India's badminton queen Saina Nehwal has signed up a 40-crore deal with Rhiti Sports Management company, making her the country's highest paid sportsperson outside cricket.
The London Olympics bronze-medallist shuttler had a three-year contract with Deccan Chargers which expired early this month.
"I am very happy to be associated with Rhiti Sports and look forward to start a working relationship with them. With Rhiti's background and credibility, they know how to balance things and that is a big plus point," said Saina, who signed a three-year contract with Rhiti Sports.
"The strides Rhiti has taken in the Sports industry in recent times made it an easy choice for me. I would like to also thank, Mr Vinod Dhawan, vice president Badminton Association of India, who played a key role in helping form this association," she added.
Rhiti Sports will now manage Saina's endorsements and brand associations, corporate profile, patents and digital rights, images and all other commercial rights exclusively.
Saina now becomes one of the world's best-earning badminton players.
Chinese men's singles gold medallist Lin Dan reportedly earns about Rs. 12.8 crore annually in net earnings, while Malaysian Lee Chong Wei takes home Rs 8.7 crore approximately, the paper said.
Saina's recent success on the badminton courts have now made her a much sought after star as her popularity and brand value has increased significantly over the past year and this association will surely further enhance her brand value in the years to come.
Arun Pandey, chairman and managing director of Rhiti Sports, said, "We are delighted to have Saina on board, who has brought great pride to the nation with her exploits. We are proud to be associated with someone who is not only a youth icon for women in the country but has also done a lot for Badminton as a sport.
"She has placed India on the World Map for Badminton and changed the outlook of people in India towards the sport. We will use all our knowledge and expertise, and make this partnership a very fruitful one indeed," he added.
Saina joins a high-profile list of celebrities handled by Rhiti Sports, which includes Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Growth of sports in India
Saina Nehwal's three-year deal worth a reported $7.4 million with Rhiti Sports, underlines badminton's growth in the otherwise cricket-crazy country.
"We're very thrilled with the base amount and it's an honour since she's the first non-cricket athlete they've taken on," Nehwal's father Harvir Singh told Indian Express newspaper.
The 22-year-old is the only Indian to win an Olympic badminton medal and also clinched gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
(With inputs from PTI and Reuters)