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Episode 3:

Indrajit shares his entrepreneurial journey, navigating us through topics such as student acquisition, marketing challenges, the timing of seeking investors, and investments for early entrepreneurs. He also delves into the detailed approach he takes in creating his program, focusing on the perspective of parents. He guides us through the workings of his company and his ultimate goal of becoming the complete education solution for the sports industry.

Indrajit, are you saying that you are creating your own curriculum? Like a very balanced curriculum.  

Like I said 10%, we are cutting the entire education part to 10%. We're only focusing on NIOS, National Open School. Our entire curriculum, tuition, we decided to look at one board where a child can just go and enroll, doesn't need the school. Nothing. And that was the National Open School. Any child who's above the age of 14 or 13 can actually enroll in the National Open School and give an exam, give the class 10 exam. 

What we do is we enroll the children, it's recognized. You could pass out from National Open School, do your Indira Gandhi Open University, which are all recognized by the government of West Bengal and actually become an IAS or an IPS or anything and be eligible for any government job. It's a recognized board and also it's a little easier than the other boards. Whatever curriculum we have revolves around the National Open School and the Indira Gandhi Open University. We go from class eight to graduation. We basically give you 7 - 8 years of your education. 

We also have a diploma in a certificate course in sports management, which one could do after he finishes his graduation. So if somebody enrolls in class eight with us, we could take care of his next nine years of education.  

Indrajit, just like how you came about with this idea, I'm sure there are a lot of sports people who would've probably had this thought where they feel exactly whatever you felt and for whatever reason they may not have been able to act on it like the way you did. And also whoever would've been affected by these situations might be looking at this space right. Now, from a business angle, from a marketing perspective or from a communication perspective, what have you done to address these people, to let them know that you are existing, there is Champ For Life who caters to these sort of things?  

To be very honest, we've not done much about that. For some reason we've not been able to take this out to the world the way we would've wanted to. I think that is one area where I will need to build a team which will go and market this product. We've already gone to five or six different academies - cricket, archery, shooting, football, hockey and actually given this product for free for them to try it out. We've done about 5% or maybe 2% of what we plan to do. That is where, like when I mentioned that you need an investor, you need some funding. So it's a balance. Where do you want them to come in, at what price? And when do you need them to come in? Because at one point where you need to break, go to a different level, you will need that funding. That is the tough question that I have to answer. 

I think it's about time that we're looking at something a little more than what we do. For that you need the kind of funding, which we don't have at the moment, but are we ready to compromise on giving that much stake to the investor. That is where we stand at the moment. 

Indrajit, you have about 250 paid students who signed up. How did you get these 250 students to sign up with you? How did they find you?

We did a couple of press conferences, where we were covered by a few newspapers, and we reached out to academies. That is our main area, where we were looking at going to sports academies and telling them that this is what is there at the moment. What we're looking at is to also give the academies that package instead of the students taking them. But we don't want to get too aggressive where we promised the moon and we can't deliver. 

I've always been a very conservative person when it comes down to when I want to give a product, I would look at it as a parent and would I take it for my child or not? Until I'm convinced I wouldn't do that. Now we're in a position where I'm convinced that I could actually put my son onto this program and expect him to pass his exams.  

You say that your product was evolving and you were probably deliberately slow and not very aggressive to reach out to a lot of people. But then you also had these moments when you had a press conference and then some sort of a publicity happened and that's how you got 250 people. But what stopped you from taking the most commonly taken route these days by businesses? Social media? Like running paid ads on Instagram where most of these people might be present. Is that due to the funding aspect of it?  

No, not really. We tried doing the organic part of it where we created some posts and we created some videos. We have some of them going around, but it's not had the impact that we looked at to be very honest. We haven't really got an advertising team in place.That is one thing that I'm working on at this moment is to get somebody who's going to come out and actually market it for us. We tried doing it on our own, but I realized that it's not something that every entrepreneur can do. I won't advise any entrepreneur to try and do the marketing themselves because you'll need somebody who has knowledge about it. I think in marketing, it's how you package the product and how you sell it is the game.  

That is something that we've not really looked at the moment, but going forward, I think if we have to be successful, we'll have to go out there. It's not about the money, it's just that we try to do it in house. To be very honest, we try doing it in house and it's not about the desired results.


You must have had some exposure to marketing given that at some point you were one of the top players in India, you were in this sport and which is also linked to entertainment, which is all about marketing. But you have chosen to try this on your own. And at this point you are recommending to all the others out there, you probably need to have people who are experts at marketing. If you can share some of what went wrong, are there some key lessons here that you learned and why you think the way that you think about marketing now?  

