CHENNAI: A few years ago, it was rare to see Indian sports stars other than cricketers getting multi-million endorsement deals with international brands. Something rarer was a female athlete doing the same. But slowly, the likes of Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal broke that barrier in the country. But last year, a new star took over the baton from them.
It was none other than shuttler PV Sindhu. And the Olympic silver medallist took it to a whole new level when she became the seventh-highest-paid female athlete in the world. According to a Forbes list released last August, she was raking in $8.5 million. Her popularity is such that she has even become the face of a league for volleyball this year. A few days back, sportswear and badminton equipment giant Li-Ning roped her in for another huge sum.
Forget family and personal commitments. Amidst Sindhu’s busy calendar and appearances in promotional events, the 23-year-old barely has any time to breathe. That was evident as the BWF World Tour champion was in the city for the launch of Mission Sports — a digital-sports-education programme — with the badminton nationals set to start in three days in Guwahati.
However, Sindhu doesn’t feel the heat of all this load on her shoulders. “I feel very happy that I am one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world. I would also like to thank those who have come forward and supported me. It is encouraging. But I never see it as a burden. I just enjoy both sides and try to manage time for both equally.”
She also opined that women athletes have received similar deals in the past. “I don’t think there has been a sudden change. There were some athletes before. But now, I think more women athletes from India are doing well internationally and getting more opportunities like this than before.”
While the number of deals and the money involved may not be the same, Sindhu is right about more women athletes bagging international endorsements. Star athlete Hima Das is a prime example. After her exploits at IAAF World U-20 Championships and Asian Games, shoe giant Adidas roped her in. Last October, sprinter Dutee Chand starred in an advertisement for mobile brand Xiaomi’s POCO F1 series, along with Sindhu.
But amidst all hassles of promoting her latest brand, something really funny has happened. Sindhu actually has no clue about how much she earns from all deals, if her father and Arjuna awardee PV Ramana is to be believed. “She just enjoys the game. She just loves being in the news and above all, she does not know how much she is being paid,” the former Asian Games bronze medal-winning volleyball player revealed.