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Fitness today is associated with several fancy terms, for starters: Zumba, aerial skills, cross fit, aerobics and the list goes on! Back in the 90s and the times before, all we understood about fitness was- Outdoors! To keep up with the changing times is tough but to blend old school with innovations is tougher!
It is easier today to convince someone to spend an hour in the gym than to get him onto the football field. Keeping this concern in hindsight, a group of sports/ fitness enthusiasts from Bengaluru and from different walks of life came together to develop a fun app not just to pull people back to outdoor fitness again but also to connect like-minded sports enthusiast from the same neighbourhood. The very successful app today is known by the name of PlayO. Talking to the marketing genius behind the success of the App, Daanish Suhail, FistoSports got an opportunity to discuss the growing sports culture in India at length. An alumnus of St. Frank Anthony Public School and Christ College in Bengaluru, Daanish is currently the CMO of PlayO and his strong sports culture since childhood only worked to his advantage.
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Excerpts How much did your early sports culture help in setting up PlayO?
It helped me tremendously! Sports was always a part of me, football in particular. My father was a football player and he played at the district level then, so growing up I picked up the same passion for sports from him. So I can say, football happened because of dad and sports in general happened because of school. I was a part of my school football team. Apart from football, I was also interested in other sports like hockey, cricket and athletics. But again, I never thought of pursuing a career in sports, it was always a hobby and something that I enjoyed doing the most.
What difficulties you faced before launching the app?
We struggled initially. Sports has a niche audience and it is never someone’s topmost priority. Also, the segment that we were tapping into was the urban adult. So the urban adult likes to play but don’t have the time to. If they do have the time to go out and play they don’t know who to play with. So there needed a little push from someone and somewhere to snowball into bigger things. But the process took a lot more time than we anticipated. However, so far we are quite content with the response.
You must be a die-hard fan of a sports club or of a player, which or who is it and why?
Well, to be very honest I don’t watch much. I am more of someone who would go outdoors and play and not watch matches on screen. But if I had to choose a player, it would be Lionel Messi, hands down, and talking about a club, then Manchester United!
With the recent rise of privatisation in terms of sports facilities/stadiums, how do you think will this affect sports in the long?
I don’t see anything wrong with the privatization of sports stadiums. I am sure there may be a downside to this, but at the moment I am not able to think of any as the pros definitely supersede the cons in this case. See, for sports to run in the long run you need money, and private owners are willing to shell out money and improve infrastructure. Let’s take an example of Pro Kabaddi, who would have thought this sport would turn out to be one of the highest watched sports leagues in India? But it did! So as long as it is helping sports to grow, I don’t see any harm in it. However, the government can help sports grow by helping privatisation. Also we need to have to wait for a sport to be privatised to get good infrastructure.
Also with so many facilities available today, yet the younger generation is seen more inclined towards console or indoor games. There’s less participation or engagement as opposed to what is expected from children, how do you feel about that?
As I mentioned earlier, I got interested in sports because of my father. I would watch him go out and play games and that’s how I got involved in sports too. Though I never thought of playing a sport professionally as I wanted to be an engineer, but I knew sports is always going to stay a hobby. I won’t say much to the younger generation but would definitely stress on the need that parents need to set an example first. Children only pick up what they see and like while growing up.
With so many apps designed in the same fashion, how difficult or easy is it to survive the competition?
It is tough, but our app is different from those available online. We give our audience a lot more options than just finding playing spaces around. Like we get like-minded people to meet and play a sport of their choice. We also help book ground or stadium on hourly basis. We also have a ‘friend-finder’ feature to connect with someone who shares the same taste in sports as you. So we are quite different from other apps and so far the response has been amazing.
If you were given an opportunity to go back to school and college and revamp the sports education system, what changes would you like to bring in?
Sports was taught to us in school as a physical activity. Also, there are so many other things you learn through the medium of sports. A person who has played sports will be in a better position to manage or handle things as compared to someone who hasn’t played a sport ever. So a change that I would like to bring in would be in the way we look at sports. We need to bring in more value to the value that a sport brings to our life. We need to stop measuring how students are growing in sports and rather focus more on the growth in other values through sports.
Can we see a sports star being roped in as your brand ambassador? What qualities would you want to have in that athlete in order to reflect your app culture?
Well, that’s a tough one. But going by the way we launched our app, it can be Rahul Dravid- Slow and steady. Actually, more than an athlete, if I have to associate my app with a celebrity I would go for Deepika Padukone. She is someone who spoke about the values she learned through sports and how it helped her fight depression early on in her career. Similarly, our app is not just about sports but about going out there and indulging in physical activities to keep your mind and body engaged.
Any new feature that you plan to come up with to make the app more interesting?
Yes, so we plan to include a community feature on our app wherein people who got together via our app can further discuss about upcoming events, sports or simply keep in touch to come back with the same team again.
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