Meet Ishveen Anand: founder, OpenSponsorship and Forbes 30 under 30 Sports lister

Meet Ishveen Anand: Founder, OpenSponsorship and Forbes Sports 30 and 30 prodigy

In January 2015, at the age of 29, Ishveen Anand featured in the Forbes Sports 30 under 30 list at number 2, as the founder of her new company OpenSponsorship. Forbes said:

The British native has created the first online platform to facilitate sponsorship agreements by connecting brands with pro sports rights holders like leagues, teams and even athletes. That latter group currently includes Indian cricket star M.S. Dhoni and F1 team Force India. She formerly played a key role in brokering sports sponsorship agreements in India, including Bridgestone’s first cricket deal in the country.

Ishveen comes across as confident, driven and an achiever. She is also someone who is respectful, humble and thoughtful in her responses. As a leader, her responses reveal self-awareness and the knowledge that success has a social and expectations aspect that needs to be managed. She is extremely passionate and knowledgeable about her chosen business, a unique model: providing a platform for connecting sponsors with sports athletes. She is definitely someone who is poised for bigger success.

Here is more from her:

How did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
“Being an entrepreneur” is a new phrase and the new cool, it wasn’t like that when I was growing up. So I suppose the answer to your question is that I had the realization that no company, nor ex or potential boss was thinking the way I was & wanting to achieve the objectives I had… so I had to go alone. I do think if there is a company that is doing what you want and believe in then work with them, don’t just start something yourself for the sake of it. Life as an entrepreneur is hard and can be lonely, so knowing that there is no other way to achieve your objectives keeps you going – if you know deep down that you could have reached your objectives an easier way (i.e. working with someone else) then you would be a fool not to have taken that path.
Why sports? Are you a sportsperson?
Absolutely. I love sports. Growing up, I played a lot and being the only Indian girl in my junior school, the only Sikh girl with really long hair and big geek glasses, the only thing that made me confident, sociable and ‘cool’ was my place on the netball team (at the age of 10). Sport teaches so much and benefits one so much, I have always had a passion for delivering it to more people… i just didn’t know what form. I was also cricket and netball captain at Keble College, Oxford University.

Ishveen AnandHow did the idea for OpenSponsorship come about?
Having spent a few years working in the IPL for Mumbai Indians, representing HeroMotoCorp in many of the major sporting properties and stints in golf, hockey and other cricket tournaments, I wanted to do more in the cross-border aspect of sports. Having grown up in the UK, worked/lived in India and travelled to Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh and Dubai for work –  I loved how sport was a common language. I feel sponsorship doesn’t reflect this enough and thus I wanted to get into that aspect. After a year trying to do this as a traditional agent, I realised what was needed was an online platform to truly remove the boundaries.

How did you build your team?
One of the hardest things of running your company is finding the right team and even knowing what you want. New York is an expensive place to hire which means you are even more careful about who to take on. We have 2 major and very different requirements – sales and technology. Sales is the easier one for me, as that is my background. Technology has been harder given its an area I didn’t know. We have good people now, which took time, but now its easier as they set tests for new hires which help to get the right people infront of me. Case studies are the best way to hire and to be open-minded with background and previous experience.

What do you look for when you are hiring for your team?
Self-motivated, hard working and naturally clever. This is very important with a new platform such as ours because we are always coming across new challenges which no-one has faced and there is no rulebook. Every member of the team has to be able to come up with their own solutions. In a start up, everyone is so busy doing so many of their own things, that you need to trust each team member can not only do what is needed themselves but also put out their own fires.

What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced and what have you learnt?
That each person thinks very differently from the next. Although I might be speaking to people in the same role at different NBA teams, they think differently, react to the platform differently. It keeps you on your toes and means you have to be constantly adapting and stay flexible.
Also, being young and female can be a challenge, especially as the founder of the company. But eventually what you say is the most important thing and fortunately that’s on point.

Do you set goals?What’s your process for setting goals and execution?
Short term yes, like what I want to get done tomorrow. Not in the long run because new opportunities keep popping up and we get pulled in different directions. Its important to see what’s right for the company in the moment and if you stick to historic goals too much you wont be flexible enough to adapt to new paths.

Ishveen Anand - Forbes 30 under 30 and Founder OpenSponsorshipWhat differentiates winners according to you?
Drive and Focus. If you have a good idea then I am pretty sure someone had already thought about it, the reason the winners are on top is because they did something about it, kept going and eventually succeeded. I say focus because in today’s world, we can get so easily distracted at every level – in our day to day work, with new opportunities, with the social aspect of being successful. Its really important to make sure that you spend your time focused on activities that truly help benefit the company.

Do you dream or are you more of a doer? Give an insight into your personality?
Doer for sure. You have to be. And in between dreamer and doers are talkers and that is the most dangerous because those people believe by talking they are doing, but far from.
Me – I am hard working, respectful, and passionate. I can be impatient, which is my biggest weakness.

What’s the definition of a perfect day for you?
Hard question! I suppose, if you have the perfect day then the next day is only going to be inferior to that, so I suppose I prefer everyday to just be a  very good day and that consists of things just going right.

Looking ahead, what are you setting out to achieve?
To be noticed and really make a difference in the sports sponsorship industry and eventually to reinvest our profits into the grassroots of sports, to help more people get the confidence from sport that shaped me.

iSharad - Leadership and Career Success

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Sharad Verma is currently HR Head (CHRO) for Sears Holdings India.

Sharad’s blog on leadership, talent and innovation is available at Sharad has been named one of the Top 20 Social Media HR Influencers by SHRM, featured as one of the Best HR Heads in India and his column featured in the top 5 most read career advice on Star career website.

A graduate of the prestigious XLRI, Sharad has more than two decades of HR experience. He has previously been Global Head – Human Resources for Polaris Consulting & Services Ltd, Director, Human Resources for SunGard Global Technology, Head of Human Resources for Berkadia (subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway),, and The Bank of New York Mellon India.

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