Ad Land’s Young Guns: Sunny Bhandarkar, CEO, Elite Sports India

Sunny Bhandarkar is the youngest CEO of Elite Sports India. He began his journey at 25 as one of the youngest CEOs of India in the Sports Industry. Bhandarkar has come up the ranks as a new face of the changing sports ecosystem in the country. When he began his career at 25 with Sports Industry of India Inc, he managed to sign 75 universities for their operations and thus the journey of a CEO for Elite Sports India has come to life. 

In conversation with Adgully, Sunny Bhandarkar, CEO, Elite Sports India, speaks about his experience in the sports world, the role models he admires, a long career in sports, the productive things that he does in his daily life, and more.

What particular skill sets do you think you bring to the table?

Having worked for many years in the sports industry and being a handball player, I, to an extent, know how the sports industry functions. Having worked my way up from a newbie to now CEO, I understand what all roles and departments entail. Apart from people management skills, I also get leadership, event management, corporate communications, corporate growth, Employee Engagement and lots more on the table. I am also constantly honing my skills and learning new things everyday to stay on top of my game.

How did you join your current organisation?

The journey has been very interesting, I started as a player for the first ever EFLI American football camp which was organised in India way back in 2009. After being signed, I started training 350 athletes free of cost so that there is awareness about EFLI and hopefully give them a platform which could convert into a secure job. Out of the 350 people I trained, 216 athletes were signed by EFLI to become paid professionals.

Eventually the news of me training so many athletes trickled back to the founders – Richard Whelan and Sunday Zeller. They instantly recognised my passion and promoted me to a special project officer and that was the start of the various ventures that are still making waves till this day. Ever since that day, there has been no turning back for me.

Icons in this field you look up to and how they have influenced you and your work?

Basketball is my passion, I followed Michael Jordan since I was 6 years of age, his passion, work ethic and humble nature towards the sport inspired me to think big, soar to new heights and never give up. I also try to learn by observing all the great leaders. I like Steve Job’s keen eye for detail and marketing and Ratan Tata’s desire to make India a powerhouse by creating more and more jobs and entering every market. Having taken inspiration from them, I would like to explore the untapped sports market by creating jobs, platforms so that the athletes can realise their true potential.

What are the five most productive things that you do in your everyday routine?

I enjoy my time and it is very important that everyone takes time out to follow their passion. Apart from watching and playing sports, especially Basketball, and working out, I love to play the guitar read books and most importantly, I write down my plans and keep a tab on progress. For me, especially putting things on paper is half the battle won.

Do you think a career in this field is a viable one in the long term?

Sports is an evolving avenue and there is no better time to make a career in sports than now. For me, turning my passion into my profession is like a dream. I believe Sport is the future and I am blessed to be working in this industry. My goal is to do as much as I can for making Sports a mainstream career option.

What does it take to succeed in a career?

Staying consistent and not worrying about the result is very important. Believe and dedicate yourself to the process and the fruit will pay off someday. You must be able to push yourself on your good days, especially on your bad days. Work hard, stay humble, learn from people around you and always be grateful.

What would be your advice to youngsters planning to enter this industry?

Just by playing a game you will not be selected in a team, it involves many intricacies, similarly one must work hard and smart to make a career outside the playing field. One must build ethics, explore opportunities, and never give up. Follow your passion and turn it into your profession.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

My goal in the next 5 years is to take Elite Pro Basketball League, Elite Sports India, MOGO to new heights. Creating new jobs in the sports industry of India so that the parents of the next generation support their kids to pursue a career in sports.

Is there any organisation that you would like to work with in the future?

I am more than happy being where I am today, my organisation is my home and I feel like I was born to do this.


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