Indian Football

A 19th century visionary: The legend behind one of India’s first football scouts

The story of how a scout revolutionised football in Kolkata in the early days.

With the Fifa U-17 World Cup underway in India, the focus has shifted onto the youth football scene of the country. While all the developed footballing nations have reaped the benefits of investing heavily on scouting, India have made little progress on that front due to its long-lasting nonchalance.

The seeds, though, were sown pretty early by a visionary in the late 19th century.

After being barred by the British from participating in the competitive matches for almost two decades, Indian football enjoyed a new lease of life in the 1880s, when a number of new clubs were founded in and around Kolkata.

Mohun Bagan was the biggest name to have out of the boom and Umeshchandra Majumder was involved in the planning stages. However, he parted ways before the club came into being and formed the Aryans Club in 1889.

Majumder was a well-known centre-half in his time, but his footballing career has been overshadowed by his contributions off the field. A penchant of unearthing new talents took him to distant villages and towns of the region. In the last few years of the 18th century, he became a regular face in all major footballing hubs, leaning on his cycle and following the action with unabated attention.

And results followed. Among the best of his students were the two brothers, Shibdas and Bijoydas Bhaduri, both pivotal parts of Mohun Bagan’s immortal 1911 IFA Shield winning squad. Surya Chakraborty from Jalpaiguri, Habla Bhattacharya from Behrampore, Samad from Purniya were some of his most prominent findings from outside Kolkata.

Back in the day, playing football for the big teams earned one respect but it was not a lucrative profession, since the concept of wages hadn’t arrived in this part of the world. The young footballer, hence, was mostly cash-strapped and had to be taken care of by a football-loving patron. Dukhiram, as Umeshchandra was popularly known, played this role too.

Amidst the communal tension of the thirties, he helped Samad learn Bengali and put him up in a Hindu household as Santosh – a common name among Bengali Hindus. Samad, who played mainly for Railways and Mohammedan Sporting, was arguably the best Indian footballer of the thirties, mainly due to his inimitable ball-control and trickery. When a footballer named Haridas was diagnosed with tuberculosis, Majumder used to cycle almost 15 km to supply him drinking water every morning.

It didn’t take much time for other clubs to be aware of his heroics. It was not only his industry that set him apart, but his efficiency; as other teams, most notably Mohun Bagan, also tried their hand in scouting in the twenties, but couldn’t emulate Majumder’s success.

In his seminal work Kolkatar Football (Kolkata’s Football) published in 1955, veteran journalist Rakhal Bhattacharya gave an example of how other clubs tried to piggy-back on him: “Once Mohun Bagan sent a person, who followed him on one of his tours to the suburbs. Once he got interested in one player, the spy asked nonchalantly – ‘Are you going to sign him?’ However, Dukhiram was well aware of these ploys and showed his irritation – ‘This guy? He will not become a footballer even in his next seven births.’ After the spy left, he signed the player.”

Under his tutelage, Aryans, who never had the finances to compete with the likes of Mohun Bagan, Dalhousie and the other British sides, became the topmost breeding ground for young Indian talents.

Many players, who were given their first chance in Kolkata Maidan by him, later left for greener pastures, but Purna Das, Prakash Ghosh, Balaidas Chatterjee (who later became India’s coach in 1948 Olympics), Rupchand Dafadar all became household names in a region where football was being constantly projected as a medium of nationalism. Even Gostha Paul, the legendary defender, played one season for them.

All the aforementioned players were spotted in their teenage years by Majumder, but in case of his nephew Santosh (Chhone), the classes started early. Chhone was taught to play in all positions and had appeared as goalkeeper, centre-half and left-out in major tournaments – a rare feet among Indian footballers.

Majumder, considered to be the first successful Indian football coach and scout, was revered by the British as well. In 1914, when the Raj finally allowed two Indian teams to be part of the Calcutta Football League second division, Aryans were inducted along with popular Mohun Bagan.

They got promoted in their second season and finished fourth in the 1920-’21 season, their biggest achievement before reaching the Rovers Cup semi-final in 1928. Majumder’s premature death in 1929 was a big blow to the country’s blossoming football culture.

Dukhiram’s legacy, like that of Aryans – who share their ground with East Bengal – has waned with time. Sir Dukhiram Majumder Football Coaching Centre, started by another successful coach Achyut Banerjee, hasn’t produced many top-class footballers. Ironically, former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly remains its most famous student.

As the U17 national team tries to make their mark on the global stage, it’s high time we remember the legend who ignited the flame.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.