With the recently concluded Draft of Ultimate Table Tennis league Season 2, The Bridge had an opportunity to have a sit-down with Vita Dani, who is the Owner and CEO of Ultimate Table Tennis. We wanted to seek insights of Mrs. Dani’s perspective about the sport, the brand and the future of Table Tennis.
Team Bridge: Why did you choose Table Tennis as a sport to create a league?
Vita Dani: Table Tennis is an acquired love. My kid loves playing Table Tennis. But I soon realized that the sport isn’t catching up with its contemporaries. It is then when I got the idea of starting a league for Table Tennis. We already had initiatives with ISL (Vita Dani is the co-owner of Chennaiyin FC) so starting a league for Table Tennis made sense.
TB: Is there any grassroots initiatives on the roadmap?
VD: I believe we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. When somebody is already has an initiative running, we should be joining hands with them rather than doing it all over again. We have spoken to several school federations to kick off various initiatives. We have reached out to the Centre of Excellence, with the State and Centre government to carry out initiatives for the young.
In fact the Maharashtra government has recently approached to ask us if we could initiate a grassroots movement. We have various programmes in our bucket, Coaching the Coach is another initiative we have started even though its a universal program.
TB: With Table Tennis still being a nascent sport in India, what do you think is more important for UTT as a brand, Connect or Awareness?
VD: No initiative can work in isolation. There has to be multiple objectives, multiple dreams, whether it is creating champions or popularizing the sport or taking the sport to the people. I remember the time when Kamlesh Mehta used to play, people used to pour out just to get a glimpse of him, but nothing has happened since. I don’t know what has happened in the past two decades. This is why Ultimate Table Tennis is more important. This is why we are here. To make a reformation in the sport and Table Tennis becomes a popular sport again.
TB: The pool and quality of players has increased for Season 2. What are your thoughts on that?
VD: Year 1, we had to go to players to ask them to come and join us in this programme. We had to speak a lot about our initiative. But after the success of season 1, several players, even players from the European circuit started asking us ‘When are you going to start with the next season?’. This was an encouraging factor. This also brings out the notion that some things we have done right.
With due credit to all the Indian players, they did extremely well at other global events which, also served as an indirect marketing of UTT. Ours is the only league that is broadcasted live in the entire world. So the outreach is there. The ITTF has also appreaciated our efforts and the transformation that we have brought up on in this league.
TB: You introduced the ‘Youth Category’ in the format of this league, what was the reason behind this?
We wanted to include the Youth Category, where these guys can get exposure with experienced players from around the globe first hand. Earlier they had to go abroad and train and only then they could learn and understand the difference in levels. With UTT they get this experience whilst removing the monetary burden of travelling abroad. Plus it gives them a jumpstart in experience per se to play with and against players that are in the Top 50 bracket.
TB: Are you looking for sponsors or partners to grow this league?
VD: Last year we had a few partners, but this year we have more partners and this only because of the success of this league.DHS has decided to partner with us his year. DHS was the official supplier for Table Tennis kits in the RIO Olympics and World TT Championship. So these little things are an encouraging factor. And they also let us know that we are moving in the right direction.
TB: What according to you is your Ultimate Goal when it comes to Ultimate Table Tennis?
VD: The goal is not Ultimate Table Tennis, but Table Tennis itself. It is just a small part of the pyramid. The Ultimate goal is to create a champion. We have a billion people and for us not having a champion is something that is hard to believe. As I said earlier, we are already talking to the School of Excellence with the State and Centre government. If we can get that going, then we have already won the game.
We have enough talent but most of the times the talent goes in vain because of not having the right platform, the right support is not given. What I mean by support is; monetary, physical and mental fitness and sports science. So many areas we could provide and that’s what we’re working towards.