This MS Dhoni-backed sports tech startup aims to connect the dots in sporting ecosystem
Sports is often seen as a massive commercial opportunity and businesses line up to cash in on the god-like statuses of sportspersons, help discover future stars, and create a formal ecosystem of all stakeholders.
"We are bringing the unorganised sports industry on to a single platform so that various stakeholders can find the right coaches, sponsors, and professionals with ease through technology," Yeragaselvan Kumaraswamy, Founder of Run Adam, said.
Run Adam Founder Yeragaselvan with MS Dhoni
Currently, the company has registered more than 40,000 sports professionals, companies, and athletes. Its offerings comprises coaches, sporting academies, educational institutes, venues, events, teams and clubs, fitness centres, sports associations, and potential sponsors.
"We started an event management company that got us an opportunity to manage and run the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) team Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel in its (the tournament’s) inaugural edition in 2013. After CPL, we managed a few international cricketers during their IPL visits. Subsequently, we conducted Legends Coaching Camps, bringing to India the likes of Courtney Walsh and Lance Klusener to train upcoming Indian cricketers. We also conducted ‘Vishy’s Master Class’ to help chess aspirants learn chess directly from Viswanathan Anand," Yeragaselvan says.
These coaching events helped him get access to schools. In 2014, he realised the need for grassroot changes for India to develop as a world-class nation that produces quality sportspersons in a variety of disciplines could only be met with technology. And that the change must begin at school level.
“A key reason for India’s lag in sports is schools not having sport-specific coaches — usually only one Physical Education teacher coaches three or four sports,” Yeragaselvan says. While schools complained about scarcity of specialised coaches, retired Indian athletes were unable to get a steady income and often made a living doing odd jobs.
"We began searching for sports-related data and could find no single resource that either tracked past or current sportspeople. There were no simple ways to maintain and access records of any sportsperson’s starting journey. Data from school games up to the district level such as results and timing were not captured digitally, and we could not identify talent early on. A sports person’s journey is a difficult one, and often it is a personal struggle of one person and his family against so many odds," says Yeragaselvan.
That's when he conceived a digital platform that would help address these problems, and Run Adam was launched in 2017.
Athletes can get everything they need with a click of a button on Run Adam, which recently helped over 150 sportspersons connect with sponsors. They benefited with essential sporting equipment like spikes, sport wear, nutrition supplements — everything based on their needs.
"We are hoping to help at least 10,000 such athletes by connecting them to sponsors by the end of this year," Yeragaselvan says .
How does it work?
A user can create a profile by signing up either on www.runadam.com or through the iOS or Android app. On signing up, the user’s authenticity is verified by a designated backend team. Following this, the athlete’s credibility is checked based on achievements, awards, and certificates.
Businesses such as fitness centres, venue providers, coaching academies, and sports professionals provide their company details to become available for a commercial transaction with athletes.
The platform enables the ecosystem to interact and find potential superstars.
Run Adam's first customer was the Athletic Federation of India. Run Adam partnered with the body, where all the national athletes that participated in the Federation Cup 2018 registered for the event through the Run Adam platform. The startup has also partnered with the Archery Association of India and the Army School of Sports.
The sports startup earns when an athlete transacts on the platform with a coach or any company. It collects a small fee from the service provider. Their first revenue was from a coach who offered his coaching services on the Run Adam platform. It was a Rs 100 pay cheque. But that was in 2017.
Now, it has thousands of athletes transacting on the platform and hopes to do a million sports-related transactions by 2022.
The founder invested Rs 1 crore and subsequently raised an undisclosed round from former Indian men’s cricket team captain MS Dhoni. It raised $1.5 million in a seed round, from angel investors including a collective of 15 doctors from the US.
"The biggest challenge was to understand the entire sports ecosystem and specific needs. We went through several iterations of our technology platform and our UI/UX, but they were worth it when the final output got approval from Mahi Bhai (MS Dhoni), who takes keen interest in the platform’s development," Yeragaselvan says.
The other big challenge was to create trust among athletes regarding the platform. "However, once they came on to the platform, it erased their doubts. Now, we have the largest collective of national and state-level players registered on Run Adam. When we asked athletes to put up their sporting goals and the help needed through sponsorships, we realised that the need was not just for coaching and training, but, it was more for their basic necessities. They wanted financial support to continue pursuing their dream.”
Yeragaselvan explains that the company’s primary revenue will be through advertisements and sponsored listings. “We are confident that product and service companies will be eager to advertise to a targeted sports community through the platform.".
Their revenue stream includes transaction commissions from the following::
• Booking of coaches, venues, events and sports professionals
• Ticketing; buying tickets to large sporting events/shows
• CSR commissions and crowd-funding
• Sponsorship commissions
Plans for the future
"Targeting a sports ecosystem itself is the most difficult ‘region’, if I can roughly use the term. We are currently highly focused on Olympic sports on our platform. When we begin to focus on all other available sports, it is going to lead us to unorganised areas, which will be a difficult terrain.
"We say this because a game like kabaddi, which was a highly India-specific sport with limited audience, has changed into a major sports league with a high TV viewership. Kho Kho, too, is a game that is unknown in other parts of the world, but it has become an active league sport. We hope to bring many more such ‘old’ sports at the forefront, helping sportspersons and the ecosystem as a whole," Yeragaselvan says .
Over the next two years, Run Adam plans to acquire two million users and enable over 500,000 transactions. By then, it also aims to penetrate the hinterlands where most traditional games originate.
Run Adam has also begun crowdfunding for state, national, and international Indian athletes. It has also started online booking of athletes for events, brand endorsements, and one-on-one mentorship sessions, enabling new livelihood options for sportspersons. It plans to start identifying schools, colleges, PSUs and corporates offering sports quota.
"We must remember that an athlete’s journey is often lonely, with little to compare one’s own performance to. So, we will be keeping a log of their performance, which can be compared and analysed with fellow professional athletes to know which areas of enhancements could be done," Yeragaselvan says .
The startup competes with unorganised sports contractors and management companies. According to ResearchandMarkets, the Indian sports and fitness goods market reached a value of $3.621 billion in 2017. The market value is projected to reach $6.054 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 9.0 percent during 2019-2024.
Run Adam is in talks to acquire exclusive ticketing rights of some prominent teams in IPL and other leagues.
"We are also targeting to be exclusive ticketing partners for state sports events, which will pick up after COVID-19. In 18 months, we are targeting revenues of close to Rs 25 crore. After that, we are confident that advertising revenues will also contribute to a large share in coming years," Yeragaselvan says.
(Edited by Apoorva Puranik)