We aim to make Ultimate Kho Kho a spectacle and one of the top sports leagues in the country – Tenzing Niyogi, CEO of Ultimate Kho Kho

Traditional Indian sports are a big part of the country’s sporting culture and are now at the forefront in an era of the more glamorous Indian Premier League, European football competitions and the NBA. Kabaddi has already made waves since its arrival in 2014 with a league format, a big step towards promoting indigenous sports. Now, we are seeing another Indian tag sport Kho Kho be unveiled in a league format with franchises, broadcast partners and player management in the form of Ultimate Kho Kho.

In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Mr. Tenzing Niyogi, CEO of Ultimate Kho Kho speaks about promoting India’s indigenous sports through a structured league, developing the grassroot level, overcoming challenges, navigating through the COVID-19 restrictions and the future goals of Ultimate Kho Kho.

1) How important is it to preserve and promote India’s indigenous sports and bring them to the forefront through a structured league?

For India to become a superpower in sports, an overall growth across various sports disciplines is imperative. The leagues are never one too many. Each serves its own purpose of helping the respective sport in becoming popular and is instrumental in the players getting their due recognition and support. We believe that the game has the power to stand on its own and attract more fans and Ultimate Kho Kho aims to bring Kho-Kho back on the sports map of India and make it one of the top sports leagues.

Our vision is to showcase Kho Kho’s ‘Mud to Mat’ transition over the last 60 years. We have worked on the format with the support of the Kho Kho Federation of India to preserve the originality and at the same time add the sense of spectacle and drama which Kho Kho is known for.

Sports consuming audiences should get acquainted with the thrill and excitement involved along with the exciting format that Ultimate Kho Kho matches promises to bring for the audience for the first time ever. By revolutionizing Kho Kho in India and elevating it to international standard, our aim is to provide opportunities to the Kho-Kho players to earn fair share of remuneration and hone their skills to further dominate as a unit, as Indian Team globally.

2) What are your plans to promote Kho Kho at the grassroot level?

As a first step towards building a stronger player base, Ultimate Kho Kho & KKFI conducted a high-performance training camp under Ultimate Kho Kho’s grassroots brand asset called RISE – ‘Rise in Sports Excellence’ in January 2021. We need more than skill coaches to nurture that talent, especially those that come from under-privileged and marginalised backgrounds. We have ear marked 100 crores + investment to boost the growth and developing and promoting the sport. Nurturing development facilities and talent through Pan India outreach & sport activation programs, tournaments and coaching workshops along with focus on talent scouting, Interschool & Interstate Cups and tournaments will be essentials.

Ultimate Kho Kho Team owners will play an integral role in developing the sport in their respective catchment areas. As part of the mandate, we are bullish on promoting the sport across school contact and junior development programmes. Brands are seeing big markets in small towns. The fact that Kho Kho enjoys equal or more women/girls playing the sport is a great advantage and conversation starter. The positives that Kho Kho as a sport enjoys close to 15 lakh domestic players across 700 active playing districts is incentive enough for all stakeholders involved.

3) Does Kho Kho face challenges due to the lack of support by the government? What can be done to overcome the challenges?

With India excelling in sports other than cricket, there is a natural urge to support other sports. Statistics have shown that non-cricketing leagues have had 44% average impression in 2019. Add to this, India’s highly improved performances at multi-sport events like Commonwealth and Asian Games in recent times. Keeping all these in perspective, in my mind the Sports Ministry has played a massive role in promoting the Non-cricketing genre by introducing Khelo India Games giving all disciplines a platform as never before. Kho Kho being a part of the initial 16 sports, it was the best time for us to get involved with the sport.

Further on, the actual strength of any sport lies in the grassroots, which has been one of the key take-aways from government initiatives. Kho Kho Federation of India (KKFI) has been an integral part of Ultimate Kho Kho journey and we are working hand in hand to develop this indigenous sport into a successful professional league which inspires younger athletes to pursue the sport as a career option and making India a multi-sport nation.

players-in-action We aim to make Ultimate Kho Kho a spectacle and one of the top sports leagues in the country - Tenzing Niyogi, CEO of Ultimate Kho Kho

4) How has COVID-19 impacted Ultimate Kho Kho? What is being done to navigate through the lockdown restrictions?

