IISM – Making a difference to sports management education in India

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The International Institute of Sports Management, based in Mumbai, has emerged as one of India’s best sports management institutes. The IISM, founded and spearheaded by former Indian Test cricketer Nilesh Kulkarni, has been providing competent managers to meet the demands of the growing sports industry.

Sports is a niche industry that needs to be managed by specialised professionals, feels the IISM Founder Director Nilesh Kulkarni. Affiliated to the Mumbai University to offer Bachelor and Masters degrees in Sports Management, the IISM has been creating skilled sports management professionals to the best sports companies for close to a decade now.

In a candid conversation with InsideSport.co, Kulkarni shared his vision and philosophy for the IISM, the future of sports management, his philosophy and the future plans of the institute as well as various other aspects of sports professional education.

InsideSport Desk: IISM today is considered among the top sports management institutes in India. Please share with us the journey of the IISM.

Nilesh Kulkarni: It has been a challenging and exciting journey of nine years. The sports industry around that time was at a formative stage. There was no template in place for sports management education. There were models of various international universities, but nothing specific that catered to the Indian market. I will say that the Indian Premier League was the game changer from the perspective of sports IPs in India, which gave us an annual world-class engagement. Today, we have 10 to 12 commercial properties in the country, offering year-long opportunities to sports professionals. We had an understanding of the growing market scenario. It’s like a constructive cycle. The leagues create opportunities for professionals and our curriculum creates professionals to meet the growing demand of the best sports companies.

We started with a one-year Post Graduate Program (MBA in Sports Management in India) as an autonomous, single specialization program in Sports Management. We continue to offer this program, in addition to the Bachelor and Masters programs that were started a few years later. When we began operations, no university was keen to associate with us for a Bachelor or Masters degree course. As the sports industry and awareness of the same grew with the launch of new sports leagues, the demand for skilled professionals increased. That is how the Mumbai University agreed to associate with IISM to launch Bachelor and Masters programs in sports management.

IS: There have been numerous management institutions of repute in the country. Then why sports management courses? What is that specialisation?

NK: The basic management fundamentals with regard to marketing, operations or finance, remain the same. We as one of India’s best sports management institute add sports marketing, sports finance, sports management and sports operations to the curriculum. That gives the students an edge and enables them to specialise as sports management professionals and gear up for the challenges posed by sports, beyond boardroom managerial skills.

I will say that we are giving our students a management degree on par with any business management institution in the country. But specialisation in sports management is the differentiator for the IISM.

Our students emerge from the institute, well prepared to meet the demand of the industry and best sports companies.

IS: It is the faculty that makes the difference count. Tell us about your faculty, their experience and understanding about the sports industry?

NK: It is relatively easy to get highly knowledgeable general management faculty in Mumbai. But that was not what IISM was looking at. We needed management professionals with a sports background and an inclination towards teaching. Thus, we tied up with the most competent sports management faculty from Bengaluru, Delhi and Kolkata. They come here to educate our students and complete the modules.

If a faculty is teaching for 16 to 24 hours, based on the needs of its module, it needs to ensure that students get what they expect from India’s best sports management institute. Students come to the IISM with high expectations. The faculty is the first group that needs to live up to those expectations. It is not just about teaching. It is important to have satisfactory answers to each of their queries. Each of the students’ requirements has to be addressed.

We need to look for knowledge, content and communication skills to complement every student’s learning ability. It is a continuous process. While creating excellent sports managers, we are also developing some of the best sports management faculty in the country.

IS: Can you please share with us the standard size of a batch and what kind of course fee do you look at?

NK: We are associated with the Mumbai University and follow their norms to limit the batch size to 60 students. If a particular batch goes beyond this number, then we split it into two.

There are more than 400 students on the campus in different batches.

A student cannot just walk in and get admission in the IISM. We follow a strict selection process. Students who appear for the admission test must secure 55 percentile marks in the general category and 45% in the reserved category to meet the basic eligibility criteria for admission. Each year, we are filtering around 240 students for admission, from over 1,000 applications.

We have students coming from all over the country, from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Kerala in the south to Ladakh in the north and Guwahati in the east.

As the IISM is affiliated to the Mumbai University and offers degrees which come under ‘B’ school, the students are entitled to an education loan. We have a standard fee structure in synch with the Mumbai University norms.

