CHENNAI: HCL has supported the Squash Rackets Federation of India (SRFI) for more than seven years now. Even before squash was one of the fastest-growing sports in the country and way before it became a part of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. Sundar Mahalingam, president of Strategy at HCL Corporation and Shiv Nadar Foundation, believes their support of SRFI is a part of the bigger picture.
"HCL's motto is all about 'maximising human potential'. And we are doing it in three key ways — sports, music, and nature. When you are looking at a sportsperson they are taking their potential to the maximum, so that's why it works well (with our goals)," Mahalingam told this daily during the 79th National Squash Championships at the Indian Squash and Triathlon Academy (ISTA).
Keeping the rapid growth of the sport, they started the HCL Squash Podium Program in 2019 with the aim of transforming the Squash ecosystem in India, including the right support at every level to players, coaches, and referees. Mahalingam explained how their involvement in the game came up and how squash fit into their vision of 'maximising potential'.
"We were keen to support sport but at the same time, we were more interested in sports other than cricket and football in India as they are very well supported in the country. We felt it's important to look at those sports that are not that well supported like badminton, squash, table tennis, and others. The other aspect (of choosing squash) was the functioning of the governing body. In SRFI, we found a very sincere and mature organisation. And another reason was that we felt we could make an impact in the long run. We could see that it was an up-and-coming game and there were many opportunities for India. The whole point was not to look at it for one or two years, but we wanted to put focused efforts into building the ecosystem," he mentioned.
After the unprecedented success in the 2022 Asian Games, where India bagged five medals, including two gold, the squash community in India received the news they had been waiting for more than a decade. Once the International Olympic Committee's Session in Mumbai gave its nod to the inclusion of the sport in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, it was the 'booster' moment for many including Mahalingam.
"It was like a surge of energy for many when we heard the news of inclusion. With the inclusion, the government will also get involved in infrastructure and other fronts. We come into the picture where we can help coaches and elite players play more matches and get international experience, help with the camps before important tournaments. Along with this, we can help with nutrition, recovery, and mental well-being as well. We will continue the support," he signed off.