Vedant Sharma – An enterprising & undaunted face of Sports Media in India
It was nearly two months back to the day where I found myself biting my nails on an otherwise pleasant Jaipur evening. The date was April 9, 2022. The time was sifting towards 7:30 in the evening.
Dinner plans had been made, though for later in the evening.
I had close to an hour to discuss cricket and cricket alone with an impassioned bloke often described by his close circle as Jaipur’s biggest cricket nut. Make no mistake, on Twitter, he self-describes himself as ‘that cricket guy!’
But adjectives be darned, where was he?
I had already made my way into one of the salubrious and princely destinations that India’s famous Pink city offers: the Jai Mahal Palace, a Taj property.
No, there was no apparent reason to feel nervous. I wasn’t meeting Shah Rukh Khan or the serving chief minister of India’s largest – and also grandiose – state, Rajasthan.
Though, I was a touch concerned as to the whereabouts of the bloke I was to meet.
Where had he been caught up? Was he actually coming even later than I expected? There was no sign of him with me having waited for fifteen minutes, which is when I messaged him on Whatsapp.
And even before I could send out the text, bang came in the reply; “Almost there!”
I laughed to myself, “hey, he’s gonna take another ten”.
But he didn’t. My eyes lit up with a sense of relief as he walked down ambling gracefully in the comforting corridors of a place where we’ve previously met.
Only this time, there was no laptop bag but a book wrapped.
A present for me, I thought? And that’s exactly what it was!
Upon asking his permission to unwrap it, to my pleasant surprise, it was “Many Lives, Many Masters!”
Though, truth be told, it was absolutely perfect that my guest for the evening offered me that fitting read.
Because those who’ve worked with him, those who still do and those who’ve gotten a chance to be associated with him would know Cricket as being Vedant Sharma’s life. It’s one of which he’s a true master!
But it wasn’t always like that.
Back in college, the sprightly youth, who considers himself as an adventurer (when he’s more) in the sphere of sports content and cricket media, was all about dramatics.
Cricket wasn’t ingrained in the DNA as such, nor work around the sport was supposed to have been a calling.
What’s the first thing that Vedant told me that evening soon as he met me?
“Sorry mate, the IPL got me a bit late.”
Boy, I should’ve known (I muttered to myself).
Vedant, a key figurehead of SportsTiger, one of the fastest growing and widely received sports content platforms in cricket-obsessed India, had spent much of his Saturday, a day off for some, strategising content on the IPL.
It’s a site that covers, in addition to cricket, of course, engaging content on myriad spheres- Kabaddi, Badminton, Tennis, Archery, Athletics, and even Formula 1, to quote some.
Yet, funnily, ten minutes into our conversation, as he sipped his refreshing lime, he put the-then IPL contest on his phone. Tilting his smartphone to portrait mode, Vedant reclined the gadget against my glass of soft-drink.
A perfect example of using every bit of space with utility; he uses the space he has, i.e., 24 hours, by developing original, first-hand, well-researched sports articles, devotes time for his Jaipur-based family, and even dons the pads and gloves to whack the ball wherever it is that he can play leather-ball tournaments in the city of Rajasthan Royals.
And as soon as he dreaded the dismissal of Faf du Plessis during RCB’s batting, he shut the phone but not before exclaiming, “It is only for you that I am evading the IPL, you know that right?”
A polite smile followed but so did an afterthought.
“Vedant” I asked out of sheer curiosity, “how did you enter this industry?”
It’s an industry that’s incessantly competitive. A flop article can result in boos over social media, much like how a trending article can increase your stock as a content platform.
The bespectacled wearer of cool weathers paused for a few seconds and went on, “Hmm, I only entered this industry out of sheer passion and love for the game. When I started, I never even thought about how much money I would make, what exactly would this industry give me but the only happiness was that I would be able to watch the game I so love.”
Rather interestingly, it was a candid conversation between Vedant and his father back in the day that prompted the former to sit back and take note of just how good he was at analysing the sport.
Apparently, with the father and son duo watching a live game of cricket on the TV, Vedant predicted what would happen in the next few deliveries, which turned out precisely as how the affable youngster had predicted.
