'In sports management, at the end of the day, it's all about skills, and how you gain those skills is irrelevant": Vivek Sethia, India On Track CEO and founder

Careers in Sports Management Summit
Careers in Sports Management summit

The field of sports management is enormous. Professional teams, their parent organizations, colleges and institutions, recreational departments, and sports marketing companies all employ sports managers. They could be experts in event management, facilities management, sports economics, finance, marketing, or information. They may even oversee operations, assist in the background, or serve as a liaison between the media, players, and coaches. Energy, motivation, good sportsmanship, and teamwork are all seen as key attributes in all sports administration positions.

To discuss the different opportunities present in the field of sports management, the Global Institute of Sports Business (GISB), in association with Sportskeeda Business of Sports, held a "Careers in Sports Management" summit. The key speakers at the event were Parvin Dabas, founder of the Pro Panja League, Vivek Sethia, CEO and founder of India On Track, and Neel Shah, Associate Dean at GISB.

The start and growth of Pro Panja League

The Pro Panja League is carrying out a never-seen-before professionalization of the sport of arm wrestling, taking it to new heights. For centuries, arm wrestling, more commonly known as panja, has been seen as a non-combative show of strength, but even with its rich history, it was only recently that it was seen as a professional sport.

Speaking about his journey from the entertainment industry to launching a sports league, Parvin said:

“I learnt Taekwondo at a very early age and also did and still do kickboxing today. So there was always this love for combat sports which pushed me towards the combat sports platform, MMAIndia. So I wouldn’t call it a progression but something I was doing parallelly. I felt as a mass sport, panja had that simplicity. It didn’t have a financial barrier for athletes. And now after the pandemic, I feel, we are where we want to be. The first season of Pro Panja League will take place in the first quarter of 2023 with a national broadcaster.”

While sports tourism has not always been very popular, over the recent decade, the number of people attending out-of-area sporting events has increased dramatically. Speaking about his idea of the phenomenon, Parvin shared his experience of organizing Pro Panja tournaments across the country, including in Mumbai in front of the Gateway of India, in Goa on top of a casino boat, and in Gwalior in front of the Gwalior Fort.

Approach towards introducing new sports in the Indian market

A well-known figure in the Indian sports niche, Vivek Sethia recently launched his new business, BS with VS, with the goal of altering how sports is viewed, analyzed, and discussed by fans across the nation. Speaking in detail about his goals, visions, and the plans ahead, Vivek said:

“The main goal is to just have fun. I just enjoy sports, I follow cricket, football, F1, tennis, etcetera. Thats what keeps it alive.”

Breaking Sports with Vivek Sethia aims to be a unifying force on the digital platform in a nation where sports are enjoyed by people of all ages and practically everyone participates in one or more sports activities. Speaking about his experience with client approach, Vivek said:

“For example, Major League Baseball is one of our big clients, and I genuinely feel that it has huge potential. And it bothers me that India is nowhere in the sport. So I feel that if I could use my network to make organizations invest in the sport, whether they are our clients or not, that is where we can add little bit of our leverage in the community.”

India On Track is partnering with MLB to expand and market the MLB First Pitch program. MLB First Pitch, a grassroots program already being used to promote baseball in Mexico and China, was introduced in India for Primary School Children. Through workshops led by MLB International instructors, the program provides children with their first opportunity to learn about and enjoy the sport.

Vision for 'Awakening the Blue Tigers : India’s Quest for Football’s Holy Grail'

Neel Shah, Associate Dean at GISB and the author of the book Awakening the Blue Tigers: India’s Quest for Football’s Holy Grail, spoke about his love of writing and his blog Live India, Love Football. Speaking about his book, he said:

“The book is about the past present and future of Indian football. Personally speaking, I’ve had a unique journey. I grew up in the US. I saw the ‘94 World cup in the US, the ‘99 Women’s world cup, I saw US reach the quarters in 2002 world cup. So our vision for the book was what should our country do to achieve such goals realistically. Creating a longterm strategic plan.”

Neel also talked about the impact that could take place in India if it reaches the World Cup from a social, political, as well as an economic standpoint.

Speaking about the different types of approaches sports bodies have while entering the market, Vivek shared different examples. The approach that the NBA carries is to invest heavily and not care about the money right now but 20 years later. La Liga has a hybrid approach that focuses on creating new fans while simultaneously looking for commercial partners to create opportunities.

How to succeed in the field of sports management

To grow any league, you need people. People are required to be on the ground, doing different jobs. Speaking about the skills required for a person to be in such a role, Parvin commented:

“Nothing beats experience. Even if a person doesn’t have a degree in like sports management, but they give the initial sense that they might be able to do the job, it is enough. There is no fixed formula though. It depends on the role as well.”

Sharing his approach on the issue, Vivek said:

“In sports management, at the end of the day, its all about skills. How you gain those skills is irrelevant. That may be from programs of MBA or sports management. People who do not believe in formal education can gain skills from YouTube or books. People can even use their experiences from other industries and use them as transferable skills. The focus should be on how do we actually upskill our people. Currently there is a huge gap between the sales people in sports and the customers. As we are not selling the right product today.”

Neel has a wealth of experience teaching as a professor across various institutes in India as well as in the United States. Speaking about where Indian students stand in comparison to global standards, he said:

“From an intelligence standpoint, Indians are at the same level as students in U.S., Australia or Europe. Even the passion and willingness to work is the same. Where I see the difference is in their ability to communicate and express themselves. That confidence is lacking. The second part is because of the exam culture in India, they have to unlearn a lot of that dependence on the system. Because the system in the West is a lot more liberal and asks students to make their own path.”

Neel added that the sports industry requires people to maximize opportunities, use their relationships and communication to create gaps and opportunities that didn’t exist before and not just wait for the system to take you somewhere. That's where sports management plays an important role.

With the swift growth of the sports business, India is demonstrating that it will have a successful sports management ecosystem in the near future. The days when India was considered second best in sports are long gone. There was a time when playing sports was viewed as a hobby. As more people have begun to understand the value of sports, fitness, and diverse sporting activities, the market has expanded for a range of leagues, tournaments, and competitions at the highest level. With athletes and sports reaching a high level, it is essential to have a proper sports management system in place.

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Edited by Dinesh Renthlei
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