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World Cup 2014 : Rio calling: Football World Cup fever grips industry captains

Himani Chandna Gurtoo and Anupama Airy, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 23, 2014
First Published: 00:04 IST(23/6/2014) | Last Updated: 01:25 IST(23/6/2014)

Come mid-July, the big boys of Indian industry will take a time-out and head for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to watch football’s new world champions being crowned.

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There is no word if Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff ‘s invite to the high-voltage final early July 14 (India time), but many industry captains have their bags packed for the game that comes two days ahead of the Brics summit that the PM will be attending.

Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, who recently announced an IPL-style football league — the Indian Super League (ISL) — in partnership with media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s STAR, will be catching the action live with wife Nita and sons Akash and Anant. A Reliance spokesperson refused comments but also didn’t deny the game plan.

They will have company in Mahindra and Mahindra chairman Anand Mahindra, a football enthusiast and a Brazil fan. “Boa Sorte Brazil! Begin well & make sure you get to the final. I’ve contracted yellow fever & will be cheering from the stands in Rio...” Mahindra, who once owned a Mumbai football team, recently tweeted.

Bharti vice-chairman and managing director Rajan Bharti Mittal told HT, “Yes, I’m going”. However, elder brother and Bharti CEO Sunil Bharti Mittal may give the final a miss. “As of now, it is not in his calendar,” a source close to him said.

The semi-final lineup will decide the Brazil plans of brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh, who control hospital chain Fortis Healthcare. While Malvinder is rooting for Brazil and Germany, Shivinder wants Netherlands, France, Costa Rica and Chile to be the final four.

Future Group owner K ishore Biyani has no such ‘demands’. He will be at three games — two semis and of course, the final. “I am going as of now,” Biyani texted about his plans.

Videocon group chairman Venugopal Dhoot and Hero MotoCorp’s Pawan Munjal are already in Brazil and will be in Rio on July 14. So will HDFC Bank chairman Deepak Parekh. Videocon has business interests, including an oil and gas block, in Brazil while Dhoot has bought an ISL team.

For Indic Inc, the game is truly on.


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