Interview with Anish Khinda

Meet Anish Khinda, the man behind Sport Esprit Academy. We asked him a few questions about how Sport Esprit started and where he sees it going in the future…

What does Sport Esprit Academy do?

SEA provides quality sports coaching for participants aged 4-18. Our structure allows us to deliver community, development, elite and professional programmes. SEA believe sports is a great leveller and not only to educate our participants with sport development but also life skills. Working in an environment where we are able to make a positive impact to individuals gives our team great motivation to deliver our best in all our programmes.

When did you first have the idea for Sport Esprit?

When I was 16 I left school to play professional football and that’s when my thought process started about launching an Academy. My self belief is that a playing career in football is not only one of the most demanding to succeed in but its also a very short career. I felt if I could have a back up plan in place it would benefit me in the long run, I felt that when my playing days were no longer earning me an income I could immediately launch my new career.

What was your initial idea – is this where you imagined it would lead?

This is a story I’ve not often shared with many but I remember this day like it was yesterday. I attended a meeting at the Belfry Golf Club with the CEO of a very large sports provider in the UK who was keen to offload a territory in the UK to me as a franchise deal. The meeting went well and I felt clear on their expectations but also felt I should seek some advice of a trusted friend. After leaving the meeting I took a detour home via Leicester where I met with my friend. We sat and discussed the offer that was on the table over some lunch. My friend took all of the paperwork I was given in the meeting at the Belfry and put it to one side and instilled a belief in me that I was going to launch my own academy/brand and since that lunch meeting I have never looked back.

Why did you feel Sport Esprit Academy was needed?

Since my early teen years I’ve always monitored the progress of football development in India and living in the UK I have been fortunate like thousands of others to participate in structured sports programmes. My long term goal for Sport Esprit Academy has been to launch our structure and syllabus in India and other countries. When the academy was launched in the UK I was certain that if me and my team could run a successful model in a competitive market where there is healthy competition, we could almost certainly look to introduce our model in other under developed countries. Now Sport Esprit Academy is running successfully in the UK and India with thousands of participants enrolled into our international projects.

How easy was it to get people to buy into the idea?

Initially it was tough like most start ups, I can recall my first 6 months in business involved very tense times as Sport Esprit Academy was only operating 2 sessions per week with a total of 30 players enrolled into the programmes. As they say the proof is often in the pudding and after our constant drive and quality of delivery the word spread to others and we saw an increase in our members and also the clubs we were running. We slowly developed strong relationships with local schools and started to run extra-curricular clubs as well as weekend and holiday clubs. Bringing the concept to India has been a long and at times testing process but with perseverance and patience we are established in the Indian market not to mention India’s fastest growing international academy. Sport Esprit Academy currently deliver over 24 weekly sessions in the UK and operate in 6 states across India.

With a lot of entrepreneurs, our parents are the hardest ones to convince – do they ‘get’ what you do?

As stereotypes go Asian parents are supposed to be the hardest to convince for supporting their children for careers in the sports industry, however I would say the last 5-10 years we have seen a completely different approach in Asian families where parents now see a very rewarding career in sports as there are so many different opportunities and pathways. I can proudly say my parents are the reason behind my success and if it wasn’t for their effortless support, encouragement and trust I would not be in a position I am today. To this day they are kept very close to the work of Sport Esprit Academy and always provide me with their invaluable advice.

What are your plans for the future?

Sport Esprit Academy in the UK is at a level we projected back in 2010 when we launched. My UK team are doing a fantastic job at maintaining our work and also growing projects when possible. The main focus for me, as Chairman, is to strike while the iron is hot and really focus on the growth of our academy in India. Our latest project in India has been in association with Ryan International Group, who are the largest private educational institution in India with 122 schools nationwide and also have schools in the Middle East. The schools management group have a vision called #Mission26 where they want current Ryan School students to be representing the national teams of India in sport. Sport Esprit Academy have been awarded the task to develop children in schools across the country.

It’s a project that excites me and it’s a challenge I am really looking forward to. We are going to strip everything back to basics and really concentrate hard for 2 years on running purely grassroots projects in the schools before we start to launch develop and elite football programmes. 13 years and beyond is a long time so we must ensure we execute in a sustainable way with the right timings for growth. So watch this space!

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