Education Interview 2016-10-18

How sports educators like Edusports can boost the education sector

Sports education brings educational principles into the field of sports. Providing such education is Edusports, a company involved in making sports an integral part of the education system.

How sports educators like Edusports can boost the education sector

Sport is regarded as one of the largest industries globally in terms of employment and revenue. The Business of Sports is a multi-billion dollar global industry propelled by enormous consumer demand.

In 2010, the Indian sports market had a value of about $1,489 million. Sport is going to be the next big industry in India. In developed countries, sports contribute around 2 to 4 percentage of total employment.

Recently, President Pranab Mukherjee had said the children and youth of India needed avenues of recreation that would develop them constructively and keep them fit. "My government will launch a 'National Sports Talent Search System'. It will facilitate the development and promotion of Indian sports, particularly rural sports. Sports will be popularised by making it an integral part of the school curriculum and providing educational incentives," he had said.

Sports education brings educational principles into the field of sports. This does not include conventional sports training, but covers all aspects of sports education and development of students through structured programs. Providing such education is Edusports, a company involved in making sports an integral part of the education system. In an interview with EducationBiz, Saumil Majmudar, Co-Founder and CEO, Edusports shares with us the importance of providing sports education by educational institutes. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Tell us about EduSports. What is the USP of EduSports?

EduSports was formed with the idea of delivering holistic education through sports by partnering with schools and completely integrating into the school's system.

EduSports focuses on building a sustainable and scalable model for getting children to play by helping schools deliver sports as an integral part of every child’s education.

EduSports uses Structured Physical activity and Sports as a pedagogical tool for developing mental skills, behavioral skills and physical conditioning in children with periodic assessments.

The EduSports program has the following design principles:

  • Age-appropriateness (of the activity and equipment)
  • Adequate equipment for all children to stay engaged
  • Inclusion i.e. all children get to play. Not only the talented ones.
  • Assessment. Each child gets assessed and fitness/skill parameters tracked.
  • Designed for limited space and time. Our program fits into the school’s constraints of limited space and time.
  • Parent engagement - Ensuring parents participate in the process of building healthier and fitter children

EduSports has been instrumental in making a fundamental change to the education system by convincing schools to adopt a curriculum-based, age-appropriate and structured PE/sports program. Today, most schools have started talking about a sports curriculum. Something that did not exist 7 years ago!

Our USP: ‘Make sports a part of education’.

What led to the inception of EduSports? How has EduSports grown from the day of its inception?

The EduSports journey started from a very casual remark from a friend of mine that his 6-year-old son was not engaging in enough physical activity and was getting hooked to TV and computers. The parent observed that there were hardly any healthy, social avenues for his son to mingle with children outside of the school. Clearly, parents wanted children to play and stay fit and healthy but there were not enough opportunities for children to have a fun experience around sports. After trying various ideas on a direct B2C model, I realised that schools might be the right partners for helping children experience the magic of sport.

That was when EduSports was started.

We are now India’s No.1 School Sports and PE Organisation. Spanning over 250 cities, we have successfully implemented and are managing the program across 550 plus schools covering over 4.5 lacs children. With our strong understanding of sports and PE, we are constantly innovating by developing new products for enhancing the sports experience for schools and children and effectively engaging with parents.

Highlight the challenges faced by the brand. How did EduSports tackle them?

In mid-2008, we started knocking on school doors with the idea of making sports an integral part of education. Out of 100 schools that we tried to reach, 90 threw us out saying “Parents don’t want sports for their kids; they want their children to only learn maths and science.” But 10 of them said, “That is interesting. Tell us more.” Of these 10, three said, “Where have you been all this while? I know my sports program is broken, but I don’t know how to fix it!”

When we started, we did not have any of the tools (curriculum, assessment, monitoring etc). We only had the desire to get children to play in schools.

Some of the early schools trusted our sincerity and decided to give us a chance – but also challenged us on how we are going to actually execute the program throughout the year. In partnership with the schools and with a sharp focus on ensuring that the on-ground program delivery is world-class, we kept iterating and fine tuning the various tools used to deliver the program with accountability and transparency.

