Home / Companies / Online retail: Counting on sports lovers

Given the increasing popularity of e-commerce and the effectiveness of online retail in delivering a variety of products at lower cost, entrepreneurs are launching companies that are aimed at sports lovers. We profile five fledging companies that are riding on this wave

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy

ENTREPRENEUR: Vivek Kumar, Nikhil Rai and Nikhil Jha
FIRM: Wave Sports Pvt. Ltd
SET UP IN: October 2010

When a bunch of sports fanatics graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and took up jobs, they realized they could not easily organize sports activities the way they did it in college.

“I felt a huge void in my lifestyle because I couldn’t find any grounds or clubs to play in, neither did I know enough sports enthusiasts around for me to organize stuff with," said Nikhil Jha, co-founder of SportsWave. He added that they realized there were a lot of other people thinking on similar lines.

This was how Vivek Kumar, Nikhil Rai and Jha founded the online social website called sportswave.co.in in 2010. Srikumar Nair, a friend from college, joined SportsWave ​as another partner in July 2012.

According to Kumar, the Delhi-based start-up does both the things that hinder people from engaging in sports these days: meeting people who are interested in similar activities; and the ability to find and organize events and matches for the community.

As part of the project, they are also building sports centres across metropolitans to encourage individual preferences of gaming activities. They have two centres in Gurgaon, and plan to soon open multiple centres across Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore.

SportsWave, which now has almost 5,000 subscribers, was started with savings from the three entrepreneurs. They are still self-funded.

Living your sport, quite literally

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Professional squash champion Siddharth Suchde realized there was a gap in the Indian market for an online firm that could focus solely on selling sporting goods and equipment. In 2011, he went on to launch an e-commerce company, Live Your Sport, which does just that.

“I think a lot of this idea stemmed from my background in sports, and a lot happened by accident too. When I had this idea, I got orders from clubs to print club shirts and tees. The response was great, so we continued," said Suchde.

Suchde ran this Bangalore-based company part-time, whenever he got breaks from professional competitions, but decided to take up this venture full-time in 2012.

Liveyoursport.com has equipment for almost all the sports, and also takes part in infrastructure-building projects like building volleyball courts, etc. The company has not raised external funding as yet. It has undertaken four projects in this category, and has around 40,000 shoppers. Customers mostly shop for racquet sports (games where players use rackets to hit a ball such as squash and lawn tennis) cricket and running, said Suchde.

Suchde acknowledged that his website is a “work in progress, so there is a lot more to do before it becomes a pure place for sports e-commerce". Of course, he also has to contend with big established e-commerce companies like Amazon.com, Flipkart.com and Snapdeal.com, both on the range of sporting goods and discounts offered.

Bitten by the sports bug

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Bitten by the sports bug, Porush Jain started Sportskeeda where people could blog about sporting activities happening across the globe.

To kick-off the launch, Jain created the basic website and submitted 20 articles himself. Today, the website has almost six million unique user visits, with dozens of contributors who write sports-related content.

“India did not have any online news platform dedicated to sports. I wanted to build the largest of its kind," said Jain, who decided to start Sportskeeda in 2009 after graduating from a B-school in Bangalore.

He did his undergraduation in mechatronics (a combination of mechanical and electronics engineering) from Sastra University in Thanjavur.

Before the Fifa World Cup 2014, the website saw around three million unique visitors every month. Once the games started, traffic doubled. The most read content is usually about football, cricket and World Wrestling Entertainment, with seasonal favourites like tennis coming up once a while, said Jain.

Within months of its launch, the then Noida-based start-up raised funding from angel investors like Anshu Prasad and Srinivas Cuddapah.

They also raised a seed round of about 3 crore from Seedfund, an early stage fund.

“In the next few weeks, we have grand plans for the mobile app, because we feel the current app is not up to the mark," added Jain, who is now in Bangalore with his 20-member team.

Play and predict while you watch

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After working for seven years at Subex Ltd, and two years as a co-founder of a mobile publishing software solution called Pingaala, Pratik Shah, decided to venture into his passion—sports, and started Zootr in August 2013.

In May, he launched a mobile app Matchup Cricket, aimed at hooking cricket fans to a match by introducing cricket-related games on their phones. These games could vary from ball-to-ball prediction games, pre-match prediction games and fun trivia quizzes.

“Though the mediums have changed, the cricket-watching experience hasn’t changed over the last decades. The only difference is that now people get distracted by their phones and Facebook in between a match," reasoned Shah.

His Bangalore-based start-up allows three kinds of interactions: prediction games that engross fans in the match; trivia quizzes for knowledge; and head-to-head fun statistics about players who are on the pitch.

Over 2,000 users have made more than 18,000 predictions on Matchup Cricket in the last three months. As of now, the points gathered on the app can be exchanged for mobile recharge vouchers. Shah said in the next three-six months, the company will venture into other games like football and tennis.

Networking on the go

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Saket Agarwal

From a small town in Jharkhand, a restaurant owner’s son, Saket Agarwal, has come a long way. He wanted to start his own company, and find his partners at an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

That he could not get into an IIT did not deter him from his vision. He started SportsTurtle in 2011 at a time when he was still at a local engineering college in Bangalore.

The small group of five students made custom merchandising for sports brands, but realized “as we interacted with more and more sports brands...that there was a gap in the health and fitness applications in India".

So “we shifted focus to get people out of their comfort zone", said Agarwal, who rebranded the start-up as a sports company where people could gain knowledge about sports and wellness, and community motivation.

The Bangalore-based firm has an Android app that can help people put up content on their sites, create games and matches, and connect with people from nearby areas using location-based mapping.

SportsTurtle aims at becoming “the go-to networking platform for sports enthusiasts across the country". The app, whose beta version was launched in May, currently has almost 500-plus downloads every week. The app is still self-funded.

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