Mehul Kapadia is Managing Director of Tata Communications’ Formula 1 operations, so it’s about time we invited him for a short chat.
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What are your main responsibilities in terms of Formula 1’s business matters?
There are two different, but equally important, strands to my role in terms of the Formula 1 business. Predominantly, as a team we have to ensure that FOM gets reliable and innovative technology services from Tata Communications. With a “whatever it takes” attitude to working with FOM, and all our other customers for that matter, we are 100% committed to delivering a consistent, reliable and robust infrastructure across the globe to enable FOM, the Mercedes F1 Team and multiple broadcasters to provide a superior, glitch-free experience to all the fans. We have a dedicated Formula 1 team and a hands-on approach: we send a specialist team – supported by a remote team of hundreds – to connect each Grand Prix location to our superfast global network in just a few days. This is a process that would normally take three to four weeks. We also work closely with FOM on testing out new services and have done multiple proof of concepts in the past like OTT and 4K.
Importantly, I also oversee this partnership from a marketing perspective. So, how can we maximise the opportunity of partnering with a blockbuster name like Formula 1 to raise awareness of our capabilities amongst current and prospective customers? Underpinned by the key message “speed to lead”, our work with the sport is not a sponsorship deal but a technology partnership and a showcase of our reach and capabilities to current and prospective enterprise customers. The underlying rationale is “if we can do it for Formula 1, we can do it for anyone”. We are continuously looking for new ways to augment this partnership and push the boundaries of what is possible when combining superfast connectivity with the latest technology innovations, such as virtual reality, in a high pressure environment like this one. An example is the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize, which calls on tech-minded fans to harness their passion for Formula 1 to come up with new solutions that could transform how people engage with the sport, or make the teams more competitive on the track.
Even when it is impossible for the cars to get any faster, there will be opportunities in how we deliver the sport to fans and make the viewing experience more interactive and immersive.
Has the way Formula 1 is working with its partners changed?
Yes, and this is the case for every partnership in every sector, particularly in the sports world. Markets and industries change, mature and grow, so the companies working within these environments must adapt and evolve accordingly. What we’ve seen in Formula 1 is a growing focus on the fan experience, and technology plays a massive part in this.
So, staying ahead of the competition is crucial. Even when it is impossible for the cars to get any faster, there will be opportunities in how we deliver the sport to fans and make the viewing experience more interactive and immersive. We can’t rest on our laurels, and Formula 1 as a sport must stay ahead of the game to maintain its standing as the most technologically advanced sport in the world.
What would your advice be for Formula 1 promoters when finding new solid partners in Asia and the Americas?
There are key ingredients that make great partnerships powerful and influential. Firstly, you must have a clear objective in mind in terms of what you’re trying to achieve through the partnership – their objectives must be aligned with yours. As well as both parties working towards a common goal, it is important that both parties see tangible benefits from the partnership in order for it to be successful.
We are fortunate to work with FOM and the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team, who are all about pushing technology to the limits and accelerating innovation for a competitive advantage. This partnership and capability showcase is an ideal way for us to demonstrate the strength of our offering to our enterprise customers, media and analysts, and to boost employee morale too. Additionally, due to the fact that Formula 1 is such a high-pressure environment with absolutely no room for error, it has offered us the unique opportunity to re-examine how we work together as a team through processes that take customer service to a whole new level outside of the sport too. By approaching all our customer projects with a razor sharp focus on execution, we’ve been able to boost customer satisfaction across our business.
Formula E was a completely new step in motorsports. Do you believe Formula 1 should also make some drastic changes?
I don’t believe so. The popularity of Formula 1 is such that it does not require drastic changes. But even a sport as literally and figuratively fast-moving as Formula 1 can’t possibly let itself slow down. As the world of sports matures and embraces new technologies to bring new viewing and interactive experiences to fans through real-time data analysis and virtual reality, sports disciplines worldwide are starting to new ways to captivate and engage with fans.
I think a priority should be ensuring that the fan experience remains at the heart of the sport. In Formula 1, attention continues to be paid to how the sport could be made more inclusive, immersive and powerful than ever before.