Our fascination with sports stems not only from the “edge of the seat” battles on the field but also from the stories and narratives around our favorite games, off the field !
Kabir Nagpal, our next pathbreaker, Content Director at World Football Summit (WFS), creates the program for all events by World Football Summit and oversees the content delivered at these events.
Kabir talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about juggling multiple ventures since the start of his career, including personal projects dedicated to enhancing the position of football and other Olympic sports in India.
For students, nobody is going to do anything for you unless you are ready to do everything possible for yourself. Its your game and be ready to play it to your level best !
Kabir, what were your childhood experiences like?
I am from New Delhi, and have spent some time in Chandigarh studying under the CBSE board. In terms of extra curriculars, my background is that of theater and oration, as I was always taken up with using my voice from an early age.
My early experiences in sport were mostly around the fact that running around seemed to have an effect on slimming me down when I was rather plump, as some kids are while growing up.
The biggest influence has to be that I felt freer on the pitch, and my mind was relaxed. It was a feeling of peace that I had not experienced elsewhere.
What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?
I did my Bachelors (BTech) in Computer Science Engineering prior to my shift into sports full-time, wherein I did my Masters of Advanced Studies (MAS) in Sports Administration and Technology at AISTS in Lausanne, Switzerland.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
I did several internships between 2013-2017 for the purpose of completing my Computer Science degree, as that is a mandatory part of the course. My thought process behind these was straightforward – I needed to complete the task before me and if there was a way for the same to be joyful, I would take it. Apart from the Engineering internship at ComCon Software solutions, I did internships at India on Track, Newslaundry and LuxuryVolt which were to explore different workplaces. One was in sport, the other in journalism and the last in content production. All of these were things, I had never tried before and by putting my hands in different baskets, I felt I knew which one would serve me best going forward.
While there were no key influencers for me, the idea to do something I would enjoy was always there in my mind. Instead of looking for a job, I was focused on finding an activity that would keep me happy on a daily basis.
Having found a sense of myself in sports – especially football – the choice was easy to pursue it full-time thanks to the support of my family.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
My steps were in the direction of writing, and using my creative ideas for gaining financial independence, even before finishing my Bachelors.
I worked for Yahoo Sport UK for three years from 2015, which introduced me to the sports industry.
Yahoo Sport UK was one of the most popular sports-media organizations at the time and I was lucky to get an opportunity to work with them. I was an opinion writer, directly focused on Arsenal FC and wrote pieces about the club’s footballing activities. This meant following them on a daily basis and knowing more than what happened on the pitch, and writing content that the fans would resonate with the most.
During this time, I also worked on securing my scholarship for my master’s study in AISTS, Switzerland, which was awarded to me by TATA Trusts. The TATA Trusts scholarship was awarded to me on the basis of securing my admission at a top university for my masters, along with an intensive interview with the management team at TATA Trusts. The application and overall process was quite straightforward.
My thought process during this major transition from finishing Engineering to transitioning to a sports-based career full-time was the same as before. I wanted to stick to what made me happy.
I selected AISTS because it was the best Sports Management course in Europe – which is where I wanted to work, given its direct relation to football. My exposure in Switzerland was of maximum nature in sports organizations at the Olympic level. Lausanne is often called the Silicon Valley of Sport, and rightly so, as I was afforded the chance of getting first hand experience of the workings of multiple international organizations like UEFA, IOC, World Archery, UCI and even the United Nations.
AISTS’ uniqueness stems from the fact that it is essentially a masters degree granted by the International Olympic Committee. Because of its larger focus on all Olympic sports as well as modules like technology and sports medicine, it covers a lot more ground than any other sports management degree in the same vein.
My work with IOC was my final client team project wherein I led the team which offered insights into the use of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, wearables and 5G at the Tokyo Winter Olympics 2018, and beyond. My internship with N3XT Sports was a result of this project, as our mentor at IOC went on to co-found N3XT Sports and took me with him. My work there as a Football Intelligence Analyst was to derive conclusions from data presented to me, and find patterns that would help develop beneficial future partnerships for the company.
But before I could find a permanent position, I co-founded Storm Football Club that remains the foundation of my path in sports, as well as was the root of my intention to set up a venture that would outlive me. The club, based in Delhi-NCR, is now the best semi-professional football club in the area and has won every trophy possible at the level. As a custodian and former athlete for the club, I worked to make sure my sport and our community grew together.
