Founding Story

By: Radhakrishnan Sundar

Welcome to Hi5 Youth Foundation! We’re incredibly happy to know that you want to know more about our NGO. Here’s a note from one of our co-founders, R Sundar, that throws light on the why Hi5 Youth Foundation was started, its philosophy and the future:

“The idea for Hi5 transpired in December 2014, when both my wife, Usha Sundar, and I decided to dedicate more time to social work. Our aim was to contribute to the lives of underprivileged children but we wanted to do something different that can add value and not just replicate already established NGOs working on education and rehabilitation. My wife is particularly passionate about empowering young girls by offering them equal opportunity and support to make something of themselves and we wanted to build something that incorporated that effort.

About the founding team

My wife and I, like I mentioned before, wanted to start an NGO so we become the two co-founders. I’ve been personally involved in the social space for the last few years through my association with Sankara Eye Foundation, that’s based in the US. I am a part of the board of directors since 2000 and at that time, the Sankara Foundation in India although had only one hospital were doing a great job by facilitating 25,000 free eye surgeries for the rural poor. Eventually, we wanted to set up 20 such hospitals in India by 2020, what we called Vision 2020, and started working toward achieving that goal through fundraising in the US. Alongside, I also worked on building a strategy with the team to keep these hospitals self-sufficient and not only work on donations. We started encouraging paid surgeries for the urban population who could afford it and kept the free eye surgery program for the underprivileged ongoing. Today, in 2017, we’ve built 13 hospitals in India. So, I have been involved in fundraising, seen how the health social sector operates and what it takes to scale. When we started thinking about our own NGO, I wanted to maintain the philosophy of impact and scalability we had at Sankara. It wasn’t a hobby or casual effort, we were serious about the foundation we wanted to build. Because the idea is, if you can impact 20 people, then why not envision how you can also impact 20,000 people and change lives? It’s important to understand this because the idea with which we started Hi5 Youth Foundation was similar.

The third co-founder is P Ramaswamy, who used to work at Mastek previously, that I co-founded in the 80s. We met at a Mastek alumni meet and I approached him because of his 35 years worth background in basketball! He has represented University of Mumbai and the Mumbai North District at state championships and as captain, has led his team to incredible wins. He now works with Cognizant and is also the basketball coach at Khalsa College in Mumbai! His inspiration and love for the game comes from his father Shri G. Parameswaran, who was the coach of the Indian Women’s Basketball team. And since my wife and I were living in the US for a fair amount of time, we were unaware of how the basketball scene in India was—Ramu, thus, fit into the picture beautifully and readily agreed to become part of our efforts.

About Hi5 Youth Foundation

The foundation aims to revolutionize the state of basketball in India from the grassroots level. We’ve built a multi-level, four-year program that gives underprivileged children across Mumbai access to basketball coaching.

Hi5 currently supports over 1200 students across 13 BMC schools, 1 YMCA center, and 1 residential school (learn more about the centres here). We identify young and promising talent across these schools and centers and nurture them to enhance their performance. Our flagship program is ‘Hope Thru Hoops’ that runs for four-years and across four levels of Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Elite (Learn more about other programs here). Each center is assigned a dedicated full-time coach, who trains the students right from the Beginner level. These coaches follow an in-house curriculum that is co-developed by them and the leadership of Hi5 Youth Foundation.

Apart from our flagship program, we conduct an annual tournament, ‘Hoop It Up’, where our students compete as a team with one another, and a ‘Summer Slam’ every year, usually in the month of April and May; here our students from across centres in Mumbai come together in a 15-day residential camp.

What the future holds

Our vision is to build a basketball academy in the future that accommodates levels from beginner to advanced. We want to develop systems and infrastructure for young basketball players to stick to the game and play even after they finish an advance level. If you consider cricket in India, its popularity is not an accident. There are coaches and people willing to put money at each level, from gully cricket team to a national-level team. There is a huge flow and pipeline of talent that’s coming out of schools and under-19 teams to reach the national-level team. That’s what we envision to build for basketball in India. We want to start at the grassroots level to increase the funnel of basketball players. What we’re building is sustainable, scalable and has volume and that’s what we need to change the face of basketball in India—we need more people playing basketball!”

Read more about why we chose basketball training as our cause at Hi5 Youth Foundation in our next blog post!