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01 March 2024

Taking football fever to the bank

By Joy Chakravarty


Satyam Computers will not be just another sponsor of the Fifa World Cup. They will also play a critical role in the success, or failure, of the biggest sporting spectacle in the world.

One of the leading information technology companies in the world, the $5.7 billion (Dh20.9b) Satyam became the first Indian company to become a World Cup sponsor last month. They signed up as the official IT Services provider for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and the 2014 event in Brazil.

And while Satyam are aware of the worldwide exposure and the potential windfall that comes from being part of an event that is watched by 26 billion people across the globe, they also realise the importance of their contribution to its overall success.

Virender Aggarwal, director and senior vice-president (Asia-Pacific, Middle East, India & Africa), spoke to Emirates Business about the various aspects of their first major foray into sports sponsorship.

“The Fifa World Cup is easily the most watched, most read about and most anticipated sporting event in the world, and to become the IT partners of an event of this magnitude is a matter of great pride for us,” said Aggarwal, himself a devoted Arsenal fan. “This sponsorship will bring global recognition for us. We have proven global capability, and we are working with more than 170 Fortune 500 companies, but somehow the global brand name was not built. But if we can conduct an event of this scale flawlessly, I think this will surely change.”

Satyam already enjoys a growing business relationship with Fifa, but when the opportunity came to broaden it, they jumped and grabbed it.

The Hyderabad-based company, which has offices in 57 countries, including a huge presence in the Middle East with a client list of 160 organisations, were already involved in Fifa’s content management system and other IT applications.

But what they are getting into now is massive – they have already got a manpower of 200 working full-time towards the 2010 tournament. Closer to date, they expect almost 1,000 staff working on the project.

According to comScore, a US-based digital media measurement company, Fifa’s website for the 2006 World Cup in Germany attracted approximately four million visitors each day, who viewed close to 160 million pages. And that’s just the website.

Just to appreciate the scope of Satyam’s work, take a look at the Event Management System (EMS) – one of the many IT applications being developed by them for the World Cup. The EMS itself has several components that will help with the planning for the event. It involves players, media, volunteers, organisers and associations. Each one of them has a separate access. A player may log in and put in such specific requests as to what kind of diet he would like to have on the match day, or the day before; what kind of a bed he wants in his hotel room and so on.

Then there are so many football associations involved, who will have their own VIP guests and officials. Their arrivals, departures, hotels, passes – almost everything will be managed through the EMS module.

Aggarwal said: “Our IT capability will be proved beyond doubt with the World Cup. The number of hits that the website will receive, the amount of data we have to store – it is a mammoth task. It involves just about every possible thing you would want to know online, and then some more.

“We will be the ones to help schedule the entire logistics of the World Cup. I guess you can say apart from a referee’s decision going wrong on the pitch, we can be blamed for just about anything going wrong with the World Cup.”

While Satyam refused to divulge the finanacials of the deal, it is estimated they have paid close to $80m (Dh294m) for the sponsorship through to 2014.

The six Fifa partners, which also includes Emirates, are paying approximately $100m (Dh367m) each for every World Cup, and the National Supporters such as the First National Bank, came in at $30m (Dh110m). MTN paid $65m (Dh238.5m) for being part of the 2010 tournament in the same level as Satyam (Fifa World Cup Sponsors), but Satyam is expected to pay much less than MTN because of the amount of services they are providing.

With so much at stake, Aggarwal is positive the returns will be worth all the effort and money for Satyam.

“Anybody with money can become a sponsor, but more of a matter of pride for us is that an organisation like Fifa has trusted us to deliver their IT requirement,” said Aggarwal.

“We feel the biggest benefit on our business will be felt in Europe, as most countries there are absolutely passionate about the game and follow it very closely.

“At the moment, 58 per cent of our revenue [$1.46bn (Dh5.35bn) in 2006-07] comes from the United States, and 42 per cent from the rest of the world. The falling dollar is definitely a problem, but we also don’t want to over-depend on one market. So, one of our objectives from this sponsorship is to make it 50-50.

“But that’s not all. We recruit almost 15,000 employees each year. Our association with such a high-profile tournament will

definitely help us attract some of the best talents in the market. Also, the number of privileged tickets that we have will help our marketing team devise promotions and hospitality packages for clients,  employees and other business partners.”

In the end, Satyam will never be able to get their hands on the trophy, but they are hoping to come out winners from this World Cup.