“Really! Do people actually play basketball in India? Are there enough events to cover?”
This is one question that team Ekalavyas is often greeted with. Well, in a country like ours, that is unashamedly, unabashedly cricket-obsessed, this is a fair question. While not many care about sports like basketball in India, four determined guys are trying to run a content business around it!
Aravind Mokkapati, Gopalakrishnan R, Vishnu Ravi Shankar, and Athith Rao came together to realise their dreams for improving alternate sports in India. They feel that other sports in India have not received the media attention they deserve due to the pre-eminence given to cricket. They are trying to address this gap through Ekalavyas.com–India’s first and only basketball news website, launched in December 2013.
Besides tournament news (covered 15-plus basketball tournaments in India and abroad), the site carries in-depth issue-based features, expert columns, top class player/coaches/referees profiles, and more. They are the official tournament media partners of the Basketball Federation of India.
In Hindu mythology, Ekalavya was the ultimate self-motivated underdog, who pursued his passion for archery in the forest without any support. Like Ekalavya, alternate sports (or careers) in India have largely been ignored, hence the name.
Ekalavyas‘ current phase of operations is focused on collecting data through primary sources first hand, rather than depend on secondary sources of information. The team covers events and tournaments live and stories develop from there. And the response from the basketball fraternity and fans has been welcoming.
Many have been curious about how they manage funds and ‘whether there is money in basketball?’ Funding, as of now, is through their personal savings. “As far as the travel and other expenses are concerned, we charge them to our clients. Due to word of mouth, our initiative has seen growth over the year. We are getting calls for more basketball-related promotional activities on the social media and, over time, the financial situation keeps getting better,” says Gopal.
What they hold close to their heart is the first mover’s advantage they have. “Obviously, being the first to do anything is a rare honour. That’s something nobody can take away from us, no matter what happens in the future,” says a beaming Gopal.
Like any startup, every day is exciting for team Ekalavyas as they are constantly exploring and coming up with new collaborations and ideas. With the increase in awareness about sports, preferences like swimming, archery, athletics, basketball, football, and adventure sports are also emerging. According to Gopal, since these are untapped markets, in the near future entire verticals will need to be developed from grassroots to include coaching, media promotion, player representation, scouting, broadcasting rights, sports equipment and merchandising. “This is the market that we want to tap. We want to be an integral part of the sports-boom in India,” says Aravind.
In terms of pure numbers, since their Facebook page was launched in September 2013, they now have close to 12000 likes and growing. Their live commentary feature is the most popular segment on the site, since basketball matches aren’t broadcast live on any media platform; they also have platforms on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
“One mistake that we have perhaps made is that we were so busy on creating content that we didn’t focus much on publicity and SEO rankings. As a result, we find that even after being in existence for over a year and a half, many people are still not aware that a basketball website like ours actually exists, ” shares Gopal.
Nothing can come of a dream if you don’t have the passion for it. The four partners (as they call themselves) have actively played sports in their school and college days. Aravind, Gopal and Vishnu graduated from National Law University, Jodhpur. Aravind has captained the university football team and was a member of the university cricket team. Gopal captained the university basketball team and was a part of the university’s volleyball team, and Vishnu played on the university basketball and football teams.
Athith and Gopal were classmates while in school at Udupi. Athith’s passion lies with athletics, volleyball and, music.
Other than the core partners, the team includes website developer Manoj Nair, student contributors, and expert columnists. They also hire independent cartoonists, statisticians, and photojournalists whenever needed.
As for the future, they have a number of exciting activities lined up, including: a basketball talk show on YouTube, a section on the website detailing sports goods and accessories, and player representation. They are also considering the option of having a Hindi version of the site.
There are plans to turn to other sports too. They recently covered their first non-basketball event – a national level American football tournament.
Whatever maybe the attitude towards alternate sports in India, the team behind Ekalavyas is brimming with positivity. “Our big drive is to play our part in making India a global sports power. In the long run, we also want to create more career choices for the coming generations,” says Team Ekalavyas.
Well, for those who are not tuned into basketball, it is time to brush up your knowledge. Here are five things you should know about Indian basketball:
- The Indian men’s basketball team beat China last year for the first time in our 80 odd years of basketball history.
- Basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in India. The NBA has an office in Mumbai, and every summer, some of the leading basketball players in the world visit our country.
- The Indian basketball men’s team is called Young Cagers. In 1980 the men’s team qualified for Moscow Olympics.
- Our women’s basketball team is currently ranked in the top five in Asia.
- Our current player Geethu Anna Jose was called for tryouts by the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), the American women’s basketball league. She is the only Indian national to get that far.