Cricket and IPL need no introduction to the cricket-crazy nation- India. It’s said, this game and especially its domestic limited overs game, popularly known as Indian Premier League (IPL), rule over a billion hearts and minds in the subcontinent.

In the past few years, the culture of startups has gained popularity, parallel to IPL though not at the same scale, among the Indian youth.

The so-called unicorn startups and their founders have become role models for the millennials. Hardly any town or city in India is left untouched by the startup fever and its multi-million funding stories.

Startups’ growing appeal among the Indian youth meant; it had to cross paths with the IPL sooner than later. And it did!

In the form of a Startup Cricket League (SCL) that is working towards providing “an informal networking” platform for startups and enablers.

Pragyan Ojha, Indian International cricketer, while addressing a group of young entrepreneurs in Hyderabad, said, “I am happy to see that cricket is being associated with startups to build a powerful networking platform.”

Globally, athletes have ventured into entrepreneurship. Many have tasted success.

Yuvraj Singh, the Indian cricketer, is connected to Indian startups frenzy through his investment firm YouWeCan Ventures.

Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Umesh Yadav, Mahesh Bhupati are few other players who have invested in startups.

There is something about sports that makes it natural for athletes to get into business.

If cricket is entertainment with serious rules underlining it; startups is serious business too.

The pertinent question is, can sports be an enabler for startup entrepreneurs and stakeholders alike. Here are a few benefits of indulgence in sports:

1. Sport helps build character: Sanjay Darbha, the founder of Peerlend, a peer-to-peer lending platform and a sports enthusiast who competes in Senior Men’s circuit tournaments of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), explains, that sports inculcates attributes such as discipline, focus, and patience.

A sportsperson inherently learns to spot opportunities, assess competition and adapt to the challenges.

He further adds that “a startup entrepreneur needs to have similar characteristics and needs to have the same attitude as a sportsman to succeed in their endeavour.”

2. Sports lets you, be yourself: If entrepreneurs want to know the better or bitter side of their team members – make them play a sport.

While playing a team game people reflect their traits; thus, one can spot leaders, team players, and queen bees. Sports lets you, be just yourself.

3. Sport is a medium to connect beyond business: Ecosystem players should find innovative ways to connect with each other to get a better understanding of other’s needs and challenges.

Sport provides an ideal environment where enablers such as investors, mentors, and accelerators can connect with startup entrepreneurs in an informal setting.

Many investors such as Bertelsmann India Investments hold badminton tournaments amongst VCs to build a camaraderie for joint investments.

4. Sport helps in building lasting bonds: A playground in an excellent incubator that helps in the construction of robust and long-lasting relationships.

Startups could use games to let their team members explore possible synergies between them.

When affiliations are made based on complementary skills and or personality rather than any external factor, they work better more so in demanding situations.

Entrepreneurs need an environment where they can learn, experiment and thrive.

And, for the startup culture to flourish; thought leaders and ecosystem players need to find innovative ways to engage with startup entrepreneurs.

Sports can be that open platform which lets entrepreneurs be just themselves.

(The author is a former Indian Army Officer and founder-CEO of AskMentor, a platform for startups. Views expressed are personal.)


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