Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Sanjay Danani is Co-Founder and Director at The Cage, Singapore’s first indoor football stadium. The Cage started in 2005 with the goal of empowering amateur players to unleash their sporting passion. Sanjay is an experienced businessman with a demonstrated history of working in the sports industry. He is married with three children.
(1) You and your partners (Rajesh Mulani and V Natarajan) pioneered the concept of private sports facilities in Singapore by starting The Cage in 2005. How was this idea born and what was the inspiration behind it?
The idea first came about in the late 90s when we were happily playing football in a basketball court on Sundays at one of our former colleges. One particular weekend, we were forced out of the compound when the caretaker called the police. We felt displaced, but we decided that our weekly tribal fun had to continue. Sports enthusiasts like us need a home for us to play at regularly, to not feel like we're trespassing. Based on that idea, we opened our first venue at Kallang in 2005.
(2) How did people react to the idea of indoor football? Was the reception positive?
Initially, people were unsure about the offering because the next closest thing was either an open field or playing football in a basketball court – both of which would be free of charge. After one month of free trials and keeping strictly to the core of what we wanted to offer – a fun, intense yet safe experience – we managed to convert many early adopters and trials into weekly regulars. With the inclusion of music, comfort trappings like cool zones, huge ventilation fans and resting shades, we managed to garner and maintain a very healthy and positive reception henceforth.
(3) How would you say the sports culture in Singapore has evolved since 2005, and what were the challenges you faced?
The sports culture has manifested many folds since 2005. Our introduction to the recreational sports market was timely as that was also the start of Singapore widening its population and multiplying its workforce growth. That was also the start of an era where people started to value life-work balance. People who lived in Singapore were constantly looking for healthy lifestyle alternatives. Besides indoor football, we also witnessed a growth in 11 a-side football, tennis, CrossFit, basketball, cricket and corporate team bonding activities.
Our biggest challenge has always been space. However, that is understandable as Singapore is a land-scarce country and hence we have to continually be innovative in who we partner with and how we grow our offerings.
(4) How has COVID-19 affected your business?
It has been a challenging year for us. In the first quarter of 2020, we were doing very well. However, like most service industries, we were completely closed in the second quarter from April to June. The third quarter has been a challenge as we are faced with the 5 pax restriction. Hence, we have been busy trying to create new offerings and re-innovate our existing offerings so that we continue to stay relevant and keep our jobs under this COVID-19 situation. At the moment, we are making about 40% of our usual revenues based on pre-COVID-19. We hope to see more easing measures being implemented soon so that we can work toward a better Q4 for everyone in the company.
(5) What is your decision-making process, especially when making hard decisions?
Collect lots of facts and try to remove emotions when thinking about an issue and when coming up with a solution or decision. Once a decision is made, don't look back. If it was the wrong one, just take it humbly and learn from it.
(6) How would you motivate aspiring entrepreneurs?
Keep doing WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL - like keeping your ideas alive, improving your skills by learning or training or finding good mentors to constantly talk to and get advice.
Don’t keep thinking and get frustrated with WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL – like slow processes or approvals, poor timing and rejections.
Keep focusing on solutions rather than impediments.
(7) What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take life easy. Smile and laugh a lot. Hug your family and friends all the time. Life is like a magnet – the Law of Attraction applies.
(8) What's your favourite way to spend time with your family?
Taking long walks, playing a card game, trying out new restaurants and travelling as a family.