Building communities for Sports & Fitness in India

Vishal Lunia, Co-founder & CEO – Sportido 

Vishal started his entrepreneurial journey with an online marketplace for customized designer wear — His passion for sports and adventure drew him to conceptualize “Sportido”.

Sportido helps users discover places to play any sport with like-minded people around them, connect with other players, explore new sports, participate in events, book sports venues, and even find deals on clubs and gyms nearby. Available on Android and iOS app, Sportido was launched with a mission to rapidly grow sports participation by increasing the accessibility and availability of Sports & Fitness activities.

With miniscule participation in sports in India compared to the population interested in watching sports, the founders of Sportido in an endeavor to increase sports participation among both active and latent enthusiasts, launched a location based mobile application that enables participation in sports and fitness activities by bringing together players and service providers.

Prior to his entrepreneurial stints, Vishal has worked with a risk management consultancy and travelled to New York, London and Dublin. He believes that his learnings through this journey with leading corporates and a startup prepared him for the launch of Sportido. An adventure sports enthusiast and proud of his feat of bungee jumping from world’s highest site in Macau and sky diving from a height of 10,000 feet, Vishal is also interested in table tennis, basketball, swimming and dance.  

Vishal holds a MBA from the prestigious ISB Hyderabad and (H) from SriRam College of Commerce, Delhi University and is also a qualified Charted Accountant & a Company Secretary. Here are some insights shared with Team ABT.

What were the initial days at Sportido like?
The way a sport brings in lot many challenges, Sportido came with it’s own set of challenges. The initial days at Sportido had been a constant learning process that has prepared us for the throbbing sport-tech industry we have stepped into.  Those were definitely the testing times for all of us. There was frequent revisiting of the learning gained during my first venture and those while working as a risk consultant to understand how Sportido can survive the initial wave of being a new player in the industry. I would say we are past that phase now and do see a promising future for ourselves.   

But at the same time these ups and downs is what makes the entire game plan interesting. Our approach has been of waiting for the right opportunities for the business and grabbing them with both hands.

Where did you meet your co-founders, partners?
I met my co-founders Neeraj Aggarwala and Akhil R in August 2015 through a common friend, and on one of the instances we got into a discussion about the sports industry.  It was then that Neeraj shared his idea of having a social web platform to discover sports. All three of us were quite absorbed into the discussion that went on for a few hours and days. Akhil and I were very much convinced with the potential of the idea and there we saw the shoots germinating for Sportido.

All of us agreed on a common point that there is dearth of location-based sporting mobile applications in the market. The existing ones do not offer the uniqueness of being intrinsically social and technology driven. Just before meeting Neeraj and Akhil, I had engaged in a weeklong surfing experience in Portugal only to find a lack of popularity of the sport in India. Having all these factors in mind we wanted to initiate Sportido as soon as we could.     

Have you managed to raise any funding?
We raised an angel round funding from Sumpoorna Group earlier this year which kick-started our operations for Sportido. These funds are being used to improve product and acquire customers. To fuel our aggressive growth plans of expansion in Mumbai, Bangalore, & Hyderabad by early 2018 and go international by 2020, we are in talks with potential investors to raise a substantial amount of funding.  The second round of funding will help us accelerate our efforts in customer acquisition and building partnerships with sports and fitness service providers.

What’s your philosophy when it comes to doing business?
At Sportido, we believe in providing value to the consumers and partners in what we do. Sportido was not initiated only with the motive of doing business, but with the belief of creating something of value for the greater good to people/sports. Sport is all about communities and Sportido is a step to help communities take sport & fitness forward in India. This is what makes Sportido so exciting.  We are driven by
our vision is to help anyone play any sport and anywhere.

Describe your leadership style
I believe that in the long run a biggest competitive advantage any organisation has is the people who are running it. These people need to be entrepreneurs and not managers. Thus to develop employees into entrepreneurs, I have to give them a cause worth investing their lives, show them how their efforts impact the organisation in achieving that cause and give them freedom to use their creativity and learn from their mistakes. Uber is a perfect example, using a similar structure they are able to grow into more than 400 cities within 6 years of operations. At Sportido, I follow this style and my team has never cease to surprise me with their creativity and commitment.

Tell us about some of your initiatives to enhance your customer reach
We aspire to expand aggressively in Delhi NCR in 2017 and would grow to other cities in India by early 2018. We expect to go international by 2020. Thus, in order to achieve this, our focus has increased manifold on stepping-up our product, visibility in the operating geography by the way of marketing and on-ground activities. We are looking out for ways and means for organic customer acquisition and lasting partnerships with our suppliers.

We are also making an outreach through multiple online and offline channels such as Facebook marketing and Sportido Ambassador program. We have already received over 3000 downloads of the app since August 2016. Within 6 month we want to reach 50 K downloads. Presently, the app enables booking of sports & fitness activities from a base of 160 partnerships and more than 1200 service providers.