Personal Growth

Disruptive DNA: Football field dreams to business field success

July 2016

R Sasikumar today runs a sports marketing agency in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with more than fifty staff and a projected turnover of $15 million in 2016.

With plans to expand into Jakarta, Vietnam and the Philippines, and a firm grip on such events as the Lion City soccer Cup and International Premier Tennis League, by any measure, he's a success - and it's clear Sasikumar imbibed the entrepreneurial DNA from an early age.

His had been a humble upbringing - but even then, he had drive. "I was the kid that always looked over the fence and admired the rich kids...wishing someday I would enjoy the finer things in life."

An early business venture was a disaster. One year he teamed up with some school friends and organised a party for the cool kids in local schools. "Unfortunately, the whole project failed with only 5-10 paying customers in a 200 person arena. To add to our misery, some thugs from the neighbouring school gate crashed the party and a fight broke out. Some fixtures in the venue were damaged and we had to compensate the venue owner," he recalls.

Fortunately, a parent of one of his teenage partners paid for the damage and refused to accept repayment. Sasi had learned his first commercial lesson - surround yourself with the right people!

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Sasi showing off his footballing skils

Sasi dreamed of being a footballer. He used to follow the crowds to the National Stadium proudly wearing his red Singapore shirt, telling his friends he would one day play for the Lions. No doubt his pals put his boasts down to teenage bravado: but not only did Sasi achieve his aim for playing for his country, it was his goal that saw Singapore win their first-ever international trophy in 1998, beating Vietnam 1-0 to claim the Tiger Cup.

Not perturbed by his first failed business idea, Sasi then began an events management company. However, his successful career on the football field left little time to commit to business. "It died a natural death," he says; but again, he took a valuable lesson from the experience, realising that an entrepreneur needed to be fully committed.

After hanging up his boots, Sasi moved to Australia to work for a sports marketing agency but soon became homesick for his family. He returned after less than a year away and scouted around his own nation for opportunities. Frustrated that there seemed to be no-one willing to take a punt on his experience he did what many other Singaporeans have done before and since: he started his own company, a sports management agency called Red Card.

He had the contacts, he had the drive - and he had the valuable lessons he had learnt from his previous failed ventures. Back in Singapore, he was also in the right place at the right time.

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Red Card is a homegrown Singapore brand led by R.Sasikumar

Singapore has been about trade ever since Stamford Raffles manipulated a local royal family succession dispute and planted the Union Jack on the island almost 200 years ago. With little in the way of natural resources, Singapore grew rich on its location, connecting the massive markets of China, India and the west and now it regularly tops the lists of countries that are best and easiest to do business in.

Red Card is now a Singaporean success story. The company has grown steadily throughout its eleven year history.

From the debris of a smashed-up hall in his teenage years in the north of Singapore via scoring the winning goal in the ASEAN Football Federation Championships in Vietnam, Sasi is proud to be competing in an industry dominated by large firms from Europe and the US.

"We are a homegrown brand...making a difference in the industry," he says proudly, before referencing his roots.

"Singaporeans are systems-driven people. We also have ethics and are generally law-abiding. The Singapore brand also helps us be competitive in the region."

When it comes to finding the right people, Sasi draws upon the lessons he learned on the football field and in his early forays into the world of commerce.

"I look for passionate people. I look for people who are committed to what they say and what they promise. Drive and eagerness to learn are things that cannot be taught." He should know: his drive has seen him ink a multi-million dollar deal to help privatise Malaysian football and helped his firm make a real footprint across Asia. His ambition now is to roll Red Card out across Asia. 'We want to be in every vertical in the sports and entertainment space.'

And ultimately? "To lead the business to IPO which can then complete my story."

It's clear that Sasi has a commendable history when it comes to reaching a goal - so the future for Red Card looks bright indeed.

 

Contributing Writer: Anthony Sutton

Contributing Photographer: Stefanus Ian