ISMGA: India’s global sports business academy with ‘industry insider’ faculty

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Ironwood Sports Management Global Academy has a rare distinction. The “only global sports business academy” in India is run by a faculty of “industry insiders”. Headquartered in Mumbai, the ISMGA also has a branch in Dubai that provides its students an international exposure and opportunities in the Middle East.

In three years of its existence, the Ironwood Sports Management Global Academy has provided skilled professionals to India’s leading sports business enterprises.

Amol Sonavane, Vice-President, Sports and Digital, at the ISMGA believes that the rapidly growing sports management industry holds a lots of promise for aspiring professionals and quality sports business education institutes. He shared his vision, the ISMGA philosophy and plans in a long conversation with

Here are the excerpts:

InsideSport:  Ironwood in a short span of time has got an identity of being India’s global sports management academy. Please tell us about this journey.

Amol Sonavane:  Ironwood Sports Management Global Academy is only in its third year. We have got a fully functional branch in Dubai where students attend sessions with our international faculty. Presence in Dubai also helps our students get internship opportunities with the leading sports entities there. Our students get to work in Dubai during the two-month internship opportunity with the global sports managers like IMG, Reliance. In Dubai, we are offering 10-month PG diploma in sports management.

We have got an astute sports analyst Ravi Shastri on our advisory board. His overall experience and association with sports in diverse capacities brings in a broader perspective on the industry and its needs.

We take pride in sharing that we are India’s only global sports management institute.

IS: How would you describe the need of sports management courses? What is that specialisation factor?

AS: This is simple economics of demand and supply. Professional sports leagues like IPL, Pro Kabaddi and a host of other such competitions have created a growing demand for skilled sports managers. We picked up this sports market need early and got into the business of creating sports management professionals, who can cater to the Indian and global sports business.

The sports business in India is at a nascent stage, but growing fast. At this stage the industry needs managers with an overall competence for marketing, sales, operations, budgeting and project ideation, etc. I will put it this way. An MBA degree in earlier days would educate about general business administration and then came specialisations like finance, HR, sales, marketing, etc.

For our industry, too, that specialisation aspect will be the next level. We are moving in that direction. The growing market space and healthy competitive growth will create opportunities for super specialised professionals. We are well aware of that and moving in that direction.

IS: As you said, sports business industry is at a nascent stage. There is no template, fixed school or philosophy for sports management education in India. In such a scenario, faculty becomes the most crucial aspect of education curriculum. How ISMGA addresses this aspect?

AS: None of our faculty is from a typical academic background. They all are industry insiders with vast experience. Our faculty primarily are the top professionals and entrepreneurs from the industry who have been stake holders in this growth. They bring with them a vast experience, understanding of the industry, and solutions for its needs. They are the most successful sports management professionals with tremendous oratory skills to create future industry leaders and top managers.

Their leadership qualities make them good educators.

IS: Have you put a cap on the batch size? How is the ISMGA fee structure?

AS: We keep our batches between 40 and 45 students. The fee depending upon the courses varies from ₹1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh.

IS: The sports industry growth has led to a corresponding emergence of sports business schools in India. What separates ISMGA from others?

AS: There are two key factors. First, there is no other sports institute in the country that offers a global programme and opportunity. Secondly, we have a close connect with the industry. While other institutes will boast about their affiliations with various universities, we are unique for our affiliation to the industry. Our students are getting industry-specific education and exposure, which enabled them get good placements in the last two years.

IS: You said your students over the past two years have got good placements. But each industry heads towards a saturation in terms of job opportunities as well. Is demand still increasing for sports management professionals?

AS: Yes. Of course. It is going to grow further from here.

IS: To create good professionals, you need good students. What do you look at in a student? And vice versa, what do they expect from you? What is their understanding about Sports management?

AS: There are students with basic understanding of the sports industry. They come with a clarity in their mind about the profession they are going to choose and what they want to do in life. Then there are sportspersons, who want to extend their passion as a career option. They are passionate about sports. They come with high expectations. Their interest in sports makes them good students for the business of sports.

We at the institute look for that understanding of the industry and passion for sports. These are two key motivators for any aspiring sports management professional.

IS: How do you rate placement probability for your students?

AS: It is between 90 and 95%. Almost all who aim for a job opportunity are getting it.

IS: Which companies are the primary employers for your students?

AS: Our students are serving India’s leading names in the business of sport. IMG, Sports Interactive, PMG (Professional  Management Group), JSW Sports, Meraki Sports, Procam and DNA Networks are the prominent ones.

IS: Sports business is a vast stream. How do you create a curriculum to address the needs of the industry?

AS: As I shared with you, our faculty are industry insiders. So, each subject we teach here like sports event management , sports venue management, sports marketing, merchandising or sales are taught by the industry professionals with vast experience and specialisation in their respective domain. They bring in a vast experience and understanding about challenges, solutions, and rapid transformation the industry keeps going through.

So we are always up to date with the industry ecosystem to upgrade our courses and curriculum.

IS: Where do you see the Indian sports industry heading over the next five years?

AS:  I think it’s going to be a huge thing in the coming 4-5 years. Sports like kabaddi, badminton, tennis are yet to grow to their optimum level. A cricket-like growth in other sports will take the entire ecosystem to a different level. Big brands are coming into the business of sports with big investments. I see these changes generate a lot more opportunities for sports management professionals.

IS: Where do you see ISMGA five years from now?

AS: We will be having more Indian and global branches to provide qualified, competent professionals to the industry.

ISMGA is an initiative of Greycells Education Limited, the umbrella holding company for some of India’s leading vocational training initiatives. A leading education provider across India and the Middle East, Greycells is a listed entity on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).

Greycells has been among the pioneers in providing industry-relevant education for Media and Entertainment sector through the EMDI Institute of Media and Communication, and for the Digital Marketing through the World Media Academy. Both the institutes also have presence in India as well as overseas with a centre in Dubai.