The rising tide of women’s sports in India

In the face of astonishing progress, India’s female athletes still grapple with staggering obstacles! Despite the phenomenal growth of women’s sports in recent years, Indian sportswomen continue to battle a severe lack of investment, hindering their access to world-class training facilities and coaching. This shocking shortfall not only stifles opportunities for aspiring female athletes but also throttles the business aspect of women’s sports in India, leaving countless girls without the resources and support they desperately need to excel. Will the nation rise to the occasion and break these shackles? Only time will tell.

On the grassroots level, cultural and societal barriers often discourage girls and women from participating in sports, with traditional gender roles and beliefs playing a significant role. This results in a gender gap in sports participation, with fewer girls participating in sports compared to boys. This is another significant reason why women’s sports business never grew in the past. 

To address the above challenges, the Indian government has launched several initiatives and programs aimed at promoting women’s sports and providing support to female athletes. The Khelo India program, launched in 2018, aims to promote sports at the grassroots level and identify and nurture young talent. The Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao program focuses on encouraging girls to participate in sports and providing them with the necessary resources and support.

Additionally, several sports organizations in India have taken steps to promote women’s sports, with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) launching a Women’s T20 Challenge in 2018 and the Indian Super League (ISL) introducing a Women’s League in 2020. On another note, IWL, a national-level football league for women in India. It is governed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the governing body for football in India. 

The league was launched in 2016 and aims to promote and develop women’s football in the country. The AIFF has been working towards the development of women’s football in India and has launched several initiatives and programs to promote the sport. The success of the IWL is a testament to the growing interest and support for women’s sports in India.

Battling it out on the field, Indian female athletes are up against formidable opponents like the gender pay gap and inadequate sports infrastructure. But, with a growing fan base cheering them on, the future looks promising for these sportswomen and the business of sports. 

As sponsors rally to the cause, they’re scoring points for viewership and media coverage, creating a winning trifecta that could ultimately lead to a slam dunk for women’s sports in India.

Here are three actual instances where it became clear that women’s sports are not much prioritized in India:

  1. Lack of coverage and sponsorship for women’s sports
    • Women’s sports in India on average receive far less media coverage and sponsorship compared to men’s sports. For example, the Indian Premier League (IPL), a men’s cricket league, receives extensive media coverage and sponsorship, while the Women’s T20 Challenge, a women’s cricket league, receives far less attention. This lack of coverage and sponsorship limits the growth and development of women’s sports in India. 
    • However, this situation is quickly changing now with the first season of WPL. But it took us a good amount of time to reach this stage, but yes, better late than never.
  2. The disparity in pay and support for female athletes
    • Female athletes in India often receive lower pay and support compared to male athletes. For example, in 2018, the BCCI announced that male cricketers would receive a pay increase of 200%, while female cricketers would receive a pay increase of only 10-30%. 
    • This disparity in pay and support makes it difficult for female athletes to compete at the same level as male athletes and limits their opportunities for growth and development.
  3. Lack of investment in sports infrastructure and facilities for women
    • Women’s sports in India have historically suffered from a lack of investment in sports infrastructure and facilities. This has made it difficult for female athletes to access quality training facilities and coaching. 
    • For example, the Indian women’s hockey team was forced to train on the muddy ground in Jharkhand due to the lack of proper facilities. This lack of investment in sports infrastructure and facilities limits the growth and development of women’s sports in India. 

Even after facing lots of challenges and issues, Women’s sports in India seem to be growing. The viewership numbers and sponsorship deals related to the recent Women’s IPL say it all. The recent Women’s IPL received a mind-boggling viewership and surpassed every other women’s sports league in the world in terms of viewership. 

According to TheBridge, the final match of the first season of TATA WPL, which took place between Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals and was won by the former, attracted over 10 million new viewers. As a result, the inaugural season of TATA WPL on JioCinema received the greatest viewership of any women’s event worldwide. If we consider other well-known women’s sports leagues across the globe such as the WNBA in the United States and Barclay’s WSL in England, both of which have been established for many years, the WIPL’s inaugural season attracted more viewers. 

Hold onto your hats, sports fans, because the Women’s Indian Premier League (WIPL) is poised to shatter all previous records and skyrocket to unparalleled heights! The vicious cycle of no investment, meager sponsorship, and dismal viewership numbers are about to be smashed into oblivion. Brace yourselves for a meteoric rise in the Indian women’s sports industry as the WIPL leads the charge. Mark our words: the next few decades will witness an unstoppable surge, powered by the passion and talent of “the other billions.” Get ready for the revolution!

Aman Ratnam

Product Manager

Ekta Sharma

Sports Business Analyst