Although necessary, talent alone cannot sustain any athlete. There is a lot that goes into transforming an athlete, even as a kid with potential into an international star. One of the most important things every athlete must have to succeed is proper management. Often, these athletes begin their careers very young and so require all the experience and help from veterans to be able to reach their zenith. Without proper management, it is easy for many of these young talents to get sidetracked and lose their determination and focus when they go through the intense pressure that comes with sports.
This was one of the main reasons why several athletes in Assam found it difficult to thrive and excel internationally for so long, even with all the youthful talent and promising youngsters. Luckily, experts Udipta Sarma and his brother Sudipta Sarma have heard the cry of the people. Building on their vast knowledge and experience, they launched the first-ever sports management company at the time in Guwahati called Skylark Sportz.
Founded in 2017 as a sports consulting agency, Skylark Sportz is aimed directly at the young talents offering them proper athlete representation, sponsorship, licensing facilities and branding. Some of the sports that they specialize in are volleyball, basketball, lawn tennis, badminton, hockey, athletics, boxing, kabaddi, kho kho, swimming, archery and football. Their mission is to ensure the promotion of sports in its best form in the Northeastern region and India as a whole.
“We want to be the one-stop solution of sports in North East India as well as the South-East Asian market. We have many departments – team management, player management, sports tourism, sports infrastructure and many more. The thought behind setting up Skylark is very simple; we have an immense number of academies and players but where would they find a good club to play for or those kids who are passionate about sports but cannot pursue their dreams without a scholarship? We are there for them; we provide a platform for those players and kids respectively.
The approach of these brothers to sports management was unique and so raised a lot of dust. They accredited this uniqueness to their approach to service. “We set ourselves apart by having rich knowledge and understanding of the sports industry and how it functions. This insight makes our consultations invaluable. We’re mentored by the best – Subhash Basumatary – Director of North East Region Sports Authority of India. We also have a thorough mindset when it comes to out-services, social media promotion and marketing, logistics, and team management, they say.”
In February 2020, the duo invited a German-based academy to Guwahati, and unbelievably, 1,700 players showed up! They did trials with the former Indian footballer Baichung Bhutia three times in Guwahati and Shillong. The brothers have also invited Minerva Academy FC for mission 2034 FIFA World Cup where Skylark is currently taking care of the official operation for the tour in North East India and Kolkata. Soon they will be moving to Goa, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Minerva trial is a 100% scholarship for 10 years. Skylark has created the record of holding continuous trials for 25 days in 18 venues all over North East. And the outcome – 85 kids were selected for 100% scholarship and presently enrolled in Minerva.
Curious to know about the selection procedure of students, Udipta gives me an insight into it. “We look at both the technical part and tactical part of a kid before we invest in them. Second is the background of the kid; we prefer kids that are underprivileged or are from remote places. Then the mental aspect – how strong is his or her mental aspect, how far they can hold on their nerves, and if they have the determination to again rise and work harder.”
What also makes Skylark stand out is the provision of sports education programmes. They provide these programmes to schools and other sports institutions, sports curriculums from classes 1 to 12, and for various age groups as supervised by the Sports Authority of India, the Northeastern Region.
The industry of sports management is quite complex. While a good relationship between coach and player is primary, there are other aspects to pay attention to. Take infrastructure, for instance. It is also a very important factor. Explaining it in detail, the brothers say, “Ours is the modern infrastructure used by both private companies and governments in the advanced world. For example, football used to be played on natural grass, but today we have astroturf. The main advantage is that the astroturf field can be used in any weather condition.
As you know, North East India experiences about 6-7 months of rain. As a result, we need astroturf for practice because we can’t practise or play on natural grass due to the rains. Remember the U17 FIFA World Cup? When the semi-final match in Guwahati had to be shifted to Kolkata for this reason? Now, imagine if we had astroturf then, we could have witnessed the semi-final match. We’ve tie-ups with many European companies and other companies who manufacture astroturf, basketball pitch, badminton mat, lawn tennis artificial clay, etc. We directly bring in the products which reduce the cost for the clients out there, and that is how we can give it at cheaper rates. Recently we completed outfield turf installations at Assam Cricket Association Barsapara Stadium, in Guwahati. We’re providing the best turfs in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Mizoram. We also have collaboration with PMG sports, owned by Indian cricket commentator and former cricketer Sunil Gavaskar.”
After a few years of credibility and service, the brothers have attained a level of success that is evident in their company’s turnover. With an initial investment of just Rs 17,860 – through a loan Udipta received from his father – their current turnover is more than Rs 35,00,000 per year. It took them only three years to achieve that feat. But they are not stopping anytime soon. As he says, “With that in view, we know we need to work more and do more with our program.”
The sports duo is still maintaining their level of determination as to when they began three years ago. Their mission is simple; to make North East India a top destination for sports. “We are looking to tie up with more local clubs to guide them on how to be a top-level academy and produce more and more good players not only in football but in every other field as well. We are also in talks with some UAE sports academies and European academies so that we can bring them over here to India,” he says.