It was hell of an effort tracking down our next Career Pathbreaker, Aravind Shankar. No response on Linkedin, Email or Facebook. A phone call did it and he graciously spent 1 hour on the phone with me describing in great detail his career story that took him from Madurai to Jalandhar! Aravind went from playing Football to detailed level design and manufacturing of new versions of Football at Nivia Sports. Interested??? Read his story to know how initial failures can lead to greater success!

Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal speaks to Aravind Shankar, Sports Engineer at Nivia Sports regarding his career.

Aravind, tell us about your background?

I studied at TVS Higher Secondary School in Madurai. After school i took up engineering as suggested by my parents. I took up Mechanical Engineering at M.Kumarasamy College of Engineering, Karur. 

I was provided scholarship by GoldHeart Foundation, Chennai for college. To the best of my ability iam sponsoring some kids from the same foundation.

In college, i was heavily involved in Sports. I played Basketball for my college. Thats where i met my friend who also joined the same college. I and my friend used to watch all football and cricket matches. We both loved sports !

What were your plans after graduation?

Though we were crazy about sports we never thought of it as a career. We were very happy watching and playing.

Since we were in the top 10 in our class, we were confident that we could get campus jobs and would be placed in some IT company like TCS, Infosys or Wipro. Though we cleared the written exam conducted by TCS, we didnt get through the interview. Actually i had studied tamil medium throughout my schooling. So my interviews didnt go well due to less fluency in English. Both me and my friend didnt get the TCS job.

While we were looking around for other jobs we came to know of some opportunities in Japan if we learnt Japanese language. TCS was looking to hire students who knew Japanese. We learnt the language but again failed in the written test. Around 13 students were selected by TCS.

I also applied for a job at MRF and failed in the interview round. Though we were disappointed we never lost hope. And since we were two of us it was easier to take these failures.

Our college did not have any other campus placements and we were on our own. At that time lots of thoughts were crossing our mind. Should we do a masters or start our own business. Myself and my friend were good in design and we thought of starting a business but our family didnt have enough funds to support us. Since our parents had their own business they asked us to join the business.

How did you get into Sports Engineering?

Around this time my friend did his own research and he used to casually search for “most well paid engineers” and “Sports Engineer” used to come up in the results. So we started searching for Sports Institutes in India. We found out that there were two Sports Institutes in India – One in Mumbai which was focused on management and the other in Cochin, which was focused on Sports Engineering.

So we went back to our parents and told them about the Sports oriented course in Kerala. Though they werent convinced about our plans they allowed us to go to Cochin to do some more research on the Institute. When we reached the institute, we were initially shocked! It was a house with two members who were the faculty. One of those persons understood tamil and so we felt a connect with him. And he was a very good mentor to us, telling us about the opportunities in Sports in India. He also assured us that if we didnt get any jobs we could join the institute as faculty. So we joined Sports & Management Research Institute (SMRI), Cochin, Kerala for a 6 month certification in Sports Engineering in 2017.

The only issue was that this institute was pretty new and they had only trained a few students in Sports Management but none in Sports Engineering. So it was a learning curve for them as well. However the heads gave us several projects to work on.We did several projects at the institute.

Aravind, can you please tell us about the projects you did at Sports & Management Research Institute (SMRI), Cochin, Kerala

Most of our work was focused on design, keeping the end customer in mind. I believe that was our strength. We learnt a lot about ourselves during the 6 months at the institute.

One of our first projects was designing a camera box for a cricket academy in Bangalore. We designed and manufactured the protective box for covering the cameras in the cricket practicing pitch for analysis purpose.

Delivering our first design for a sports academy was a thrilling experience for us ! The academy also gave us remuneration for our work. This inspired us to do further!

Camera Box

We created a protective suit for the Jallikattu game.

How did you get your job at Nivia?

Our mentor connected Nivia HR through LinkedIN.  And we applied for an Internship for 30 Days.  We mentioned that we have strong passion on sports and we did sports engineering course also.  Then we received the confirmation letter from Industry.

Tell us what you do at Nivia? 

I develop different panels for Football/Volleyball. My job is to work with ISL players (Indian Super League Football Tournament) and get their feedback on the football.

We then use player’s feedback in the product development process. For footballs/volleyballs, we use 3D model as a base as sphere.We will make the desired patterns by flattening the 3D panels to 2D. Then we make the pattern of the ball on 2D.

Then we cut the panels by material and then stitch it and then do quality checks in a lab where we test the balls for bounce, shooting, roundness and water uptakes. While cutting panels i have also suggested different ways of cutting panels for smoothness of surface.

After development we manufacture the balls in our production shop.

I have also developed Gym Gloves & Goalkeeping Gloves based on feedback from ISL players.

Nivia is also the official sponsor for Matchball.

Any memorable projects you worked on?

Typically, a Football is made from 32 panels which are stitched by hand. Panel means count of pieces which we have to stitch for a ball. Pattern means shape of the panel

Earlier days 32 panel 2 pattern football was there. I was involved in design and development of a 12 panel single pattern football for which Nivia has applied for a patent.

That was a great learning experience for me ! I had to use a lot of my design skills to understand how the final product, the football, would help the players

What do you love about your job?

To think that from playing football to designing a football i sometimes cant believe how i have reached this stage. That alone inspires me to contribute something new everyday.

I love challenges from my job, because Nivia faced problems in fitting, finishing and quality of some products. And we started to find a way that can help us improve, with the guidance of our General Manager. He drives us a lot and he inspired us a lot.

The thing I love, the thing I work, the thing I like to watch, the thing I always think of is SPORTS, so every blank is filled by the same answer. That love for SPORTS has always helped me generate good ideas towards development of products for Sport.

What are the skills needed for this job? How did you learn those skills?

We have to be troubleshooters, creative thinkers, problem solvers and have good software knowledge in Auto CAD, Solid works, CATIA, PRO E. (ANY TWO)

With experience you will automatically learn. For experience, we have to visit factories and ask workers what all the problems they are facing and how we can help them towards quality, production improvement.

Any challenges you have faced?

Language is the only problem that I am facing still, because of that I am not able to deliver my idea 100%.  If we don’t know their local language, people will not interact with you.  Now almost everything has been settled for us and it is going great.

Future plans?

I want to be an expert in the sports goods development field; these things will take more and more time. I have to spend a lot time to learn new things and I also want to share my experience to future students who are having the same passion.  This field will have lot exposure in future for sure.

Advice to students? (This is very important since you learnt a lot from your experiences)

Be Patient and let your day will come at right time; It might take some days or months or years.  Keep learning and be unique from others.  Follow your passion and work for it.  Take positive from everything.