We Aim To Revolutionalise Grassroot Sports & Empower Youth: Reuben Pandian, SFA

Reuben Pandian talks about Sports For All’s effort of unleashing the potential of young athletes through tech-enabled championships and inclusive sports ecosystem

In conversation with BW Education, Reuben Pandian, Chief Strategy Officer of Sports For All (SFA) discusses SFA's mission, growth strategies, public-private partnerships, and the transformative role of technology in enhancing the sporting experience. Plus, valuable advice for aspiring sports enthusiasts. Excerpts edited.  

What was the inspiration behind founding Sports For All (SFA), the vision and mission of the company? 

Sports For All (SFA), India's largest tech-enabled multi-sport school competition platform, is inculcating the joy of playing sports. With a combination of technology, sustainable business, and the Championships platform, Sports For All (SFA) is enabling the ecosystem to strengthen the sporting DNA of the country and realize aspirations for the gold quest. SFA uses technology to assist future champions with analytics about their performance, as well as benchmark versus other athletes (across geographies).  

Beginning at the grassroots, SFA is enthusing athletes to compete at the SFA Championships and contribute to the nation’s dream of being a sporting powerhouse. Revolutionizing India’s grassroots sports, SFA Championships are the nation’s largest school-level competition that provides youth with an opportunity to unleash their potential through joyful and inspiring sporting experiences. Since its inception in 2015, the 12 SFA Championships have witnessed an incredible participation of over 2lakh athletes from 4,000 schools. 

So far what has been your footprint and why is 2023 such a milestone year for SFA? 

Over the years, SFA has made significant impact through bolstering the sporting culture at the grassroots level, by empowering talent in the age group of 5 to 18 years. Since 2015, SFA has conducted 12 Championships in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, and Uttarakhand, across 28 to 30 sports, with a cumulative participation of 200,000 athletes and more than 4000 schools.   

The year 2023 is a milestone year for SFA because we will have a pan-India footprint and double the athlete participation this year, compared to the last 8 years. In 2023, we will execute SFA Championships across 10 cities, reaching out to 200,000 athletes and more than 6000 schools, within a span of four months. By the sheer magnitude of participation at SFA championships, the scale is as big as executing 10 Olympics within months. For instance, Olympics engages 11,000 athletes every 4 years. Whereas SFA Championships will witness close to 15,000 schoolchildren participating in each city.  

Over the last 8 years, SFA has grown significantly. Can you share the key strategies and challenges? 

Our growth in the last eight years can be attributed to several key strategies. Firstly, we focused on building strong partnerships and collaborations with various stakeholders such as sporting federations, brands, educational institutions, and government bodies. These partnerships assisted in augmenting our impact and expand our reach. Secondly, we leveraged technology to streamline our operations, enhance participant experiences, and improve talent identification processes. Lastly, we prioritized community engagement and created awareness about the importance of sports through extensive outreach initiatives. Through this journey, there were challenges around the infrastructure, need for awareness and change in mindsets regarding the significance of sports – although they seem manageable now. 

 How have you strengthened the possibility of public-private partnerships in Sports? 

We recognise the importance of public-private partnerships in driving the growth of sports. SFA has actively worked towards fostering collaboration between the government, private sector, and civil society organizations. SFA, is the leading sports entrepreneurial venture empaneled with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), official partner of Team India under the aegis of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and are sponsors for Khelo India Youth Games, beginning from the Madhya Pradesh, 2023 (for the next five years, until 2028 editions). The 36th National Games, Gujarat, 2022 and Khelo India Youth Games, Haryana, 2021 were powered by the SFA’s tech IP ‘Games Management System (GMS). Previously, SFA has also managed editions of Khelo India Youth Games in Pune, Guwahati, and Panchkula. 

How do you ensure inclusivity and equal opportunities for children from diverse backgrounds to participate in SFA championships? 

At SFA, we believe in the transformative power of sports to empower individuals, agnostic of gender or their financial demographic. SFA strives to create an environment that ensures inclusivity and equal opportunities for children from diverse backgrounds to participate in our championships. We contribute to the National Education Policy vision of inclusive education by breaking barriers and addressing societal biases.  

Just to share interesting SFA statistics, in the last 12 championships we have seen 35% participation from girl athletes. “She is Gold” is a program at our Championships, dedicating one day to girl athletes competing across sports, motivating this consistent participation, and ensuring they are determined to continue. Another campaign, “More Alike” practices inclusivity for specially abled athletes, across all age-groups and sports, throughout the championship. 

 What is SFA's mission for the next 5 years? 

SFA's mission for the next five years is to continue expanding our footprint, enhancing our impact, and fostering a sustainable sports ecosystem in India. In the next 5 years, SFA is envisioning 150 Championships across 50 cities. Our focus will be on leveraging technology to empower young athletes, promote inclusivity, and nurture a generation of future sporting champions. 

Technology plays a significant role in SFA's operations. How has the use of technology and data analytics enhanced the sporting experience and impacted decision-making within the organization? 

Technology has revolutionised the way we operate and deliver a seamless sporting experience at SFA.  

Through our tech IP, we are delivering cutting-edge sporting experience for every athlete. SFA’s phygital experience is built to combine the best of both worlds for every athlete.   

We have integrated technology and data analytics into various aspects of our operations, including talent identification, competition management, and participant engagement. By leveraging technology extensively, recording the performance of the athletes in the form of videos and data analytics, it’s now possible to gain unmatched insights into the talent pool that India must invest in. SFA’s tech IP Game Management System (GMS), is built in-house to manage large-scale championships and is the backbone bridging the gap between discovering talent and training for a future in sports. Through this mapping the entire sporting talent across geographies and age groups is now a possibility, at the click of a button, on a unifying singular platform. Today the SFA tech IP is the go-to IP for all sporting solutions in the country.  

Lastly, as leaders in the sports industry, what advice would you give to young sports enthusiasts who want to make a difference in the sporting world? 

Just start playing and discover your true passion! 

Follow your passion: Pursue what you love and have a deep passion for sports. This will fuel your determination and drive to make a difference in the sporting world. 

Embrace challenges: Be prepared to face challenges and setbacks along the way. Use them as opportunities to learn, grow, and enhance. 

Emphasize on innovation: Be open to embracing new technologies, trends, and approaches to drive innovation in the sports industry. Stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changing landscapes. 

Focus on holistic development: Recognise the importance of holistic development for yourself and the athletes you work with and work on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Never stop learning: Stay curious and continuously seek knowledge and insights. The sporting industry is constantly evolving, thus staying updated and adapting is essential. 

You can make a lasting impact in the sporting world and contribute to the growth and development of sports in India and staying committed to your vision. 

Tags assigned to this article:

Around The World

Our Publications