Moving india’s young

Moving india’s young

While Indians have always been preoccupied with academic achievements, the same cannot be said about the emphasis on sporting achievement in schools across the country. EduSports aims to change physical education as we know it by getting children to enjoy movement and play 

DIVYA M. CHANDRAMOULI

Intelligent jocks do exist. Ask Saumil Majmudar, co-founder and CEO, EduSports, India’s first physical educator for schools. Despite a degree in engineering from IIT-Bombay and a masters in management from IIM-Bangalore, Majmudar channeled his inner sportsman to help several children across India discover the joy of playing sports. Founded in 2009, Bengaluru-based EduSports, designs and delivers age-appropriate physical education programmes that fit into its partner schools existing time tables.  Today, the company partners with over 50 playschools and 300 K-12 schools across 85 cities in India and has also taken its business model to four other countries.

Fitting right in

EduSports is a subsidiary of SportzVillage, whose other subsidiaries include SportzConsult, a sports management company and MeraSport, which encourages people to get active. “Back in 2003, when we first experimented with the idea, we established a single location to deliver a sporting experience but issues of real-estate prices, sustainability and scale prompted us to rethink our business model,” says Majmudar. It took the team nearly five years to work out a feasible business model. “The core of our idea was to integrate sports into the school’s existing curriculum because we had no idea how to go about it,” admits Majmudar. From his experience, he knew that after-school classes were not taken as seriously and the solution lay in creating a structure that could be incorporated within the school’s daily timeframe.  Post the struggle of signing on the first few partner schools, EduSports conceived a curriculum that kept in mind the constraints of a school setting, namely limited availability of time and space, apart from the problem of inclusivity, especially with regard to children who were less inclined towards playing sports.

Where we really made a difference in connecting with parents is in presenting them with their child’s report card. The minute they see a D, they take notice and ask how they can get their child to improve.

The next challenge was in imparting the actual physical education (PE) experience to children and most schools requested EduSports to send a representative to help them with it. As the company invested in training its staff to work with schools, its execution and visibility improved dramatically. “By sending our staff to conduct our programme, we also received a lot of real time feedback and iteration was a lot faster,” says Majmudar. At present, the company has nearly 400 instructors on its rolls and it typically recruits individuals with an academic background in physical education.  Majmudar acknowledges that there is a structural supply of PE instructors wanting to make a career in fitness education, but hands-on training is required to address employability concerns. “Our in-house training includes a  soft skills component that specifically addresses how to handle young children,” stresses Majmudar.

The playground as a platform

The structure of an EduSports programme is customised as per the school’s requirement, but the bottom line is to get the children to participate and ultimately enjoy playing any sport. “We focus on improving fundamental human skills such as movement and manipulation, and that lays a strong foundation to play any sport,” explains Majmudar. The programmes are age specific, for instance, a pre-school programme will comprise activities such as balancing on a beam, catching and throwing that improve hand-eye coordination whereas a primary school programme will include more evolved activities such as dribbling a ball and broad jumps.

Typically, the programme presents each child with an assessment report where the child is graded on the basis of several parameters including aerobic activity, anaerobic activity, flexibility and strength.

With such a tangible metric system, it is easy for EduSports and the school to identify slower performers. Majmudar takes pride in the programme’s inclusivity, where special measures such as extra classes and coaching is given to those children who need the help. “Where we really made a difference in connecting with parents is in presenting them with their child’s report card. The minute they see a D, they take notice and ask how they can get their child to improve,” adds Majmudar. Interestingly, he speaks of an example where EduSports conducted a special programme for a school’s weaker academic performers, post which, the children displayed an enhanced level of performance in both academics and sports. Such encouraging results have helped EduSports increase the number of its partner schools at a rapid rate. “In another four years, we hope to partner with 1,000 schools across India,” says Majmudar. As for its revenue model, EduSports charges schools on a per child basis. “The per child average for our programmes varies between Rs. 120 to Rs. 200, per child, per month, based on factors such as number of classes and resource usage,” elaborates Majmudar. It took the company three years since inception, to break even and today, each of its programme units is profitable.

Running with it

Even though EduSports presented a great business idea, when it started, there were few people who were convinced with it. The founders invested Rs. 2.5 crore in establishing EduSports and most came from their own savings. In its first year of operations, the company’s turnover was close to Rs. 60 lakh. In January 2010, it received a round of funding from Seedfund to tune of US $2 million.  By the close of fiscal 2011-12, EduSports posted a turnover of Rs. 8.3 crore, a growth of over 14 times since 2009-10. As for the current fiscal, the company expects to sustain a 50 per cent growth rate. “We expect to touch the lives of a half a million children by 2015-16,” says Majmudar. Given that there’s no real semblance of competition, EduSports with its first-mover advantage, is on track to achieve its ambitions.


Saumil Majmudar’s plays

Saumil Majmudar is a serial entrepreneur whose first venture was Learn@Home, a computer training business, which he founded in 1998. In the next year, he set up Qsupport, a remote technology service provider. Despite raising seed funding and venture capital, this business did not take off and Majmudar moved on. In 2003, he founded SportsVillage, with the idea of bringing children to a sports destination. While the idea in this avatar was plagued by problems of escalating real-estate costs and issues of scale, Majmudar never let go of the core idea which was taking sports to children. He shares his thoughts on what an aspiring entrepreneur should keep in mind while breaking new grounds:

Take your time in choosing a space but stay in it. The market values depth in any space

Don’t be too disruptive to an existing system, there’s much less resistance to your idea

Value your choices; imagine a world where you couldn’t make the same choice

Believe in serendipity


Snapshot

EduSports

Founders: Saumil Majmudar, Jyoti Majmudar, Meer Waqiruddin Khaleeq, Parminder Gill

Year: 2009

City: Bengaluru

Industry: Physical education provider for schools

USP: Conceive and execute a curriculum keeping in mind the constraints of a school setting, namely limited availability of time and space apart from the problem of inclusivity, especially with regards to children who were less inclined towards playing sports