With the outbreak of COVID-19 and implementation of the nation-wide lockdown, sports businesses both small and medium have been taking the toll with almost every kind of sport and physical activities outside have been shelved. They now have been forced to change their operations amid this period. We, at The Bridge, try to feature the stories of such sports businesses in India, who have been working in the grassroots and facilitating sporting activities now are trying to adapt to the situation and making plans to ensure the smooth running of the business.
In the edition of our Road to Recovery Series, we get in touch with Jay Jhaveri, the Founder of Sportsfort. Sportsfort is actively involved in fitness training incorporated to empower today’s youth and adults with sporting skills, to create an impact on day-to-day lives through overall fitness, to increase accessibility to sports by providing the finest infrastructure and lastly – to produce champions. Their main focus in sport is football and Squash, and they have academies in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore mainly. Apart from this they also have education counselling, nutrition and psychology sessions. ‘’We create a holistic approach to the entire sport’’ says Jay.
‘’The Impact of COVID-19 on us has been really huge as we are a startup, and we are new, the whole ecosystem has been affected, there has also been a change in training for the students. For us, football and badminton require training daily on the pitch, but now everything is hampered and we are not allowed to train. The main challenge for us is to figure out how to make our services approachable during this period.
“‘We like most companies have made online videos and videos which have been sent by coaches for online video learning. For squash as well since not everything can be learnt at home, we have started online courses for people who is starting squash, he can learn the basics at home itself he said, we also started sending our coaches to residential apartment and clubs where sports can be played, and teaching them in their own comfort space, this has ensured that we don’t lose out on our customer base especially during summer,’’ said Jay on the change in strategy.
Talking about the revenue model as well, Jay explains that ‘’ We firstly are not looking to lay off any human resources as I believe we need to stick together as a family and we are looking to expand our centres, so we are not looking to let go of anybody. As far as the recovery is concerned, we will try and learn and look into making our centres more hygienic, and infrastructure better. For example: On an 11 v 11 pitch we will only play and use maybe 8 members in each team so that there is enough social distancing between people, even squash there is a lot of gap between people, so that is a change which will take place once things go normal’’
Coming to safety and security he said ‘’Sanitization is available everywhere, and after every session, we clean and sanitize all equipment and grounds. We will also be cleaning and asking the coaches to use different clothes for every session in order to ensure utmost hygiene, so coaches are also equally important in playing a part’’ We are also looking at only going to areas which are not in the red and hotspot zones and try and conduct sessions there so that everything around is safe especially the coaches’’.
Talking about expansion plans post-pandemic, Jay explains, ‘’The plans for expansion are going on, but it has been delayed for the moment. We are building our own infrastructure and we will continue the plans of building infrastructure, Geographically we are looking to expand around the south part of India, once we have the proper commercial viability we will expand.”
Elaborating on it, he said, ‘’We are also looking at expanding into also fencing which is a very niche sport, and we want to start and also provide the best infrastructure for fencing around India’.’
‘’Another point for expansion, we are looking at is partnerships with sports clubs around the world in football, squash so that we can provide the best experience to our students, we have partnered with Galatasaray a club from turkey, and we are going to be having a Galatasaray football schools competition for our students who can travel to Istanbul and learn, experience and grow. The best part is anybody interested can join in and everything will be taken care of by us.”
To conclude, he said that all medium and startup companies need to lay low, main leverage and do not fire any staff as they are your heart and soul. “Be ready to take some hits and hang in there and this shall pass’’