Alum Ventures: Sportz Village – Saumil Majmudar, PGP 1995

Saumil Majmudar, Co-founder & CEO of Sportz Village, is set on to changing the face of sports at schools in India by delivering holistic education through sports. As an entrepreneur in the field of sports since 2003, Saumil has the grand vision to see 100 million children play through Sportz Village.

He has represented the Maharashtra state in Basketball (U19) and recalls his days fondly at IIMB, where one would find Saumil more on the field than in the classrooms itself. An up-close exclusive interview with Saumil Majmudar, a successful entrepreneur with the spirit of sportsmanship.

What has been the inspiration behind starting your entrepreneurial venture in Sports?

Back in 2003, I was just rebounding off a failed venture and trying to figure out the next “tech” venture.

As we were discussing ideas, a friend complained about how his son was not playing enough because there were no safe places to play near his home. I didn’t have kids then and realised that I had been seeing the world through “Adult Eyes” and never saw this problem.

I personally am a huge sports lover. Have been playing all my life, played a lot during IIMB days (some of my batchmates would say I spend more time on the fields/courts than in class!) and still play.

I think there is a magic in the medium of sport & play. And I felt that children missing out on this magic was a problem worth solving and would combine my passion with the entrepreneurial venture I was thinking of doing.

Of course, when I started (16 years ago), I thought the solution would be far easier to implement – but that’s another story!

How is Sportz Village spreading the “magic of sports”?

Sportz Village spreads the magic of sports through 4 business units today:

Sportz Village Schools (erstwhile EduSports) integrates sports into the curriculum across 1000 private & government schools and covers nearly 5 lakh children.  Through a structured, age-appropriate and inclusive sports & physical education program, we are ensuring children have the right fitness and skills to have positive sporting experiences and fall in love with play for life.

Sportz Village Academies (erstwhile KOOH Sports) offers after-school coaching, high-performance centers, One-on-One trainings & Sports Tours for children who want to go further down the Pathway of Performance Sports.

Sportz Village Xp (erstwhile SportzConsult) helps Brands achieve their business goals  (like consumer engagement, brand building, sampling etc) through sports.

Sportz Village Sports for Change convinces CSR donors in Education to add Sports as an integral part of education so that the efficacy of the Education spend increases (as kids are more likely to show up at school and stay engaged when there is a good, inclusive and fun sports program happening in school)

Academics have always taken precedence over sports in India. Have you seen this scenario changing in all these years?

The primacy of Academics is not going to change in a hurry. However, a few significant things are happening.

Parents are concerned about their child’s health and fitness levels. And therefore parents want their children to play more for fitness objectives. Our latest Sportz Village Annual Health Survey (10th one) shows alarming data around children’s health and fitness.

Increasing concern around all-round personality development of children is also leading to parents choosing sports for their child.

More successful role models in the “sports as a career” pathway.

These points have led to parents demanding a structured, inclusive sports program from schools, investing in sports pathways for their child and to brands & CSR donors looking to leverage sports for their key objectives.

What have been your key learnings from your entrepreneurial journey?

Good business is boring. Building a good business means doing more of the same better and cheaper every day. Not inventing new ways of changing the world. And that requires a commitment to the original cause and not to the trip of novelty. If you have found a Product-Market fit, just put your head down and execute. Stop looking for “what else is new”.

Time is the biggest and undervalued asset I have. Good things take time.

The market doesn’t care about what degrees I hold. It only cares if the offering makes sense to them.

The World is willing to help those who are genuinely trying to solve a problem worth solving. But you have to ask for help.

Pay it forward. As others have helped me, I try and help the next set of folks. I can never pay back what I got. But I sure can pay it forward. And I must.

How does one overcome the challenges as an entrepreneur?

I think there are only 2 real challenges:

  1. Conviction about the Vision.
  2. Cash flow.

Most ventures fail not because of lack of good ideas, team etc. They fail because of lack of conviction and cash flow.

Both are internal to the person.
The 1st one is really about thinking long and hard before jumping in. Or testing the waters before you do.
The 2nd one is really about being able to manage your personal cash flows if/when your venture goes through turbulence. In my case, to pay my bills and support the family, I have done part-time consulting from 9 am to 2 pm with friends and built Sportz Village from 3 to 9 pm.
I have taken loans, diluted my equity holding, etc so that I can balance the cash flow requirements on the personal and business front.

If you are really convinced about the Vision and the Opportunity and have a way to keep going (by ensuring Cash flow), then it is just a matter of Time before you will figure out the Product-Market fit (assuming you are mentally nimble enough to respond to market inputs).

Who has been your inspiration?

Mr. Azim Premji.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Play. Read. Trek in the Mountains.

Any fond memories/ experiences from your days at IIMB.

I loved the sparring on the fields and courts. And those I sparred with the most are my closest friends today.

What are your future plans?

Get 100 million kids to play through Sportz Village.

If you had one piece of advice to someone on their entrepreneurial journey, what would it be?

Hang in there. It is worth it.