event depending on his involvement in seminars, inaugurations etc.
Products/brands he endorses: Aircel, Durgapur Cement, Glucon D Isotonic Drink, Nike.
Note: Footballers get only a flat daily allowance of Rs 600 for each day they are with the national squad. That works out to approximately Rs 75,000 given that the players were in national camps/tournaments for roughly 75 days.
– Dhiman Sarkar
8. Viswanathan Anand, Chess
For someone who pursues an essentially esoteric sport, he is perhaps the only sportsman apart from Tendulkar with an all-India appeal. After all, an Indian world champion isn’t quite an everyday thing in our country yet. His earnings spread over two decades as a pro chess player would be around $70 to 80 million. There is a quiet, studious air about him which fits the type and a dry wit that’s a bonus.
Anand in figures
Annual earnings: Between Rs 10-15 crore, most of it from prize money and appearance fees. (Got 1.2 million euros, Rs 7.07 crore approximately) for retaining the World Championship title in Sofia last month. Earned nearly $1 million for beating Vladimir Kramnik in 2008. Said to get between $60,000 to 80,000 as appearance fee.
Endorsements: NIIT and AMD. His association with NIIT is over 12 years old and was reported to be worth Rs 5 crore when it was signed in 1998.
– B. Shrikant
9. Vijender Singh, Boxing
The boy from Bhiwani has all the making of a dude. He’s won an Olympic medal, has six packs or more and is known to pack a punch. Bollywood, bright lights, all want a part of him it seems. He is said to have earned around Rs 10 crore from the Olympic bronze in Beijing 2008.
Vijender in figures
Earnings: Rs 5 crore: Bajaj Allianz (one year), Sahara India, Pepsi, multi-crore deal worth Rs 4 crore with Percept, Nike. Nothing from competing.
– Saurabh Duggal
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Contrary to popular belief, and as compared to other pro sports, tennis players hardly make any money from the game itself. It is only the top 50 in singles who rake in the moolah and the endorsement deals.
Most of their earnings are also invested back, in the form of coaching, travelling and lodging charges they incur while playing tournaments around the world.
Someone like Sania Mirza’s earnings (including endorsements) are valuated at around Rs 10 crore a year. On the other hand, her career earnings stand at Rs 745,08,883.
Career prize money: Rs 745,08,883
Year To Date: Rs 20,32,712
Career prize money: Rs 265,334,071
Year To Date: Rs 97,57,784
Career prize money: Rs 236,428,851
Year To Date: Rs 54,05,099
– Deepti Patwardhan
Ever since his history-making feat at the Beijng Olympics in 2008, Bindra’s been feted by India and the world. In the time since then, he’s earned an estimated Rs 12 crore (the medal alone fetched him crores of rupees in cash awards and also a luxury car from Volvo – a Volvo sedan worth Rs 44 lakh).
After the Games, he linked up with electronics giant Samsung (for one year), with BSNL, and is a global brand ambassador for the world renowned German-based sports arms company Walther.
Earnings in 2008: An estimated Rs 5 crore
– Saurabh Duggal
And the poorest...
At the other end of the spectrum, you have some of the country’s most impoverished sportspersons. These are men and women who have also done India proud, but have really got no recognition and no financial reward either.
The 25-year-old from Bhiwani is an Asian silver medallist and a current national champion, a title that has been hers for the last three years. Yet, she still doesn't have a job. Her father is an ex-servicemen and they have 1.5 acres of land and subsist on that.
Vivek Singh (Hockey)
The hockey Olympian Vivek Singh from Varanasi died in 2005 at the age of 37, after a prolonged battle with cancer. Despite repeated requests to the Central and State Governments, he wasn’t given any financial assistance, except Rs 1 lakh by the then IHF for his treatment in Mumbai.
Rajiv Mishra (Hockey)
Once known as Indian hockey’s shining star, Mishra faded into oblivion with the same suddenness that he emerged onto the national scene a decade before. Now 33, earning Rs 15,000 a month, the once ace centre forward is battling for survival with a mountain of responsibilities and debt on his shoulders.
Madan was in the news recently for winning India a silver in the Federation Cup. He is also a national medallist. He is from a very poor family and is yet to get a job anywhere. He spends his time practicing in Bhiwani.
The 23-year-old from Bhiwani is a national medallist and has represented the country on a couple of occasions. She belongs to a very poor family. Her father died three years ago and she has been struggling to get a job for a couple of years. Though women’s boxing is a medal sport in the 2012 London Olympics, there are very few jobs for these women.
Pormila has been a regular member of the India women’s kabaddi team for the last couple of years and has two Asian Championship golds to her name. She is currently in a coaching camp for this year’s Asian Games. A constable in the Haryana Police, she makes about Rs 12,000 a month.