Young Turks' KOOH plan takes kids' fitness to new level

In CNBC-TV18's special show, Young Turks, two sports enthusiasts Prabhu Srinivasan and Susir Kumar talk about the inspiration behind KOOH (Kids Out Of Home) and how it has given sports education a whole new meaning. KOOH has reached out to 1.45 lakh children already and 25,000 corporate employees.

Earlier streets would be lined up with children playing gully cricket, football, hopscotch, lock and key, but the recent technology explosion saw these games replaced by iPads, tablets, smart phones and the Xbox.

Below is an edited transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18

Started in 2011, KOOH designed special sports programmes for pre-schoolers in the two-to-seven age groups to instill healthy lifestyle habits and increase focus on fitness and nutrition based on programmes run in the US like Kid-Fit. Charging schools a monthly fee of upto Rs 200 per child, the team at KOOH says the initiation into the world of sport at a young age can help shape a child's future.

Prabhu Srinivasan: Everyone is not a sports star and is not going to become the next Dhoni or the next Leander Paes, but everyone may find a way to be fit for life. There is a lot of focus on fitness in our program. No matter how good you are in a sport there has to be a base level of fitness you need to have. So given the fact that athletics is the base of our curriculum, from kindergarten to fourth grade there is a lot of focus on running, jumping and throwing. That will not only hold them in a good state for all the future sports but also in a good state to be active for life.

Not just pre-school, KOOH is also open to take its message to children between the age of 8 to 17 with a specially designed sports program called PEAK that uses content developed by international universities and video tools developed by international sports federations to train children. Helping Prabhu and his team develop a curricular relevant for India is John Gloster, the physiotherapist for Rajasthan Royals IPL Team.

KOOH Sports has also partnered with the team to set up cricket development centres across the country. With the aim to offer different curriculum at affordable prices, the centres will have structured programs that cater to kids between the ages of five to 19. Prabhu says the biggest start up challenge was changing mindsets.

Srinivasan: The original mindset was to let them run around in the pre-class. A lot of good things are happening even at a regulatory level. The sports ministry is trying to pass the sports bill where they are going to give significant focus on scores for fitness. You can get 3-5 percent uplift if you have done well in a sport. The ministry of sport is waking up to the fact that they need to focus on sports that will help cascade the pressure down to schools. That’s a good push factor coming in from the government.

The KOOH mission has found takers with TCS and HDFC pumping in about Rs 30 crore. The goal for this young team is to break even and close this fiscal with revenues at Rs 8 crore. With a target of touching the Rs 170-crore mark by 2015, KOOH hopes to expand its reach beyond kids and cater to families and corporates.

With programmes designed for all age groups to have a meaningful out-of-home experience, KOOH hopes to work on special courses to nurture employee engagement and even cement the parent-child-teacher bond through special events. Customised events can cost anywhere between Rs 150,000 to Rs 6 lakh and KOOH claims to have reached out to over 4,600 families and 2,500 corporate employees including those working with Colgate – Palmolive.

Srinivasan: When you are in the corporate world, at some point you realise that you have done this over and over again, there is not much you can do to change it. That was one trigger playing in my mind for a really long time. The other big trigger was because of my son. My son is 9.5 years old and about two-three years back, I got worried that he was getting lost to technology, thinking that other kids too were getting lost like my son. We have to find a way to give them a balance of outdoor and indoor.

A game of soccer with family and friends is the perfect way to unwind for Prabhu. He hopes his love for sports will be contagious and help effect a change in mindset towards sports in India. Prabhu's next big goal is to reach out, from the current base of 1,45,000 children, to 1,25,000 by 2015.