Ending months of speculation on the investor front, East Bengal has managed to rope in Shree Cement, thus boosting its chances of playing in this year's Indian Super League (ISL).
The announcement was made in the presence of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who played an instrumental role in helping the club clinch a deal with the new investor after it parted ways with Bengaluru-based Quess Corp.
Speaking on the development, Sandip Ghose, marketing strategist with experience in cement, FMCG and media sectors, said this is a wonderful opportunity for the company to build a pan-India brand-equity.
"Shree Cement is a the third-largest and one of the most profitable cement major in India (after Ultratech and Lafarge-Holcim). In the past, their focus has been on increasing manufacturing capacity and geographic footprint. Today, they are present in practically entire North India and parts of South India with further expansion plans in the pipeline. But so far they have been operating primarily in the value-conscious segment of the market. This is the time for them to upgrade to the premium category and take advantage of their wide footprint to build a pan-India brand to take on brands like Ultratech, ACC and Ambuja.
"Mr Bangur (Hari Mohan) is a very astute businessman. Football is all set to grow in the country with ISL and television support. He would see this as a long-term investment – in which he can build the franchise of East Bengal in tandem with Shree Cement," he told Moneycontrol.
East Bengal's association with Quess ended on a sour note and the problems were well documented, ranging from various disagreements over recruitment of foreign players to settlement of players' dues.
As Shree Cement is a Kolkata-based entity, it will be more culturally attuned to the ethos of the club.
Ghose too feels that the company's Kolkata link is an important factor.
"Being Kolkata-based, Shree Cement officials obviously understand the sentiments associated with the club. Mr Bangur speaks very fluent Bengali and deeply attached to the city, so he will nurture both the club and the brand – like a son of the soil – not merely an investor,” he said.
East Bengal's arch-rivals Mohun Bagan earlier this year announced its tie-up with ATK and will be playing in this year's ISL, set to take place in Goa.
With East Bengal initiating the process of playing in the top-tier league, ISL will get to witness the famous Kolkata derby.
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