*This article is also published on Huffington Post.
Sree Varma (‘SV’) is 38 years old and lives in London. He is married with two children and has an MBA in Marketing. As a migrant to the U.K. from India with his family, Sree learned the importance of hard work. He worked conscientiously while his peers were partying. After seeing an opportunity to connect people in the sports arena, spending six month’s on a friend’s couch and a long period of research, he started iSportsconnect. Today iSportsconnect holds exclusive invitation-only events around the world for leaders in the business of sport. Hon Pauline Truong had interesting discussions with Sree Varma on how he is making a difference in sports relationships.
GlobePreneurs (‘GP’): Can you share with us the story of how your family came to the U.K.?
SV: My family came to the U.K. from the southern part of India. When I say that we came with very little, I really mean next to nothing. We had 150 pounds in our pocket and that was it. We stayed in a room in a house with another two Indian families and we ate once a day until we started earning. I guess you could say that it’s the classic immigrant story. It taught me a lot from a young age about the importance of hard work. I paid off my university fees by developing websites for local shops when my all friends were out partying hard in the evenings and on the weekends. I’m still like that. I don’t take anything for granted. There’s no substitute for hard work.
GP: What was your inspiration for starting and launching iSportconnect?
SV: I worked in the publishing business and I became involved in the world of Formula 1 as a publisher. I saw what was happening with digital communities and I saw the business of sport growing and becoming more global and I decided to put them together. I didn’t just dive in. There was a long period of research and consultation. I saw that there were a lot of people in important positions who were desperate for a way to communicate with their peers and keep abreast of developments. I decided to risk everything and go for it. I spent six months on my friend’s sofa when I started the business.
GP: What are some challenges with iSportconnect and how do you overcome them?
SV: There’s a common misconception that an online business is all about technology. It’s not. It’s about people. That’s even more the case in the sports business. One of the big challenges is to keep sight of that when you are working hard to build a digital platform. I saw early on that essentially I was in the business of building relationships, and that offline interaction was the key to adding value to the online community. That was a turning point. A big part of what we do now is around the many exclusive invitation-only events that we hold around the world for leaders in the business of sport.
GP: How does iSportconnect engage with gender diversity in sports?
SV: This is an area that I’m very conscious of because the gender gap is so obvious in the sport business, and also because I’m personally so aware of diversity in general given my own background. iSportconnect events are actually a lot more gender diverse than the business itself. The attendance is always very mixed. We try hard to feature women as thought leaders on the website and at our events. Getting more female involvement in our business is hugely important, not least because the female side of the market is so ripe for development and offers so much opportunity.
GP: What is your advice for @GlobePreneurs who want to create start-ups in the sports arena?
SV: Wherever there are fans, there is opportunity.