Storm Football Club has a dual mission and vision: To enhance the football opportunities available to the youth in India, while promoting physical and mental health for all.
For me, the club has helped me realize there are no big or small jobs as they all have a part to play. In my overall career, I continue to fall back on a decade’s worth of experience managing athletes, running operations for multiple sides, as well as reflecting on how to get the best out of people in a team.
Since completing my sports management degree, I have worked for ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation), N3XT Sports and World Football Summit.
I worked as the Website Editor at ITTF, which involved a lot of content writing and management for the social channels of the international organization. My experience at ITTF was one of learning, and involved waking up at ungodly hours because the events were taking place all over the world. This, in its own way, makes you understand the needs of a global venture and that even while doing something you like, there are a lot of sacrifices to make.
Though I have always leaned strongly towards football, my interest in Olympic sports is quite spread out.
How did you get your first break?
For both my positions at Yahoo Sport UK and ITTF, I simply followed the basic path of applying online, sending in my CV and giving an interview.
While the two jobs I secured were years apart – and pre-pandemic – they were achieved through the relentless ways of applying for positions and grueling away the hours to make my application look good.
After returning from Switzerland, I wanted to get back into the football scene in Delhi-NCR wherein I was given the chance to lead operations for one of the top football events companies. As Head of Operations, I supervised the league’s day-to-day activities and overall, led the way to a successful league campaign for all clubs involved.
My company, Sportsol India LLP, bought out Premier Football Alliance a couple years later, and we now run the major semi-pro football circuit in Delhi-NCR.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: The biggest challenge for an Asian/Indian working in football, and by extension, the larger sports industry, will always be the visa issue. Despite the claims of many companies about their flexible hiring policies, the term ‘diversity’ is often applicable only for what we are considered good for. I am yet to fully conquer this challenge, but for now all I do to address it is to keep working harder and stay flexible in my approach. Remote work has naturally opened up more possibilities.
Challenge 2: Another major challenge remains that of lack of funding in India for Olympic sports. This is the primary reason why young sports executives do not want to work in the country and seek a better compensation plan elsewhere. There is a massive gulf of difference in professionalism in the Indian sports industry as opposed to the rest of the world. It’s an eye-opener for anyone looking to step into the saturated world of sports.
Where do you work now?
I’m the Content Director of World Football Summit (WFS), an exclusive event where the football industry meets. I am also running my own sports solutions company in India called Sportsol India LLP, in parallel with remaining a custodian and co-owner of Storm Football Club India.
World Football Summit is where the football industry’s leading stakeholders meet to shape the future of the beautiful game. WFS is powered by a global community of influential professionals sharing a unique passion for the business of sports and a mission to spark discussion, generate knowledge and promote innovation to drive progress for the game and the industry.
As Content Director, I create the Program for all WFS events and I oversee the content delivered at these events. This involves being the first point of contact for all our illustrious speakers, as well as making sure the audience is happy with what they hear. My research is widespread and involves me knowing whatever is happening in the sports industry. Because of the pandemic, my travel and field work are currently restricted to the time when we host events.
My roles at Storm FC and Sportsol India are only complimentary to my position at WFS, because I have been juggling multiple ventures since the start of my career. As personal projects, they are dedicated to enhancing football and other Olympic sports’ position in India, which is extremely the need of the hour.
In the future, I would like to curate better opportunities for all my projects to come together and help make an even larger impact.
My work revolves around bringing top speakers to WFS events, and building a story they resonate enough with, to share with our 35000-strong community.
Some skills that are needed for the job: communication skills, people-skills, flexibility and creative nous. I have acquired most of them through my experience and education.
A typical day involves me coming up with new topics of discussions while taking calls with potential speakers and discovering what issues of the day they’d like to tackle.
I particularly enjoy staying so centric to sports matters and having the ability to give voice to things that can make a difference.
How does your work benefit society?
I like to believe that as someone working in Content, I am trying my best to use my platform to spread the right message and prevent any misinformation going out as best I can.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
Storm FC turns 10 years old in June, and over this past decade one example I find memorable is the fact that we started out as 5 people who just wanted to play football.
Now, we are a community of 200 and growing. I have seen kids turn into teenagers and then continue playing, growing and becoming the best versions of themselves. It is the best feeling there is.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
Nobody is going to do anything for you, unless you are ready to do everything for yourself and then some.
Please go out and do something that makes you happy – instant gratification is not worth your time.
I remain flexible as ever, and am curious to see where the future lies.