India Will Become the New Hotbed of Darts
As predicted by Darts Historian Patrick Chaplin in Darts Player 2005, India is becoming a real hotbed of darts.
An investigative report by Anik Basu, a journalist based in New Delhi, has revealed in The Times of India that the game of darts is continuing to gain momentum in that country and further that members of the darts industry are vying for position to claim a piece of the darts action.
Whilst the major darts and dartboard manufacturers are keeping a close eye on progress in India, most are finding it difficult to gain a substantial foothold due to that country’s continued passion for cricket. However, according to Anik, progress is being made organisationally, thanks to the efforts by the national darts governing body, the All India Darts Association (AIDA) and to the increasing number of Indian darts enthusiasts who are ‘spreading the word.’
Vivek Singh, Joint Managing Director of the leisure and sports marketing company Procam International told Anik, “Darts is developing in India, as it’s a very social sport. There’s a male-female parity. The sport puts women on an equal platform with men; it has to be viewed in this context.” Anik told Darts World, “India may not have indoor stadiums filled with frenzied spectators watching darts tournaments, as happens in the darts-crazy UK, but it is believed that India now has more than 100,000 practitioners of the sport. It certainly seems that, as Vivek Singh put it, “a quiet movement is developing in our country.”” If only a fragment of the nation’s passion for cricket could be harnessed and focused on darts the potential rewards for both the darts industry and the top players from both India and worldwide are incalculable.
At the start of 2007, fifteen of India’s twenty-eight states had administrative set-ups affiliated to the Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) based AIDA. Two more – Kerala and Puducherry – joined in the late Spring and they participated in the fifth national finals which were held in June. More than 10,000 darts enthusiasts are registered with the AIDA, with as many as 65% believed to be under 18 years of age.
However, given India’s passion for cricket, surely Indians find darts boring by comparison. Not so, according to India’s Number One darts player, Ashfaque Sayed. He said, “Boring? Try standing in front of the board for five hours, aiming, concentrating… It’s enchanting… I am hooked.” Indeed Ashfaque has made success in darts a real family affair. He is currently India’s National Champion and his wife Ayesha is the ladies’ champion. Their daughter Nausheen is also a top youth and ladies player.
Anik’s report reveals that what could provide the biggest fillip to the sport in India, and which will hopefully lead to possible World Cup success in the future, is the interest shown by television channels. Anik told his readers that the Dubai-based broadcaster Ten Sports has been negotiating with the AIDA to telecast four regional tournaments followed by the national championships. At the centre of the negotiations has been AIDA Secretary General, Prasanta Saha. He confirmed that negotiations were on with “one international sports channel” whilst Ten Sports’ Executive Director, Peter Hutton, confirmed earlier this year that talks were underway in relation to darts although he would not give details. He told Anik, “We are looking at extending the success of our international darts coverage by becoming involved with the sport in India.” Peter is hopeful of a ready audience in the country, recently describing the response among Indian fans to the televising of the professional PDC Premier League in the UK, as “phenomenal”.
The downside for darts is that Anik’s research indicates that darts faces an uphill climb in India where there is a surge in what he describes as ‘more upscale bars and lounges’ rather than pubs. Anik added, “Even the actual infrastructure of the sport is weak; Indian-made dartboards tend to break easily, players say. As all sports promoters seeking to win over the growing middle class have found, sponsorships are key and rare.”
It seems therefore that this is an opportune time for British companies to make inroads in the growing demand for darts in India. Certainly major companies such as the WINMAU Dartboard Company are working hard to establish a toehold in the supply and development of their business in India. Indeed Robert Pringle, Sales and Marketing Director of Harrows Darts Technology believes the growth of the economy and middle-class sport enthusiasts in India will lead to the commercial expansion of the sport of darts there. Robert told Anik Basu, “India is certainly on our wish list.”
Developments in India are certainly beginning to indicate the potential for a massive market in darts and darts accessories and for more opportunities for players like Ashfaque who are waiting in the wings to show the rest of the darting world what they are capable of achieving on a world stage.