Conversation With an Ace Shuttler and an Entrepreneur – Jwala Gutta


Q. Please take us through your sporting career, as a child how your interest got developed?

So actually it was my father’s dream that I should play a sport and choose it as a profession. I was 3 or 4 and he started exposing me to different kinds of sports. I have played tennis, table tennis, volley ball and then finally he took me to badminton. That is where I met my coach Arush sir and he told me that I was very young to hold a racket at the age of 4. So then I was sent to Gymnastic training for 5 yrs and then after 5 yrs I started playing badminton.

Q. So somebody from your family is also a sports person, your father or mother?

No, my dad never got the opportunity. He never knew how to run, although running comes very naturally in every person but it never came naturally to him. So he began running and I started getting training. But as my mum is Chinese, born and brought up in China so she used to play lots of sports in her school and college.

Q. Any particular dream or any story behind your father wanting you to pursue sports as your career?

There is no story; just that he wanted me to get into sports. Being a girl child, when I was born so that wasn’t a joyous occasion and was not welcomed happily. So my dad actually wanted to prove a point that girls can actually do wonders.

Q. So as you mentioned that initially you played a lot many sports, what got you attracted towards badminton?

I actually don’t know. But firstly it was an indoor game. So actually I am allergic to sunlight for long and cannot stand also for too long so it was an advantage that it was an indoor game. Secondly my mum wanted to put me in an indoor sport. As mentioned that I have played all sports and picked them up pretty well, but finally I chose badminton.

Q. Do you have any childhood memories or if your parents have shared with you, where they actually felt that you might become a big star?

I think my parents still don’t realise the kind of fame or the way I am received by people. For them I am still their little daughter. They still get embarrassed seeing the way people look up-to me now. But it’s just that my dad always believed that I would do well. My dad has always encouraged me to play Olympics and o really well in any match, so in a way he has been my constant support. He never treated me less that anyone.

Q. How stressful is your sport, both physically and mentally?

So physically indeed it is very stressful and is one of the toughest. When I took up sports I never knew about dieting and nutrition and stuff like that. There is a lot of knowledge required, many people are exposed to scientific ways to do that, so I think badminton is very tough and is very difficult to keep up. For badminton you have to be regular, get trained 6 days a week. And mentally yes it’s very stressful obviously because along with your body it also reflexes your brain and therefore you are required to be strong mentally as well. So in a way you require both in Badminton. Also, sometimes you need more of mental stress than physical.

Q. So does your coach introduces you to any kind of mental exercises which you had to practice?

As I said, those days we just used to motivate ourselves by using good words, such as: you are as good as anybody and you are the best when you are on court, so stuff like this as basically used to boost our morale. That was the way the coach used to energise you and your inner soul. Nowadays Google is there, YouTube is there. Even if you cannot afford a psychologist, you still have other mediums on internet. But I have not practised anything as such.

Q. What gives you that single minded focus while you are playing?

So I would say a lot of experience gives you that focus. I have had a lot of experience, I try to learn from each and every experience and that kind of becomes a habit. I actually feel that this focus in me has been actually because of my parents, they never allowed me to think anything but badminton and I feel that actually helped. They always used to tell me to go and do whatever I want and they would always be there with me. They have always made sure to but me anything which is my need.

Q. Your sister is also involved in any kind of sport?

No, she is not. She is enjoying her college life and I am happy for her.

Q. In those crucial moments when you are playing to win, in cases like Olympics and major tournaments, what is going on in your mind and how you keep that balance?

There is a lot of pressure you know. There are obviously lot of eyes on us. Especially after 2010 Commonwealth Games when we won the gold, the focus has always been there on us, whether we won or not. People always expect, which is a good thing, but some people tend to take it negatively. But I always try to take it positively. Yes there has been a lot of pressure but you know e have now got used to it. You can’t really have that as an excuse. But when it comes to Olympics and stuff, I have always tried to focus on what I am doing and off court I don’t really think about badminton. Badminton is my work, my job and I don’t take my office work home. That is the reason I have been stress free and pressure free.

Q. As a sports person, what meaning does winning and losing carry in your life?

Winning and losing is part and parcel of life and I think that people don’t realise that losing is also a part of a human’s life and this is what I have always preached about. Sports not only teaches you how to win and loose on court, but it also teaches you a lot about life and how to handle wins and losses. It’s actually the best way to deal. Playing a sport makes you a complete human.

Q. Any particular anecdote if you could share on overcoming pressure?

Just focus on what you have at that present time and apply your presence of mind always. You cannot let yourself get distracted with the flow of emotions, whether good or bad. See when you are doing well people have expectations directly and when you are not doing well you have pressure from your own self. It’s better to not get excited whether we win or lose. Both the emotions extreme is not good, one needs to know how to balance it out. We should know how to handle our wins, we should make sure to have your head over shoulders and that way you will have presence of mind. Then you can think about what you have present moment and what can help you to get out of it.

Q. So any particular incident when you felt that it’s not the best day you have what should to do to make sure that your motivation doesn’t dip?

