New Delhi: While India is fairly well-equipped to support sports, some could say our passion for cricket and glaring indifference towards other sports may have cost us many well-deserving medals in competitive sports. Besides our bias towards cricket, lack of infrastructure to encourage more sporting events, minimal nutrition knowledge and unsupportive sports governance are challenges we must overcome to see sporting talent shine.
But, as we witness a slow change in this scenario, today, along with the state and central government, many corporates are contributing to the sports sector. Besides infrastructure, their vision is to enhance India's sporting culture, augment the potential of Indian sports and athletes, and create awareness among the younger generation.
Investments in the sports and infrastructure on the rise
In 2019-20, though state governments invested about $120 million in the sports sector there was a minimal visible improvement. We have long strides to take if we intend to compete with China and the USA -- the two top Olympic medal winners. The key issues need to be highlighted and worked towards, and with where we currently stand, we have to start with the basics.
While infrastructure and governance are administrative issues that we can address, we need to tackle nutrition. A majority of the Indian athletes hail from our villages, belong to less privileged homes, and are at the risk of undernutrition. Besides the lack of money and lack of nutrition information is a huge contributing factor. According to the 11th annual health survey by Sportz Village, children across the country reportedly have poor fitness and low Body Mass Index (BMI).
Though the concept of sports nutrition in India is fast catching up because of a largely young population engaging in activities that require a high level of fitness and nutrition, a large majority still consider sports nutrition a supplement for gym-goers.
Increase emphasis on Nutrition
India has the advantage of being one of the youngest populations in the world. We are increasingly becoming aware and are open to the newer concepts like nutraceuticals and sports nutrition. Atmanirbhar Bharat saw the addition of 1600 tech start-ups in 2020 alone, with many designed to resolve matters focused on resolving basic needs. Nutraceutical companies like Fitday are among these start-ups that are trying to create a perceptible difference. They formulate nutraceuticals to support healthy living and advocating preventive nutrition as opposed to curative medication. Sports nutrition comes under nutraceuticals.
It is undeniable that we require a world class infrastructure if we intend to support the sports sector. The Indian government allocated $380 million for sports in the 2020-21 budget. Effective allocation of these funds and more robust government intervention by way of policies and plans is imperative.
The need of the hour, though, is attentiveness to sports nutrition. India also needs more nutritionists and dieticians to support the sector. Nutrition is an equitable right, not a luxury and more brands should be established in India to ensure that the 130-crore population has easy access to good nutrition.
Nutraceutical products can become more affordable to the general population if the GST gets reduced to the base slab. Due to being in the highest tax slab, sports nutrition is considered a product of the elite.
Creating awareness among people is important to address the issues of counterfeit products. They dig into the market share of genuine products, drive up costs, and damage consumer's trust and confidence. Fitday is certain that these challenges can be overcome by strong regulations, making it mandatory for the manufacturers to display the ingredients and their benefits on the packaging, making them accountable. But, on the other hand, there is a need to create more awareness about the benefits of nutrition supplements and nutraceuticals.
All challenges notwithstanding, the prospect of the Indian sports nutrition industry growth is looking to grow. Hence, we can expect that the market for nutraceuticals and nutrition supplements will steadily grow in the coming years.
(Suresh Raju is the founder of nutraceuticals startup Fitday. Views expressed are personal.)