Jogo Infinite – A networking hub for sports and auto enthusiasts in Kochi
“Life and business are like sports. There are always highs and lows that make it entertaining.”
Owner, Jogo Infinite
Over the years, the sports culture in Kerala has boomed with many sports facilities rising across the state. Be it football, badminton or cricket, there have always been takers, and the need for them is never going to diminish. In 2020, a cricket facility with all its glory came to existence. Under the brand Jogo, the ‘Jogo Infinite’ is everything that people were looking for.
Jogo first saw the light in 2016 when an enthusiastic young man, Francis Noel Ben decided to take football culture in Kerala, starting with Kochi, to a different dimension. With two vast football turfs suitable for 7s and 5s, Jogo – Own the Game, as it was named, was the first-ever football turf in Kochi which created revolution across the state. In 2020, if there are 500 odd football turfs across the state, it is mainly following Noel’s initiatives to create a recreational centre for sports enthusiasts.
Cut to 2020, Jogo Infinite, a cricket practice pitch combined with a few other ventures came in place right in the heart of Kochi. Located close to the majestic backwaters of the city, this sports facility is unique in its own ways.
In Thevara, towards the ferry, situates this flamboyant sports infrastructure where sports and auto enthusiasts are welcomed with warmth. Jogo Infinite is not just a sports recreational centre – it is a hub to many exciting entities.
A cricket pitch where one could pay to play for an hour without interruption is the prime attraction. Early in the morning, precisely at 5:30 AM, this space transforms to a fitness unit where functional trainers along with their clientele unite to perform cross-fit activities. While cricket is a gentleman’s game, this functional training segment makes Jogo Infinite a favourite place for women. A 28-day Bootcamp was done as a trial in September with more than 20 fitness enthusiasts joining the program, of which more than 70% were ladies. The success of the activity has made this a permanent segment, with different trainers trying out their unique style of training.
Jogo Infinite has wide parking which is often converted into an auto wash unit during off-peak hours. There is also an auto detailing bay, which offers ceramic coating and nano wax for cars. These facilities utilise patented washes and products which are unique and one of their kinds. What makes these facilities significant is that, while a customer is playing cricket for an hour, his car gets transformed into a shiny, beautiful vehicle, saving time and energy.
The infrastructure opens to a picturesque view of Kochi, with the lake highlighting its grandeur and adding beauty to Jogo Infinite. Adjacent to it, on the right, is a cosy, earthy, outdoorsy café that serves excellent coffee, refreshments and some delightful food sourced from home chefs. This is a perfect spot to read a book or just network, with that sweet breeze caressing your face and the lush green view soothing your mind.
Jogo Infinite registered under Bulldog Sports Ventures hence is an integrated business platform with one business serving room to another and adding revenue to the entire business idea.
Francis Noel Ben is a familiar name among sports lovers in Kochi. His activity in sports from school days is the primary reason behind his popularity, along with his stints in fitness, modelling and passion for films. Hailing from a business family, Noel always had entrepreneurship in mind. That’s why he did dual Masters in Finance and Entrepreneurship from the University of Essex, England after his graduation in commerce from Chinmaya Vidyapeet. Since his father Benny Francis is into freight forwarding, Noel joined DSV, Bangalore to learn more about the business. After a two-year run in DSV, he was brought back to his roots, Kochi.
Being an athlete and an avid sports lover, Noel always had an affinity towards sports and wanted to contribute to the sports culture in Kerala. Since his father’s business was running successfully and did not need his supervision, Noel decided to step into sports.
Back in the early 2010s, Regional Sports Center was the only sports facility in Kochi, but with a football turf that is always crowded. Noel wanted to organise games for these passionate players and do something for them. This paved way to his maiden venture ‘O Jogo Bonito’ – a football tournament for amateurs. This tournament even without cash prizes picked up so well that there was no looking back. From 40, by the end of 8 tournaments, 400 odd players were participating in O Jogo Bonito. The success of the games planted another idea in Noel’s head – a venture for managing these tournaments and a turf to bring in the football enthusiasts together and play hassle-free. This is how Sportico Ventures and Jogo happened.
Sportico Ventures was one of its kinds in Kerala, managing sports – precisely football activities under Noel Ben’s management. The company organised many football tournaments for all age categories, including veterans and everything gained momentum. It joined hands with Arsenal Soccer Schools to run their physical football training academy in Kerala, and it was a tremendous feat in the history of football in the state. However, the financial viability for the same in a state like Kerala was very bleak and eventually, after six years of operations, Noel had to wind it up, for good.
Meanwhile, Jogo – Own the Game also happened. It was the first-ever football turf in Kerala with a vision. It served more than 500 odd recreational customers from all walks of life on an average, with regular customers and frequent activities. Jogo, unlike Sportico Ventures, was a success in all aspects. However, Noel focused more on perfecting the first turf than scaling up the entity. Many people followed Noel’s path and started turfs across the city, raising the competition, when it could all have been under the brand Jogo. When Noel installed another turf in the same premise, it was too late; there was no room for further scaling. Jogo being his intellectual property, Noel retained the brand name and sold off the infrastructure in 2019.
These two ventures were milestones as well as learning experiences in Noel’s career.
After a brief sabbatical from sports management, Noel once against stepped into it, this time with Jogo Infinite. Jogo, meaning ‘game’ has always been carried by Noel in his heart; he had to establish another sports facility in the city, wholly bootstrapped from his previous stint.
Noel had learned enough lessons in sports from his previous outings, so he became more aware of finances and expansion. Jogo Infinite has multiple revenue streams with a sports element, the current one being cricket. Jogo, with its goodwill and acceptance from the past, found customers without any marketing. Word of mouth helped the establishment, and within a few months, the facility is hustling. This time around, he is focusing more on productivity than perfecting the brand – there is beauty in imperfections after all, and he prefers to highlight that beauty to the crowd.
Noel Ben believes that success and failure are equally important in business. When you taste success, you are motivated to stay in the game, and failure teaches you what not to do.
Over the years, Kerala has shown tremendous improvement in accepting various sports activities in the state. Keralites have an affinity towards sports, and that is evident from how they embrace various National and International games happening in Kerala. However, Noel feels that the number of national-level sportspeople is still very few in Kerala and that should change over time. He is confident that infrastructure like Jogo will only add value to sports in the state in the long run, and there will be significant differences in another decade or so.
Noel has specific plans for Jogo Infinite. The multiple revenue streams are not going to be halted at the auto facilities, sports facility and café. He plans to add more depending on the viability of the place. A 24×7 convenient store would be coming up soon for essentials. He is already in talks with owners of other sports facilities in terms of collaboration, acquisition and franchise. He wants to maintain a sports element and add other streams based on location and other factors. He looks at an organic and steady growth rather than pushing the limits.
As a businessman, Noel prefers to explore the possibilities in various fields that he is interested in. Films being one of his passions, Noel will soon step into film production, which is set to be launched in October 2020. He is also looking at expanding Jogo Infinite with at least ten more similar facilities in the city in the next few years.
Noel’s philosophy is simple – sports should not be treated only as a game in the field. It is a perfect space for networking, with people from various industries joining together to enjoy a good game of cricket, football, badminton or a workout.