At 18, this entrepreneur set up a football academy in Surat to nurture young talent

Noting the lack of facilities for football training in her hometown Surat, Khushi Shah, along with her cousin Prem Shah, started Surat City United, an academy to train aspiring footballers.

At 18, Khushi Shah, then a student at Fountainhead School, Surat, had already decided that she wanted to become an entrepreneur.

A national-level football player, Khushi faced a lot of challenges training in her sport in the city.

Most of the time, she was the only girl on the field, and there were no dedicated football academies in Surat for her to train.

She was determined to change this, and offer budding talent the opportunity to train and move forward.

Determined to be an entrepreneur

Khushi joined the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) and travelled to Mumbai on Saturdays for 20 weeks to attend classes at The Cathedral and John Connon School, and live out her entrepreneurial dream.

In 2018, she started Surat City United, along with her cousin Prem Shah.

“My grandfather was a successful entrepreneur, and, despite that, my father decided to start on his own, and is now well established at what he does. What inspired me to start Surat City United was a perfect mix of my passion for football and an entrepreneurial itch to capitalise on the market demand and to give to Surat what I didn’t get,” Khushi tells HerStory.

With the academy, Khushi’s vision is to create a football culture in the city and transform the lives of all stakeholders.

Challenges and the way forward

The beginning itself turned out to be a big challenge. When she inquired at various places for a field, she did not receive any positive response.

Undeterred, she kept on trying, and finally, thanks to her persistence, she managed to find the ideal location for students to train.

Also, for the first eight months, Khushi was the only coach and desperately needed more help with coaching to fulfil her aspirations.

In November 2018, Anwer Hans, a renowned and qualified coach joined Surat City United.

“This helped me focus on the management of the business. But when I look back to those times, going solo helped me understand my skills and gain more confidence,” she adds.

Personal attention

The biggest advantage, Khushi says, is that she’s been through it all – the rigour of the game, the training, and the long hours – which makes it easier for her to provide the best to the players at Surat City United.

“Having a passion for football has numerous benefits, starting with fitness and health, character building, being part of a team, coordination, discipline, and respect,” she says.

Surat City United has so far trained over 250 players. It charges training fees from players as well as for the tournaments they organise twice a year.

So far, its revenues have crossed Rs 5 lakh. Khushi is extremely grateful for the support and mentorship she has received from YEA! Teachers and mentors.

“The brainstorming and idea generation at YEA! made me realise that my love for football could be turned into a for-profit venture that could instil this love in many more. I also won the second prize at the YEA! investor panel and this seed money of Rs 40,000 was very helpful in starting my venture,” she says.

Surat City United is now well established among football players and communities. Along with getting featured in an article in a Gujarati newspaper, Khushi was also interviewed by 94.3 FM.

That proved to be an acknowledgement of successful women entrepreneurs in the male-dominated industrial community of Surat. 

Khushi is considering multiple ways to scale up the business, such as increasing the number of batches and tying up with various school and colleges. She also plans to get more aggressive with her online marketing efforts.