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The Indian Sports Ecosystem – Guest Lecture by Mr. Richu Paul

OBJECTIVE

To understand several untouched constituents of the Indian sports industry which are not symbiotic with the Indian sports ecosystem and opportunities or entrepreneurship in the sports industry.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Mr. Richu Paul provided the following insights during his lecture.

  • Take up more individual projects to gain experience in the industry.
  • Apply different tactics than what you would normally.
  • Cross-sell yourself rather than selling yourself in a single direction. Find a creative way to draw consumers.
  • Attend sports and related events to connect and create a solid network.
  • Have a contributing nature so recruiters will want to invest in you/hire you.
  • Launch a start-up. Don’t worry about success or failure. See it as a job created by you, for you and sell it as work experience. There are few start-ups which are successful and only Sportskeeda among them is commercializing so far.
  • Ensure your LinkedIn profile looks like your brand. There are a lot of things you can do – freelance, work in an NGO, be a content writer, join a start-up, etc. Show that you did something.
  • Start collecting data and information about your field of interest. This will not only show that you have potential but can add value to your profile and eventually get you paid more. All you need is data and then infrastructure and technological requirements and finally, capitalize on talent. For example, there is an eco-friendly problem/solution in badminton that racquet wires are created by feather and shuttlecock by plastic, also another opportunity.
  • Be the change you want to see in policies and the system as a whole.
  • Create your own team, work as a team player, and be a problem solver.
  • Be realistic and leave the project if it’s not working out. Change the project to increase your versatility.
  • Apart from having knowledge of data and information, which is key to be your part of profiling, you can sell the extremity of sports anywhere.

OPPORTUNITIES IN SPORTS ARENAS

  • Star Sports is the leader when it comes to TV and media
  • DNA and IMG take the top spot in event management
  • The app market is still available for takers

Besides these areas, work in the direction of creating opportunities rather than waiting to get one.

You can create a sports movie club, which will create short movies or regular cinema create awareness among audiences. Not only will this create opportunities in the media sector on a large scale, but this will also be an untouched genre of Indian sports movies. And who knows? Your next sponsor could be Netflix or Amazon.

Video can be a good means to commercialize as well. You can start a YouTube channel as there are few sports video bloggers.

You can also organize an exhibition for the sports ecosystem where every leading stakeholder, retailer, infrastructure, technology companies, foundations, federations, coach crew, wholesalers, manufacturers, top corporates, policymakers, sports leagues, sport management companies, and industry stakeholders under one roof. Consider the scope of luxury management mergers, which could be in sports such as high-speed boat races, Golf, Tennis, and Boxing.

By the end of the lecture, many students, who said that they wanted a job in a company, were motivated to pursue entrepreneurship.

CONCLUSION

The story of the Indian sports ecosystem reflects the globalization of the economy with all its opportunities and challenges. It requires leadership which recognizes sport as “more than a business.” It fits into the age we live in today – the age of entrepreneurship. And this will transform the globe, with sport playing a major role that will provide enthusiasts with a more sustainable future.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER

Mr. Richu Paul is the co-founder of Purple Salt, a media consulting company based in Cochin. In 2017, after understanding the need to uplift the unexplored potential in the Indian sports sector, he started focusing on building a community to bring Indian sports under one roof. What started as a small group has now become a vibrant community called positive sports vibe, with the active participation of over 5000 people from both India and abroad. Currently, he is working towards connecting people in the field of sports to make a positive change in the ecosystem.

After his post-graduation diploma in event management and photography, Mr. Paul joined the Sahara group as a celebrity manager in 2005. He later joined the Getty family which opened up opportunities in photography in London. He worked with numerous South Asian celebrities from the art and sports industries and initiated fashionstylologer, a fashion news platform to uplift Indian fashion profile in Europe. In 2015, he returned to India and co-founded Purple Salt.

Mr. Paul had a deep passion for sports from his school days. He had represented the state in football (under 16) and had represented the district in inter-state table tennis (under 16). Currently, his passion for sports has helped several struggling sportsmen in getting closer to their dream.

You can connect with Mr. Paul via Instagram or LinkedIn.

Influence of Digital Media on the Indian Sports Industry

The way we consume sports has rapidly changed over the past few years. It’s no longer about watching games on television or in-person at the stadium. Sports has moved from the field to our living rooms and mobile phones. Digital media, and largely, social media has had a huge role to play in the sport industry.

Digital media is a powerful force. It has the ability to make or break careers and reputations in a matter of seconds. A growing number of sports teams are becoming aware of this power and are using digital media to promote their brand, stadium(s), games, and players. That’s why almost every sports league, team, and player has a social media profile because fans want to engage with them on a more personal level.

For example, the Royal Challengers Bangalore are the first team in the IPL (Indian Premier League) and the first sports team in India to adapt technology on a ginormous scale to connect with their fans. They introduced the RCB Bold Bot, a chatbot that provides fans exclusive content such as team news, player interviews, videos, photos, match reminders, and other behind the scenes content not available through traditional media. This way, the team stays connected with its fans even during the off-season.

