In a recent interaction Mr. Shaktie Prakash, the Founder and CEO of BigHit, and Mr. Vinit Kore, Co-founder and CBO of BigHit, shed light on their ambitious vision for transforming the Indian sports industry. During the conversation with StartupTalky, the founders shared insights into BigHit's business model, its role in addressing industry challenges, and its impact on the Indian sports economy.
Can you tell us more about BigHit's business model and how it generates revenue?
Mr. Prakash: BigHit initially began with the idea of creating a platform for all sportspeople to establish their identity. When I mention "identity," I am referring to the fact that in various aspects of professional life, there is typically a platform that defines individuals and makes it easy for everyone to locate them. For instance, LinkedIn serves this purpose for careers.
However, if we consider sportspeople, there is not a centralized source of information readily available for everyone to access. Much of the available information is either incomplete or scattered all over the place. This is where the concept of starting BigHit originated - to establish a platform that would provide sportspeople with an identity and make it effortless for everyone to learn about them. That is how BigHit began.
Naturally, we went through various changes and pivots, expanding into numerous other areas, but the core idea remained centered on sportspeople. At present, we are a combination of an online platform and a strong physical presence in various sports-related activities.
Mr. Kore: Our company is currently focused on two major sports: football and MMA. We see a growing interest in football in our country, and we believe it will continue to rise, both in terms of audience engagement and the emergence of young Indian talent on the international stage.
To achieve this, we initiated a partnership with Bayern Munich, becoming the only Indian company with such a regional partnership. Our goal is to create opportunities for young Indian footballers to compete at the international level and get scouted not only for Bayern's pro squad but also for global and Bundesliga clubs.
Mr. Prakash: To put it simply, what we are doing, as you mentioned, is clarifying what Big Hit is all about. As I mentioned before, it is a platform designed for getting noticed and scouted. It serves as a hub for connecting with people. Just as you mentioned, it should be the primary destination for anyone seeking players or looking to scout talent.
We have taken this concept even further in two sports by creating a scouting network, even in a physical format. This is where our partnerships with Bayern Munich, Bundesliga, and several other potential partnerships come into play. In short, we are on our way to becoming the equivalent of LinkedIn for the world of sports.
Mr. Kore: To add to this point, we have also implemented a game management system within the application. Currently, we have approximately 22 primary partners in the Indian sports landscape, primarily national sporting federations. Many of these federations are still using manual pen-and-paper methods or third-party applications to manage their fixtures.
What we have introduced in our application empowers these partners, federations, and associations to seamlessly host their state and national ranking events. Our platform handles player registration, weight category distribution, age category distribution, and gender categorization, all with just a click of a button, resulting in instant fixture generation. Real-time scoring is also available, allowing for updates and highlights.
This functionality helps these federations create a lasting legacy. For example, if the MMA National Championships occurred last year, our application ensures that the consolidated information is readily available for future reference.
Currently, we have a pipeline of sports, including MMA, weightlifting, and judo, all poised to adopt our application. Some have already begun, while others are in the process of incorporating our platform exclusively for hosting state-ranking and national-ranking events—the exclusive domain of the Wicked app.
You mentioned having a mix of both on-ground and online activities. How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors, if there are any, in the Indian market?
Mr. Prakash: We are operating in a rather niche space. When we consider direct competitors, to the best of our knowledge, there is not a company doing exactly what we do, not just in India but anywhere worldwide. In the space where we operate, there are several other sports applications. Most of them are streaming applications, but that is not our primary focus. In fact, we collaborate with some of these streaming applications to enhance the experience for our intellectual properties (IPs).
However, when it comes to a company that is dedicated to building a comprehensive repository of all players in one place, we are not aware of any such entity.
In a way, it can be described as a platform for connecting coaches, players, federations, and scouts. Could it be termed as the LinkedIn for sportspeople?
Mr. Prakash: Absolutely on point. So essentially, we are a platform for sportspeople, coaches, sponsors, and those in search of the best coaches. If, for example, you're a talented footballer and I want my friend to undergo similar training, I can visit your profile, review your tournament history, assess your stats from various competitions, find out who your coach is, discover your past coaches, identify the clubs you've represented, determine your playing region, and even see the opponents you've faced. This kind of information provides me with a roadmap.
When I see your profile and observe your impressive achievements, it makes me think that there is something special about your training methods or the club you are a part of. I might want to emulate your journey, much like how I use LinkedIn to examine people's qualifications and the courses they have taken, helping me decide if I want to follow a similar path or not.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing the sports industry today, and how is BigHit helping to address these challenges? You mentioned that this platform facilitates connections, scouting, and access to various tutorials and sessions. How does it tackle the challenges existing in the sports industry?
Mr. Prakash: The most significant issue in the sports industry, particularly in India, is the absence of a well-defined pathway. If you are a player not involved in cricket, your career options often appear limited, with many eventually pursuing government positions. The likelihood of getting noticed by a sponsor or achieving top-tier success in your sport is exceedingly slim. I am not suggesting that opportunities are entirely absent; indeed, organizations like General Sports and JSW are doing exceptional work. They have initiated a foundation that is engaged in remarkable initiatives. However, many individuals remain unaware of these initiatives and how to access them.
Furthermore, these foundations typically have a localized physical presence, which confines their outreach to specific geographical areas. Conversely, our approach is that if I am situated in Mumbai and identify a promising talent in a remote village of Odisha, it would be logical for me to conduct a more comprehensive assessment. However, without a platform for initial discovery, the prospects of formulating a development roadmap for such talent are virtually nonexistent.
