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The Intersection Of Sports: A Promising Playing Field For Investors Sporjo is a one-stop destination for building a successful career in the Indian sports industry

By Prabhjeet Bhatla

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Left To Right - G Srinivvasan, Founder and CEO Sporjo; Punit Balan, Investor, Sporjo; Leander Paes, Strategic Advisor Ambassador of Sporjo

Technology and innovation will shape the year 2021. While the traditional sports industry was heavily impacted by COVID-19 in 2020, sportstech, in particular, had a prosperous year. In 2021 and beyond, this industry will continue to be a good choice for investors. Success stories within this space inspire confidence among the investor community, as technology is now seen as an imperative element for business success.

With the global sports tech market expected to amount to $31 billion by 2024, these stories are only the beginning. Technologies such as 5G and AI and the power of harnessing data to personalize experiences, a megatrend poised to dominate this decade, mean that the window of opportunity is only going to get bigger. To seize the moment, smart investors like Punit Balan, chairman, Punit Balan Group and Punit Balan Studios, look at the following core areas; connected fitness, health and well-being, fan engagement, and e-sports.

Sports organizations have had to look at new ways to engage fans, with technology integral to that process. This is particularly important when capturing the attention span of younger generations. This is pushing sports leagues, broadcasters and others to explore how technologies like 5G, VR, and AR can enhance the viewing experience while gathering invaluable data. E-sports and gaming are seeing incredible growth thanks to their ability to merge real and digital worlds and keep the audience engaged. The numbers will continue to grow in 2021.

Balan told Entrepreneur India that he has been supporting various teams and athletes over the years. With athletes, the endeavor is to help aspiring sportspersons who are training to be elite athletes by helping them with grants and scholarships. Some of the teams that he supported are Pune Jaguars in the Tennis Premier League, a team in the Premier Badminton League, Cape Cobras – a premier league team from South Africa, among others. At a personal level, Sports has always been a part of his life now. Cricket has been his passion, hobby and has learned a lot of things from the sport. Sports has been said to have taught him discipline, teamwork, and sportsmanship – all of which have impacted his life, deeply.

Some key things that Balan says that he looks for is to see if the company is solving a problem that exists in the market, is it adding genuine value to its target audience, how scalable the business is, and of course the credentials of the founding team.

"I came to know about Sporjo through Indian tennis player Leander Paes during the Tennis Premier League auction. I really liked what Sporjo stood for and their vision," he shared while stating the fact that why he decided to back Sporjo.

"What Sporjo is doing for the Indian sports industry is transformative. With the Indian sports market poised for growth, there is an ever-growing need for professionals in the industry. Having backed athletes as well as a few teams over the years, I am acutely aware of the gap that exists in recruiting the right talent. It is also the right time to start educating parents, children and professionals about the varied careers that exist in the sports industry and providing them with a roadmap backed with an action plan. I am very proud to back innovators like Sporjo that provide that solution while empowering & building a community of sports professionals. I believe in their vision and I look forward to their continued growth and evolution," he further shared.

Balan believes that Sporjo is a one-stop destination for building a successful career in the Indian sports industry. It is the only education, training and employment-oriented online company in the field of sports, All of Sporjo's courses are vocational. These are short practical courses giving candidates just the right amount of training to succeed in the ever-dynamic sports world. It depends on what level one is. There are customized processes for all levels. For example, if you are a fresher, mid-level or senior resource there are products for each of those constituencies. The principle is the same for all levels - Assessment, consultation, and job access. For example, the Sporjo MENTOR Programme focuses on an individual's strengths because each one of them has different abilities and skills. These are designed to get the best out of every individual and handhold them through the process of finding a job. It fills gaps that traditional education may not be able to give. It's an immersive journey that replicates the work environment. It's focused on an individual; it's like a boot camp that comprises years' worth of learning and practice into 3 months. The Sporjo Plus programme is designed for people with 7 to 10 years of experience from other industries who want to make a transition to sports. They work one-on-one with a mentor from the sports industry who helps them with nuances, stakeholder expectations, on-ground challenges, and a real-life project that helps them get closer to the industry they are passionate about.

According to him, the combination of sports education and sports jobs makes Sporjo the best platform to make a difference to 745 million individuals in India, all under the age of 26. Sporjo will achieve its vision of creating half a million professionals in the Indian Sports industry.

"There is an ever-growing need to educate parents, children, and individuals on how jobs in sports can be a viable career option. Currently, there exists a lack of awareness and information on the subject. India's performance at the Olympics has put Sports at the center of discussions again. Such results are a big boost to showcase to the population in general that sports is a great career choice - be it as an athlete or as any other professional in the sports arena. It's not just about winning medals. It's about creating jobs and opportunities in our country. Sporjo will focus on education, training, and employability, across all age categories, within the sports industry to do just that. Enabling and empowering the community with the correct information and tools to not only follow their passion but also be job-ready is what we hope to achieve. We aim to aid and create an ecosystem that breeds successful individuals in the field of sports across all mediums to take India to the next level," he said.

While the Sports industry is in its infancy in India, the landscape has witnessed a significant transformation in the last decade. With the advent of IPL and other subsequent leagues, the industry has seen a massive shift towards investments in sports. Sports' lucrative potential is clear with large corporations entering the segment. However, for a market estimated at INR 100 billion, sports in India contributes 0.1 percent to the GDP compared to the global average of 0.5 per cent. This indicates tremendous potential for expansion. Challenges exist for both candidates and employers. A lack of credible sources, information, and knowledge is a major hurdle for the candidates. Skill gaps, understanding of the business of sports, and incredible lead times to find the right person all the employers. With jobs in sports projected to grow at a CAGR of 6 per cent by FY24, I see tremendous potential in this segment, Balan commented while adding the current scene in the sector.

"The Seed funding round was INR 2.7 crore. The current pre-Series A round is $2 million. The current round of funding will have Sporjo build new products, grow and scale, expand to newer geographies, and most importantly drive awareness to the entire ecosystem comprising of students, candidates, parents that Sports is a viable career option and not just a hobby or an interest," he mentioned while stating further growth plans for the platform

Prabhjeet Bhatla

Former Staff

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