When Pranesh K and Rohit Narayan started The Football Mind in 2013, they had only one thing in mind – To create a vibrant and professional community for football in India. And like most founders in their early stages, all they had in 2013 was a strong passion for the sport and an innovative idea that could change the dynamics of the game in our country. Two year after they started, The Football Mind today stands at a tipping point of exponential growth. The company has managed to create one of a kind (we really don’t know anyone else doing this in India) vibrant community with most of the important stakeholders in the game on board with them.
In this candid interview with Techstory, Pranesh K, co-founder and CEO of The Football Mind, talks about what is it that they did right in the first 2 years that has gotten them to see the success that they are enjoying today.
Generating Interest In The Idea
When Pranesh and Rohit started The Football Mind, they knew that they had a really good concept idea with them but execution was going to be the key. They had identified multiple important stakeholders who needed to be on boarded if the community had to succeed. Without much connections in the field of football, they knew that they had a tough task at hand !
“We spoke to more than 100 football professionals before we started developing our online community. Everyone was really excited about the idea of having all players and their stats, football clubs, fan clubs, coaches, other football related entities on one platform. But when we actually developed a product and went to people for registrations, everyone just preferred to procrastinate and see how the community went before signing up. That was our first lesson learnt in our entrepreneurial journey – To sell your product you really need to create a lot of interest around it ! ” says Pranesh.
And so how was the interest created ? The Football Mind then chose content creation strategy to start creating engagement among their stakeholder and with the larger fan base.The football Mind started writing news, analysis and related blog posts about what was happening in the football world and started promoting these posts on social media. The company stuck to the content creation startegy for quite some time before moving on to the next phase.
While the content strategy was helping them form a strong and regular follower base, Pranesh and Rohit were parallely meeting a lot of people, trying to get to know as many people as they could and looking for some partnerships. In October 2014, in a big piece of victory for the company’s efforts, The Football Mind stuck a partnership with Western Indian Football Association to connect the football community in Maharashtra.
“Around this time we started getting a lot of customers who were interested in trying out our product. As we showed the the various tools that we had developed, they started realizing the benefits that the could derive from these tools. They in turn also came up with suggestions that helped us create a better product. We were now seeing a number of clubs, players and coaches wanting to register on our platform, ” says Pranesh.
“It was during one discussion with one of the clubs that someone asked us if we could do player registrations and auctions online. This is when we realized that we had hit the bulls-eye. This is exactly the kind of work that we wanted to do and now people were coming to us to get this done. That was one of the best moments of my journey at The Football Mind. There was this feeling that everything was going to fall in place and go exactly as we visualized, ” he adds.
The famous Steve Jobs Quote – “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” is very much application in case of The Football Mind. The Football Mind’s customer today are sure loving what they see. It was only by spending their first year trying to make connections and generating interest in the community that The Football Mind has been able to generate a strong community today.
The company today has 5000+fans and players, 600+ clubs, 200+ academies and 50+ legal bodies registered on the platform.
Laying down a right foundation of growth is a very important lesson that entrepreneurs can learn from this story of The Football Mind. In the times of constant funding news and billion dollar valuations, patience is a virtue that a lot of us need to reinstall. The example of how a Chinese bamboo tree grows is a perfectly relevant in understanding how patience will play a big part in how a startup will see huge success if the initial foundation is right.
The Chinese bamboo tree doesn’t break through the ground for the first four years. Then, in the fifth year, an amazing thing happens – the tree begins to grow at an astonishing rate. In fact, in a period of just five weeks, a Chinese bamboo tree can grow to a height of 90 feet. (Source)
The Football Mind – The Product
The Football Mind today has been able to create an active community of all the important stakeholders in the field of football. Their product today operates in multiple avenues some of which we will describe below. Beside the tangible benefits that the company is currently driving for their users, the vast database that the company has of all footbaalll related entities is their true soft power, an asset that could be worth millions.
Players, Clubs, Professionals and Related Bodies
The Football mind platform allows players to register on their platform and record their important stats. This allows players from everywhere to become visible to the entire community thus creating opportunities for them. The players can keep posting updates about their latest matches etc to the community thus creating a fan following for themselves.
Clubs can register on the platform and form a closed group with their players, coaches, fitness experts and other related entities. Having such a closed group allows clubs to send messages to their entire team by posting in the group. Clubs can also keep posting their updates for the fans to view on their page. The platform creates a unique opportunity for clubs to engage with a targeted user base thus proving an opportunity to develop a deeper relationships with their customers.
Other professionals such as coaches, dieticians, physicians, legal bodies can also register their services on the site thus providing them a platform where they can connect with a larger audience in the field of football and thus helping them get more clients.
Other than that various football associations, government bodies can also register on the platform to connect with the rest of the community and pass on the required updates to the right people.
For The Fans
For the fans, The Football Minds had a number of Club based fan groups created on the site. A lot of groups already exsisted on social networking sites but were mainly focused on international team. Having a lot of local clubs registered on the site allowed for creation of fan groups and support base for the local clubs as well.
Fans can also follow any particular player they like and can keep getting regular updates from the players themselves. There are also discussion boards for the fans where they can interact as a community. Besides this the Football Mind continues to create interesting and engaging content for all their fans.
The Football Mind is also partnering with clubs for their matches to sell tickets or to suggest marketing strategy to the clubs for their events. The Football Minds takes care of all the online activities related to the event they are recruited for by a club.The Football mind partners with event management companies to take care of the event in offline space.
Football merchandise is in high demand across the world. The Football Mind also has an eCommerce website where the company sells football merchandise related to international as well ass local clubs.
Content Strategy For Clubs
Creating solid content to generate engagement has become an extremely important part for the success of any brand today. Due to their experience The Football Mind has had in this area , they help clubs create their own content strategy.
The Physical Product
Moving from the offline mode and on the field (quite literally) The Football Mind has come up with a product – a wristband – that will record each players physical stats and therefore help them analyze their fitness levels and improve upon their weaknesses.
Pranesh Krishnamurthy, Rohit Narayan and Rahul Rane is the trio behind The Football Mind. Pranesh Krishnamurthy started The Football Mind with his childhood friend Rohit Narayan in Pune in 2013.In mid 2014, they were joined by Rahul Rane, their third partner.
Pranesh ,Rohit and Rahul all three are engineers. Prior to starting The Football Mind, Rohit has an experience of working in the Automotive testing sector whereas Pranesh has worked in the energy sector. Rahul is a serial entrepreneur and has started ventures such as Connasys, a software design and development company, and Megavenues.com, a marketplace for event venues that allows venue owners to list their properties and enables users to search and connect with them instantly. The Football Mind now has a team of 15 people working in various departments like development, design, marketing and social media and operates from Mumbai and Pune.
Coming Soon on The Football Mind
It has been an exciting journey for the company and they have some exciting plans coming up in the future.
The platform and various tools available on it is the heart of the company and they plan to come up with a lot of additional features on the platform in the next few weeks. A tournament management system,player management system are some examples of features the company plans to roll out.
The founders understand that partnerships are crucial for the success of their venture and continue to focus on that as well. Pranesh promises that we will hear about The Football Mind tying up with some very big entities in the industry in the next few days.
It has been a long and existing journey for the company with a steep learning curve. With the first movers advantage , strong product and partnerships and of course a very strong passion for the game, The Football Mind today stands at a tipping point ready for exponential growth !