Major League Baseball to be the Next Big Thing in India! Are you kidding me?

Initially, I wanted to comment on the other post about the possibility of Major League Baseball being the next big thing in India. I decided to post on the blog instead, as I would also like to introduce the new developments in Cricket along with the reasons for my argument. My title will probably raise some eyebrows. But, unfortunately it is true, and probably reflects the ground reality. Let me give you reasons why Major League Baseball might not be able to penetrate the Indian market.

The news about the two people picked to play Baseball from India is not even a footnote in Indian news, the reason being, cricket is not a sport. It is a religion over there. I am sure that once you go there, you will realize what I am talking about. Pick any Indian guy here in America or in India, and ask them if there is a possibility of future for Baseball in India? Better still, ask Dr. Jay Singh. You will get the same answer.

The fact of the matter is there is no culture of baseball in India. Two similar sports cannot coexist if one of them is steeped and ingrained into the culture. It is difficult to envision elbowroom for the new sport as it is likely to be considered an imitation of the former, essentially to be a substitute product to the consumer preference. NFL Europa failed, as it was perceived to be a poor substitute for Rugby(Click Here). There is this concept in Microeconomics called the ‘Marginal Rate of Substitution’, which means a consumer’s willingness to substitute one product for another while maintaining the same level of satisfaction. The question is whether Major League Baseball can overcome the steep marginal rate of substitution? May be, it can market the MLB brand as a complement rather than a substitute. It is a hard sell though considering the similarity of the sports. Think about it this way – how many Americans play cricket here? Simply put, there is no culture of cricket here in America even though it is similar to baseball in some ways. Only, the people from the Indian subcontinent or, expatriates from Australia, England or the Caribbean, play cricket here in US.

MLB could possibly get bigger in India, if and only if cricket shoots itself in its foot (in terms of popularity), and declines precipitously as the consumer preference. There are many indications to the contrary. For instance, a new product of cricket, 20-20 (basically 20 x 6 =120 pitches thrown per inning matches) has caught on with the imagination of the Indian public, and it is played for the same duration as a baseball game (roughly 3 hours). In fact, a new 20-20 league called Indian Premier League (IPL) was created in 2008 on the lines of Soccer’s English Premier League. An auction was conducted for the sale of eight city franchises. While the total base price for the auction was US $400 million, the auction fetched US $723.3 million. Later another auction was conducted to buy cricket players with their base prices ranging from $250,000 to $1.5M. This presented an opportunity for a cricketer to earn $1.5 M for 45 days of cricket in a calendar year(Click Here). Believe it or not, because of this league, cricket made the Forbes’ top ten highest paid sports list (less endorsements) in 2009 (Click Here). In 2009, top ten cricket players earned in the range of $2.5M to $10 million and all of them made the top 50 highest earning athletes (Click Here).

Another factor that will play a role in determining a change in preference of sport is the demographic shift. There are more Indians in US than the number of Americans in India. So, I would argue that cricket will get bigger in the USA than the other way round. Do you guys know that USACA is mulling a cricket match between India and Pakistan in Florida? (Click Here)

I also found an article about projected earnings of IPL players, come 2010 (Click Here). My fellow MBA students, jump onto the 20-20 bandwagon, I dare say. Here is your opportunity to market a revolutionary product. I have more to talk but, it will go on and on. Please let me know your thoughts on the issue. What other factors might tilt the balance in favor of baseball or cricket? If you want to disagree, feel free to disagree.

I have listed some topics that any of the enthusiasts might select for a blog post. Potentially you could use concepts in Managerial Economics like Market Structure & Competition, game theory and strategy to delve into the following issues, and make Dr.Zambrano proud.

1. How IPL took the concept from ICL (Indian Cricket League), leveraged its clout both in the BCCI (Indian Cricket Board) and the administration, and destroyed the ICL?

2. IPL 2009, conducted in South Africa owing to security situation (Can you imagine moving all the MLB games to Japan or any other country, and still have a successful tournament?).

3. Biggest brand name in India (Sachin Tendulkar), and his evolution as the biggest brand

4. IPL’s Revenue generating model

-Hemanth Kundeti

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6 Responses to Major League Baseball to be the Next Big Thing in India! Are you kidding me?