The long inactivity due to the forced quarantine has taken a long time to be accepted by all the economic sectors. The process has not been different in sports, the pandemic has been demanding in multiple ways for all of us collectively. We were to launch the league in November 2020, but with the global crisis we had to alter our plans. However, we have been effective to achieve certain ‘return on objectives’ in terms of analyzing players’ fitness under the high-performance training camp, sports scoring dash-board, on-boarding our Broadcaster, driving commercial arrangements with new stakeholders.

Ultimate Kho Kho in association with Kho Kho Federation of India rolled out the first- ever High-Performance Assessment Analysis and Evaluation Programme RISE – “Rise in Sports Excellence”, for Indian Kho Kho players in January 2021. This 30-day training and evaluation camp was set up for 138 players, including 18 women, selected from across the country who underwent a high-tech sports science-based analysis in order to upscale their performances and skills. The findings range from sports physiotherapy, rehabilitation, injury management, biomechanics, biokinetics, sports performance analysis, and nutritional guidance and posture corrections. Going forward, the Sports Science data along with Performance Data will be included in the Players Document for the Players Draft 2021.

There is optimism in some quarters that the lockdown measures will be a short-term blip to business. The expectation is that the booming business of sports will return later this year — players will once again earn the last rupee of their money-spinning contracts, content owners will draw the last straw of revenue and fans will arrive in controlled crowds at the gate and in front of the TV to bolster sports viewing.

5) Can you elaborate on your role as CEO of Ultimate Kho Kho?

I believe, every entrepreneur carries the opportunity to create a heroic business and to lead their organization, with the same characteristics that have defined the world’s top sports champions and teams. All successful leagues have had thoughtful risk-taking leaders who did not fear the possibility of making a mistake. Developing Ultimate Kho Kho from a concept stage to now planning a 2021 launch has similarly been an extremely exciting and challenging journey so far. Ultimate Kho Kho is built on the foundation of trust, future preparedness, visualizing victory and believing in the power of collaboration. These factors assist in developing a roadmap to and scope of work which is multi-layered. Managing federation and investor relations, format innovation, driving commercial discussions with potential team owners, broadcaster, OTT, sponsors, media agencies, segregating player pool and grading according to skill sets for auctions etc. The technical side of the role brings you in touch with television and on-ground production teams to discuss sports technology inclusion to make the sport more enthralling on-air.

6) What are your future goals and aspirations with regards to Ultimate Kho Kho? How do you plan to achieve them?

One of the many advantages that Kho Kho enjoys is its nostalgic value which is critical to establish the bond between the consumer and the sport.

We could not have zeroed in on a better sport -than Kho Kho for it being an indigenous sport that has been around for decades and yet had the potential of being converted into an exciting and fast-paced game with high-octane action. We are working towards making Ultimate Kho Kho a spectacle on television with the influx of sports technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that we plan to introduce in a tag sport for the first time in the world.

Kho Kho has a deep cultural connection. It is a widespread community game with a loyal base – a marketing catchment that with the latent demand and the massive fan base holds the promise of a block-buster series which will take the Ultimate Kho Kho brand story forward.

In our business, If you can’t measure it then you can’t justify it. As the newest arena sport in Indian soil, powered by strategic marketing in collaboration with our broadcast partners in Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), we will keep a keen eye on second screen viewing, integrating sports technology and digital activation for brands and fans. We are also working closely with KKFI to develop a pool of regional commentators to not only describe the visual, but also emote the new format to drive geo-based audience engagement.

With the game now set to make its debut at the Asian Games in 2022 as a demonstrative sport, it’s high time that it made its presence felt all over the country. There has never been any doubt about the immense talent that India possesses in Kho Kho.



Share The Article:

Leave A Reply