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Indian IT Serves Up Success For Int’l Sports Stars

MUMBAI: Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal has drawn up plans to overwhelm arch-rival Roger Federer in 2008. Easier said than done, given Federer’s imperious form this year. But he has help at hand, here in India.

From Nadal to the Sri Lankan cricketers, champions aiming at becoming the world’s best are rushing to India for success. Teams and players from across the world are scouting for analytical software that will help improve their games. And a host of Indian companies are playing ball.

Sample this: world No 2 Nadal is consulting Swantha Software to figure out ways to beat Federer on grass. The Bangalore-based firm’s software, christened Half Volley, provides frame-by-frame analysis of how Fedex plays his trademark forehand shots and executes those electric cross-court returns. Nadal’s certainly got an ace up his sleeve when he faces Federer next.

And he is not alone here. If Sri Lanka’s cricketing success is attributed to its well-crafted strategy against opponents, it has much to do with Chennai-based Meru Consultants and Technologies. The Sri Lankan board sources cricket analysing software from this company.

Says Meru CEO P Sankaran, “They use our product to understand how the opponents play and devise game plans based on our analysis.” For about a decade now, India has been the world’s biggest hub for software outsourcing. But sports process outsourcing (SPO) is relatively nascent. The segment is currently generating annual revenues of about Rs 100 crore. However, experts say this segment will grow at over 40% year on year.

“There are immense opportunities. We expect that we would be a $15-million company by 2010, thanks to demand from global clients,” says Prasanna Raman, one of Swantha’s three promoters. Nadal—the king of clay with a 8-6 head-to-head record against Federer—had a brush with Swantha’s software when he came visiting last year.

Since then, Raman and his team have been working hard to get the software ready for launch at the Chennai Open in January 2008. “Mr Nadal is in touch with us. He wants to use the product and we are scheduled to meet in January when he’s in India,” says Raman.

Another Bangalore firm, Stumpvision, in which Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble is director, has developed analysing software for sports bodies. Scorite is a Stumpvision software used by the Indian cricket board, BCCI, to familiarise scorers with the world of computer scoring.

“We also have Wisden, Transworld International and Singapore Cricket Association, among others, as clients,” says NP Thirukode of Stumpvision. The global football fraternity too has turned towards India for help. Last month, Satyam Computer Services was made the official IT services provider to two FIFA World Cups that will be held in South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014).

The SPO business isn’t only about sports analysing software. For Radix, an Ahmedabad-based IT company, much of its revenue came from F2R, a US entity that markets its sports goods to consumers online. “We made the company’s deliveries quicker,” says Radix operations head Dharmesh Acharya. Some software firms have also been helping foreign sports websites to update by the hour.

“A firm in the US or UK would charge exorbitant amounts for updating. But we offer them value for less money,” says Amit Mehta of Rajkot-based Ace Infoway. The company handles several US and UK-based soccer, basketball and baseball websites where information about games and ranks of player need to be updated every hour.

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