Sports has largely been relegated to a secondary role in India’s education system. But slowly, with technology and media outreach, supported by initiatives by former sportspersons, the attitude towards sports is all set to change. In this Skill Talk with Jatin Paranjpe, Member, CII National Committee on Sports & CEO and Founder – KheloMore, we discuss the need for empowering the supply side through sustainable training initiatives to Make India Play. Khelomore has been addressing the need to bridge the gap between sports aspirants, coaches, academies and other stakeholders through an easily accessible digital platform and a mobile app.
Reaching out and connecting sports with rural India, undertake skilling of coaches
Our vision is to connect sports with rural India. Today, India has the youngest population in the world. And in rural India, about 25 – 35 crore children are in the age group of 5 -17 years. These children have no access to any sport. However, most of these children are quite updated about sports, by reading and watching India play cricket, hearing about our football team, cheering P.V. Sindhu or the women’s hockey team etc. But, they don’t have an opportunity to play the sport.
Hence, there is a lot of untapped talent in rural areas. There are many Taluk level sports complexes that need to re-activated. These complexes are operated by the state governments. Re-activation will need large number of coaches, administrators and grassroots level managers. In other words, there is a huge demand for skilling people across the value chain to empower the supply side. Therefore, the need of the hour is for the Government to intervene and undertake skilling of coaches on a massive scale.
Optimization of available infrastructure
With regard to infrastructure, there are two issues at present. One, there is definitely a dearth of quality infrastructure in India, but the second and bigger issue is that the infrastructure that is available has not been designed in a way that it can be optimized. If there is a playground or a playing field or a stadium, it does not necessarily need to be only a football ground, it can be a volleyball ground or an athletics space. Or, if there are portable basketball hoops available, it can be used for basketball. One playground can support many sports. This is why optimization of available infrastructure is important.
There is a huge opportunity in sports that can be encashed only through building a pipeline of trained professionals. Skill development in sports is the first step and it needs to be implemented through indigenous curriculum designed, developed and delivered by coaches and academies. I invite all professional to do their bit; for, small efforts lead up to big achievements.
Leveraging events like CII SCORECARD 2018
When we look at the addressable audience of 25 crore Indians in rural India in the age group of 5-17 years, clearly, there is a lot to be done to bring them into sports. This calls for financial support as well. Events like CII SCORECARD 2018 bring together a lot of companies who have been contributing to India through their CSR budgets, but those contributions have been directed other areas. SCORECARD will give corporates a chance to understand what we are trying to do in sports so that they could possibly start allocating a portion of their CSR funds to sports that in turn, and in time, will solve the supply side issues. It is a great platform and opportunity to talk to a large number of companies at one time and build awareness.
Facilitating entrepreneurship or supporting interest in sports
The interest in sport is at two levels – the younger audience want to play sports and the audience which is already in college and pursuing an education, want to study sports. Now let’s look at how we can link this trend with a huge demand for talent in Sports Training, Sports Law, Sports Management, Merchandising, Licensing etc. For instance, on my LinkedIn account, every day I get at least 10-15 emails asking me – “how can I build a career in sport?’
SCORECARD also gives an opportunity for such young people to connect and understand as to what can be done. The supply side is where the effort needs to go and the supply side is not only at coach-level, but also at the management, administration and operations level and the entire value chain of sports.
Adding value and creating impact
I am a part of the National Committee of Sports for CII. All of us in the Committee are a bunch of evangelists, trying to propagate the furtherance of sports in our country. My job is to impact my immediate circle and my friends – be it corporates or individuals – and make them understand what we are trying to do. After working in the area of sports and after playing for the last 15 years, my job is not only to tell companies what CII is doing and but also help incubate further careers like mine. I want to inspire youngsters to take up sports as a profession.
KheloMore and the role of technology in expanding outreach
My venture KheloMore is a technology platform which aggregates coaches and academies across India. We have about 3500 coaches and academies on our platform. Customers book their services through our platform. We also have two backend SaaS products which coaches can use, for managing their entire affairs.
Soon, these products will be launched in local languages, and we will have learning modules embedded in local languages. Hence, technology is the way to go! We cannot physically go to every Taluk in India and educate or train the coaches. What we can do is to undertake Training-the-Trainer (ToT) programs at big hubs and then publish these programs online, in small modules, for easy access so that even in remote areas internet connectivity is not that good. Even if there is no Internet, they can access the videos offline and learn how to enrich their capability. These are in the pipeline for KheloMore; we want to reach 250 cities in India and make an impact to the coaches there. The only way to do that is through technology.
This also helps in aggregating people who want to be coaches, for instance, retired players or sportspersons who do not have an active career now.
Changing attitude towards sports in India
Attitude will change over time, but participation is the first lever for the attitude to change. As soon as participation grows and people start playing sports more regularly, the perception will change. And when Indian sportspersons keep up the winning spree in many sports, there will be more appreciation and it will accelerate the process of how sports becomes a part of our culture. And a day will come when sports becomes normal in the day of an Indian, and that is what we are trying to all achieve – making sports normal!
Role of digital media and traditional media
There are so many things to be done to create a sports culture and promote several games among children and youth. We have made a small beginning at CII. Gradually, we will have partnerships in both print and digital media to expand out outreach. If you look at smaller towns in India, each small town in India still has a sports page on their local newspaper which has local sports news. These local sports newspages are very impactful and I’m sure CII would want to leverage that at some stage.