Cricket is a religion in India — practised either through Indian Premier League (IPL) or the international cricket series — and you would agree no less with us. However, the younger generation of India is also quite fond of watching and playing football.
Noticing this growing trend, this entrepreneur just started a ‘football IPL’ of sorts. Last year, he started conducting football tours based on five-a-side format called Futsal. In an exclusive conversation with Entrepreneur India, Abhinandan Balasubramanian, CEO and Founder of Premier Futsal, shared his experience on building a company that very quickly grew into the world’s largest Futsal organizing firm.
The Ball Game
Balasubramanian didn’t start futsal just because he loves football. His idea was to bring in American and European players, collaborate with Indian celebrities, and do football tours in India.
But soon, he realized, Indians are mature consumers when it comes to content consumptions. “We did a scientific analysis, which included consumer behaviour, content consumption on television and digital media. And the solution was futsal as it’s fast, thrilling and end-to-end.”
In terms of the growth of the business, there are about 2,500 arenas that play five-a- side format in India. So, people are playing futsal without calling it futsal, he added.
Premier Futsal Season I, launched last year, attracted about 33 million viewers in India while Season II is due in September. The venture has an association with international sports personalities like Virat Kohli and Ronaldinho (Ronaldo de Assis Moreira).
The venture has received funds from Xavier Britto (the chairman of Premier Futsal) and Kiran Kumar from Lalithaa Jewellery.
Talking about the future of his sports venture, Balasubramanian said, “We plan to launch Futsal in Dubai this year. We are planning to take it to South East Asia and Europe next year.”
Balasubramanian always wanted to start something of his own. He knew from the very beginning that corporate job was not his cup of tea. He said, “At the age of 23, I took a decision to simply follow my passion.”
He was also one of the founding members of Liquity, a London-based fintech company. And in June 2014, he founded a foodtech firm called ChefHost. He has now exited from both.
Presently, apart from organizing Futsal, he is the CEO-founder of altflo, a private market place for investing in alternative assets.
His success mantra is all about his conviction. “There is lot muscling and hard work. Speak to people twice or thrice, understand your consumer base and their needs. Then build your business around it,” he advised.
Till date he has raised about INR 150crore. Fundraising is sometimes easy, he said, just to add in the same breath that, “And sometimes, raising money is more difficult than raising it the last time. People have their whims and fancies regarding whom they want to invest in and what they want to invest in.” But, he never forgot to stress that, “Fundraising is the least hard of all the hard things you do in business. It will always happen if your fundamentals are right.”
He didn’t start businesses to be called a serial entrepreneur. His idea was to build business where he thought he can contribute in. “It is a weird terminology. I would like to introduce myself, saying I run a sports start-up.”
Titles like ‘serial entrepreneur’ or ‘30-under-30’ are great, he quipped but for your CV or LinkedIn update.
“What matters is – when you wake up in the morning and think am I loving what I do? Am I satisfied with what I do? And how can I do things better?”
When asked if he would sell his Premier Futsal like his previous venture, his reply was an expression of him being in two minds: “If it economically make sense I might just sell or I may not.”