Venky Mysore: "We have brand SRK"

An interview with Venky Mysore, the CEO and Managing Director, Kolkata Knight Riders:

The Kolkata Knight Riders team with their top draw owner Shah Rukh Khan after winning the IPL in 2014.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Question: KKR is one of the best-supported teams in the IPL. How has this come about?

Answer: It’s come about because of the characteristics of the city: very passionate people in Calcutta, who love their cricket. We’re thankful that whatever we’ve done over the last several years, they’ve attached themselves to KKR and they feel KKR is their team. Which is what you really want. It is their team. Our on-field performance and some of the things we’ve done with the brand, to connect with the city, like night golf or any other event. All this helps to connect with the community.

What efforts has the management had to make to achieve this level of support?

Some of our campaigns, some of our grassroots-level work that we do in different parts of the State. The brands that we associate with... this year we have 5-6 local brands that we work with. They help us to keep our brand alive in the off-season. All these things go a long way.

How hard is it to build team loyalty in the IPL?

It is very important to the franchise but it takes time and it’s tough to build that. I think we’re clearly getting to a stage with KKR that shows we’re connecting with the community and the city. Unless you work at it — you have to keep providing value. You look at your fans as your customers. What are you doing to delight them? Every time they interact with KKR, the objective is to delight them. When you do that, you build up a fan base and fan loyalty over time.

In the case of KKR, what idea do you think the fans are supporting: the city of Kolkata, the players or the owners?

Well, what we’ve stood for at KKR is this. We like to be a relatively low-profile team. We’ve not built our team on names and celebrities. Because we have the biggest brand behind us, which is brand SRK. It is a big, big plus for us as a franchise. It is the attitude and the effort that goes in when the team is on the field, where it’s a never-say-die type of approach. In the process you start getting good results. And when you get good results, everybody sees the whole package. All this resonates with people.

The nucleus of many teams has changed since the first season of IPL. Is continuity important to building a fanbase?

Extremely important. For us it’s been a conscious effort. We’ve also been fortunate that the core that we built in 2011 has pretty much stayed. Every time we have an auction or an opportunity to trade, we are in a position to strengthen our team.

KKR does not have a single Bengal player on the roster this time. Is it necessary to have local players to win local support?

Ideally, we’d like to. But the nature of the auction is such that it is very difficult to execute your plan. It’s also team combination. What we’ve found is that the local support comes primarily for the franchise. In addition to that if there are some names, particularly if they’re from Bengal, it’s an icing on the cake. But several times that’s not possible. If you look around there are very few teams with players from their respective cities or states. They just get spread around a little bit. It’s just the way of life. For us developing talent at the grassroots level is very important and we’ll keep investing in that.

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