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Road To Recovery

Sporthood will be a safe place after lockdown — CEO Rahul Thomas

Sporthood will be a safe place after lockdown — CEO Rahul Thomas

Praketh Reddy

Published: 12 May 2020 12:52 PM GMT

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. The Bengaluru-based company, Sporthood is one of India's fastest-growing network of neighbourhood sports centres, allows everyone to take the break from their mundane daily activities and take part in sports and join a community.

With the lockdown, the operations of the company have come to a standstill as no one is willing to go outside and play. Talking about the impact and approach, Sporthood CEO Rahul Thomas, in an exclusive with The Bridge says, “Our entire operations had stopped from when the lockdown has been announced. None of us expected this and all our activities got stalled." Talking about the response to this he said he had to re-assess and re-evaluate all the aspects and made changes, while keeping customer engagement as the prime focus. Besides, they got plenty of time to spend on the core product and which will scale up as soon as a normal business routine is back.

Free online sessions for kids on the Sporthood app

Elaborating on another major change, Rahul said, “The development of the Sporthood Live platform that hosts home workouts, challenges and training classes for kids aged 4 to 14 yrs has been our major achievement during the lockdown. The curriculum and training plans have been tweaked so that kids get to have fun along with their daily dose of physical activity, without leaving their living room!” The innovative product comes as a relief for parents and kids alike looking for positive ways of engaging themselves during the lockdown period.

“We are piloting the launch of the Sporthood Live platform with a few schools in Bangalore as well. Owing to the Covid pandemic, we are offering the entire service free of cost, as our way of giving back to the society. Schools interested in utilising the platform can reach out to us at [email protected] / 9663994527 and we will be happy to facilitate you with the same”, Rahul added.

The coronavirus pandemic has lead to many companies opting for laying off their human resources, however, Sporthood has maintained a zero-layoff policy. "We are proud to say that we have zero layoffs during the pandemic and no one has left us, Sporthood is a tightly knit unit and we are a family. There have been multiple instances in the past where we had troubles, we have gone through a lot of ups and downs but the team is quite tight. What we all agreed is that instead of laying out employees we will pay those in need’' said Rahul. He added, "We are 120 people strong at the company, and we mutually decided to pay off the people stuck in Bangalore and the people who reached their homes have all agreed to take a pay cut. So we will have zero layoffs and everybody will stick with us."

Football training at Sporthood Football training at Sporthood

Coming to another major concern during these times is the concern for safety and hygiene measures. Sporthood has made some operational changes, and also they changed the cleaning protocols and they had shifted to WHO recommended cleaning solutions in March as soon as they became aware of the situation and the pandemic to ensure maximum safety for the children who play in their arenas. They also started cleaning door knobs and most commonly touched area every one hour. "So in terms of safety, we have always been a step ahead so that parents and customers will have confidence that Sporthood will be a safe place. We are doing everything to maintain minimum contact," says Rahul.

Badminton session at Sporthood

Sporthood mainly deals with football and badminton. And describing the difference between the two sports in terms of safety, Rahul said ‘’The chances of infecting somebody outdoors is less and in contact sports like football, we take every measure to make sure that the risks are minimised, the same for badminton as there are only limited people involved with some distance between them, so the chances of you picking up the disease from a sports club is, in fact, much lesser than a restaurant or a public transport.’’

"At Sporthood, through our app, is giving out a lot of content for free to fans online and we are using it a tool to engage our audience and keep them at loop with us," says Rahul.

Kids + Coaches lined up indicating the Sporthood - BFC Soccer schools partnership Kids + Coaches lined up indicating the Sporthood - BFC Soccer schools partnership

The Bridge then asked about their partnership with Bengaluru Football Club, to which he shared, "The whole partnership was twofold and there is a complementarity between both, the value proposition is unique and there is no other partnership like us where there is a curriculum online and students and parents can check the progress online, and everything is tracked by BFC, who if interested in the kid can sign him to the academy, which is a 100% scholarship programme.’'

Lastly, talking about the expansion plans for Sporthood, Rahul concludes saying, "We are looking to expand to Hyderabad and Kochi and we are looking at opening up new cities, but that can only be done after the lockdown. Amidst all the chaos it is extremely important to take of your health and fitness, and we all need to be physically active and sport is the best medium to get yourself engaged."

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