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For Ajay Kaul, Augusta National's a brand to be revered

Monday, 7 April 2014 - 9:30am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

The Masters is here. So are the flowers, the dogwood trees, the pristine fairways, the most prolific golfers. And this, even when Tiger Woods is skipping the prestigious tournament. The Augusta National as the course is known in Georgia is ready for tee-offs that will neatly make divots and set the event rolling.

But what is it that makes Augusta National the most superlative and sought-after course in the world? What attracts people to a course that is steeped in tradition, so much so it has denied entry to American Presidents and their entourages for coming without tickets. I got chatting with Ajay Kaul, chief executive officer of Jubilant FoodWorks, the company that runs Domino's pizza chain in India, who has played this course on a business trip to the US.

On a fine chilly morning he along with two other executives from the pizza company set course to test the fairways. "I played to my handicap of 16 from the non-championship tees and was putting for par in the first eight."

That would clearly leave him more than please as the course tames the most gifted of golfers.

"But I must share the trick, follow your caddie blind-folded. They know this course, you don't. Regular rules don't work, the caddies know just how challenging the greens are, and the appropriate line."

What makes The Masters historic in every golfer's life is the history it is wrapped around in.

"Every room in that place has a story to share." In July 2010, Kaul spent time playing a round at Pebble Beach and later travelled to the Bobby Jones mecca of golf, The Augusta National, with a member.

"It's never easy to get in there when the tournament isn't on. So many famous people have been sent back because they didn't have tickets or were not guests of members."

Besides playing 18 holes, Kaul and his business partners got a visit around the club house. He distinctly remembers the humble pro shop.

"It's not very fancy, it's in fact quite basic and modest in size. Simplicity is central to the whole National experience. Yet this is where millions of dollars of business gets done as people buy souvenirs when they visit the course." It's an electrifying experience and everyone is in awe once inside he shares.

When The Masters week isn't on, The Augusta National remains a fortified course where everyone part of it takes pride in protecting the folklore, aura and history. That's probably what makes it special and prized for a business meet.

Kaul's visit was like networking at The National. It's a brand to be revered with, he avers, given his marketing experience. "In my case, in my present role at Domino's I play with institutional vendors. We were all part of the Domino's family playing together." He insists the shared valued of the foursome give something for all to take back.

"The game itself builds certain values, making you focused. When you play, consistency and pressure is something that you learn to deal with. It's a game that remains a hallmark of execution and strategy."

Most people at Domino's global centres play golf. Golf becomes an integral part of their team building activities.

"We are about 15 top guys across the world. A lot of them in Asia and America mainly and as a result we play often when travelling for work."

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