[Product Roadmap] How this Shark Tank startup brings analytics, Moneyball, data to kabaddi
In this week’s product roadmap, we feature Kabaddi Adda – the data and analytics sports-tech platform.
Wednesday February 09, 2022,
5 min Read
When Dhanya Parameshwaran, Suhail Chandhok, Arvind Sivdas, and Vikas Gautam were looking at starting up in the sports-tech field, they took a closer look at kabaddi. They felt the ancient Indian sport had a lot to offer but simply wasn’t looked at as a mainstream sport.
With an undergraduate degree from IIT Madras, and later, a PhD in neurosciences, Dhanya knew that it was important to always look closely at data. In 2015, she and Arvind had initially founded an analytics startup to help businesses improve their performance.
“At that time, both of us were in sports. I was a badminton player and Arvind is a swimmer. We started a small project where we wanted to understand why Saina Nehwal was losing to a particular player. Later, we started working with PV Sindhu, and we realised that you can create a significant impact when it comes to player performance using analytics,” Dhanya tells YourStory.
In 2018, they met with the Indian Premier League (IPL) team Chennai Super Kings, and worked together on making it a Moneyball team — improving their run-per-dollar spend. “Today, we continue working with them. It was while doing these auctions that we bumped into Suhail, who was present at the events — IPL or Pro Kabaddi auctions,” she adds.
Why not kabaddi?
It was then that an intern questioned them that if the team was looking at swimming, badminton, and cricket, then why not kabaddi?
So, in 2019, they started. “We watched the game and we realised it was 40 minutes of power-packed action. It was the NBA equivalent in India. Immediately, we wrote to a few teams to work for auctions,” explains Dhanya.
It was then they realised that to do Moneyball and other analytics for kabaddi, they needed to gather data as there was hardly any data available for the sport.
“The idea was to digitise the sport. We had to evolve the entire ecosystem of kabaddi,” says Suhail.
During this time, Pro Kabaddi — the men’s professional kabaddi league of India — was in its fourth year. The game was building momentum and gaining more followers and viewers.
“We went to a senior nationals tournament where top kabaddi players were participating. We went with a camera and started digitising the data,” tells Dhanya.
Looking at three-pillar approach
The team started with information, content and distribution — which formed the core of Kabaddi Adda. They built their proprietary scoring tools, which the team claims can be used by anyone to get trained to become a kabaddi scorer in an hour. This helped aggregate the data.
The next pillar is to service other existing tournaments which have been around for a long time in the country. “Kabaddi has its own tournaments, but nobody has taken it online or given it the push it needs. We created a tournament suite that covers everything from websites, to live commentary or even entire production and getting sponsorship and revenue streams for the tournament,” adds Suhail.
The idea is to bring a 360-degree approach. The team now has moved to a physical and digital company. The team has added their own asset — K-7, which is Kabaddi Adda’s tournament.
“If you are familiar with NBA in America, they have NCAA — the college basketball which drives about 75-80 percent of NBA’s viewership, and about 40-45 percent of its revenues. We want to recreate the NCAA for kabaddi. While colleges and schools don’t have a kabaddi culture, the heart and soul is in the academies,” says Suhail.
Bringing the phygital aspect
For the two years, the team focused on embodying the values of kabaddi, which is built on trust, community collaboration, and honesty. The team spent time in different corners and parts of the country to understand the talent pool.
As of last year, the team had over 404 academies that tied up with K-7. This has had a greater impact as kabaddi players are offered fees — earning close to Rs 8 lakh in contract, accommodation, and other facilities.
One of the challenges the team faced was that data didn’t intrigue many as it has latent value. “So, when we say that we are over there, digitising tournaments and getting your data, it was difficult for the community to easily see the value of data. What helped was building continuous engagement and trust,” explains Dhanya.
For example, the team put out that for the past couple of years, 40 percent of kabaddi players came from the Railways quota. This data created some buzz and impact, as Dhanya adds that players now realise they can work on their game using comprehensive data.
“Another challenge was reaching the remotest corners of the county where kabaddi is actually played. One of the tournaments happens in a village that is 60 km away from Jabalpur. We have conducted tournaments in collaboration with state governments. Now, we have taken the vision to the people’s heart with data and science,” she adds.
COVID-19 and next steps
However, 2020 was a tough year for the startup as the pandemic had made the sport almost non-existent for a year. The team, however, continued focusing on building data and analytics, as well as fantasy partnerships with data. The team also started offering data to several sports channels where Kabaddi Adda acts as an aggregator and uses Live Kabaddi tools.
The team also provides data offerings to all the top-tier teams that require aggregated player data. As of December 2021, the platform had over 560,000 subscribers.
“We created a tournament — K7, gathered data, and consolidated content ownership. Now, in a few years, we want to see India as a two-sport nation. To do that, we are looking at it from a 360-degree approach. The idea is to bring kabaddi to the doorsteps of every Indian,” says Dhanya.
Edited by Kanishk Singh