Rally Qassim Toyota 2023 set for Thursday start

Rally Qassim Toyota 2023 set for Thursday start
Rally Qassim Toyota 2023 set for Thursday start

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - There are few elite live sports that have failed to become even more popular in the virtual world of esports.

The online gaming industry is today worth hundreds of billions of dollars and now dwarfs the film industry and many sporting ones. The trend is only set to continue in one direction.

Which is why it might seem counterintuitive for Adi K Mishra, UAE-based entrepreneur and Founder and CEO of League Sports Co., a sports tech holding company, to move into the what he calls “real world sports assets.”

Alongside Indian cricket legend Virat Kohli, Mishra is now set to lead Blue Rising in the PIF-backed UIM E1 World Championship, the world’s first all-electric raceboat series.

The team will compete against the electric RaceBird teams announced by Tom Brady, Rafael Nadal, Steve Aoki, Didier Drogba and Sergio Perez in the inaugural season kicking off in Jeddah on Feb. 2-3.

Mishra said: “The question we asked ourselves is what is going to increase in value?”

The answer, in short, was live sports.

“We focus largely on under-appreciated or new age sports assets, which have the ability to engage fans in new ways,” he said. “And that’s how Blue Rising came about. That came to our table earlier in the year and we thought it was an incredible concept. The boats look absolutely stunning, and the more we found out about the engineering that went behind the boats, we’re really looking forward for the world to be able to see these and experience these boats racing against each other.”

Mishra says potential assets musts satisfy certain criteria that LSC value, among those being sustainability and gender equality. E1 ticks off both. Having Kohli on board amplifies the message, he says.

“It’s obviously a humbling process and an honor to partner with someone like Virat. He’s absolutely incredible; arguably one of the best athletes in our generation,” said Mishra. “It was amazing when I had the first few conversations with him and his team as to how passionate he was about these causes as well.

“He’s already been using the amazing platform that he’s built to support these causes,” he added. “We’re really grateful to have him as a co-owner on the team, and we’re hoping he replicates what he’s doing on the cricket pitch, and inspires our athletes to win here as well.”

Having the likes of Kohli, Nadal, Brady, Drogba and Perez will certainly help E1 hit the ground, or water, running.

“There’s lot of visibility around these names that have decided to become part of the league,” said Mishra. “And of course, PIF has had an initial investment in the league as well, and that really helps when talking to various stakeholders around the world.”

While sustainability is a key pillar for the E1 league, it is also a foundational base of Mishra’s holding enterprise.

“For team Blue Rising, we’re focusing on two different aspects of sustainability,” he said. “One is we’re going to be offsetting all of our carbon credits. Offsets have not had the best reputation in a lot of cases and that’s because they’ve been forestry-based projects.

“But we have partnered with Universal Carbon Registry, and UCR does avoidance-based credits only, so it’s renewable energy-based projects that they’re offsetting with.

“And then the second thing that we’re focused on is specifically around mangrove ecosystems,” Mishra said, with proceeds from sustainable fashion merchandise sales pumped back into the project. “There’s already been extensive efforts in the UAE and GCC to push mangrove ecosystems so we’re hoping to be able to add to that.”

Mishra’s other big project is in the very much land-based world of 10-pin bowling.

In 2024, LSC is set to launch the World Bowling League in partnership with the International Bowling Federation, aiming to revolutionize the sport through a WBL pro tour and WBL global calendars for fans and competitors, as well as broadcasters, sponsors and agencies.

“Originally, when I was introduced to the concept of potentially buying the rights for the sport of bowling, I was a bit perplexed as to why would someone play bowling as a sport, because to me, bowling had been a recreational activity,” he said.

Mishra points to statistics that show that there are almost 200 million people in the world who go bowling four times a year, and 400 million that do so once every three or four years. Alongside the US, other fast-growing bowling markets are the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Scandinavia.

“But more importantly, people who are bowling are from a very high income demographic. We were actually surprised that no one has gone in and structured the sport in a way that it resonates with the entire world.”

As with E1, bowling ticks off criteria that Mishra and LSC value.

“It’s an age agnostic sport,” he said. “So, you could be 10 years old, or you could be 70 years old and be just as good. It is gender neutral, so you could be anyone and you can be pretty much extremely good at the sport.”

At the semi-professional and professional levels, between 3 and 5 million people actively bowl across the globe, although, surprisingly, no universal ranking system exists for the sport.

“We decided to purchase the rights from the international body last January,” he said. “And then over the last 18 months, we have been thinking about how to reimagine a sport from the ground up and how to implement and execute across the entire world.”

Mishra expected some pushback from bowling traditionalists, but he has been “pleasantly surprised” by feedback from the industry.

“We’ve largely been welcomed with open arms,” he said. “We’ve been talking to the top athletes around the world for the sport of bowling and most of the feedback we have got is, ‘we really appreciate this fresh approach to the sport, because it really needs some changes’.”

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