Askari H. Zaidi is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the Jaypee Group, a diversified infrastructure conglomerate, which has substantial presence in construction & engineering, cement, power, hospitality, expressways, real estate, sports, and education (not for profit).
Jaypee Sports International Ltd is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jaypee Group, which has built India’s only F1 circuit – the Buddh International Circuit.
Before joining the Jaypee Group, Zaidi had worked with leading media organisations such as Times of India, Hindustan Times, and Indian Express in different editorial capacities for over 2 decades, including Editor of Hindustan Times, Bhopal edition.
In 2007, he shifted to Corporate Communications and worked as head of Corporate Communication with the Ispat Industries in Mumbai and Jindal Steel and Power Ltd in New Delhi before joining the Jaypee Group in January, 2011.
Zaidi is a post-graduate from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has a deep interest in music, reading, motorsport and soccer.
By Edward Rangsi
The second edition of the Indian Grand Prix is coming up this month, how much have you learnt from last year?
After last year’s race at the Buddh International Circuit, we collected feedback from various quarters, including our consultants and spectators. Our Managing Director, Samir Gaur, set up a committee to prepare a plan of action for this year. We discovered that there were three major areas which we need to improve.
Traffic movement was an area we needed to strengthen. 95,000 people attended the race last year, so many got stuck in traffic. This year the Yamuna Expressway, which is connected from Greater Noida to Agra, is now available to the public and will be used by the spectators. In addition, the bus shuttle service has been improved and parking capacity has been increased so that more people can park their cars at the circuit, as well as away from the circuit. Since some people will not have bought parking passes, they will have to park their car in the space we have created nearby and take the shuttle to come to the circuit.
The second area we needed to improve was public conveniences in various stands. We have constructed more toilets throughout the circuit because some people complained that there were an insufficient number of toilets and some were dirty. The catering services and areas such as pricing have been looked into and some of the eateries, which were slightly away from the stands, have been brought closer. Additionally, there are entertainment programmes throughout all three days, and on the Sunday we will have a Bollywood music group concert.
Lastly, as far as the track is concerned, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) recommended a few things, so turns 6, 7 and 8 have been widened by around 15 meters.
With all the improvements, are you confident that you can build on last year’s success?
Bernie Ecclestone himself was very encouraging when he said that the race went very well, the drivers were very happy and that the circuit had been built up to a good standard. In fact, Jenson Button commented that the circuit is one of his favourites.
The most important thing is technology and right now, all the testing is going on at the stadium, even at night. When people start coming in, all these tests need to be done and the circuit will be absolutely ready. We are very confident.
There were concerns that Formula One and India would not be a good fit, but the public seem to have taken to it quite well. Do you think Formula One can be successful in India?
It will take time because in this part of the world, motorsport is not very popular. In some pockets in South India, like in Bangalore or Chennai, motorsport facilities are up to international standard and that has encouraged many people to take up motorsport.
In March, we will also have the World Superbike Championships at the Buddh International Circuit and there are many other races that we are trying to bring to India. Mercedes have also agreed to start a performance academy, where people can train.
The Indian government remains positive and we are very hopeful that in coming years, we will improve a lot in terms of public support.