With an MBA from
Allahabad University, Saran spent 21 years as an executive at a zipper company
before starting SPT Sports, a marketing firm focused on golf, in 1998. His
first project was to design a three-hole pitch-and-putt course on the Infosys
corporate campus in Bangalore.
"Are you an
architect?" I ask.
Saran says, "but I never say no to a good offer."
organizes corporate golf outings and owns a driving range, one of only five in
India. The range, which opened in 2004, is on seven acres on the outskirts of
Bangalore. "Everybody, even my wife, thinks I'm crazy," says Saran,
"but my passion is golf. I know I can make it."
I don't need to
ask where to aim on the 1st tee at the KGA (Karnataka Golf Association) Golf
Course in downtown Bangalore. Only a blind man couldn't see the huge neon IBM
sign atop the glass office building behind the 1st green. Nor do I have to ask
where not to aim. There's a neon Microsoft sign atop the glass building to the
right of the green, and a shot hit in that direction is OB.
of KGA epitomizes the transformation of Bangalore," says Krishnakumar
Natarajan, the CEO of Mindtree, a software consulting company, as we stroll
down the 1st fairway.
Also designed by
Thomson, the five-time British Open champ from Australia, KGA is a flat
6,786-yard par-72 layout on what used to be guava and coconut fields owned by
the city. In the mid-1980s some golfers cajoled city fathers to lease them the
land for a rupee (a little more than two cents) per acre a year. "Sounds
like an anti-- Robin Hood story," I say.
Natarajan, a 22
handicapper who took up golf three years ago, smiles. "Things like that
happen a lot in India," he says.
five-million-square-foot office park to the right of KGA's first five holes is
on terrain that also used to be farmland. It was owned by an indigent mute who
collected errant golf balls and sold them to players through a chain-link
fence. "That man is rich now," says Natarajan. "A developer paid
him $2 million in the late 1990s."
stories is more than half the fun of playing golf in India. On the 4th tee I
ask my partners about the towering floodlights on the course. "Some guys
here want night golf, so suddenly these lights appeared," says Ramesh Rao,
a high-tech headhunter playing with us. "The project cost half a million