Interview with Dhruv Ratra (Anglian Holdings), Shillong Lajong FC

I had the chance to catch-up with Dhruv Ratra, the CEO of Sports and Marketing at Anglian Holdings, the company which only a few weeks ago acquired a 25% stake in I-League side Shillong Lajong FC. Through the interview I wanted to find out more about what Anglian Holdings stands for, their aims and ambitions in football, especially Indian football.

Please tell the readers a little about Anglian Holding and your yourself?

Anglian Holdings is an NRI-owned (Non-Resident Indian) diverse multi-national company that has established a variety of businesses and partnerships across India, the US and Europe, such as steel manufacturing, commodities trading, green energy, real estate, luxury retirement homes, leisure resorts, beauty and lifestyle, business incubation, sports, etc. Our goal is to create and sustain successful businesses based upon Indian entrepreneurship and ingenuity. For more details, please visit . My personal involvement with the company is in the capacity of CEO of Sports and Marketing.

I left India more than 25 years ago to pursue further studies at the University of Chicago and then MIT, after which I experienced success as a serial entrepreneur based out of Silicon Valley. More than anything else, I have been playing football (soccer) from a very early age and in 1982 even attempted to get a scholarship to play in West Germany (which did not happen, for obvious reasons). While playing competitively in the US, I was fortunate to be associated with some of the first US football players who went over to play at the highest levels in Europe during the late 80s / early 90s, and was directly exposed to their experiences.

Anglian first invested in Danish second tier club FC Vestsjælland. When was it and why?

Once we had formulated our strategy towards raising the standard of football in India, we decided that it would be best to partner with a team that was heading in the right direction and which was under experienced, professional management. Furthermore, FCV was already training a couple of lads from North Korea, and were excited to scout emerging countries in Asia such as India for new talent. Finally, we believe that in order for Indian players to reach their potential, they need to showcase their talents at the right level. As a result, we went decided to partner with and invest in FC Vestsjælland in Spring/Summer of 2011.

Now comes the investment in Shillong Lajong FC. Why Lajong?

Anglian Holdings has always been interested in partnering with 'businesses' that have a good management team and a strong foundation. In the case of a football club, this translates to an established club that has close ties with its fan base and community, and is an extension of them. After our deal with FC Vestsjælland in Denmark during Spring/Summer of 2011, we began to look at and meet with a number of clubs all over India. Finally, towards the end of the year, and after numerous meetings between the two parties, it became clear that both Shillong Lajong and Anglian Holdings had very similar objectives for the future and an alliance was agreed to.

What inputs can Anglian give to Lajong to improve the club?

We won't be providing any tactical on-the-field inputs. Our expertise is operational in nature. We will assist in the training and exchange or players and coaching staff. We will also help build a world-class academy as well as help them develop closer ties with their fans and sponsors.

What opportunities of cooperation do you see between SLFC and FCV?

We feel that both sides can cooperate and share their knowledge and expertise at a number of levels. For starters, Lajong is planning to send some lads for evaluation and training to FCV hopefully as early as this summer. Once the initial visit takes place we will be in better position to evaluate other avenues of cooperation.

What are Anglian's long-term aims in Indian football?

I believe that football in India is at an inflection point. In recent years, India and Indians have experienced tremendous success globally in business, cricket, individual sports and now the time has come for football. However, as one can observe from the experiences of the US, Korea and Japan, we do not expect things to change overnight - it will be a long and gradual process, one that starts from the ground up. It is Anglian's objective to participate in this change no matter how long it takes. Not only do we aspire to raise the standard of the sport and coaching within India, we are also looking at new ways to help teams better connect with fans, journalists and bloggers, all of whom play an extremely important role that will help shape the next Messi or Maradona.

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