  1. Danielle Steussy says:

    Like you said Hemanth, cricket is like a religion in India. It is a staple of Indian culture. However, you have look at sports like baseball, basketball, and football in the United States. These sports, like cricket in India, are staples of American culture. Looking beyond the U.S. borders, soccer belongs to countries Europe and Latin America, ice hockey to Canada, and even ping pong to China. The point is that sports is a culture and citizens identify with certain sports in their own country. I’d love to see other sports, particularly those from other countries, being played and represented in the United States; however, I think because of the stubborn nature of these ingrained sports cultures, it will be incredibly difficult for baseball to be accepted and played in India and the same for cricket in the United States. Unfortunately, I think it will be a while before cricket becomes somewhat popular in the United States and the same will most likely happen with baseball in India.

    Sure, there is plenty of talent out there in the world, but only those players who welcome a particular sport into their culture will be the ones who enjoy and excel in it.

  2. Phil Hamer says:

    In the words of Raphael from my favorite childhood movie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, “Nobody understands cricket! You gotta know what a crumpet is to understand cricket!”
    I think this pretty much sums up the willingness of mainstream America to accept cricket as a common sport.
    I guess if Raphael was an Indian he would have said, “Nobody understands baseball! You gotta know what a crackerjack is to understand baseball!”

  3. With the US infrastructure around its main sports of soccer, football, baseball, and basketball, it just doesn’t seem feasible that cricket will become the next popular sport. It almost seems like we enjoy these sports too much to even fit another one in to the lineup. On the other hand, India is still an emerging country. I don’t think it is probable at all that baseball could gain popularity, but there is a possibility. In the 70’s, Roberto Clemente, a major league baseball player, visited Nicaragua a few times to introduce baseball and give donations to the country. He actually died trying to deliver aid after a devastating earthquake shook the capital. His presence in the country made baseball that country’s national sport even though every neighboring country in central america cares more about soccer. While visiting Nicaragua, every small village had a make fetch baseball diamond instead of a soccer field, and all the kids played the game religiously. It makes me wonder if baseball players introduced the game to these small villages in India, what will be the effect? I know it is a long shot, but I think there is a chance that it will catch on.

  4. Bryan deRegt says:

    I do not think cricket will become popular in the US or baseball will become popular in India. Cricket will not become popular in the US because it is too slow and Americans would not be good at it. First, the pace of play is a big problem. Baseball is losing popularity in the US because it has a slow pace. Cricket is played at an even slower pace. This is not what TV wants and that is where revenue comes from these days. Cricket would not be attractive to ESPN so would not be able to make it in the US. Second, Americans are not the best at cricket. When it comes to sports, the US likes to be the best or doesn’t seem to care much. It says a lot about the American culture but if the best cricket isn’t in the US league it would hurt its chances.

    As far as baseball in India, I agree with a lot of what has been mentioned about the popularity of Cricket but there also are no prominent Indian MLB players. People in general like to watch their own countrymen. India would need an MLB superstar for baseball to have a chance at becoming popular.

  5. Joshua Bingham says:

    One of the above comments to this post makes a great point. In the U.S., there are three sports that dominate the attention of the public. In fall and early winter, it’s Football. In winter and early spring, it’s Basketball. And in spring through summer, it’s Baseball. You could throw a little Soccer and Golf in there as well, but those three sports are the ones that everyone talks about throughout the year. The same is true in India. Cricket is the sport that everyone talks about. There is no way that an American sport like Baseball will ever have a strong foot-hold in the country. It is not ingrained in the country’s culture, like it is in the U.S. The same goes for Cricket in the U.S. There will definitely be some people interested, but it would never draw enough attention like the big three: Football, Basketball, and Baseball.

    What is really interesting is the salaries that some of the players are paid. That is an incredible amount of money to make playing a sport. I am even more interested to see what the culture is like in India when we go. Just like Americans love dissecting the most recent game, or analyzing how an individual player is doing, Indians must love doing the same with cricket. I can’t wait to see this for real.

  6. AliyaZ. says:

    I pretty much agree with all the comments above stating that most likely cricket would not become any close to popular in the United States. Similarly, baseball will probably not replace cricket in India. It is very interesting to me that each country in the world has a sport preference. I remember growing up with my brother and we would fight for the remote control, because he wanted to watch soccer and I could not miss a tennis match showing on TV. That was back in Russia. Here in the United States people play baseball or football, which I still don’t quite understand or maybe I just subconsciously do not want to understand. IT is American culture and you have to grow up in it to understand. Indians grow up playing cricket. The sport becomes nation’s culture or religion and therefore it would very difficult to imagine that a country would suddenly adopt a different sport because it is popular in another country.

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