Vivo Pro Kabaddi League

The raider was swift, each step calculated with utmost precision and craftiness. With unwavering determination, he plunged towards his target. He was breathlessly swearing something and cautiously maneuvering the space around him as if his life belonged in that one movement.

No, I’m not describing a scene out of a thriller fiction novel. While the title of my article might have given it away, I am talking about one of India’s most culturally rooted sport- Kabaddi and now one of its most lucrative sports leagues- The Pro Kabaddi League.

What is Kabaddi?

For starters, it is not cricket.

Kabaddi (Pronounced- Kuh-Buh-Dee) is a contact sport involving seven active players on each side of a 33 ft × 43 ft. playing field. Players from each team alternate to act as “raiders” to fetch points for their teams.

The goal for each raider is to cross their half of the field, tag a player(s) of the opposing team and return safely to their side. Sounds simple, right? Maybe, a little twist would help. The raider must also chant the word “Kabaddi” incessantly without getting tackled.

A team earns points by getting the most tags (offensively) or defending the most raiders (defensively). Additionally, not chanting the “Kabaddi” mantra can get you out by default.

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What is the Pro Kabaddi League?

The ripple effect of the Indian Premier League spread not only to commercialized Indian sports but also to hinterland sports such as Kabaddi. Initiated in 2014, the Pro (Professional) Kabaddi League has become one of the fastest growing leagues in India. For such a young league, it boasts an impressive roster of 12 teams not only from India but South Korea, Malaysia, Oman, Japan, and Iran amongst others.

Numbers don’t lie:

  1. Viewership:

The online viewership increased to 13 million unique visitors this past season, which was 18.5 times that of last year’s unique visitors.

Additionally, the Pro Kabaddi League was watched by a total of 435 million viewers in its inaugural season in 2014.

  1. Investment:
  2. Players and Popularity:

The most expensive pick at the 2017 auction was Nitin Tomar who received $9.3 million (USD) to play for the U.P. Yoddhas. The auction saw over 400 players go under the spotlight.

  1. Owners and Popularity:

The chief proprietor, Star India is doubling its investment by growing the roster as well as the length of the league. This move comes after a growing demand for the sport. This will now give broadcasters a chance to draw greater value from the telecasts.

Owners include known and well regarded personalities such as Indian business moguls Gautam Adani and Kishore Biyani, Bollywood celebrities Abhishek Bachan and Ronnie Screwvala, and the Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar amongst others. Teams are well managed financially and are on the verge of breaking even as they rely on the central revenue pooling model.

What differentiated this league?

It is commendable to the owners and marketers who saw potential in a sport that had long been forgotten. With no household names and a lack of awareness on the sport, the owners managed to create a powerhouse of a league.

In my opinion, the fast-paced nature of the game, easy to learn rules, low to no cost equipment procurement and small set-up space helped push the league tremendously.

The season is well timed as it begins when the IPL season terminates, which avoids colluded attention from fans.

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International scope:

The league boasts of great international reach especially within the neighboring countries of India. Players from over 15 countries have shown participation. The league could be credited for having its own ripple effect as far out as Canada, Dubai and Pakistan which seem to be brewing their own Kabaddi leagues and tournaments.

What’s next?

For league owners, the next step is definitely to grow the league in terms of media and sponsorship rights. Despite the recent expansion, it hasn’t broken even yet. Though the goal doesn’t seem far off, it is imperative to move strategically.

A few potential advances down the line could be:

  • Expansion into more countries to gain traction.

This could be hosting a potential game in an international venue and encouraging participation from other countries. This will also help Kabaddi strengthening its case as an Olympic sport.

  • Solidifying and spreading Kabaddi’s awareness in the schools of India.
  • Flourishing the league on the women’s side could be another point of contemplation.

All in all, while IPL might still be the highest profit-making league in the country, Kabaddi has to be a sport that has amassed the country’s grassroots and traditions.

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Author: Ananya Sachdev is former national level Basketball player from India. She is pursuing her masters in Sports Management from Columbia University and is actively involved on the operational and digital side of various organizations within the sports industry. You can contact her on Linkedin.

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Member Spotlight: Josh Varughese, New York Yankees

This week, SAinSports is shining the spotlight on a recent college grad who just started his career in the world of professional sports. Josh Varughese, graduated from Rutgers University last year with a B.S in Sports Management and is now an Account Executive for Inside Sales at the New York Yankees.

What made you choose to have a career in the sports industry?

