In conversation with Shantala Bhat: The IIM-B alumnus fulfilling the basic needs of swimmers in India
Sports are a major part of our culture and their influence in India is undeniable. If you are a fan of Manchester United or Roger Federer, you will definitely see hashtags popping up regularly.
There is no doubt India has talent. But, why do they keep on underperforming in the lesser-followed sports?
The biggest problem is that these Indian athletes don't enjoy much financial or institutional support. While it is absolutely okay to complain, do we try to figure out the real problems behind this?
This is where IIM-B alumnus Shantala S Bhat and Gamatics come into play.
Gamatics.in is an online 'movement' which is focused on fulfilling the basic needs of swimmers in India. Not only is it a marketplace to order high-performance practice gears and equipment, but this is also the only exclusively online swim store in India.
Shantala spoke at length about Gamatics and its impact in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
Here are the excerpts:
Q: Tell us about your startup. What makes it unique?
Gamatics.in is an NSRCEL – IIM Bangalore incubated company focused on empowering and supporting aspiring athletes. A Paralympian and Arjuna awardee, along with the parents of national swimmers are trying to support athletes at grass root level. It is and it will be an organization built by athletes for athletes.
People who spend 5-6 hours every day to bring the laurels to the country have an unorganized ecosystem around them. Simple and small steps to organize this sector can help each and everyone involved in this ecosystem to perform more efficient and effective way. We are sure that journey will be exciting and full filling.
Q: How did Team Gamatics meet?
It’s an interesting story. My son, Utkarsh Patil loved swimming as sports after his summer camp. His school Deens Academy identified his talent and started training him after school hours.
Utkarsh’s dream of taking up competitive swimming came true when he met Sharath Gayakwad who had come to the school as the chief guest on Sports Day. He went and met Sharath Gayakwad and took admission for competitive swimming under Sharath the same day.
We used to take Utkarsh to Jayanagar twice a day for competitive swimming practice. Deeper discussions between Sharath, me and my husband (Santosh Patil) about resolving the issues faced by athletes across other sports lead to Gamatics.in.
Q: Why a startup on swimming and not cricket in a crazy nation like India?
The craziness about cricket says – India does worship athletes. For various reasons, cricket has taken the top spot. So, we are trying to leverage those best practices to bring glory to other sports too.
The difference here is that other sports are not getting the visibility what cricket is getting even after international wins. At the grass root level, all sports are facing the same problem.
Q: What are your achievements till now?
There are plenty. We have reached out to more than 800 swimmers across India in a short span of time. We conducted the first non-medalist Karnataka state swim competition in which 500+ swimmers participated.
Not just that, we have been associating ourselves with the sports industry’s best players in various domains apart from sponsoring state and national level meets. Gamatics has already covered 20+ interviews of elite athletes and coaches.
Q: What is Gamatics focusing on at this very moment?
Right now, Gamatics is focusing on building and executing a complete framework in swimming because swimming is the highest medal winning sport. We would like to extend this to 80+ other sports which are craving for similar attention and support.
We are already feeling the heat as we are pushed by other sports entities to cover their sports with priority.
Q: What are the top 3 things lacking in Indian swimming and how are you improving that?
Infrastructure: Swimming is just not a sport but a life-saving skill too! Accessibility of the swimming pools is a big concern. Building the infrastructure keeping in mind both athletes and non-athletes can bring the difference.
Visibility: We rarely have highlighted swimmers for their achievements. A good handshake between media, federations, and sponsors can bring more visibility among common people.
Encouragement: We rarely acknowledge their achievement at a young age. Visibility is given to swimmers once they achieve great results on their own. Many cannot afford the complete support needed for them to achieve greater heights and hence most of the best talents drop out.