Friday, July 17, 2015

Looking Ahead - One Month in the United States

I'm sitting in one of the many lounges at the Delhi International Airport waiting to board my 1:30am red-eye flight to Newark. Sitting in this lounge devouring free food and wifi makes the 2 hour flight delay which I'm now facing a very minor issue. Actually, I must use this time to publicly thank my colleague Abhishek for letting me in on the secret of all the hidden airport doors my Mastercard Platinum debit card seems to open.

Anyway, the next 4 weeks are exciting: I'll be in New York for a week of meetings (and re-connecting with friends), Denver for the MLS All-Star Game and California for more meetings and quality time with my family.

Although this is, I believe, my 5th extended trip back to the US since moving to India almost 6 years ago, I am confident that this will be the most productive. The first few trips back seemed to only focus on explaining to influencers within the US soccer industry that Indians actually care about football, that there is an existing domestic professional league and that the future for the sport in India is bright given the exponential growth of the economy and national desire for a #2 sport after cricket. The next few trips were about highlighting the few bright spots that were recently experienced in the industry - winning the bid to the host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, the launch of the ISL, the emergence of state leagues and the massive viewership for football in the country.

While I gained a tremendous amount out of the past few years of my marathon meeting schedule in the US, this trip is already shaping up to have more substance and opportunity for immediate action.   The combination of the global awareness & appeal of the 2014 season of the Indian Super League combined with the maturity which comes from studying this market for the past 6 years has led to me to be much more intelligent with who I set up meetings with, what I'd like to discuss and how I plan on approaching the conversation.

The days of just sharing the Indian football story with the west are over. It's now time for me to leverage this incredible opportunity to make a difference in the country which has served as my home for the past 6 years.  It's time to take some giant leaps in bridging the gap between the west and the east through the beautiful game.

More to come....

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