At the start of the EduSports journey, we had to evolve to lay emphasis on the program for the young kids segment and not the middle school segment. The nursery-5th standard age group was better suited to the programme demands of most school leaders since they saw a huge gap in the early childhood years when it came to sports and physical education. At the same time, schools didn’t see enough value is just the content-tech platform model which we had zeroed upon as the core product for EduSports. They wanted us to ensure the delivery of the program as well. This meant recruiting and training of PE teachers, something we had never envisioned.

The EduSports programme required at least one qualified and trained resource to be present in every school. Till date, availability of highly-skilled graduates from a sports/PE background is the biggest challenge to scaling-up. After the initial hiccups, when the EduSports programme gathered momentum across the country, it brought with it a different set of challenges; a majority of which were related to scaling the service delivery model in remote locations.

The entire operations team had to be prepared to service a tier-2/3 city and we required the skilled manpower to execute the programme on the ground. Thankfully, we had the reporting platform in place, which helped us track the programme delivery in remote places.

How important is sports education in India? Do you think parents will accept the addition of sports education as it could affect the academic performance of children?

Schools are trying to provide a holistic education. We are helping schools do the same through the magic of sports. Sports have always been an integral part of education. The delivery of the in-school Physical Education or Sports programme, in most schools, has not been inclusive, age-appropriate and has therefore not engaged all kids.

If you help children learn the right skills and the right fitness at the right age, they will enjoy the experience of play and sport. And they will, therefore, seek out more opportunities to play. In the absence of learning the right skills and right fitness, only the naturally talented kids enjoy the playing experience. The rest have fun playing video games or not playing at all.

So, the real problems are lack of safe and good playing spaces and absence of a good sports education program in schools. We are trying to solve these problems by working with schools, using their facilities and delivering a program that is designed to be effective even in limited time and space.

If you consider the goal of Education to develop a child into a well-rounded adult who can productively work with others in society, sports education is a critical goal.

Through sports education, the child learns key life-skills like teamwork, discipline, hardwork, dealing with failure etc that are critical for success – in adult life as well as in handling the pressures of growing up.

Apart from that, there is the more fundamental challenge of health and fitness. Without sports education in schools, where do our children play? How do we develop a generation of healthy and fit children if we don’t teach all of them the right skills and the right fitness at the right age?

Sports Education is not only about Sports. Sports Education is Education.

Parents and school leaders now view sports as an integral part of education that helps build fitness and also improves social skills.

Was it self-funded or did you raise funding? Please elaborate.

We started the business with our savings and investments from friends and family. We got a fund infusion worth Rs 7.5 crore from Mumbai-based early-stage venture capital fund Seedfund in January 2010. In 2015, Gaja capital – a private equity firm has recently invested $ 10mn in SportzVillage (the parent company of EduSports). With the funding, we will seek out new growth opportunities in addition to investing in our current businesses to make them stronger and grow faster.

Highlight your expansion plans.

We are currently 500 schools and will finalise 2000 schools and a million kids in the next 3 years. Our model is ‘Wherever a school is we can deliver it.’

Share some details about your tie-ups with educational institutions.

Schools contact us for coaching programs. In many cases we complement existing education team, in some cases we train the existing team in schools to deliver the program whereas in other cases the schools outsource it completely. We work with pre-schools, schools and colleges.

Do you think entrepreneurs need to look at sport education in India as a serious business? How can this be done?

Sports Education will grow as more people embrace sports as a part of education. This presents opportunities in the In-school programs as well as after-school sports programs.

Any sports entrepreneur needs access to space (playground/pitch/venue), coaches and access to users (parents/kids) for building a business. This might require them to partner with existing venues/academies or with clubs/apartment complexes that provide this access.

Where does technology play role in sports technology?

Technology plays a role in various aspects in supporting the "Assess-Train-Compete" cycle for any sports participation:

  • Performance analysis – various sensors and video cameras help break up various aspects of sports techniques and identify flaws/strengths.
  • Program monitoring: Technology helps manage the data around coverage of programs, gap between plan and corrective action.
  • Assessment: Individual assessment data helps identify strengths and weaknesses of each sports participant and therefore define corrective action

Where do you see sports education in 5 years? Where do you see Edusports after 5 years?

2000 schools and a million kids after 3 years is a good number to have. The sports education industry will see more private and government schools into sports education. It’ll be taught with certain rigor, assessment and the same way other subjects are being taught.

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