Group e4 - Vishy Anand's initiative to support young talents financially
Becoming a grandmaster at chess is not an easy journey. It requires a lot of funds and resources. Parents often pour in all their finances to ensure that their children are able to get the right training and play in the appropriate events. However, sometimes practical difficulties just make it impossible to pursue the sport. In such cases it would be highly beneficial if someone would be able to support you on the journey. This is exactly what Vishy Anand has managed to do with Satya Prabhakar as they launched Group e4. The Group has a very interesting model as more than 135 families have come together and a whatsapp group has resulted in raising over Rs.38 lakh and financial support for over a dozen Indian chess players! Read on to know more about this unique concept.
A whatsapp group that supports Indian chess talents
Making a sport popular in a country as big as India takes a lot of time and effort. But one can do so with sustained efforts. That is exactly what Vishy Anand has managed to achieve as he stayed at top of the sport for over three decades. The Madras Tiger has powered Indian chess through his performances right from 1980s till date! He is still a top-10 player in the world. But Vishy's involvement with promoting chess in the country doesn't stop there. He launched the WestBridge Anand Chess Academy (WACA) and is training some of the brightest young talents of India. WACA involves top players like Praggnanandhaa, Nihal Sarin, Arjun Erigaisi, Gukesh, Leon Mendonca, Raunak Sadhwani, Vaishali and Savitha Shri. These 8 players are now some of the best players not just in the country but also in the world. Their requirements are very specific and Vishy helps them with guidance and training through WACA. But what about the players who are few rungs below the WACA kids and quickly moving up the ladder. For these youngsters, the most important requirement is finances. A lot of them have the capabilities but lack funds. In such situations, what is to be done? This is how the idea of Group e4 came about.
What is Group e4? Vishy Anand explains, "Well, a while back a gentleman named Satya Prabhakar got in touch with us and said "look, I have a lot of friends and we want to help some cause", and I thought maybe we can do something with chess. It'll be a sort of crowdfunding, so he had literally a Whatsapp group of a lot of people who donated small sums. By now, this group has reached 140 people, so it's quite a large group. It's literally crowdfunding! So that was very nice and it's just a wonderful Whatsapp group with lots of his classmates, his business associates and things like that. These people are scattered all over the US and all over India, and they're donating money. The next thing to find was what we could do. We suggested we could help some youngsters, but even younger than what WACA is doing. We're talking about players from 8-9 years old to 13-14, give them support. Again, the logic is the same - their parents are taking on a lot trying to help the kids pursue their dreams, so why don't we support them? We gave them some laptops. This year, we also worked with some digital foundation, and what they do is they give tablets. We gave some tablets to the parents!"
"We give small grants to every child, because we are supporting quite a lot of students", says Vishy Anand. "Obviosuly, Aruna is helping me - I don't need to even mention this. She is very good in organizing all this and keeping in touch and so on. Aarti and Ramesh also suggest very promising youngsters, so that gives me some advanced warning of what's happening. It's maybe nice to note that Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Vaishali, all of them were supported initially. It started about 2 years back, and we supported a lot of them then, and they've become so strong in the meantime!
Elaborating on the laptops given, Vishy Anand mentions, "We're not giving them insane specs or anything, but it's good hardware they can run to use ChessBase and things like that. We also support them with a certain amount a year, so they can spend it either on coaching or on travel. I think the whole model is wonderful, and I would never have managed it without Satya Prabhakar. He is very enthusiastic, he would keep coming back to us and say can we spend it on this, can we spend it on that, what can we do, so we've also been scaling up. But the total giving has already gone to around Rs.38 lakhs or something like that. You know, if we look at the group size, then potentially we can continue helping these youngsters. I really have to thank Prabhakar for his enthusiasm and initiative to set the whole thing up."
Crowdfunding is not a new concept. There are many websites which do that. But the way in which Group e4 works is quite unique. They have a whatsapp group and all the members align to the vision and contribute! "In a website",Vishy mentions, "everybody will login and they'll be enthusiastic, but once you ask them for credit card details and some this and that, you know the browser is stuck at the 4th stage and you have to complete five stages and so on. But these people already had an active Whatsapp group, like I mentioned they are all friends and colleagues. They had a group, the group discussion started and they all wanted to give money. I'm very happy that they are helping chess."
Apart from the fact that the players receive financial support, they also get a chance to interact with Vishy Anand. And this is invaluable. Anand mentions, "I meet them and we keep in touch, and you know, you start to follow their results a little bit. When we meet, we discuss a few things. I'm sure it's a nice motivation for them! Sometimes it's more exciting even for their parents." Is Vishy Anand working on projects like WACA and Group e4 to power Indian chess in a structured manner? "First, Sandeep reached out from WestBridge and we started the Academy. The goal was clear: let's try to support some of our top youngsters. Again, you can do good at any part of the chain and it will benefit the others. So if these youngsters have good results, then you get more publicity, more attention and that spreads to everyone. With Group e4, it made no sense to duplicate what I was doing with WestBridge, but it made a lot of sense to support youngsters, support more of them with smaller amounts. It takes a little bit of stress off the parents, it perhaps helps them to play one or more tournaments that they might not have played. Even though there are quite a lot of common people between WACA and Group e4, it's nice to do it like this. Every little bit that they give helps."