Overall, the investment and attention paid to the sports and sports-tech market has lagged as compared to other sectors in India. However, in the past couple of years, largely spurred on by consistent international successes across multiple sports, the interest and activity in the sector has accelerated.
India is a huge sports market, where in goes far beyond cricket and latent demand and interest has been bubbling up to the surface across many fronts. As sports continue to gain mainstream interest and growth, new opportunities in the ecosystem will continue to arise.
The growth and interest in the sector can be attributed to a number of factors, some of which are macro and broad-based and others which are specific to the sector.
1. Global success in multiple sports and formats: from successes in medal sports at global events (Olympics, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games), to team and indivudal sport achievements outside of these forums (the incredible rise of the Indian football team, individual success of atheltes in golf, chess, billiards), the interest in non-cricket sports has never been higher
2. Commercial viability and the possibility of creating successful business in non-cricketing sports — Although the popularity of Indian Premier League for Cricket supersedes that of most other sports, but professional leagues of the likes of Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League and Premier Badminton League, has stirred an interest in the nation for alternate sports as well.
3. Active Governement support — The “Khelo India” initiative by the Indian Government has vouched to identify talented players in priority sports disciplines at various levels who will be provided assistance of INR 5 lakhs annually. This has triggered a massive cultural push towards sports especially in the Tier-2,3 cities and rural India.
4. Favorable Demographics — With 65% of the population under the age of 35, the demographic dividend enables an accelerated interest in the growth of multiple sport categories. By 2020, the median age in India will be just 28, compared to 37 in China and the US, 45 in Western Europe, and 49 in Japan. Also as the disposible wealth increases among all age groups, the focus on fitness and sports has also increased. This can be seen via the growth of proxy metrics such as wearables wherein Indian customers bought nearly 2.7M units in 2017 and creating a good market opportunity for global companies including Fitbit, Samsung and Xiaomi.
5. Rise of Digital Platforms Impacting Multiple Areas — With the increasing penetration of smartphones coupled with lowest 4G tariffs globally, the consumption of sports via digital platforms has never been easier or quite as dramatic. Platforms like Hotstar or SonyLiv, have seen record breaking audiences in 2018 during the IPL and football World Cup respectively. Equally important, digital crowdfunding platforms such as Ketto and Milaap, allow budding local and regional sports athletes get democratic access to funding.
The result of these catalysts is increased capital flowing into sports but also growth in startups and entrepreneur. With a jump in venture capital investments flowing into sports tech sector of the country from 2017, the sector is brimming with opportunities. Another significant push for the industry is marquee sportsmen investing in, starting up or taking up advisory roles in new age startups. For investors such as us, we would want to leverage this momentum and work closely with entrepreneurs who are seeking to innovate and create new models for the mobile, tech-focused Indian market.
Case Study: HealthifyMe and Cure.Fit
For Chiratae Ventures, our association with the sports market has broadly centered around investments in HealthifyMe and Cure.Fit. The former is the largest digital platform focused on health, fitness and wellness in India, whereas the latter focuses on creating an ecosystem of health and fitness via gyms & sporting centers (Cult), health food (Eat.fit), meditation centers (Mind.fit) and primary healthcare (Care.fit).
Each of these has had a deep impact on consumers in India. HealthifyMe has over 7 million users, 200 million foods and exercises logged, 15 million kilometers tracked via walking/running and over 1 million kilograms lost. Via their integration into all wearables, the fitness performance combines together under the same umbrella as a dietary regime, HealthifyMe is creating a gigantic ecosystem for active as well passive sports enthusiasts. The company, via its proprietary AI-nutrition platform, Ria, is able to track what users eat, and makes healthy lifestyle suggestions.
Cure.fit has made an impact via its multi-platform approach. With over 80 Cult centers across the country, coupled with the acquisition of Fitness First in India, the company was able to reach consumers in all the large metro cities in India. They recently crossed the milestone of 5 million Cult class bookings and offer services including sport activities, HRX work out, boxing, Zumba, Yoga among others. The Company is focused on creating a new category of sports and fitness in the country.
By leveraging technology, both HealthifyMe and Cure.fit are able to cater to the requirements of all users across the breadth of health, fitness, and wellness.
Emerging Areas of Investments
o Sports Ecommerce — As the millennials engage in increasing sporting activities, marketplaces and sporting brands of associated merchandise, products and services is bound to follow. Collectabilia, the online platform selling sports and celebrity merchandise is one of the key examples apart from Healthkart.com which has created a new brand in the sport fitness & nutraceuticals industry.
o Sports Content & Community Engagement — Digital consumption has also been instrumental in driving fan engagement in new age sports properties. Sports focused social networks and fan engagement platforms are are connecting with their audiences online, and this consumer database on digital will be key to connect with the audience for further downstream ancillary revenues such as brand commerce.
o Esports: The emergence of this sector as a primarily online-driven genre, and one that like many traditional sports –requires little localisation, makes it ideally suited to aggregating large audiences across multiple territories. For the players of these games, Esports is just like physical sports industry -inviting team sponsorships, coaches, data analysts, commentators and brand endorsements. In evolved countries, players have their own coaches and data analysts as well.