India's New Pro Kabbadi League Drawing Sellout Crowds, Big TV Audiences
An "ancient Indian game, kabaddi in its newest incarnation is like a high-octane mix of tag and Greco-Roman wrestling," according to Sean McLain of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Since the start of its first season last month, "it has been drawing sellout crowds" and big TV audiences. The new league, known as Pro Kabaddi, is backed by Mahindra Group Chair Anand Mahindra, whose company, "among other things, is the world's largest manufacturer of tractors." Franchise owners include "big-box store pioneer" Kishore Biyani's Future Group and "the former head of Walt Disney Co.'s Indian unit, Ronnie Screwvala." Professional sports have had "mixed success in India." Investors believe that the country of 1.2 billion has the "raw ingredients needed to make sports a success." Indians' "taste in sports can be hard for some outsiders to fathom." Judging by TV viewership so far, "kabaddi is already India's second-most-popular professional sport, after cricket." Nearly 220 million Indians "tuned in to watch the first eight days of Pro Kabaddi." Mahindra said, "We knew we were tapping into something that was visceral, something in our bloodstream. But to be honest, the response has shocked us." Still, he said, he is not "counting on making money from the venture any time soon" (WSJ, 8/26).