Until recently in Hulimavu, badminton was a sport confined to vacant roads or empty playgrounds. But for the last one year, this sleepy locality off Bannerghatta Road has sprung four badminton academies with a total of 24 courts. A peep around peak hours will tell you that even these are not enough. Hulimavu is only one example of the growing popularity of badminton in the city. In the last two years, at least 100 such courts have come across Bengaluru. They charge anywhere between Rs 600 and Rs 5,000 per month (Rs 100 to Rs 350 per hour), catering to enthusiasts from a wide income bracket.
Ajit A, a civil engineer, says he had partnered to set up three badminton courts on Hesaraghatta Road, but looking at the increasing demand, he is now going for five more wooden courts in the vicinity. He is confident that all the courts will be occupied and would fetch good return on his investment.
But, what has changed in the last few years to make baddy the new favourite?
Firstly, indoor badminton was not easy to play. Indoor stadia were too few and too expensive. So the sport was mostly restricted to roads or vacant spots. But then the feather-weight shuttlecock (it weighs around 4.75-5.50 grams) was not the most obedient in the city’s windy conditions either. Now, with more indoor stadia being set up with competitive pricing, the sport has become affordable for most people.
Secondly, cricket or football require big open playgrounds, which Bengaluru doesn’t have in plenty, what with multistoried apartment blocks springing up everywhere. People are also shifting to sports that can be played in relatively smaller spaces. This may also be one of the reasons for the increase in popularity of badminton.
Sreevathsa J, who works in the field of biotechnology and takes badminton seriously, says that a few badminton players from India have been doing exceedingly well in international tournaments and this is one of the main reasons for the sport’s popularity.
“Badminton can be picked up with relative ease as opposed to other sports and is relatively injury-free compared with others. This is probably why parents too are okay with their children taking this up,” he says.
RETAILERS SPOT TREND
Even sports goods retailer Decathlon says it has seen a significant increase in sales of badminton accessories. Compared with the previous year, its sales in 2017 went up by 45 percent, it said. “It was generally after the Rio Olympics and the recent premiere badminton league; people have picked up the sport academically,” said, Vigneshwaran, a representative from Decathlon.
“A lot of people have tweaked their lifestyle to fit in the game. We saw this trend pick up when PV Sindhu was in the semi-finals; a lot of new players were drawn into this game,” he added. Shama Sports, the legendary sports shop in Jayanagar, says it too has seen a drastic change. Harish Puri, from Shama sports, says:
“Badminton constitutes 50 percent of our sales these days.”
“People are dramatically drawn to badminton these days. One reason is, they are now more health conscious and want to exercise. Most people look at this sport as a form of workout,” he says.
INSPIRED BY SINDHU
Badminton academies in the city to are witnessing the city’s new love for the sport. Bhavana Ananth, from Accolades Badminton Academy, said: “PV Sindhu’s match and performance in the Olympics is what changed the game for badminton lovers in the city and created a huge fan-following for the game. In terms of awareness about this indoor game, we have come a long way in a year’s time.”
The facts that it takes just two to start a game, it can be played indoors and at any time of the day, have also earned it some brownie points, she says.
“Women are not much into this sport, but kids (both boys and girls) have started playing. As of now, we are training 100 children who are given coaching on different levels, starting from the beginner level to intermediate to mainstream professional playing,” explains Ananth.
THE FAMILY SPORT
But it’s not just the ease of playing that’s drawing the crowd. Shivaprakash, chairman of Karnataka Badminton Association, people are also beginning to look at it as a career option. “It’s one sport that’s popular within the whole family. Back in the day, the city had the ‘club culture’ wherein people would take lifetime memberships to a club. In badminton now, people do court ‘bookings’,” he says.
“These badminton courts have good infrastructure and are kept clean. We can see at least 2-3 court clubs in one area; that’s how popular they are,” he added.
A LUCRATIVE TREND
The penchant for the game is also turning out to be a great way to make some money for those who have space to spare. “All that one needs is land. People who have vacant plots available can have courts built,” says Shivaprakash, explaining that a court need not be anything more than a basic shelter with roofing. Charging a rent for the use of such a space then becomes a great way to earn. While it may still be an exaggeration to say that badminton is the next cricket, the sport is becoming a hot favourite. However, the trend is currently seen in urban areas alone, unlike cricket which has spread all over the country.
And of course, though the commercial value of badminton has increased multifold, it may still be only a fraction of what cricket is worth. But if Bengaluru’s trend is anything to go by, cricket at least has a competitor now.
Source Bangalore Mirror