You cannot talk about entrepreneurs who have dedicated their lives to transforming the sports industry in Assam without mentioning Darick Ranjan Deka; a serial entrepreneur out of Guwahati. Most entrepreneurial journeys begin with people having a deeply-rooted passion for change, and then they get the opportunity to execute it. Darick’s journey wasn’t any different. He decided to venture into business independently.
Darick’s knack for stepping out of the box quickly came into play as he conceived the idea to delve into something different from what most entrepreneurs were doing at the time, all he needed was a little nudge; which he got in the form of an idea from a friend who was contemplating starting his football club. In his own words, he says “I got excited about the idea since it was similar to my ambition as well. Also, at that time, I was following Assam Football closely because some of my brothers and relatives’ kids were playing in different leagues and academies,” he started.
This was, undoubtedly, an extra push as he began to ponder on the possibility. “In no time, I decided to contribute and start my first venture which is the Sports Management startup called Sportscraft Management LLP. We were seven partners initially, with time and for various reasons, four other persons discontinued. Right now, we are three partners – Siddhartha Sankar Deka, Kaustab Chakraborty, and I – running the venture. The journey so far has been thrilling, and we are in the 4th year. From the very beginning, we got immense support from different stakeholders of the sports industry which was always a motivation for us and that kept our spirit high,” he said.
Since the launch about four years ago, Darick has watched the business grow into something truly remarkable. Riding on the success of that venture, he has since launched several other businesses, which cemented his position as a truly multifaceted businessman. He describes some of his other ventures without mincing words.
“I am also a part of a café-bistro called 28 Street Jam Café with my brother-in-law, Anupam Bakshi. I joined his project since I had done enough market research and met some of the talented people from the industry who helped us build this one-of-a-kind café in the city. I also decided to start a brand development firm which is a sole proprietorship just after the lockdown.
“The firm is ‘Geek-O-Social’ and the idea of the name came from the nature of the services the firm provides. This firm works towards turning a geek into a socialite,” he adds.
As a result of his sports management venture, Darick has invested a lot into the sports industry in Assam. He has partnered with other sports investors to move Assam’s sports sector forward in so many ways. Some notable projects he has spearheaded to bring more attention to the sports industry in Assam include Guwahati City FC Greater Guwahati Baby League and the Guwahati Futsal Tournament.
“The uncertain and limited growth of Assam Football made us think of forming the club Guwahati City FC, through which we decided to work on the development of football and especially the players, as we could see states like Meghalaya, Mizoram and Manipur have been producing countless amazing talents and a good number of clubs/academies to represent the state at the national stage, whereas Assam was lagging. From the day of our inception, we have been completely working towards the grassroots football development,” he says.
Greater Guwahati Baby League (GGBL) is the first-ever All India Football Federation (AIFF) approved Golden Baby League of Assam. GGBL is a platform to bring kids as young as four to the field, along with the parents and the community as a whole, to build a grassroots football system.
“We have completed two seasons of GGBL where more than 2,000 kids (both boys and girls) participated. During this process, each player got an average of 20-22 matches in 4-6 months. We feel great that the GGBL was amongst the top 10 golden baby leagues recognised by the AIFF last year. As for the Guwahati Futsal Festival, we started in 2017. We have completed two seasons, and the festival is one of our initial projects. It is a 5-a-side football tournament, and in the first two seasons, we witnessed more than 80 teams and players from states like Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland and so on”, he noted.
Speaking on the future of sport entrepreneurship in Assam, Darick believes the future is bright and promising, one that sees sports as a truly rewarding and profitable business. “I do see the potential for sports entrepreneurship in Assam. The market is yet to grow and bloom. Anyone starting sports entrepreneurship at this moment and even beginning a career in it will get to see great results shortly.
“Although we have not worked much with the government, whenever we seek government support, we always get it. One thing we are missing out on is the sports management curriculum in our education system. If this can be introduced in the system then I am sure it will create a very positive impact in terms of sports management as a career path,” he says.
However, starting a start-up is not easy. Recalling the challenges he faced in the initial years, Darick says, “Like most startups, the financial part was the biggest challenge I had to go through; especially for my sports management company. The investment and constant revenue income are highly important. Running a football club is a costly affair. In the initial days of the learning process, we had wasted quite a lot of money as well. Regarding the café, in these five months of operation, I think the changing trend of food and hanging out culture in Guwahati is and will be creating challenges always. I have been trying to keep things flexible when it comes to café food and services so that we stand and flow according to the changing trend. We were all set to start the café in March 2020. But just a week before the launch, we had to go through the pandemic. That was a major blow! The slow and strategic growth of Sportscraft Management LLP was shaken to the core as well. But yes, I am confident and hopeful enough to overcome and make things better than ever before.”
Darick, unlike some, believes in healthy competition. He feels the outcome of competition between two parties is always growth for both the parties, and together, they create something more effective.
When asked what would be his words of wisdom to up and rising entrepreneurs, Darick says, “Patience is the key. Trust me: if one can make a business survive for at least three years with the right intentions and working honestly only towards its goal, no matter whatever its earning, the business will start giving positive results after three years. And also failure is necessary at times. I understand that failure can demotivate any individuals, but it helps us see and choose the right direction to success. There is no specific time to start entrepreneurial life, but sooner is always better, so that one can always explore and give time to let it grow. Also, I have realised before starting any kind of business, working under someone or some organisation really helps an individual to design, set goals, and to prepare execution plans with ease. I have always believed in keeping a backup plan. We have seen multi-million companies also have gone to bankruptcy. It can happen to anyone and any start-up. The backup plan can be even going back to job life. But there should be one.”
The serial entrepreneur has only one thing on his mind going forward, and that is the expansion and exponential growth and impact. He plans to build more on his existing accomplishments and ensure Guwahati City FC is on the national map. He also envisions expansions for every other venture he runs, ensuring there are structures in place to clear out the hindrances on his way to the top.