The calm exterior does manage to conceal Uday Shankar’s emotions. Fresh from winning a $2.5 billion bid, the 56-year-old chairman and CEO of Star India optimistically speaks of the untapped potential in both cricket and sports at large. He also opens up on how he plans to recover that money and Star India’s corporate strategy. Excerpts:
What factors did you consider while making the IPL bid? Was your decision just a gamble for survival?
In 2015, we managed to get the digital rights for IPL and in those two months we realised its pull on the digital platform. We were anyway working on both broadcast and digital, and the bid made more sense for us. If we wouldn’t have won the bid, we would have to be a lot more aggressive in renewing our BCCI rights.
We had to consider everything for the bid, including return to shareholder and strategic intent, since all of it is interconnected. For a mature company like ours, strategic value is pointless if it does not deliver business value. They cannot be compartmentalised. Each of our businesses is at a different level of maturity. While we have worked for five years in our sports business to create a franchise that fans love, Hotstar is at a different maturity level altogether. They have to benefit the company on parameters such as profit and cash flows to future-proof the businesses.
Five years back, you were averaging an RoE of over 20% consistently, following which things got erratic. Do you see this bid generating a return like that?
Five years ago, we were in the business of entertainment which was already steady. At the same t