These startups are applying new-age tech to make cricket more savvySohini Mitter
India is the world’s biggest cricket market in viewership, sponsorships and revenues. Now, startups are out to leverage this.
Like all other industries, sport too is being transformed by technology. Every aspect of sport — from player training and coaching to post-match analytics to live broadcast and viewer engagement — is being or stands to be disrupted by technology.
Sports tech is estimated to be a $10.3 billion market globally by 2024. According to Transparency Market Research, the industry is segmented on the basis of application, sports type and geography. Further, based on the application type, the sector is categorised into fan insights and engagement analysis, team management analysis, business operations analysis, video analysis, injury and health assessments, and so on.
In India, even though sports tech is still nascent, it is visibly picking up pace. According to sports ecosystem tracker SportsTechX, over 63 percent of currently operational sports tech companies in India have been founded since 2015, “which is clearly more than the European average and shows an intense movement in the market.”
Consequently, investor interest is growing too. Benjamin Penkert, Founder of SportsTechX, says,
“Initiatives such as the recently concluded Sports Analytics Conference in India and increased investor buzz with a number of startups having raised funding in 2017 are positive signs indicating an industry that is on the brink of a strong growth spurt.”
Most recently, ADvantage, a $70 million global sports tech fund, announced that it is scouting for Indian sports tech firms to invest in. It has already invested close to $10 million in a couple of early stage Indian sports startups, most of which are working in cricket.
As cricket is the country’s biggest sport in terms of viewership, sponsorships and revenues, the predominance of cricket startups is justifiable. While some are catering to players with performance-enhancement products, others are focusing on broadcasters and fans by creating new viewership and engagement experiences.
YourStory lists a few interesting cricket startups in India.
Bengaluru-based Spektacom Technologies was founded by former Team India cricketer Anil Kumble. It recently partnered with Microsoft to launch an AI-enabled chip that sticks to normal cricket bats and turns them into “power bats”. These bats are able to capture multiple metrics when a shot is played, and throw up meaningful data insights into a batsman’s game. It benefits players, coaches as well as broadcasters who are always on the lookout to make sports coverage more interesting for viewers. Microsoft says with the “advancements in our AI and cloud services, this is just the beginning of what’s possible for not only cricket, but all sports”. Meanwhile, Spektacom is looking to partner with domestic cricket leagues and even big-ticket tournaments like the upcoming Cricket World Cup to popularise the AI sticker.
Ahmedabad-based startup CricHeroes, which made it to YourStory’s Tech30 list this year, is endeavouring to make the search for the next Virat Kohli easier. CricHeroes is essentially the Cricinfo for local, amateur cricket. Founded by serial entrepreneur Abhishek Desai and Gujarat cricketer Meet Shah, the startup has developed an app that allows local players to telecast their matches live and maintain ball-by-ball updates. In two years, it has roped in 38 domestic cricket associations that uses the app to keep a track of various metrics like match fixtures, team scores, player statistics and awards, and umpire records. It has over 1.2 million registered users, and was given the ‘Best Startup Award’ at Gujarat Gaurav Divas 2018.
Chennai-based Roanuz Softwares has built an AI-based cricket chatbot that launched in April 2018, coinciding with the IPL. The bot has tracked over 1.2 billion balls so far, and has assisted conversations on platforms like Xiaomi, YuppTV, Opera, Yatra.com, Sportskeeda, and others. It can provide contextual answers via text and voice, and takes an average of 0.003 seconds to respond. Roanuz was founded in 2012 by Anto Binish Kaspar, a software solutions architect, who had earlier set up expense-tracking app FlyCash. With Roanuz, Anto wanted to make the most of advancements in AI and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies, and create live use-cases in cricket.
Playo is an app-based sports community platform that seeks to connect amateur cricketers with match venues, sports vendors and associations. Sports enthusiasts can use the Playo app to locate nearby venues, reserve spots, discover other players with equal skill-levels, and gain access to coaches and sports training. Founded by former investment banker Gauravjeet Singh, along with Karthik Igoor, Amit Kumar Roushan, Daanish Suhail, and Umashankar AN, this Bengaluru-based startup launched it app in the middle of 2015. Since then, it has roped in tens of thousands of users, who have created over a thousand sports teams. Playo has also signed up several venues in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi-NCR, and in the UAE, and opened in-app match bookings for users.
Bengaluru-based Str8bat Sports Tech Solutions has developed a wearable device that attaches itself to cricket bats and aids in the coaching process. The IoT-enabled sensor records data including bat angle, accelerated downswing, bat speed, the wagon wheel, and speed impact, and helps budding cricketers understand their game better. Founded by technologist Gagan Daga, along with Rahul Nagar and Ritesh Kapahi, Str8bat is essentially a motion-tracking and analytics company. It counts the MS Dhoni Cricket Academy in Dubai, the Just Cricket Academy in Bangalore, and the Dave Whatmore Academy in Chennai among its clients. Recently, Str8bat’s technology was also sampled by a few players from India A and Afghanistan.
Freebowler is a lightweight mechanical bowling machine for everyday cricket practice. It is an eco-friendly device devoid of batteries, cords and electricity ports, and is also foldable and convenient to carry around. Freebowler is “designed to mimic a realistic bowling action” with speeds up to 135 km/hour. It helps batsmen train anywhere, and build concentration and power hitting abilities. Founded by US-based Indian techie Pratheek Palanethra, Freebowler hopes to earn the backing of the International Cricket Council (ICC), and other cricket federations. Priced at Rs 35,000, it aims to be a part of every youngster’s cricket training kit.