*Fee Structure:

  • Bachelor of Sports Management (BSM): ₹ 7,03,920 (three years)
  • Masters of Sports Management (MSM): ₹ 7,31,360 (two years)
  • PG program in Sports and Wellness Management (PGPS & WM): ₹3,50,000 (11 months)

IS: If you have to pick one differentiator between the IISM and other management institutes, what will it be?

NK: Our robust curriculum is the major standout point in sports management courses. It allows the students to acquire extensive theoretical knowledge along with practical exposure. Students as part of their curriculum are sent for project work and internships with leading organizations. Thus, they get an opportunity to apply their classroom education at their workplace. That apart, we have our own practice of generating knowledge reports, published case studies. Students get to work extensively to get a 360° understanding of the business, challenges and solutions.

IS: What do you look at and expect from freshers? What is their understanding of Sports Management?

NK: The level of interest in the industry, the curiosity and an understanding of the potential of the industry, all determine a student’s ability to learn and grow. Interest in sports is a crucial factor. Unlike other management courses where it is all general studies in the first year, our curriculum includes sports from Day One.

We always maintain that we are in the business of sports, which involves 360° operations and understanding of the business. Managing top stars and executing top sports events might look lucrative and glamorous from a distance, but the ground reality is different. One day, you might end up managing a Virat Kohli or become the head of a sporting organization, but it will be a long journey to get there. However, that journey will not be one-dimensional or boring. It will be dramatic and exciting.

A position at the top has to be earned by hard work and consistency at one’s work. There is a lot of effort that needs to be put in, away from the limelight.  That is how you grow into India’s best sports management institute.

IS: Another straighter one! What is the placement rate at the IISM ?

NK: During the course itself, we provide our students’ internship opportunities with the best sports companies where they get practical knowledge and work on case studies. We organise debates and discussions and give them opportunities to attend different forums and seminars. We have been associated with the likes of FICCI, CII and other best sports companies to provide exposure to the students.

We have a 100% internship record. Good students create a demand for themselves. Most of our students walk out of the campus with a job with the best sports companies in hand. There are some who had to wait and then there are others who prefer to start on their own steam than look for a placement.

A number of students also opt for their own placement trials as, at times, the campus options do not match their plans. We are associated with more than 200 sports companies.

IS: Which companies are the leading employers for the IISM students?

NK: Our students are a part of India’s rapidly evolving sports industry. They have worked with India’s best sports companies like IMG Reliance, Procam International (India’s leading marathon organizers), Sportz Interactive, Olympic Gold Quest, BookMyShow and SportzConsult, among others. The list of companies is long. We have developed a mechanism to tap the performance of our students. We get feedback from their employers in a template format. Similarly, students also share their feedback about the work. It’s a transparent process.

IS: Overall, where do you see the sports industry heading? How are the sports professionals and management institutes evolving?

NK: The growth in the business of sports and sports has been phenomenal over the past five years. I see the overall growth not just in terms of business volume, but also in terms of professional maturity. This industry is going to grow at the same or a better pace over the next 15 or 20 years. It is far from reaching a saturation point. The scope for industrial and professional growth is vast. This is a layered growth. With the advent of professional leagues in different sports, numerous tournaments are being instituted at the grassroots level. These events are opportunities for the industry.

The growing market demand for skilled professionals will only boost sports management education. It will also help management institutes evolve fast and cater to the growing demand.

IS: Where do you see IISM in five years from now?

NK: The industry is growing. If we provide it with quality professionals, then there is no doubt that IISM will continue to be the Indian market leader in sports management education. We have been emphasizing on quality and not quantity. Our system of screening and selecting only 250 students out of more than 1,000 applicants is part of this approach.

Presently, we consider 55% percentile scores for admissions. We aspire to take it to 70-75% over the next five years. This will eventually enhance the quality.

Our extension plan includes taking the IISM to other centres. We will start with metropolitan cities. For smaller cities, there will be logistical challenges and we would not like to compromise on any aspect that could affect the quality and competence of the managers coming out of the IISM.

Kulkarni, a former international cricketer, is among the few professionals to have an overall perspective about the industry and sports.

International Institute of Sports Management is the first of its kind dedicated sports management educational institute India. More than a learning institute, IISM is a movement, committed to empowering budding professionals to unfurl the future of Sport in India.

IISM, a venture of Eduhub Education, is India’s first of its kind dedicated sports business management education institute. It offers value-added courses in Sports Management, one of the most unexplored education avenues.