Our efforts are geared towards complementing the ongoing initiatives within this field. Our objective is to collaborate with and consolidate all these initiatives onto a single platform, enhancing their overall effectiveness. So, essentially, our mission revolves around addressing the challenge of talent discovery. That is our primary aim, in a nutshell.
Since you mentioned the discovery of talent, could you share some of the most successful stories of players, coaches, clubs, and federations that have used the BigHit app? For instance, you mentioned Bayern Munich and players who reached the pro division. Do you have any more success stories to share with us?
Mr. Prakash: We are a relatively young company, having been in operation for just one and a half years. We opened to the public about six months ago. Currently, our standout success story centers around what Vinit mentioned—the Bayern Youth Cup. Despite being a startup and operating on a bootstrap budget, we have achieved the remarkable status of becoming a regional partner for FC Bayern Munich, a globally renowned top-tier club.
Additionally, we organized an under-16 youth tournament that spanned across India, involving ten states, and attracting over 15,000 athletes. This effectively made it one of the largest tournaments, not just in India but potentially in all of Asia. The Bayern Youth Cup, which is the world's most significant global tournament for the under-16 category, typically has a combined strength from the rest of the world that is less than what we achieved in India.
The tournament saw the participation of 16 teams and 250 players. We successfully scouted ten players for further opportunities. In this endeavor, we had the presence of Bayern scouts, Bayern legends, and Bayern officials in Goa. They worked in collaboration with our head scout, an ex-footballer from the Indian football team, who is also a Padma Shri awardee and an Arjuna awardee.
Collectively, we identified ten talented youngsters, not necessarily from the winning team, and are in the process of forming them into a cohesive unit. We will provide them with specialized training and take them to Munich, where they will have the chance to showcase their skills in front of scouts from Bayern and other neighboring clubs. They will be competing against teams from about eight or nine other countries, a level of exposure that is truly remarkable, especially at the under-16 level.
While it may not yet qualify as a full-fledged success story, I see it as a significant initial step toward achieving our broader objectives. It serves as a foundational achievement from which we can continue to build and grow.
What are your growth plans for BigHit? How do you plan to scale up and reach more users?
Mr. Prakash: So, as we mentioned, our core focus is on two sports, football, and MMA. However, we have also partnered with over 21 federations, including not only football associations but also ones like underwater swimming. We collaborate with various NGOs dedicated to grassroots development. We are working towards promoting grassroots sports in conjunction with the Sports Authority of India. We had the opportunity to meet with the Honorable Sports Minister, Mr. Anurag Thakur, to share our ideas, and he expressed excitement about our initiatives. We have been in discussions with the Sports Ministry for some time now, exploring opportunities for collaboration.
As I mentioned earlier, Bayern Munich is our regional partner, and we are in the process of establishing several other regional partnerships. We are also working on multiple IPs related to football to provide our young talents with greater exposure at an early stage. This approach not only includes offering a digital scouting platform but also creating opportunities for talented kids from all over India to participate in live events watched by top scouts. This, we believe, is the direction we are heading.
As for expanding our user base, we believe it should occur organically. Our primary focus is on achieving the goals we have set, and we anticipate that user growth will naturally follow. Our emphasis lies in delivering our intended objectives rather than solely focusing on increasing user numbers.
How do you envision BigHit impacting the Indian sports economy and the lives of Indian sportspeople in the next few years?
Mr. Kore: For now, we are thoroughly enjoying our participation in the Asian Games, securing a substantial number of medals. However, when you compare this to the Olympics, India, with a population of approximately 1.4 billion, currently holds around 35 medals. It is not because we lack talented athletes; in fact, we have an abundance of talent. The issue lies in the recognition of these athletes at a young age. Our aim is to foster this recognition from a very early stage to cultivate more athletes. The overarching goal is to transform India into the world's premier sporting nation.
We have witnessed an enormous amount of talent emerging in sports like football from regions such as Odisha, Jharkhand, and Manipur. Their potential often surpasses that of athletes from metropolitan cities. Our objective is to identify and scout this talent from a tender age and provide them with a platform. A critical aspect here is creating an endgame. In India, even if a young athlete achieves success, such as winning the Subroto Cup in football, there's often no clear path for what comes next. Our focus is on establishing endgame opportunities in certain sports, leading to success stories. Once we have heroes like Kapil Dev did for Cricket in India or as Neeraj Chopra recently did for Javelin, the entire population will embrace these sports, resulting in more heroes emerging in those domains. The ultimate vision is to create heroes in specific sports and propel India to become a more accomplished sporting nation. That is the essence of our vision.
Mr. Prakash: To complement your question, let us delve into how we aim to impact the sports economy. Essentially, our goal is to expand the market, much like what the Indian Premier League (IPL) did for cricket. I believe that a couple of Intellectual Properties (IPs) will have a similar transformative effect on football. When you establish an IP of this magnitude, it opens up numerous avenues.
Before the IPL, you had eleven players representing the Indian cricket team. Now, we have ten teams in the IPL, each with a squad of 26 or 27 players, significantly boosting the demand for cricketers. Moreover, the IPL has become a massive source of entertainment. Beyond the players, you also need stadiums, event management personnel, cameramen, and various other professionals to orchestrate the spectacle. You create an entirely new industry that did not exist a decade and a half ago.
Our approach is akin to this. We are expanding the sports market and generating IPs that not only have a significant economic impact but also create a plethora of job opportunities in and around the entire sporting ecosystem. This, I believe, is the contribution we can make.