Sports education nets big bucks

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 05, 2011 20:11 hrs

If sports is becoming a serious business, sports education and management can’t be far behind. The last year and a half has seen over half-a-dozen players setting up shop.

Reliance Industries, which tied up with IMG Worldwide to launch IMG Reliance, was just one of them. Entities such as Edu Sports, Kooh Sports, Sports Education Development India, Cricket India Academy, Leap Start, Tenvic and India Khelo are all selling the concept of sports education to schools, eyeing the over $38-billion sports education and management industry.

Corporate sponsorship in sports marketing, say industry veterans, is growing at 12 per cent annually. The expectation is that it would further go up to 15 per cent next year.

“Going forward, sports is certainly going to be a lucrative business for all,” notes the founder of one of the companies. “India is a huge market. You don’t have a talent pool. If you look at the European clubs, you identify talent. They groom them and sell them off. That’s a good commercial value. Sports already enjoys tremendous popularity in India. So, why not make money out of it?”

While some companies offer end-to-end solutions to their clients, others are into various functions of sports education and management.

Last year, RIL tied up with IMG Worldwide, an international sports marketing and management company IMG Reliance, to develop, market and manage sports and entertainment in India. Following this tie-up, IMG Reliance went on to bag commercial rights relating to football -- through a 15-year agreement with the All India Football Federation and basketball through the Basketball Federation of India.

The company also joined hands with the All India Tennis Association and Professional Golf Tour of India to develop tennis and golfing talent in the country.

Edu Sports is targeting a revenue of Rs 100 crore. “We have seen a three-time growth in our revenue — from Rs 4 crore last year to Rs 12 crore this year,” points out Venkat Mandalam, the marketing manager of the sports education company. “With 130,000 students so far, we expect, a million kids to enroll to our programmes in the next three years.”

Bangalore-based Edu sports provides end-to-end sports education solution to K-12 schools. “There is a huge change in the way schools and parents treat sports education now. Unlike earlier days, where physical education was once-a-week subject for kids, we have seen that sports is becoming more inclusive than what it was,” Mandalam notes. “It is now about children growing with the right skills. There is increasing level of fitness. In the bargain, schools also create a talent pool of students to participate in sports tournaments.”

Edu Sports charges Rs 125-250 per kid per month for its programmes. The company has partnered with 180 schools so far.

At Mumbai’s Kooh Sports, which began its journey this April, nine schools have bought its concept. The company’s management, which saw a lot of kids in metro into virtual sports on play stations among others, decided to bring in more of field activity in the daily schedule of students.

“Data say only 25 per cent of kids go outdoor. Our idea was to get kids fitter and in the process, have champions as well,” says Shrikant Hazare, chief marketing officer, Kooh Sports. “We don’t promise every kid will be a champion,” he shrugs. “But if you do the programmes in the right manner, with a good foundation, I’m sure we will create another Sachin Tendulkar or Roger Federer.” Kooh Sports, which provides a structured curriculum to schools, along with trained manpower, picks up potential students at the levels of district, state or nation — and trains them on how to teach at schools., Kooh which is working with nine schools so far says many schools don’t have the infrastructure even as they are excited about this concept.

The company’s revenue model depends, among others, on the school’s student strength and the number of sports taken. The cost varies between Rs 150 and Rs 200 per child per month. The company sources manpower from Army Sports Institution and Santiniketan and through advertisements.

Cricket India Academy, a Sedil (Sports Education Development India Limited) venture, was set up this May to train students in various forms of sports.

Cricket India Academy CEO Martin Gleeson notes that sports in India is an emerging market. “There is a participation component in schools. In a school environment, sports can often be a headache,” he notes. “Thus, it’s is a great opportunity for sports providers to ensure that sports is being taken care of; the operational headache can be taken away from schools so that they can focus on academic areas to give children the best opportunities.”

Sedil says its focus is to be an educational hub, thereby work with schools and not just be an external service provider. “At the moment, the primary focus is on cricket,” adds Gleeson. “But we would be looking at other sports as well. We have had discussions with badminton, tennis and part of the environment is to create strategic partnership.”

The company charges between Rs 1,000-1,500 per child at its Cricket India Academy. The charges, though, vary depending on the child’s age and the programme chosen.

The academy, at present, has nine centres in Mumbai, a few in Pune and three in Jaipur. It plans to open in four or five other cities in next few months.

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