[100 Emerging Women Leaders] How Megha Gambhir's Stupa Sports is helping Olympic TT players improve their game
Megha Gambhir was always interested in sports and would watch different games, especially table tennis. She says, “My partner Deepak Malik was a TT player and was quite passionate about sports. He has played at the national level and won several medals, and was even a coach.”
The husband-wife duo always felt there was a need for a tool to ease the work of analysing the performance of players. “That is where my tech background came into play,” says Megha, who has previously worked for the likes of HCL, Cognizant, and Ernst & Young (EY).
Megha started18 months ago in Delhi-NCR along with her husband, Deepak. The startup enables players at every level to get the best coaching possible, facilitated by AI providing real time performance feedback.
“We have evolved massively, starting from one product to four different products covering multiple segments globally. We have been through a complete round of re-development of our product, and our AI technology has significantly improved to deliver greater levels of accuracy in different environments and to produce insights using multiple data points,” says Megha.
The platform has onboarded many international players and helped them improve their game. Stupa has also partnered with The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and has ventured into 226 countries. Today, it claims to be having 25 percent of table tennis Olympic players on the platform.
Stupa offers AI-enabled ball tracking and video analytics tech from low-end devices like a mobile camera.
The platform also helps analyse the tactical and technical performance of any athlete and works on trends and patterns from the data. It provides a complete analysis of the game and provides insights to players.
This analysis is done by recording the game from the Stupa app, which in turn detects and analyses everything else in the game like the player, the action, speed of the ball, the serves, the hand type, heat maps, etc. “The idea is to give a detailed analysis,” says Megha.
She adds that the solution delivers high level video analytics that can track a very small ball that moves at a speed of over 100 km per hour.
“The goal was to make this available to all players and hence delivering the solution to the lowest common denominator was a big hurdle, and we have spent sleepless night to overcome challenges,” says Megha.
Bringing the technology to mobile app, especially Android, was another challenge because there is no standardisation across android devices. Megha says, Anand Hariharan, the technology founder and chief AI architect, was responsible in solving this challenge with his perseverance and dedication.
The team has filed for a patent now in India and the USA for the same.
While the platform is backed by investors with broadcasting background, ex-EY execs, and sports persons, the initial days were tough.
“In India, convincing people that anything other than cricket is an important sport is difficult. Telling people that table tennis is a multi-billion dollar market opportunity has also been tough,” says Megha.
She explains, according to several sports journals, table tennis is one of the most played sports in the world, with 226 countries participating in the sport, and more than 200 million total players and 30 million competitive players.
Quoting these journals, Megha adds, every year 241 million people bet on table tennis and it is being broadcasted in 135 countries with almost 1.06 billion viewers globally.
Megha also talks about the bias she faced as an entrepreneur. “People would wonder if I am serious about the job, and how could a woman come up with a sports startup. However, with time, you learn to pick your battles,” she says.
The team is now looking at other sports like badminton, lawn tennis, squash, and other racket sports.
Stupa Sports is also excited about venturing into 226 countries and ensuring the platform is used by every table tennis player and by every club to engage with their fans and followers.
The product is multi lingual to support its entry into all countries and the team is planning to raise around $3 million to $6 million soon.
“Money is required to be spent for market expansion in 226 countries in conjunction with the International Table Tennis Federation and to further build technology to expand into other sports - badminton, tennis, and squash,” explains Megha.
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Edited by Megha Reddy