Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Interview- Arvind Mahajan (KPMG)

Construction firms are not looking at sports infrastructure as a specialisation but only opportunistically


ARVIND MAHAJAN, PARTNER AND NATIONAL HEAD, INFRASTRUCTURE, KPMG INDIA spoke to SHRIKANT RAO on the sidelines of a conference in Mumbai on the gap in sports infrastructure in India and the way forward for their development.



What is your assessment of the gap that exists in sports infrastructure?


I think a lot has been done on sports infrastructure, which was linked to specific events like the Asian Games and more recently the Commonwealth Games. We also saw some challenges that happened at the time of the Commonwealth Games. IPL has also helped to create a lot of cricket infrastructure, because of the revenue streams that are happening.  Going forward, much more needs to be done to substantiate our sports infrastructure.  The government should look at involving the private sector more, not just from an EPC perspective, but potentially from a PPP perspective. We have had a lot of learning of that from other parts of the world and it may make a lot of sense for the government to look at it.  And, while a lot, as I said, has been done for cricket, if really India wants to step up with the Olympic sports, as well as some of the others, it makes sense for the government to invest in sports infrastructure.  I know that some states are taking a lead in this. 


Could you name a few?


I know that Punjab is doing a lot in this area.  Basically, I think other states would do well to learn from Punjab’s initiatives in this area because on one hand it is sports, while it may seem as something like a leisure aspect on the other hand it helps build citizenship and community, and encourages right types of values among our youth.  Given the fact that India is one of the youngest populations going forward today, I think sports has to have an important part with respect to role of government in terms of helping support infrastructure.


Which are the EPC companies you see doing a good job here?


Of course, there are the usual suspects. L&T is obviously among them. There are others as well, but I would say when I’m talking about something world class it would have to be firms like L&T but we really need to create truly world class facilities, because that is the only way we can get sports medals.


Do you see construction companies taking sports infrastructure as a specialisation? 


At a moment it is not  sizeable enough a market for them to focus on. They’re looking at it more opportunistically rather than as a specialist area.  As and when some large projects came along a lot of people did look at it, but if they see a pipeline of opportunities, I’m sure more of them may.


So what are the opportunities you see in sports infrastructure?


I think a degree of promotion needs to be done, we need a slightly more proactive role on the part of the government in pushing it, and if that happens, I’m sure the private sector will step up and create the right degree of focus including maybe partnerships from global companies or even get the technologies that might be required in some cases. 


There are people who say that most of the large stadia built recently are white elephants, and that we need small facilities dotted across India instead of big ones which we use only once in a while?


I think it is not either/or, but it may be both.  You do need the second part, which is the more distributed one as well.  They may not be of the same size and scale but they also need to be of quality, and I think Punjab is actually looking at that.  They’re looking at more district level and a group of smaller villages. They’re looking at creating good sports infrastructure, particularly for hockey. 


So what do you want to see happening over a course of time?


I would like to see more states taking the initiative and push sports infrastructure forward in the right direction because I think that is something which is required.

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