Scouting for talent

Scouting for talent

In 2006 Nandan Kamath, Hakimuddin S. Habibulla and Joseph Ollapally wanted to bring Indian sportsmen to the spotlight by providing them the support they required, thus, was born GoSports, a full-service sports management company. Says Habibulla, “GoSports evolved with the philosophy that the sportspersons are the center of the sporting universe, all other aspects namely events and academies are derived from athletes. It was high time that the Indian sportsperson was brought from the periphery to the center of the Indian sporting universe.”

 “This is our attempt at organising the largely disorganised sports sector in India by offering, for the first time in the country, professional and holistic management of sports teams, academies, events and athletes.”

Although GoSports is based in Bangalore, it caters to athletes all over the country. It provides clients with 360-degree management services to enable them to focus on their sport. Some of the professional services they provide include, liaison with specialists in the sporting domain – coaches, fitness trainers, sports psychologists, nutritionists, public relations and branding, profile management (online and offline), marketing/fundraising, contract negotiation, proposal creation and documentation, financial advisory, liaison with national and international sporting bodies, career advisory amongst others. “We run the entire gamut of services and assure our clients of professional, expert consultancy and management,” says Habibulla.

The idea

Setting up a sports management company in India stemmed from the fact that all three of them played serious sports as youngsters. In fact, Habibulla is a former Olympian swimmer who represented India at the Sydney Olympics and it was through experience that they knew the pitfalls that existed.

As lack of quality coaching and facilities and the dearth of support and funds has always been an impediment for Indian sportsmen, they wanted to change it. They were confident that an initiative like this would be able to invigorate the system and help talented sportspersons build viable careers in sports and in the process, bring India to the forefront of the sporting world.

They provide professional management services to other sporting domains like events, academies (both Indian and foreign), sports teams, corporations/brands with sport investments. “This is our attempt at organising the largely disorganised sports sector in India by offering, for the first time in the country, professional and holistic management of sports teams, academies, events and athletes.”

They have an evolving business model, where the revenues are a combination of fees for services rendered and commissions based on value generated for the clients.  “We continue to work on diversifying our revenue sources with a focus on both stability and growth,” explains Habibulla.

Speaking about the challenges associated with their business, Habibullah says, “It continues to be a challenge to raise funds for non-cricketing sportspeople in India but this is slowly changing with other sports gaining ground as well. One of our most important interventions has been to liaise

extensively with the government and the sports ministry – and we have managed to secure a large amount of funds for our athletes for their training purposes.”

They also actively partner with corporate sponsors and brands to come on board to sponsor athletes and events. “The only way India can become a superpower in sports is if our athletes have the necessary support and incentive to perform at the highest level and for this to happen, we need to have visionary brands who are willing to take the risk and invest in sports other than cricket that have a long-term ROI potential,” explains Habibullah.

Hiring strategy

GoSports has three full-time employees and a couple of part-time resources responsible for critical functions. “Each of our employees comes from strong academic and professional backgrounds with international experience. Besides being specialists in their domains they are passionate, committed individuals who are self-starters in their own right,” explains Habibulla. While they do not hire coaches and trainers – they build partnerships and alliances with them thereby strengthening the network of sports professionals. This allows them to connect their athletes with the best in the business.

They work closely with a number of specialists and experts in the sporting domain on a regular basis, including coaches, physiotherapists, trainers, doctors, sports psychologists, and legal experts. Some of the prominent names include Nihar Ameen – renowned swimming coach, Prakash Padukone and Vimal Kumar – badminton legends and founders of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy and Dr. Rajat Chauhan – Ultra-marathon competitor and doctor.

For the athletes

It was only at the start that GoSports proactively sought out talent to work with. Choosing athletes is no longer a task at GoSports. “Our portfolio started growing, by virtue of the quality of support that was being provided and the results of our sportspersons, which spoke for itself,” says Habibulla. They now receive more requests than they can handle.

But, they understand that sport is serious business and when it comes to providing their support services, it is an additional investment for a sportsperson to make. They do have some set criteria for the sportspeople they represent. First, the sportsperson should have some proven performance at the national level. Then, with the help of experts, they will evaluate their ability to perform at the world stage.

The other sport

In a country that is cricket crazy, GoSports provides services for sports such as swimming, pool, luge, badminton and tennis. In fact, India’s only representation to the Vancouver Olympics, Shiva Keshavan (luge), was backed by GoSports.

Speaking about the shortcomings of cricket management in the country, Habibulla says, “While cricket catches the most eyeballs and has no lack of money, it can do better with professional management systems. At this point we work closely with next generation budding cricketers such as Ryan Ninan and Vinu Prasad Narayanan, who demonstrate the potential to excel in the highly competitive cricketing world.” They also manage the Bangalore Brigadiers Cricket team, who went on to top the league and finish semi-finalists in the first edition of the Karnataka Premier League last year.

While those who can seek training themselves benefit from a sports management company, there are several talented individuals who lose out on their dreams due to the lack of sufficient funds. To help such talent, GoSports Foundation was founded in September 2008. It is an independent non-profit venture primarily focused on securing funding for India’s best and most promising sportspersons.

The focus of GoSports Foundation is to identify young talent, between 12 and 21 years, who demonstrate high sporting potential in Olympics and Paralympics disciplines and who require financial assistance in order to pursue their sport.

The future

Over the next couple of years GoSports hopes to consolidate its position as the leader in the professional management of sportspersons, sports events, elite teams, academies, sporting associations and federations. Says Habibulla, “We would like to be the platform where the best minds from all disciplines come together to enable India become a multi-sport mega power and unlock larger commercial opportunity that high quality sports has to offer.”