A Better World Through Sports (part II) - an interview with India Khelo

By Shivam Srivastava|1st Sep 2009
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IndiaKhelo is seeking to build a national measurement of kid’s performance in sports (similar to the centralized board exams), hold events across the country to unearth talent (like the national academic talent searches) and in general inspire a lot more people to take sports as seriously as classes.I recently caught up with Varun Gupta, one of the co-founders, to talk more about India Khelo,

What exactly does India Khelo do?

“We provide a platform for budding young sports persons and provide them with much needed recognition and credibility in society for their efforts. The long term goal is to empower Rural India via sports, bridging the gulf between a grassroots player from rural India and a grassroots player from urban India when it comes to showcasing his or her sports talent. Not only will it help India erase the demarcation between Urban and Rural, but also provide a bigger talent pool.

It addresses the importance of sports in a child’s upbringing by producing a detailed Sports & Fitness Reports Card at par with the Academics Report Card. This enables parents and coaches to track the performances and skills of their wards and also introduces healthy competition between young kids.

IndiaKhelo conducts On-Ground Sports Test that incorporates a plethora of trials for various sports where students get to demonstrate their skills, compete against other players and get ranking at local and national levels. IndiaKhelo conducts Fitness Test where a battery of scientific tests are conducted and analyzed for each kid to evaluate their physical fitness parameters like agility, strength, endurance, etc. They provide a platform for everyone to do their self-assessment with regards to any particular Sports.

Apart from these IndiaKhelo plans to conduct a mega multi-city, Indian Regional League tournament for various sports. It comes out as a better talent scouting and rewarding system and connects talented players to government and corporate sponsors.

Our team includes all ex-IIT’ians who have recently graduated or left high-paying jobs in the US and we are extremely inspired to see our ideas to fruition.”

What areas of India do you serve?

“We are working in Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Dehradun as of now. We are gonna venture into rural parts of India mostly by the end of July and start conducting Open Sports Contest there.”

What inspired the founders to start this?

“All of us have been passionate about sports from our childhood and were active sportsman. For everyone of us it was a different starting reason, some of us tried seriously for making career in sports while they were in school but couldn’t due to the canny hierarchical structure we have for sports in India, others used to ponder about plight of sports in India but the end goal for all of us was same – to make sure that sports is not anymore a down looked activity in India, to give meaning to dream of that young Indian who wants to be like Sachin or Narain Karthikeyan, to bring a change in India for good, to make sure that a country contributing 17% of total world’s population contributes much more than our last contribution of .003% of toal medal being offered at Beijing Olympics. Improvement in sports structure is our guiding and motivating principal in life.”

How do you measure your impact?

“We see our effectiveness live in front of us. As I told you we conduct on ground sports test – The gleam in the eyes of that small kid when he stands first and the determination of performing better next time in the eyes of that kid who couldn’t during our sports test, Cheering of parents while their wards are competing, joyful mails by a person from an urban city to us when he compared himself to someone living elsewhere and found himself a little better and the appreciation we have received from the sports fraternity has been the testimony of our effectively and will be a guiding factor to the change India is going to see in near future because of IndiaKhelo.

Changes we hope to see include

  • Awareness among people especially youth about the opportunities available.
  • Remove discrimination against women
  • Remove discrimination against down trodden castes
  • Improve quality of living by providing employment to youth
  • Making children healthier and happier
  • Instilling values in youth of overcoming every obstacle in life.”

How do you plan to expand this model across India and what do you see as your challenges?

“Our model is hugely scalable, we are planning to go in rural parts of India very soon in one state and then expand ourselves to all the states. On Ground Sports Contest is our main offering and we are looking forward to make everyone play for us and make them keep a track of their sports profile on IndiaKhelo, taking it seriously and working/playing more to make it better.

Out challenges include the conservative mentality of parents. Sports has no credibility in front of theoretical knowledge. Lack of incentives related to sports like jobs, scholarships etc has also been our key blocking factors and will keep hindering our progress in future as well but we are determined to overcome them and are overwhelmingly sure about achieving the same.”

What do you see as the role of entrepreneurs in developing sports in India?

“It’s time for new light to dawn on Indian Sports. Entrepreneurs only have the capability of breathing some air into the dead soul of Indian Sports Industry and make it alive. It’s time for new blood to run, we don’t need orthodox and age old ways anymore, we need modern mentality, people with courage to take a daring decision and stand up to it till he collapses. What we need is a drastic change and no one can bring it except entrepreneurs.

I believe that the sports sector in India doesn’t lack anything but what they do have is ‘resistance to change’.”

Finally, who kind of partnerships are you seeking/have sought?

“In a short period of time, we have achieved a lot of success and backing from some heavyweights in this field Our partners include,

  • Mahesh Bhupati Team Tennis Academy, ICL Squash Academy, Mac Spin Foundation, Kedar Cricket Academy etc – Sports Academies
  • Sports Development Authority of Tamilandu, Tamilnadu Badminton Association – Indian Govt. Sports Organizations
  • Decathlon, Elucido Media Networks, Sanmar, Mittal Champions Trust – Corporates
  • Mumbai School Sports Association – An Association of school in Mumbai which conduct sports tournament throughout.”

Wow, a great idea and wishing your team a lot of luck!

Finally, to wrap up this series on sports, I want to mention some large corporate like Tata, Bharti and ArcelorMittal that have put their weight behind initiatives for promoting sports in India. The Mittal Championship Trust in particular is putting a lot of money into Olympic sports like boxing, archery, shooting and wrestling.

With all these great people working in this field, one can feel a sporting revolution coming to India. We hope that a lot more talented people will come up with such creative ways to drive the change for a better world.

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