From a young age I invested heavily in sports, drawing passion from the game of basketball, hoping to make a life out of it. In lieu of a professional sports career, sports helped me develop fundamental characteristics that are applicable not only in business, but also in life. Particularly, it introduced me to the value of camaraderie, work ethic, and the significance of being a goal-oriented individual. I was immediately attracted to the business side of the sports & entertainment world after taking a deeper look at what it offers.

Being South Asian, did you come across any barriers in choosing an undergraduate degree in sports management? For instance, at home with your parents?

Of course! As most South Asians parents would like of their children, my parents wanted me to go into finance, engineering, medicine, etc. It was difficult for my family to understand my vision in the sports business industry. I went against their will and decided to pursue my passion for sports. I took pride in learning as much about the industry at Rutgers University to put myself in the best situation in hopes of pivoting towards a role with any team.

What’s its like being right out of college working for a major baseball team?

Getting a call from the New York Yankees my junior year at Rutgers was one of the best moments of my life. I never thought the opportunity would present itself so early in my career.

What is the best part of your job?

Having the ability to work and learn from some of the top people in the business and network with influencers in the NYC area. I also get to be a part of the game, which allows me to see sports & athletes behind the scenes with a different lens.

What advice do you have for young aspiring students wanting to go in the same direction you did?

Be aware and learn as much as you can about what’s going on in the sports and business world. Learn about the corporate structure of different sports organizations to see what kind of positions are available that cater to your strengths and interests. Find out who has a job you’d like and reach out to them to set up a phone call or meeting.

Good luck Josh! We look forward to following your budding career.

7 Successful South Asians Working in Sports

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We are back to highlight another set of successful South Asians making a name for themselves in the sports industry. This list boasts South Asian men and women thriving in sports leadership, creative production, advertising and journalism.

Check out these 7 South Asian professionals who work in sports.

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Asha Thacker
(@ashaiscool): Sports Partnerships at Facebook. Asha is currently leading sports partner development for Facebook in India. Previous to Facebook, she led the partnership function for IMG Reliance Ltd, (a joint venture company formed by IMG and Reliance Industries Limited). Before working in sports, Asha had an extensive global career in consumer goods, fashion, and non-profits. Asha is certainly cool!

 

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Atul Khosla
(@atulkhosla) Chief Operating Officer for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. Atul holds an undergraduate degree in an Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and worked in Healthcare for at General Electric for several years before completing his MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. After graduate school, Atul secured his first role in the sports industry serving as Vice President of Business Development and Operations at Alli Sports (A Division of NBC Sports). Since 2011, Atul has served as the COO of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. In 2013, Atul was named Crains Chicago 40 Under 40.

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Alykhan Ravjiani
(@AlykhanKR): Reporter MLB.com – Toronto Blue Jays, Canada. Alykhan’s path in sports started in 2009 as a High School basketball coach and referee for the Mississauga Monarchs Basketball team. After getting his certificate in Sports Journalism at Centennial College, Alykhan became a sports writer/reporter for the Toronto Observer, Pan American Games and Tennis Canada. He also worked in media relations for the Toronto Raptors and the NHL before acquiring his current position as a Toronto Blue Jays MLB reporter. In addition to his work as a reporter, Alykhan launched the Sports From The 6 platform, a place where young professional journalists have the opportunity to hone their craft and create a portfolio.

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Neeta Sreekanth
(@NeetaSreekanth): NFL Social Media at ESPN. Neeta started her career in sports as  Ball Kid for the Dallas Mavericks and later interned at the LA Sparks and CBS Television. After completing her undergrad in management, Neeta honed in on a niche in sports. She focused on Digital and Social Media for sports and worked for the Dallas Cowboys before her current position at ESPN.

 

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Rohan Nadkarni
(@RohanNadkarni): Writer for Sports Illustrated. Rohan graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism. While completing his undergrad, Rohan wrote for The New York Times as a Sports Blogger, The Miami Herald, Deadspin and Sports Illustrated before becoming a full time writer for SI.com in 2015.

 

 

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Pooja Van Dyke
(@Brooklynpbjs) Associate Director of CreativeWorks ESPN. Pooja boasts more than 11 years of experience working in Sports; from studio and remote production, brand marketing to integrated marketing. She holds an undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from Ohio State University. Fun fact, Pooja is an Emmy Nominated Associate Producer for ESPN!

 

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Harshal Sisodia
(@SuperHarsh) Global Digital Brand Director for Nike. Harshal is an award-winning digital producer and director with a distinguished career in advertising and marketing. He is a creative leader focused on discovering innovative and interactive experiences for the world’s leading sports and entertainment brands such as Burger King, Sprite and Nike. As the Global Digital Brand Director at Nike, Harshal has received more than 5 awards for his work Jordan The Last Shot campaign.