See there are a lot of things that we don't understand. I still don't understand. I don't understand what a hashtag is. I really don't. I don't know the keywords and I'm getting to hear of these things, but I really don't know how these are done. And I don't think my team, though we have some very good professionals in our team, they're capable of doing things like this. Getting the right keywords where you come out in the searches, the right hashtags, very little things which I was not aware of in marketing. Paid ads and the target audience. The target cities, there's so much to it and there's so much science to it, which everyone is not good at everything. You can't be a master of everything. That's something that I've learned the hard way. 

That's why I said the best thing, like I was trying to create this entire portal, trying to build it from scratch. Then I got TeachEdison to come and just give me a ready product, which was customized for me. It's still getting customized a little more, bu it's something that's already ready and it was so easy for me to take it forward. I think one thing that I've learned in business is you have to have your professionals, you have to have your team, where they're professionals in what they do. So the marketing guy does the marketing, the content guys does the content. Everybody has their role to play. You can't just have two guys who're doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that and a little bit of that. That'll never work.  

A lot of the questions were actually around student acquisition and your entrepreneurship is slightly different from the excellence oriented people. But at the end of the day, you need to get your kind of students to yourself. Given that we have a number of clients, one of the common threads that we see is that not everybody is amazing at what they do. They've got amazing content and everything. But one of the things that most of them seem to struggle with is acquiring students and making sales to put it out crudely. But I think you are now probably going to have your part two start where you have your product ready and it's time for you to go out there, do the marketing and start your second journey, which is bringing in the students and having them use your product. And I think one of the missing puzzles is how you are going to reach that point where you going to have probably lakhs of students  

What we also did is, with the platform that we have, we realized that there is a huge potential in the sports industry to give the sports associations or the academies their own education system. And, because I'm part of the golf industry, we managed to get the national body onto our platform to certify. 

Our national body was very apprehensive in the beginning to take the golf teachers course online or a referee course online. But, the revenue they made in six weeks was more than the revenue they did on physical courses in two years. That was the kind of revenue they generated. We gave it to them almost virtually free, because they were not very keen to go with this system.  

Now we are working on a hybrid model. So, other than giving education to students, mainly athletes or anyone who's trying to follow their dream, we are also trying to be a company which gives you a total solution in the sports industry when it comes to education. Whether you want to train a coach, whether you want to train a parent, whether you want to train a mentor, you want to train an athlete, you want to put a system for a sports organization, an academy. Anything to do with the education part in the sports industry, we are there. That is something that I think we are the first dedicated sports education portal in the country. That is something that I'm very hopeful about when it comes to revenue. 

There'll be a lot of entrepreneurs who will be watching this and our journey is a very uphill one because we are trying to create a need which is there, but people don't realize it's there.

Sports and online have never really worked so much and we're trying to get in there. So if you are an entrepreneur,  while you're on your journey, you'll obviously have to adjust and innovate. I think one of the best things I've learned doing this portal is that I've learned to innovate and I've learned to evolve. 

The picture I had of CFL or Champ for Life when I started out and the picture I have now is completely different. It's much larger, it's added so many dimensions, so many opportunities that I never even imagined that I would have. When I started out, I was just stuck on one path where I was looking at education for an athlete who wants to drop out of school. But today we've become a complete education solution for an athlete, for a parent. So we have mentoring courses where parents are mentored, they learn the do's and don'ts of being a parent of an athlete. So whether you're a coach, whether you're a student, whether you're a player, whether you are anyone, whether you're a referee, whether you are a coach, we have a course for you.  

Just imagine if you go to a cricket academy and you give that cricketer two added things. One is you give them an opportunity to train at the academy on your sport as well as have your education covered. It makes the academy a complete academy. We also give sport science support. Like I said earlier, there's seven subjects other than education. 

Let's say the kid doesn't want to drop out of school, he wants to continue his regular school, he wants to be a great cricketer. We give him those seven subjects which will help him be a better athlete. Nutrition, fitness,or how to handle your personal brand, how to build your brand, how to handle social media so that when you grow as an athlete you get sponsors, how to handle yourself, how to handle finances as an athlete. It gives you that entire sports science support. So the cricket academy now is going to give you two other options. It gives you an option of education and it also adds to its sports science support. The academy has everything to gain and it makes it a much more complete cricket, football, tennis, whatever academy it could be. So that's what we bring on the table.

Taking this through the sports academy is one thing. Are you also catering to kids who are not going to sports academies? Can they directly take this? Are you also dealing directly?  