This made his father encourage his son with a line of thought promising him that he’d get his son published in a leading Indian press daily if-and only- Vedant wrote about the game seriously.
But after initial bouts of scepticism, Vedant nodded his head in approval, ever his dad’s doting son and went about pursuing cricket writing.
These were humble beginnings, which soon would culminate into something beautiful.
Vedant Sharma is not only a BCCI-accredited journalist, has covered the IPL professionally for several seasons, has been associated closely with the Rajasthan Royals franchise, but has also written for revered publications that deal with sports, such as CricTracker, Sportskeeda, My Nation and Betting Circle.
Having said that though, how did SportsTiger happen for someone who, back in the day, was as adrift from content as Sourav Ganguly from right-handed batting?
“The product”, Vedant continued, “started two years back in the day and am glad it did. The concept took birth to fill the void there exists between interesting, palatable content in sports and users’ demand for it!”
So has SportsTiger been able to fill that void, I asked?
“I believe that SportsTiger has been able to make a difference in an industry that is truly thriving and unstoppable. With 140,000 followers on Instagram, with over 120,000 followers on Facebook, and over 10 million users every month on the website.
We are always rolling out content keeping in mind the divergent needs of sports fans given one may not always or only be cricket or soccer follower; and that there are fans for other sports as well!”
Frankly, for someone so young to be talking very serious and arresting numbers, I don’t know what could be more impressive.
Which is precisely when Vedant offers something more; much like the content SportsTiger provides. There’s always something more for the intrepid sports lover.
He continued, “Now am personally entering into a few more verticals, none of which, however, are as interesting as what’s lined up in front.”
From Student to Teacher
“I’m going to be teaching Sports Management at the Westford University college in the UAE,” Vedant added and shared, “I want to share what I know, want to make sure that people enjoy what they do, and that they believe that anything is possible in life.”
But in this realm of infinite possibilities, could there be some challenges as well in sports content field, I wonder?
“Lack of readership” rather challenges with “scaling up readership” arrives as the firm reply!
I coaxed him to elaborate for this is getting interesting.
“I think somewhere there’s a blame that rightly rests with our generation that it doesn’t read all that much. For me personally, I remember and fondly so, the days when my mum would come home with an Archie comic and I’d always be like hey, I want to read this! That’s when reading became fun.”
“But I think what we as sports content producers need to keep in mind is to write from a perspective of what they [The readers] want not what we want to do!
“How do you give something to the user that encourages him to read? And that is where, at least I feel, things that become important are what we are writing, when we are writing it and how are we going about it!”
“The span of time spent on textual articles is coming down and subsequently, many are spending time on video content. We are at an interesting junction where sports content is concerned and it’s precisely here where our skills will be getting tested.”
That’s when I feel content is much like cricket, it ebbs and flows!
But as I see the glowing evening ticking towards dinner time, me having successfully overspent an already overworked Vedant’s for what is one to do for the conversation was so interesting, I thought it’s time for one last question.
What advice would you give anyone wanting to find his bearings in the Sports content industry, Vedant?
And customary to his fervid enthusiasm, pops comes another reply as if his perceptive mind was already aware of what I was going to ask.
“I think it’s very important to love what you do. But at the same time, be consistent. Take it as a process. It can’t be that one day you’re all gung-ho and the other, not consistent. So my advice to anyone wanting to get into Sports media & content is to go out there, enjoy yourself, give it your hundred percent and never hold yourself back. Most of the people are not able to do what they want to do because of a lack of self belief.”
“So love what you do and your belief will add up to taking you places. It doesn’t matter whether a 35 or 40-year-old is entering the industry,” adds the earnest young man who perhaps doesn’t know that he’s among the few who tend to always make sense when they speak.
For to speak is easy but adding substance and sense to it is not everyone’s cup of tea. That Vedant Sharma, a young symbol of self belief and determination, is doing just that with the awareness that he’s got much to offer so much more is yet to happen, is indeed commendable and honest.
And hey, isn’t honesty much like a falling leaf from a tree during spring? You never know where it’ll end up.
Though, I am glad that someone like Vedant ended up offering his skill and passion to the firmament of sports content.
This interview was conducted by and article written by Dev Tyagi.