Rishikesh Joshi wants to unleash the sports champ in every Indian childTarush Bhalla
Rishikesh Joshi had everything going for him.
A hard-core sports enthusiast, he was working with the successful IPL team, Mumbai Indians, overseeing their administrative setup since the franchise was created six years ago. Life was good for Rishikesh, and why wouldn’t it be? An avid sports enthusiast since the age of five, Rishikesh, who himself had played six sports at the national level, was living the dream by working with stalwarts of the game.
But like most entrepreneurs, he felt the need to do more. During his tenure with the Mumbai Indians, he had worked closely with Mumbai’s inter-school sporting system at Mumbai Schools Sports Association (MSSA), the same place he had competed at the school level. He was alarmed by the apathetic sporting environment, loosely scheduled competitions, inadequate infrastructure, and obsolete administrative processes. This made him reevaluate his contribution to the sporting environment in the country.
“All this while, I was totally focused, passionate, and motivated to grow and make a mark at my job with Mumbai Indians. A lot of frustration was building up in my mind when I saw the way inter-school sport was being conducted. I felt there had to be a “feel-good factor” about sports from the early stages of a child’s career evoking the passion and enjoyment that a child derives out of playing sports,” he says.
This drive led him to set up Sports for All (SFA). However, despite having worked closely with the sporting community, things still weren’t smooth:
“I didn’t decide one fine day that I wanted to ride the startup wave, and launch my own venture. It wasn’t as if I had a couple of ideas and would just give one of them a shot. I didn’t have that luxury. It was over a period of 20-22 months (since July 2013) that everything I had visualised about Sports For All (SFA) started to look feasible, possible and commercially viable. I made a thorough 15-year roadmap detailing and putting on paper the entire workflow I wanted at SFA. Only then did I decide to start off.”
Rishikesh just wished to fulfil his dream of improving the support and facilities available for sportsmen at the school and college level in the winter of 2012. It was only a year later, by mid-2013, that the roadmap he visualised began to take shape on paper.
Ab Jeetega India
Today, SFA aims to be the country’s foremost inter-school sporting system that identifies sporting talent at the grassroots level in a structured and professional environment. Since 2 October 2015, 85 schools have registered with the platform.
Rishikesh says there are three components to the system:
- The on-ground event: SFA Mumbai 2015: Sports & Education Week: This event will be hosted at the D Y. Patil Sports Academy, from 24 - 31 December 2015.It aims to bring together as many as 11,000 aspiring champions from 500 schools across Mumbai City to participate and compete in nine different Olympic disciplines. Rishikesh tells us that they have devised a School Ranking System that will be based on a school’s overall performance across all nine sports, making every participant’s performance matter.
- The online portal: SFAnow.in : This is the backbone of SFA’s system. It documents and records the performance of every participating student and school through statistics or HD videos, thereby giving students and schools a chance to project their skills to one and all while maintaining their sporting records for life. According to the founder, they are enabling content-based strategy, through which they plan to record close to 2,900 videos at their first event, to be consumed and shared by participants/students across digital social platforms.
- Partnership: Training and Development : SFA will tie up with reputed sport academies and devise programmes to ensure that appropriate and adequate training and skill development is made available to every aspiring athlete from schools in each city. The venture has recently struck a partnership with the Michael Phelps Swim School in Mumbai.
Traction and what lies ahead
The deadline to register for the SFA platform has been extended to 15 December 2015. Through this member schools don't just get to participate in events but also seek counsel and help for their students.
Currently self-funded, SFA has invested Rs 5 crore in the event and the venture. However, Rishikesh is confident that they will break even by January 2016 and is aiming for a revenue of Rs 50-75 lakh by the end of the first quarter of 2016.
With 110 schools and 4,200 students already registered on the platform, the firm’s revenue model is fairly simple. They plan to receive funds through sponsorships, merchandise, ancillaries, licenses, etc. Other revenue streams could be broadcasting, where talent seekers would require statistics and videos of these students. The venture could also be commercialised by sharing footage with TV channels looking to showcase the young talents in the country, or through commercials from sponsors on the video channel.
The team at SFA hopes to have a similar event for college students in place by mid-2016.
Rishikesh feels the avenues are vast. He also has a bigger ambition to maintain a database, where a statistical profile of every athlete is readily available. Moreover, by next year, they are planning to expand their base to four more cities – Pune, Ahmedabad, New Delhi and Chennai. This number is expected to grow to eight by the end of 2017.
By 2017, they also hope to organise 120 days of sporting events with an active database of 10 lakh students.
Supporting this endeavour is India Test and ODI Cricketer Rohit Sharma, who has pledged his support for the cause by paying the nominal fees for schools that cannot afford the platform.
Rishikesh explains his larger vision by using tag line ‘Ab Jeetega India’.
He tells us SFA’s real customer is “every child and parent who probably does not even know that a champion exists within him or her.”
He says, “Let’s first make our children fall in love with sport, everything else will follow.”
Tarush is driven towards delivering unbiased and accurate reportage while engaging with as many mediums as possible to narrate a fresh perspective. Working for the past few years in the digital space with YourStory, he has covered the Indian technology ecosystem extensively, focusing on new age Fintech companies, while building strong connects within the industry.