Of course we're looking at kids directly. It's just that it's easier to go to an academy which has 200 kids. The access gets a lot easier. But the direct kids will obviously need a lot more marketing because they'll need to know that this product is available. That is where we'll have to work on. But the easier way out is to go to these academies where they are already training 100 kids, 200 kids, 300 kids and you have a product which you have your target audience ready. All those 300 students of that cricket academy are your potential customers.  

Is it just the curriculum that you've developed? Is it self paced learning or do you also provide live?

Yes, it's self paced. There are two aspects to it. One is obviously it's self paced where you have your curriculum, you have your audio visual as well as text content. You pass one module and then you go to the next module and then you pass that and you keep going module to module. Also what we do is regular lectures, live lectures for our students. We get in a celebrity, or someone from the sports industry to actually talk about it or it can be an interactive session. We do that on a regular basis at least once or twice a month. Otherwise it's a self paced study. You could do it over six months, eight months, a year. It's up to you.  

What is the average ticket size that we are talking about? Let's take direct kids just for others to understand. So what is the kind of fee that they're looking at to get access to the content? 

On a yearly basis, depending on the tuition, it could be somewhere on an average about 2,000 to 5,000 rupees a month. What we have is we have a few kids who pay about 5,000 rupees a month who have direct access to the mentors. On a one-on-one basis. Then there are children who pay about 2000 rupees a month or maybe about 20,000 rupees a year, 24,000 a year where they get access once or twice a month or maybe three times a month to a mentor. Everyone has a mentor, but more of one on one mentoring on a daily basis. It's anywhere between two to five thousand rupees a month. We have 500 kids who are completely free.  

Everyone has access to mentors either through chatting if required, or we can set up a video call, but we have about 50 students assigned to a mentor. So we have about five mentors at the moment. 

What's the entire team size like for Champ for Life at this point? In the form of teachers and all the team?  

If we take everyone into account, we are about 10 now, not counting me. We have about 10 people - five mentors, and then we have 3 people for the entire management of everything. We have one graphics designer who takes care of all the graphics, internal graphics. One person for content. We have about 10 fulltime people and we end up getting three or four interns on a regular basis. We have about three or four kids in college who come to us for internships. Those are free internships. We don't pay for our internships, but they come for a couple of months where we give them experience of creating content and mentoring. They also come out and help the free students who don't pay anything. So on an average, about 13 to 14 people.


If there are some investors looking at this, is there something that you'd wanna communicate to them?

I think one of our biggest strengths is that we are unique as of today. We have no competition and we are the first to do something like this. If we have some investor coming in, he has to understand that, in today's world, it's very difficult to find something that nobody else is doing. Because everyone is in every space. You go into any space and there are some big players like Byjus and different people, who won't take much time to come into our space and in a huge way. But no one can take away from us that we are the first to do it and we have addressed something that is never being addressed before. But, if an investor is looking at us, then I'm sure he'll look at a potential of, at least 50,000 students, which we can probably acquire as paid students. And if they're going to be paying 2,000 to 5,000 a month, that's some serious amount of revenue that can be generated.  

As of now, you are only within Bengal?  

No, as it's online, we got students from across the country. We have sports management courses being done by people from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. That's the beauty of having an online program. There are no boundaries. We could say we are only in West Bengal if we had a school building somewhere where we would be teaching our students, but we have no building. So your phone is your college.

What we say is that you have one cell phone and that's your college or your school, your entire school is in your hands. So we have no boundaries. We've got kids even from Maharashtra. We've got, I think we've got one kid from down south somewhere around Bangalore. 

I'm not gonna conclude by saying okay Indrajit, thank you so much and all these things, but I'm going to be in touch with you and see if there is some bit of progress. And if you feel like sharing something, I'll always be happy to have you on again and then have a conversation. It was wonderful talking to you. I learned so much, because this was something very new to me and it was very insightful, especially the point when you spoke about passion to obsession. I think that's going to be my takeaway. Of all the things I felt that was very profound to anybody, it need not have to be just a sport.

I've always known that. But I met a God man, and he told me, you're passionate, but how obsessive are you? 

You look at every single champion, every single successful man, whether it's an athlete, whether he's a businessman, he lives, breathes, he dreams, he does about that goal that he has. And if it's a sport, then that's the only way you can be a champion. You cannot just be doing this and say, by the way, I'll do this also. So that's something that caught on. And I think if every kid follows his passion with obsession, he's got a great chance of succeeding.  

I think it can be applied for anybody and everybody. I wish you're on your way to the 50,000 student journey. This is amazing and very inspiring. I really wish you all the best and look forward to having you on another session like this sometime.

This content is brought to you by EdisonOS, a no code EdTech platform to operate an online education business. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.