‘You could be the next hire at BCCI, IPL, Star Sports, ESPN, Dream 11, Decathlon’: Exclusive Interview with Ms Rasika Kulkarni, Co-Founder – IISM

The sports sector is a dynamic and globally dominating industry. With the emergence of the Indian sports industry as a key player in the global market, here’s what a degree from the prestigious International Institute of Sports Management (IISM) holds for you, and more in this ‘PaGaLGuY’s Exclusive Interview’ with Ms Rasika Kulkarni, Co-Founder of IISM.


Youve associated with a lot of domains. What motivated you to begin your journey in the education domain? How has your journey been so far?

While pursuing my degree in Psychology, I always took a keen interest in art, music, dance and especially, events. This inclination took me towards the exciting field of Event Management. Back then, the events industry was very new in India, and I wished to dig deeper to understand and be a part of its functioning. Later on, we established the National School of Events (NSE). Eventually, we explored sports management as a field set in motion and will become the next big thing in India. We brainstormed a lot and, in that process, IISM came into the picture. Years later, in 2020, we offer a specialised PGP in Sports Event Management. For me here, experience and interest had come together, making me the happiest.


The President of India has recently awarded IISM the Rashtriya Khel Puraskar – could you please tell us about your journey to bagging this prestigious award?

IISM pioneered Sports Management education in India 11 years ago. Our journey has been full of ups and downs, failures, learning from them, applying those learnings for better and much more. Back in 2010, this field wasn’t well-known to people in general. We travelled overseas to learn about this sector and design a curriculum based on the Indian sporting ecosystem. It has been 11 successful years so far, and we are striving towards excellence every day. Being awarded the Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puruskar by the hands of the President of India, we feel honoured. We are truly aware of the responsibilities that we have on our shoulders towards proffering the industry with competent professionals. These are the milestones that we are reaching; however, the journey is very long.


What do you intend to change in the Indian Sports Domain?

Sports in India is flourishing manifold. The sector has its journey of transforming from being unstructured to structured. Be it the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Sports Authority of India, Committees and Federations, all bodies are putting their best foot forward to boost the Sports Domain. I would want sports to become an impeccable industry, but I know that revolutions do not happen overnight.

All that I can wish for is that every sportsperson can showcase their talent with fair opportunities. Moreover, I’d always want the industry to have unparalleled synergy between the sports and the backend to ensure maximum growth of the sector.


What are the USPs of IISM, and why should one consider IISM above its competitors?

There are reasons that make IISM distinctive. The institute, as mentioned earlier, pioneered Sports Management education in India. IISM is the first and the only Sports Management institute in India which provides an undergraduate and postgraduate degree in collaboration with the University of Mumbai and GICED. We are also the first institute to have a dedicated sports research journal called the Sports Academia-Research Journal (SARJ) powered by an international journal called the Inside Journal. Two of our collaborative research reports are launched by Shri. Kiren Rijiju, Hon. Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports. IISM was the proud Knowledge Partner of the Khelo India Youth Games and the first-ever Khelo India University Games 2020; our students were involved in the SOP making of the same. It is evident how far IISM has come, and we are confident that there’s much more to come.


Sports management as a career in India is still an uncharted territory for many traditional management aspirants. How do you see that shaping in the future?

To be honest, things are much better than that it was back in 2010 or 2012. People and students, in general, are now much aware of this niche sector. Sports Management is a great career choice for sports lovers. Students of contemporary times have their career path pre-decided. All of these was possible due to the spread of awareness, and it will get better and better with time. The future of the field and those in the field is very bright.


Does having a background in sports help in excelling in a programme at IISM?

We come across this question on a daily basis. One does not need to have a sports-playing background to pursue a Sports Management program. All that you need to have is sheer love for sports. That is all. Your skills, knowledge and perseverance will take you to places in the industry.

What are the opportunities for someone who takes up a program at IISM, especially post the ongoing pandemic?

Firstly, IISM curriculum is a judicious blend of classroom learning and industry exposure. Our students are proffered with a guest session from stalwarts in the sector and are given opportunities to understand the functioning of the industry first-hand.

We have a dedicated Corporate Relations team that gives internships and placement assistance to students. Our alumni work at esteemed organizations like the BCCI, SAI, IOA, IPL, Star Sports, ESPN, Dream 11, Decathlon, Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, FICCI, etc.

Prior to the pandemic, our students got live exposures at prominent sporting events like Pro Kabaddi League, Shiv Chhatrapati Awards, Tata Mumbai Marathon and International sports matches. Since we are hit with a pandemic, our students are given virtual opportunities. Students have taken up virtual internships and have got a good amount of exposure.

How do you evaluate a candidate’s profile for your institute?

IISM follows a holistic admission process to admit students to the programs. The process allows students to showcase their skills and intelligence by giving them fair and equal opportunity. We have a 2-stage  process: Stage 1 comprises of Sports Management Admission Test (SMAT), Overall Performance and Caseletes (for postgraduate students) / Essay (for undergraduate students). Stage 2 is a personal interview round.

Throughout this process, we assess students’ liking towards the sports domain, their knowledge in current affairs and the business side of sports, language skills, logical reasoning and so on.

Any notable Alumni you would like to mention?

IISM has so far trained 1500+ Sports Management professionals for the industry. IISM alumni are working at esteemed organizations in the industry or have established themselves as Sports Entrepreneur. We are proud of all our students and their achievements and wish the best for them.

Here are a few of our notable alumni mentioned:

  • Talib Kara, Sports Partnership Consultant at Reliance International Sports & Entertainment (RISE)
  • Abhishek Shekhawat, Associate Vice President at Olympia Sportz & Events Pvt. Ltd
  • Juthika Mehta, Sports Intrapreneur
  • Akshata Shete, International Rhythmic Gymnast & Founder at Flamingo Gymnastics School & Research Centre
  • Tanaz Mohammed, Level 1 Coach Educator – Premier Skills, Grassroots Development Officer – Mumbai City FC, Coach – Reliance Young Champs & National Level Hockey Player
  • Akshay Karanje, Lead Sports Data Scientist at Sir H.N. Reliance Hospital
  • Ganesh Mate, Executive Assistant to Managing Director, KinderSports LLP

What would you want this generation to learn from this pandemic?

The pandemic has made us realise to not take anything for granted. We are all blessed with a life, and we should live it to the fullest. I’d want students to have respect for what they have. God gives us one life to fulfil all our dreams. Go for them all!

Learn more about International Institute of Sports Management (IISM)

More about Ms. Rasika Kulkarni

Co-Founder & Managing Director at International Institute of Sports Management, Ms Rasika Kulkarni has over two decades of experience in the Events Industry. Ms Kulkarni is also the Director at NSE (National School of Events), the first-ever Event Management Institute in the central suburbs of Mumbai, in the year 2003. She is a stalwart in Media, Education and Events and a prominent name in Global Strategic Event Management. Ms. Rasika is the former CEO –Mumbai Film Company (A Riteish Deshmukh Company), former Chief Event Head: Zee Telefilms, Antakshari, Saa Re Ga Ma Pa and a professional who successfully Managed concerts for artists like Asha Bhosle Ji, Ustad Zakir Hussain Ji & many more.

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