Digitising the playing field: How this startup is connecting people to play sports

The startup believes in social networking with sports and is now expanding to cities outside Delhi-NCR and Mumbai even during the pandemic.
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With many of us locked inside our homes due to COVID-19, we are realising the importance of sports and outdoor activities.  

Sports is what Suhail Narain lives and breathes. Having graduated from the University of Michigan in 2010, studying Sports Management, Suhail was fascinated with sports networking. He also has eight years of experience in sports and experiential marketing. 

Thus, he founded Hudle in 2015. 

Hudle is a digital platform for sports enthusiasts to find and book a curated list of sports events and venues on the app. Be it cricket, football, tennis or badminton, the Hudle app connects you to thousands of sports enthusiasts in Delhi and Mumbai who are looking for partners to play with.

It takes cognizance of the precautions that need to be maintained during the pandemic and mandates players to get their body temperatures checked at the sports venue, verifying the same with what the user has entered on the app. If the temperature is verified, only then will the app and the venue partners will allow players to play the game. 

The early days

With urban areas seeing a boom in private sports infrastructure development, people are realising that playing a sport recreationally is becoming a more viable alternative to conventional forms of fitness like yoga studios, gyms, and athletics. But this growth has largely been unorganised and Hudle uses technology to bring people together on a single platform by providing solutions both for players (B2C) and partners (B2B - venue owners, clubs).

"We believe playing a sport is the most fun and engaging route to fitness and hence, we’re working towards making sports activities accessible to all by solving the three major problems a player faces – where to play, how to play and whom to play with," Suhail tells YourStory

Started as a website in 2015, the app was launched three years later.

Hudle's founder Suhail

How Hudle operates

"Hudle’s solution revolves around a two-way marketplace. On the Hudle consumer platform, players can discover and book sports venues around them, connect with other players through pick-up games and leagues, or learn a sport by joining a Hudle Play session – which are essentially curated fitness sessions through sports which are run in-house," says Suhail. 

The startup also has a partner platform which helps their venue partners digitise their operations by easily managing all their daily tasks like inventory/booking management, invoicing payments, and memberships through a single app-based software.

Before launching the digital platform in mid-2018, Hudle used to conduct sports events across Delhi-NCR, and it allowed them to build relationships with some of their venue partners and take feedback while doing the development. These initial venue partners then became their first customers when the startup launched the app in 2018.

The business model

The startup has raised an undisclosed angel funding round and the founder has invested Rs 50 lakh of his personal savings in the business.

"It has taken a long time to make all stakeholders realise the potential of recreational sports as a concept and industry – which has been one of our primary challenges. But that is rapidly changing now. On a personal front, Hudle is run by a team of sportspersons. While that is our greatest strength, it also meant that we had to learn the fundamentals of building a tech product and adapt accordingly,” Suhail explains.

Hudle’s revenue comes from three primary streams – commissions on pay-and-play transactions, player subscriptions, and B2B software subscriptions for partners.

The company does not want to disclose its revenues and add that it is yet to turn profitable.  However, it believes that over the next ten years, sports as a business will continue to grow. 

It competes with Playo. 

According to Statista, the sports and outdoor activities market in India is $562 million in size.

Future plans

The startup currently has over 400 venue partners and already has 50,000 players on the platform.

Over the next 18 months, the startup wants to work more closely with their venue partners to support them in every way possible during the pandemic by giving them more leads to people who want to play sports. It operates in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, is looking to expand to two more cities.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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