Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi Mittal, set up the Mittal Champions Trust (MCT) with son-in-law Amit Bhatia, founder and senior partner of private equity fund Swordfish Investments. CFO of ArcelorMittal and Lakshmi Mittal’s son, Aditya, is a trustee of MCT along with Mahesh Bhupathi, former world number one tennis doubles player. Manisha Malhotra, who was part of the tennis team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and also won mixed doubles silver in the 2002 Asian Games, is the CEO of the trust.
Q. What is the aim of the Mittal Champions Trust?
LM: To absolutely support individual sports. We have even decided to support for the next Olympics.
Q. How was the MCT born?
AM: My father was instrumental in establishing it. Eight years ago, we both were at the Games in Greece. The Indian team [put up a poor show with Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore winning the lone silver], so it was a big disappointment. We felt we needed to change that. That was when the trust was established. We saw a few medals in Beijing and it’s just continued.
Q. How much personal interest do you take?
AB: My father-in-law takes a lot of interest. In terms of who guides the trust and gives it its vision, that comes from my father-in-law, me and Aditya [who is also one of its trustees]. We try to give it its overall direction and shape. Manisha Malhotra runs the trust in India.
Q. How much money have you put into the MCT?
AB: When we first launched the trust, my father-in-law decided that we’ll invest $10 million in the corpus of the trust. Like any organisation, there were checks and balances; we were prudent in our ways.
We subsequently realised that to be able to run a sports initiative like this, having a set budget in mind is very difficult. If, all of a sudden, an athlete needs reconstructive surgery, it’s not something you can budget for.
We send our athletes to the same training centres that Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant may train at. We send our athletes to all the best centres around the world. The boxers come to Bradford, the wrestlers go to Russia, Korea and Cuba. We realised very quickly that things were very expensive, especially as the number of athletes went up to 40. So the number of $10 million was thrown out of the window a long time ago.
Q. What was your thought trajectory?
AB: We decided that we were going to stick with the idea of best in class and that it was going to cost whatever it may. The other thing that changed was that we had decided we would fund the trust until London 2012; we are now going to fund it until Rio 2016.
Now, we just draw down on a need basis and the number changes from time to time. If an athlete requires major surgery, or major equipment changes, or lots of travel, that just shoots the budget.
Q. Can you buy a result in sport?
LM: No. You can’t buy an Olympic medal, but if you keep putting yourself in a position to win, your percentages will be better.
Q. What do you actually do with your chosen sportspersons?
AM: We create a programme for them depending on what the key requirements are. Usually, it’s a mixture of coaching as well as very specialised opportunities to train abroad or train with some specialists within the country.
Q. What have you observed about the passion that’s needed?
AB: It’s supposed to be the most central thing to a person’s life. Look at the dedication. It’s very hard to do a whole lot else if you’re going to train eight to 10 hours a day. If an athlete doesn’t want that kind of commitment, they’re not going to have success at the highest stage.
Q. What are the similarities between business and sport?
LM: No success can be gotten without perseverance and hard work. To be able to face problems and work through them are the keys to success in all walks of life.
Q. What strategies do you apply in the MCT that you use as the chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal?
LM: It is important to be efficient in everything we do. So everyone must have targets that they are trying to achieve.
Q. There is no other person/body in India giving as much to Indian sport as you are. Aren’t you doing what the Indian government should be doing?