Pursuit of Happiness

All the world is a game

Tommy Hilfiger’s Shailesh Chaturvedi is a soccer fan who crosses continents to watch his favourite teams in action

Some people read and some people write books,” Shailesh Chaturvedi, MD and CEO, Tommy Hilfiger India, likes to say with quirky humour. “I’ve always been more a reader than a writer.” It’s not literature that Chaturvedi is referring to but sport. Two years ago, he and his son cheered themselves hoarse at a hugely exciting and rare event series just three days apart — the two La Liga classic face-offs between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the first in Madrid, followed by the drive down to Valencia for the final. “You can’t get better than that — 15 of those 22 players belong to world-leading teams,” Chaturvedi says with boyish enthusiasm. 

Before Spain, it was Chelsea versus Manchester United in London, which Chelsea won 2-1. It was an incredible experience for his 12-year-old son, Chaturvedi says, to watch his favourite team win on its home turf. “I can’t tell you how magnificent it is at Madrid — the passion, the rivalry, the quality of the game, the football culture, the rituals big and small. People bring sunflower seeds in bags, break and eat them at the match.” It was a posting in Hong Kong and a lively ‘soccer culture’ in his son’s school that sharpened Chaturvedi’s hunger for the great game. They missed the World Cup in SA but this May, the schedule’s been cleared for the Champions League Final — again in Madrid.  

Sport and work spill into each other effortlessly in the 44-year-old Chaturvedi’s life. He first started out about 12-odd years ago looking at TRPs of games like the English Premier League that his brand sponsored — and strategy became passion. “Once I started watching the game seriously, it was impossible not to get drawn into soccer.”  

Naturally, soccer translates as inspiring pep talk at company presentations since, “Soccer is also about team spirit and isn’t that what work is about?” Another example he likes to give is that of the Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho, who is, “highly talented no doubt, but his ego becomes bigger than the team. We should nurture talent instead.” 

Chaturvedi’s most cherished memory is the T-shirt every member of the Real Madrid team, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Carvalho, signed and gave his son as a birthday present two years ago — which he has worn for every birthday since. “We’ll frame it when he outgrows it,” says Chaturvedi with childlike glee. “A wall in our home has been left blank for it.”