The game of Kabaddi is perhaps the most competitive and enticing sport originating from the land of India. Kabaddi represents the indigenous essence and in the past couple of years, the sport has seen some massive elevation as well as inflation.
Filled with action, drama, anticipation and patience, Kabaddi gained recognition as a national game in the year of 1918 and since then its popularity and scope has been growing with each passing year.
313 million people watched the Pro Kabaddi League last year, making it the second most popular sport in India behind cricket. The launch of (PKL) has been a significant factor in the 14% increase in interest in Kabaddi since 2015.
On the other hand, the Real Kabaddi League aims to accomplish the same thing by raising the level of Indian Kabaddi. The League is back with season 2 beginning on September 21 following a successful inaugural campaign.
As the new season gets closer, Sportscraazy sat down with Real Kabaddi League Founder and CEO Shubham Chaudhary to discuss the goals of (RKL) and the demand for additional Domestic Kabaddi Leagues in India.
Q1. How did you generate interest in Sports and share some of your earliest memories of participating in them?
Shubham Chaudhary – First of all I would like to greet all the viewers of Sportscraazy for tuning in. I have been connected to sports since my childhood days and I have taken part in almost every type of sports, be it with a Team or Individually. In Athletics, I have represented Vidya Bharati in state and national levels a lot of times so I’m attached to sports and I’m a Fitness freak myself. I pursued Engineering as a profession but ever since the inception of Pro Kabaddi league in 2014, I was really intrigued by the transition of this indigenous sport. The way Kabaddi evolved – from playing in soil court to mat court, the addition of glamour into it, the unseen approach of kabaddi players and the recognition from viewers gave Kabaddi a new identity perhaps which is why Kabaddi is now the second most popular sport in India after Cricket.
When we talk about Cricket, this sport runs in the veins of Indians. Cricket’s dominance in terms of viewership is more than any other sport in India as 75% of people watch cricket. When I first stepped into the world of Kabaddi in 2018-19, I assessed the whole situation and I figured out that there is a major gap in the world of kabaddi for the players. Although, Pro Kabaddi League has handed the kabaddi players with a lot of opportunities and plenty of talented players have also developed from the grass root levels since 2014 but there is still a gap that is yet to be fulfilled.
Other than the (PKL), there is no other Kabaddi league in India regionally where players can get regular game time. Those who come to play Kabaddi are usually from a rural background, they require a source of income and motivation to continue playing Kabaddi. Every Kabaddi player aims to play in the Pro Labaddi League one day but somehow if any player cannot break into the league due to their performances, they actually don’t have enough opportunities to work on their setbacks because there is no other league or tournament that can give them exposure. From a player’s perspective, there should be more platforms for them to improve their game. So this is the gap that I felt is hampering the mentality of the players and that is why the Real Kabaddi League was formed to give them good experience before playing in the (PKL).
Q2. Tell us the concept behind constituting the Real Kabaddi League and what is the vision behind it?
Shubham Choudhary – The vision has always been very clear and precise. As I mentioned earlier – we want to remove the gap for the players that have immense potential and are hustling at the bottom, get a chance to rise to the summit. Every state in India is a country itself in terms of demography, population or economy. Whether it is Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh there are so many Kabaddi fanatics that never get the chance to play at the top level.
If you observe carefully then most of the top grossing leagues in India like the IPL, PKL or ISL are all franchise based competitions confined till Tier 1 cities i.e only the capital city of a particular state is involved. The Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities are not featured in these leagues and this is one of the concrete reasons why players with huge potential and caliber are falling behind.
If Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities are exposed to these opportunities something that we are aiming to do then innumerous players will come forward, make a name for themselves and eventually play in the Pro Kabaddi League. This is the vision behind forming the Real Kabaddi League. There are total 8 teams participating in (RKL) and teams have been picked from across Rajasthan so that we can touch the culture and emotions of that particular area and more players can come in and make an impact.
The (RKL) is also a good platform for MSMEs and small businesses to advertise their brands and products to their target audience. Since, RKL is promoting regional areas it is a good opportunity for small scale brands or advertisers to increase their sales. I know the fact that any league in the world cannot operate without sponsors and stakeholders. This has proved to be a semi platform for the players as well. Thus the (RKL) is not only beneficial for the players but also for growing businesses.
With fond memories and experiences from the first edition of the Real Kabaddi League in 2019, we are all set to introduce its second season.
Q3. You just spoke about the Real Kabaddi season 1, now let’s move on to the second season. What is the differentiator between the two seasons, the teams are also increasing address us on that regard as well and what is concept behind RKL season 2? Can we expect to see something new and different than the first season?
Shubham Chaudhary – Yes, the RKL definitely has something new to offer this time around. If you see the IPL and the PKL, these leagues are highly entertaining. Celebrities and stars involved in promotions so that leagues can gain more viewership and it is something that we are also going to introduce this season. The Audience comes to spend a quality time with full enthusiasm and take home some really nice experiences. Kabaddi is a game which is played for 40 minutes; it is full of action and adrenaline. So when you add entertainment in this already action packed game, it becomes a great combination for the audiences. What we are going to do this season is we will club sports and entertainment together so that the viewers can have a really fun time watching the PKL. There will be live performances and celebrities are also going to be a part of this 11 day event.
Q3. What about the teams, players and franchises participating in the PKL?
Shubham Chaudhary – We have kept the team format as it was in the first season. There are franchise owners which we will reveal during a pre-launch event before the league begins. Players have already been selected through various trials held across the country. There are some really promising players this season who are hungry for opportunities and will look to make an instant impact.
The RKL will feature 70% of players from Rajasthan and 30% of players will be from other states. I think a tournament becomes successful nationally when players from every part of the country participate in it because every individual has something different and special in them.
Q4. Kabaddi as a sport is still in developing stages. In terms of streaming and viewership how can this sport keep the audiences engaged and keep them wanting for more?
Shubham Choudhary – If we are able to organize any live spectacle for the crowds in grass root levels of Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities and give them a chance to witness these events first hand then the viewership can definitely scale up.
Secondly, there is a mindset that Kabaddi is a male dominated sport as this game demands a lot of power and strength. This viewpoint needs to change if Kabaddi streaming is to be increased. The number of streams can see a spike when females are equally involved as Men. I believe that Female Kabaddi tournaments should also be organized in a professional level as it will break certain outdated barriers and eventually increase the viewership of Kabaddi.