Sports CSR is still in its infancy in India. Contributions to the development and expansion of sports are sometimes one of the smaller pieces of the CSR pie. According to an April 2023 research titled ‘CSR and Sports in India’ by law firm Pacta, less than 1% of total CSR from 2014 to 2021 went to the realm of sports. This, too, is the result of a small number of enterprises. Dream Foundation, Dream Sports’ philanthropic arm, is an institution completely dedicated to the growth and development of India’s sports ecosystem.
DreamGold, the company’s flagship Long Term Athlete Development programme, stands out among its many CSR activities. DreamGold athletes earned about 50 medals at National and International tournaments in their first year. DreamGold competitors from several Olympic disciplines are given competition exposure, equipment, scholarships, mentorship, and access to sports science knowledge. They want to keep adding high-potential athletes to the programme and supporting their development.
To help realise every child cricket athlete’s ‘Sachin Tendulkar’ ambition, ambition Foundation, in collaboration with the Dilip Vengsarkar Cricket Academy, is giving a platform for Mumbai’s young and talented cricketers (ages 8 to 18) to showcase their talent and learn from the best. The programme, which is based at the famed Oval Maidan in South Mumbai, helps 100 young cricketers, many of whom have migrated here from outside the city with the hopes of one day making it big. Some of them have already gone on to represent Mumbai teams.
Another large-scale endeavour is the Dare to Dream programme, which focuses on football in India’s North-East. Dream Foundation, in collaboration with the Indian Football Foundation and Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools, developed a three-year football development programme to identify and nurture footballers under the age of 17. Extensive trials were done in 50+ locations in the program’s first year (2022-23), with around 5000 children participating. Academic tutoring, improved training, competition exposure, equipment and clothes, career counselling, and other benefits were awarded to the top 35 pupils. The programme now serves 50 children.
In addition to popular sports like as cricket and football, the Dream Foundation has constantly strived to help players from underrepresented sports. DreamJab, the Dream Foundation’s Boxing Development Programme in Imphal, Manipur, is one such effort. This programme, with the assistance of the Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation, strives to develop, nurture, and mentor boxers from the grassroots to the elite levels. With the goal of providing unique possibilities for the country’s expanding number of female athletes, 20 of the 30 boxers being trained under this programme are female.
Aside from CSR activities, Dream Foundation has spearheaded a number of unique initiatives aimed at recognising and developing the skills of young athletes. The Foundation’s flagship campaign, ‘Back on Track,’ was launched on National Sports Day in 2020. Over a one-and-a-half-year period, the initiative touched over 4500 people, including athletes, coaches, and support staff, by identifying critical needs among them and providing monetary assistance where necessary, meeting athletes’ dietary and nutrition requirements, providing sports equipment and kits, and providing coaching and training support to deserving athletes.
The Foundation has also been active at the state level, constantly looking for new methods to engage untapped athletic talent, such as in India’s north-east area. The Dream Foundation has worked with the Meghalaya State Government to find young athletes who have the potential to succeed at the international level. The Meghalaya State Government nominated 30 individuals, four of whom were chosen and supported in sports ranging from track and field to table tennis. All of the chosen athletes won medals in various competitions across India.
Another area where Dream Foundation is having an impact is through its Grassroots programmes, which aim to collaborate with local agencies across different states to enable children from disadvantaged families participate in sports and life skills. Over 2500 children were impacted by 9 such programmes in villages spanning Bihar, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Mumbai, and Delhi.
It is critical to recognise that the correct investment in Indian sports has the ability to promote positive change through fostering diversity, cultivating grassroots talent, updating infrastructure, and prioritising health and well-being. As sports bodies and corporate sponsors continue to interact, the influence of CSR and non-CSR activities will extend far beyond the playing field, defining a better and more inclusive future for Indian sports and the nation at large.