India, as a sporting nation, has evolved immensely in the last few years. While the country literally lived and breathed cricket until a few years ago, today it is as passionate about a number of other sports. However, while there was a lot happening around sports, there wasn’t much happening, if anything at all, in the area of combining bespoke sports, ticketing and experiential travel solutions. Raghav Gupta decided to address this need with his company Fanatic Sports.
Elaborating on his start-up, Gupta shares, “Fanatic Sports was born out of my passion for sports. It is a company by a sports fan, for sports fans. I felt there was a major gap in this sphere in India, compared to the plethora of sports travel companies abroad. Moreover, the increasing craze for sports and the large number of fans in India made it a ready market for Fanatic Sports.”
Hailing from the City of Joy, Gupta completed his schooling from La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata, and then pursued his undergraduate studies in Business Management and Finance at IILM, Delhi. After receiving a formal degree in business, he got involved in his family business of steel manufacturing, where he trained under his father, Avinash Chandra Gupta, and uncle, Narain Hari Gupta, looking into purchases and accounts.
Baby steps to long strides
With a catchy tag line that reads ‘Asia’s Leading Sports Ticketing & Experiential Travel Company’, Fanatic Sports has not just been able to generate enough interest but also an impressive clientele that includes some of the top names of the corporate world. This has helped it grow from strength to strength within a matter of years. The company was registered in December 2013, but started functioning from 2014. Soon after, it went on to become the only company in Asia to be empanelled with FIFA, International Cricket Council, World Rugby and International Olympic Company (IOC). It also became India’s first-ever and the only company to be registered by the Indian Olympic Association and IOC for sale of tickets to the Rio Olympics. It now has sales representations in India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. An IATA-accredited company, it offers customised corporate hospitality and tours, sports travel packages, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that combine sports with travel. Further, Fanatic Sports’ network includes some of the biggest
names in the world of sports such as Sachin
Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Diego Maradona, Michael Phelps, Boris Becker, P V Sindhu, Viswanathan Anand, Deepa Malik and Michael Clarke. What makes Fanatic Sports stand out from others is the personalised experiences it curates, based on each customer’s requirements. It takes pride in being the only company in India that has rights for all major global sporting events, some of them being exclusive rights.
But, it hasn’t been a smooth run all along. Gupta recalls his early days when getting approvals for licences for sporting events—without having any experience in the travel industry—was the biggest challenge that he faced. And, as for current challenges, he says, “Each event comes with its own challenges and requirements, right from bidding for the licence to hand-holding customers through the entire experience—it all requires a dedicated and trained team to make sure that there are no glitches.”
Asked if he could turn back time and do a few things differently, what would they be, he replies, “Nothing!” He goes on to explain why: “Since Fanatic Sports is a revolutionary and a new-age business, my team and I have been constantly learning and evolving the business. In retrospect, there are things that we could have done differently, but we would not like to rewind, as we believe we are extremely well-poised to be a global leader in this business.”
Speaking about the things he focusses on or keeps in mind while designing a customised itinerary, Gupta says, “Each customer has requirements, in terms of budget, time, athletes, etc, which excite them, and other experiences with which they would like to club their sporting trips. Putting all these together is our greatest challenge as well as our biggest strength.”
While a lot has been achieved, probably there’s still space and potential for more. So, what lies ahead? “Fanatic Sports strives to be a global leader in the business of sports, ticketing, and hospitality,” Gupta replies. “We are the only player globally to have rights from the four leading right holders. Further, the launch of Blue Republic, India’s only ‘Team India’ fan community, is our new project for 2018-19.”
Blue Republic is a sleeping unicorn (a start-up with great value potential but still to be mobilised). The main purpose behind it, according to Gupta, is to create a subscriber-based community of super-fans within Fanatic Sports. He aims to expand both Fanatic Sports and Blue Republic by leaps and bounds in the days to come.
In India, marrying travel with sports was an idea unheard of, but Gupta has made it possible. Fanatic Sports has successfully filled a much-required gap by offering curated sports-cum-travel experiences. In fact, it has made India proud by putting it on the world map of sports ticketing and experiential travelling. Here’s hoping that this is just the beginning of a long, successful journey with the best still to come.