Fantasy leagues are another hot pastime for sports fans. They allow fans to create their own teams with their favourite players and play away on their smartphone. While it may sound childish to non-fans, fantasy sports are played almost with the same fervour as the real games. There are hundreds of apps built for fantasy sports alone. Hence, it is a multibillion-dollar industry.

Digital media has blurred the lines between a player and a fan. It has created a relationship between them that goes beyond the field. It has personalized the relationship and changed the whole dynamic of how a fan sees the player and, by large, the team. Therefore, it is highly important to put out the right content for fans and manage their digital media effectively. This is where sports management comes into play.

Digital media is a great way to influence how fans think, see, and interact with sports teams and players. If you aren’t a player or aren’t interested in the athletic side of sports but still want to stay connected to the industry, then Sports management is the career for you.

The Rise of Sports in India

The sports scene in India has undergone a major transformation. No more is cricket the one and only sport worth watching. Today, the Indian sports industry is worth about $700 million. Thanks to the emergence of multiple leagues in a number of diverse sports, this number only seems to be getting bigger.

There was a time, not long ago, when television screens were jam-packed with news and images of cricket. ODIs, test matches, Ranji Trophy, and what not? All dealing with cricket. Hockey received a passing mention if there was an ongoing tournament. And other sports were largely ignored because they weren’t as “popular.” Hence, it’s no surprise that India was, and to an extent still is a cricket-crazy nation.

If someone would have mentioned, 10 years ago, that other sports would be dominating our screens, we would have laughed them off. But today, that person would be right. Because, today, cricket no longer occupies the coveted position it did at one point. However, it does deserve the credit for paving the way for the emergence of other sports in India.

Meteoric Beginnings

The Indian Premier League, popularly known as the IPL, set the precedent for other sports leagues by bringing sponsorships from big companies and popular celebrities. It added a touch of glamour to an otherwise serious industry. Other sports, taking a cue from the IPL, developed their franchises based on its business model. Today, there are a number of leagues in a variety of sports with millions in sponsorships.

The IPL wasn’t the first private sports league in India. Before it came into being there was the Premier Hockey League, India’s first professional sports league, established in 2005. Though it was backed by bigwigs like the Indian Hockey Federation, Leisure Sports, and ESPN Star Sports, it failed to strike a chord with viewers and sponsors. Thus it was discontinued after three years. Its failure can be attributed to the non-familiarity of the sport with the Indian audience.

The IPL brought together two industries beloved in India – movies and cricket – on one platform. This irresistible and infallible combination is largely the reason for its continued success

But even cricket, a sport the country almost deifies, had a rocky start. The Indian Cricket League or ICL, formed before the IPL, lasted only 2 years (between 2007 and 2009). It did not receive support from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or the International Cricket Council (ICC) nor did it have any strong commercial sponsorship.

The IPL, on the other hand, started with a strong foundation with support from the BCCI, corporate endorsements, and innumerable sponsorships. It also helped that teams in the IPL had celebrity owners. It brought together two industries beloved in India – movies and cricket – on one platform. This irresistible and infallible combination is largely the reason for its continued success.

Expanding the Horizon

The immense success of the IPL led to the creation of the Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League, Hockey India League, Premier Badminton League, Pro-Wrestling League, and many more. This is good news for sports fans and investors. For fans, it’s a chance to watch and enjoy their favorite sport on a grander and glamorous level. Sponsors can capitalize on this growing interest and turn it into a profitable investment. It’s not just televisions and mobiles that these leagues are taking over; stadiums are brimming with hardcore sports fans, who are thronging in huge numbers to watch them. Social media is also abuzz with discussions about kabaddi, hockey, gymnastics, and others.

The biggest development by far in Indian sports is the recognition of the contributions by sportswomen. With women winning top prizes in international sporting events such as the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, and the recently concluded Cricket World Cup, their tournaments are gaining a sizable audience. PT Usha (Track & Field), Anju Bobby George (Athletics), Sania Mirza (Tennis), Mary Kom (Boxing), Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu (Badminton), Sakshi Malik (Wrestling), Mithali Raj (Cricket), Deepa Karmakar (Gymnastics), Tania Sachdev (Chess), Deepika Kumari (Archery), Dipika Pallikal (Squash), and many more have become household names that we enunciate with pride. They have leveled the playing field and showed that talent has no gender.

Sports Management, the Future

The rise of sports in India has opened doors to a plethora of opportunities in sports management. As sport becomes a valuable industry for investors, there is a good chance you can make a lucrative career in sports. Career options include anything from managing a stadium to being a high-profile sports manager. There are also numerous sports management companies that have cropped up in recent years dealing with the business of sports.

With an inexhaustible list of sports that are yet to be tapped, India is well on its way to becoming a key player in the management and marketing of sports.

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