I don’t know, I guess I have gotten used to people criticising me. Since my childhood my father’s friends and relatives used to say that he was making a huge mistake in getting her daughter into sports and then when I got into sports, my seniors used to criticise me. So basically I have been criticised by my own people, my own federation has criticised me, so basically I have got used to this criticism business. Now I take all the criticisms constructively and I don’t let it bother my performance or my thoughts. I still do what is right and correct.

Q. So what do you count as your biggest highs and lows in your career?

My biggest high would be Commonwealth Games 2010 winning the gold I have done before also but it was the turning point especially for doubles, because in India double is not encouraged to that level at which singles in encouraged. Winning gold in front of my family, my coach, the whole country along with the live audience was great. I don’t consider any of my losses as my lows. I have always taken it as part and parcel of my life and I am still taking it. I don’t think that I have any such lows which are worth mentioning.

Q. When media, association people and critics drive you off, how do you deal with them?

So actually my coach has told me to be fearless and to believe in myself. So people who know me, they know that I am a very happy person. All these things don’t really matter. What matters to me is what I do, whether I am doing the right thing or not. Fortunately I have never done anything bad, I have only performed and performed for me, my family and the love of my country. So what other people talk really, having no contribution in my life, don’t really matter to me. These people will keep criticising whether you do well or not. And actually when I do well they keep quite very conveniently, but if I don’t do well they want to criticise. So I actually have no respect for their thought and they really don’t matter. What matters to me is my friends, my family and my coach. I have a very small world and I am very happy, as long as they don’t have any complaints from me, I don’t think I am answerable to anybody. These people who criticise have no contribution in any way in my career.

Q. So have you been the same since childhood Jwala?

Definitely I have been the same always. I am not a hypocrite and nor do I support hypocrisy but sometimes you just can’t help it. Because eventually you do what you want to. It’s not that Virat Kohli is a cricketer because I wanted him to be, it was his choice to become a cricketer and he has become because of his firm belief. Apparently everyone is doing what they want to. So what gives other people the right to criticise or compare or comment? Yes as a fan I may get disappointed sometimes, like Federer, the other day he did well in Australian open, I was very excited and happy. But if someday if he is not doing well I will be disappointed but I don’ think I have any right to criticise because I don’t know what the other person is going through, what is his financial condition or what environment is he used to, but people find it very convenient to judge others.

Q. What else do you enjoy doing when off the court?

Off the court I am a Shopaholic. I love watching TV, basically I love chilling and do nothing. It’s nice to do nothing sometimes.

Q. What do you love buying the most?

So I love to buy clothes, shoes, bags, almost everything. You won’t believe when I went to Shillong for South Asian Games and there I shopped Pineapples and bought them home. I can buy anything and just shop.

Q. Anything which you like collecting?

I think I am collecting a lot of clothes and I even have loads of clothes with tags also.

Q. How did the entrepreneurial mind thought of opening an academy?

That was always there. I am a very patient person, I know what to do and when to do. I very thankful to badminton. Whatever I am today is all because of Badminton and I always wanted to give it back. So I thought this was the best way to spread around the country the concept which me and Franchise India got.

So basically we have created this franchise, people can run on my name because fortunately I have made that name and people recognise me through badminton and relate my name to badminton. We made this franchise so that people can buy it and hopefully invest in badminton as a sport. This is one of a kind of franchise which nobody has come up with as yet. I have always wanted to encourage sports culture in our country, so instead of having a coffee shop I guess sports academy is a good franchise to have for social cause.

Q. The first academy would be setup through a franchise medium?

Yes. So as the person I am, I tend to opt for straight ways and straight way takes you far more time to have your own academy. But my own centre of excellence academy will be soon established in Hyderabad.

Q. As an entrepreneur are you actively involved in your ventures?

Definitely I am. I make sure I stay in threads before taking any major decision. There is no major decision without me. Marketing and PR is taken care by Franchise India.

Q. Do you find any similarity between sports and running a business?

No, not really. This is a very different filed and it really takes a lot of mental strength. I have to think like a business woman.

Q. How different is Jwala as a shuttler and an Entrepreneur?

I am going to be the same, doing what I have always believed in. It will be a genuine setup and it will be purely in love of sports.

Q. Going forward what are your future plans for this academy?

We would just like to go throughout the country, the smallest parts, wherever I can. People forget that India is huge and doesn’t only comprise of metro cities, we are much larger community in numbers. I want that these facilities should be provided and available for the smaller cities, town, and villages. Whatever is in my power I would do it and I want to make sure that sports as a culture should grow in our country.

Q. What all services would be offered by the academy?

Proper coaching, proper guidelines. We also don’t have enough coaches so I am very interested to make good coaches. Coaches are not given due importance, so I want to make sure that coaches should be the man highlight and should be in limelight. Better coaches we have, the better players we make and that is my aim. Also picking up children who have potential.

Q. Have you signed the first franchise or it is still in process?

We already have signed for Telangana state.

Q. As a Franchise partner, what all are you involved in?

I am involved in major sports decision making.

Q. As a person what is your next biggest aim?

My next biggest aim is to see sports taken seriously in India and that is my ultimate aim. But as of now my aim is to see this academy growing. I want to see at least 10 good academies coming up I major cities.

Q. Any new venture you are coming up with?

As of now no, but I might in near future as lot of people ask me what I wear and all. An d I think it will be a good idea to have my own merchandise.