We would like to improve the sports infrastructure in villages: IOCL chairman Shrikant Vaidya

The IOCL chairman talks about their contribution and the changes he wishes to see in Indian sport.

Published : Jun 22, 2023 10:40 IST - 6 MINS READ

All for sport: Indian Oil Chairman, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, has come up with a lot of ambitious sports-related initiatives in the country.
All for sport: Indian Oil Chairman, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, has come up with a lot of ambitious sports-related initiatives in the country. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

All for sport: Indian Oil Chairman, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, has come up with a lot of ambitious sports-related initiatives in the country. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) has emerged as a huge promoter of sports in recent times, helmed by its chairman, Shrikant Madhav Vaidya, who has played a major role in launching some flagship programmes.

There are many ambitious initiatives launched at his behest, such as Parivartan — Prison to Pride, a rehab initiative for jail inmates in the country. The IOCL also provides coaching and kits to inmates in various sports, sparking a growth in interest among juveniles in recent times.

Mr. Vaidya spoke to Sportstar on various issues related to his interest in sports and the role played by IOCL in assisting the growth of sports by providing employment and scholarships to sportspersons.

2022 was a great year for Indian sports and IOC had some flagship projects connected with the teams. How do you look at it?

It indeed was a great year. Let me start with our business. We did some record refining, record pipeline transportation and record marketing of our projects — all-time high. And it goes well with sports also. 2022 was very satisfying with many firsts.

We had Parivartan. It is a project very close to my heart and it is now the buzz word in Indian Oil. We have covered nearly 17 jails and more than 2600 inmates. The best part of it was that every place we went they did not allow us to leave after the stipulated one-month period. We were requested to continue.

And then we did it for juveniles through Nayi Dishayen. This was a very heart touching experience for me because I see kids involved in crime because of social conditions. The area was full of negativity. Now, sports brings about positivity — I realised that when we did the Parivartan programme. The amount of positivity among the inmates and the jail authorities was something I can’t describe. It was the most satisfying phase for me.

The Thomas Cup triumph was a great moment for the nation and IOL. That team was almost the IOCL team. We were the first corporates to have a women’s hockey team. We have tried to encourage sportswomen.

IOC has over the years recruited many sportspersons in its ranks. What do these sportspersons bring to the organisation?

Actually, these sportspersons need hand-rolling. Many a time we notice they come from humble backgrounds. Once a company like Indian Oil stands with them, their financial security is taken care of. They are able to concentrate on their job. We are the only corporate company doing this. Other corporates have stopped recruiting and that is very unfortunate. Having these sportspersons means they enhance the brand of the organisation. We contribute by giving them jobs, which is a huge contribution. In fact, P. Gopichand has gone on record to praise the IOC, which took care of his medical needs at the critical time. For us it is a win-win situation.

What role can the IOC play to bridge the gap between athletes who are earning well as professionals and those who need funding at the junior level. How to bridge that gap?

We are not trying to target school and college-level athletes. This is the area which will give us great results. We have already tied up with the Sports Authority of India and taken 30 girl athletes on scholarships for three years. We aim to increase the scholarship period to six years. I recently met Prakash Padukone who wants us to identify and encourage athletics and para sports. We will try to make some difference at the sub-junior level to create future champions.

The Hon. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has been steering a sporting revolution in the country through the Fit India and Khelo India movements. How can the IOC inculcate a sporting culture?

Very recently, Rinku Singh, the IPL wonder, came to the fore. He is the son of a LPG delivery man from IOC. So, we treat them as a family. We are supporting them in the best possible way. A girl from Chennai qualified for IIT. She is the daughter of a pump attendant. We are a family of five lakh. We give the underprivileged people some financial security.

What are your views on the success of the chess tournaments introduced in various prisons?

Inmates from various jails across the world participate in this online chess tournament called Chess For Freedom. This is part of the Parivartan scheme. The Yerawada Jail won the bronze. There was a happy atmosphere at the jail. There was this realization that one move can make the difference — in chess and life. It impacts life. I saw that the women inmates have shown interest and we are going to do it for them.

Are there any long-term projects in the pipeline?

A gold in athletics, but it can’t be a quick fix. My vision is to target gold in athletics, two Olympics down the line. We are determined to do that and will go full hog to support para-athletics. Recently I saw their enthusiasm and was very impressed. They have immense talent and I want to support them. Manjusha (Kanwar) has done a lot for badminton. Lakshya Sen is an example. But we want to do it in other sports too.

Is the IOC following the trend of signing winners as brand ambassadors?

Not at all. We catch them young and develop them to become stars. Many of our athletes have become popular after joining us.

Your friendships with sportsmen are well known. What have you learnt from your interactions with them?

I have found them to be highly committed people. Success has not come to them easily. They have fought tooth and nail to be where they are. It is so inspiring. Nothing comes to you on a platter. They have also praised Indian Oil for promoting sports. It gives us motivation to work more.

What about Sunil Gavaskar? You have a special rapport with him.

Once I was in Bombay as a B-Grade officer. We had a shoot with Gavaskar. I volunteered to pick him up from his house (Sportsfield in Worli) I had to take him to BPCL Club. I was told to report at 10 am but I reached at 8 am so that I could see all the stars coming out of that building — the 1971 cricket players. I took their autographs. I met Gavaskar a number of times thereafter. Once in Qatar, we met at the airport, and I have always found him so humble and friendly. He is a master. I just love his analysis of the game. He was a great proponent of giving jobs to sportspersons. Like giving employment to domestic players and not just international stars.

Which is your favourite Indian triumph?

The 1983 World Cup. I was working in Panvel at the time when TV was new in the country. Few people owned TV sets and we would go from house to house to see the matches. I have some fond memories.

Do you think we are a sporting nation?

We are becoming a sporting nation. Our performances have become so good in the last decade that our reputation has gone up. It is a long way ahead, but we are on the right track. We have the talent to go from strength to strength in sports.

If you had the authority, what’s the one thing that you would implement or change?

I would like to improve the infrastructure in the villages. If you have the infrastructure in place, you will produce champions. The mechanism to identify the talent at the grassroot level will be my priority.

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