The Mumbai Indian T-Shirt

Friday, April 02, 2010

“But Papa, this looks exactly like the actual T Shirt of the Mumbai Indians”, pleaded Krtin, my 8 year old son.

We were walking the shop-streets in Vashi – a customary stroll that I take with the family just after we have had the habitual PAO Bhaji / Vada PAO / Usal PAO / Missal PAO and every other derivative of the much plagiarised PAO that has grown on me over the last 9 months now that I have made Navi Mumbai my new home.

The stroll, of course, is always more expensive than the damage that the PAO inflicts on my liver and the associated organs that work in tandem, overtime over the next 3 days and nights before the last remnants of the PAO are egested out of my system. The stroll also, without exception, has broken-down, walk-able pieces that Krtin and his younger sister can manage on their small feet.

In my early parenting life when my children checked in, and in a more general understanding that I have of the co-existence of big people and small people and of street-walk ergonomics of the small people and their small feet, I had thought that the broken-down, walk-able pieces are truly a way of them telling me to slow down in life and pace my big feet with their small feet. Now as time goes by and the small feet grow bigger, I see, more to the dismay of my wallet, that there is a more sinister ploy at play.

What they don’t teach you at the Harvard Child Psychology School or Kotler’s missing chapters on Children’s Buying Behavior, is what I learn at the post-PAO promenade. I discover that my kids puff like the ‘long distance runners just about dropping dead’ when they near or pass by the stores that stock toys and gizmos and game zones. They would want to get in and collapse on the Barbies and the mobile phones or sit on that power bike that takes you flying up the mountains by the swipe of a game zone card.

But the last stroll had Krtin particularly targeting what he had been clamoring for, for a while, ever since Lalit Modi unleashed the IPL Season 3 on an entire generation of instant cricket  foodies – gluttons and gourmets alike.

The shop at the Vashi street had all the T Shirts of the teams that are on the block in the IPL. And they had every brand boldly embossed on these T Shirts – every brand that sponsors the Teams in the same exact logo and font measured to the last millimeter. Of course, adidas was spelt with an added d and Reebok was spelt minus an e. The ‘Mumbai Indians’ was particularly spelt as ‘Mumbai Indian’ on the left breast side of the T Shirt.

And that – was my grudge!

The object of my grudge was priced at Rs 300. I said, “Krtin, see – this is a duplicate T Shirt. And you can’t be wearing this. It doesn’t make sense”. I knew I would have to explain ‘duplicate’. “See – this is what I mean”, I showed him the original when we went over to the adidas outlet 2 stores away. Krtin could compare the T Shirts and the difference was evident. The other palpable difference was that this T Shirt was priced at Rs 1,299 an exact Rs 999 more than the one next door.

In all the Blue Ocean energy that Lalit Modi has created in the cricketing world, including in all the 111 allied industries that he attached the IPL with, the one segment that he failed to capitalise is the possibility of revenues through affordable branded apparel, memorabilia, other objects of desire and an IPL wax museum especially with statuettes of the celebrity franchisees doing a Pappee-Jhappee with their auctioned idols!

My memories flashed back to 1997… when I first landed in Sydney – just about 3 years still running up to Sydney 2000 Olympics. Every bit of paraphernalia that was sold as a souvenir had the Sydney 2000 logo on it. The marketing was intense, the preparedness – impeccable. 5% of the sale value of any item that had the Olympics logo, mascot or the emblem, would go into the infrastructure building and development for hosting the Olympics. There was no counterfeit material on the show and each storekeeper proudly displayed the wares and were made affordable – for the natives and the tourists alike.

No guesses on where most of the stuff was manufactured and shipped from. And the entire show was state sponsored with appropriate contracting out to private enterprise.

While IPL is a capitalist dream of Modi and his apparel merchants – what if, well  – just imagine – if the entire IPL paraphernalia were to be original and made available to the masses at a small mark up price that would benefit all? For the record, adidas and Reebok make a 500% profit on what they sell through their outlets, and the state rakes in about Rs 200 crores on taxes levied on IPL 3 related products in the 40 day carnival.

I am in Delhi while I post this. The Commonwealth Games are just 5 months away. The city wears an “under preparation” tattoo everywhere you go. The sporting and residential infrastructure for athletes from all over, will just about be ready – if you are lucky – a day before the games, and hopefully – against hope – will be of international standards.

Delegations after Babu delegations had descended on Beijing 2 years ago to check out what China had done to host the Olympics in 2008. While a lot of work may be clandestinely carried out right while you read this and we may put up a brave face to the outer world that we are all set for our date with September 2010, the one lesson that we haven’t learnt from capitalism and Sydney 2000 and all other global sporting events that were ever held and will ever be held is to master the marketing chutzpah!

I bought my son, the Rs 300 T Shirt – for 2 reasons. First – the obvious – I did NOT WANT to afford the 1,299 T Shirt because Krtin would outgrow the size in the next 6 months. And 2 – there is no guarantee that Mumbai Indians would win IPL 3 and even if they did, will be able to hold on to the trophy the next season – what with 2 more teams thrown in for more chaos and cacophony!

While Krtin figures out this dismal logic of mine and our Babudom figures out a way to save face at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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