Baljit Rihal Podcast Transcript

Baljit Rihal Podcast TranscriptListen to episode here

Baljit Rihal: [00:00:00] So yeah, no, I don't think it's for you. And plus the exam's too hard. So, you know, I don't think you'd be able to do it. And I just thought to myself at that time, well, actually, no, that's, that's going to spur me on. I took the exam and I passed it. And then really just using the Asian football awards, just letting people know, listen, if you need representation, I am an FA agent.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE HQ podcast everyone, where we interview leading British Asians about how they got where they are today and their advice for you to get to where you want to be. Today I have with me, Baljit Rihal, CEO and founder of Inventive Sports, Asian Football Awards, and the Asian Cricket Awards. Say hi to everyone.

Baljit Rihal: Hi everybody. Uh, thank you very much Amar for having me.

Baljit Rihal: Um, looking forward to this interview and looking forward to seeing how this, this all turns out. 

Amardeep Parmar: So  I remember growing up myself where there just was never really many British Asians in sport. And there's always this thing where we all used to love playing it, right? So we'd all play in the playground.

Amardeep Parmar: But you wouldn't see that representation on TV [00:01:00] and everything. So did you ever think you'd be where you are today when you're growing up and building this kind of sports empire? 

Baljit Rihal: To be really honest, no. I, I think I went through most of my life not really knowing what I wanted to do. As a kid, you know, loved sport, loved playing cricket, loved playing football.

Baljit Rihal: Was involved in all my school teams, the captain of my first school, middle school team, then went on to play football and cricket for my high school. And then after that, really never thought of it as a career or a potential career. Um, and in terms of my level, I mean, I was, uh, trialed up until a county level.

Baljit Rihal: And then after that, just never thought about sport. Um, again, apart from watching sport on a TV. So avid sports lover from a test match cricket to athletics to, you know, the Commonwealth games, obviously football. Um, and really, so didn't think of, uh, sport [00:02:00] in terms of playing as a career. Didn't even think about sport as in the sport industry as a career really.

Baljit Rihal: Um, and like I said, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. Um, I did do work experience when I was 15, 16 at a dentist, thought, okay, this could be a career for me. And then really it just meandered off because I didn't do the right A levels to become a dentist. Then not thinking about what, um, a career path I was going to do, ended up doing an undergrad in economics, thinking that I might go into the investment banking, the finance route.

Baljit Rihal: After having done the degree thinking, I actually think this is quite boring and I want to try something else. That was around the dot com boom. Then decided to do a master's in information systems. Then from there, uh, went to work for various IT companies, various startups, still not knowing what I wanted to do.

Amardeep Parmar: Did you ever think, so obviously you went like dentists and economics there, it's very like classic, [00:03:00] right? So I studied economics myself and same kind of idea. I didn't know what I wanted to be. So I was like, oh, economics is a good thing to just be useful later on down the line. But did you ever think maybe, oh, I could change this or

Amardeep Parmar: I guess like you said, you enjoyed playing when you were younger, but I think it's a natural thing for many people to just think, oh, but I can't actually do this as a career. So when did that flip for you where you started to think, actually, maybe the sports industry is where I am really passionate and where I want to make a difference?

Baljit Rihal: It really, for me, it happened by accident. Okay. So in one way, you can say I was cruising through life. It just seemed what I was doing, everyone else was doing the same thing. And then I had in my head, okay, you know, after my degree, more than likely I'll get married. And then, you know, it'll just be the 95 again, not really thinking too far ahead.

Baljit Rihal: And then this whole dot com boom was there and it was like really exciting. Um, people were talking about startups, you know, uh, raising, uh, you know, venture capital, um, you know, starting on a [00:04:00] shoestring and then I was actually working for a firm which shared offices with lastminute.com and it was really great because it was in Waterloo.

Baljit Rihal: It was in a place whereby the IT department sat right at the back. And in order for us to get to the back, we used to use the scooters just to go down to the back. They were, uh, there was a marketing department, you know, there was, uh, graphics, et cetera, et cetera. And we were all working together. And I really enjoyed that buzz, but one thing I didn't enjoy was the work I was doing and I was thinking to myself, what can I do?

Baljit Rihal: What can I do to get out of this? 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And then how did you start in sports? What was the actual switch that happened?

Baljit Rihal: So, um, a friend of mine who I used to work with, uh, he was involved with a grassroots football club, uh, which was in West London. Um, and he was a coach and he was saying to me, why don't you

Baljit Rihal: come and have a look at what the kids are doing? And I went there and I'm a Chelsea supporter for my sins. 

Amardeep Parmar: Um, Man United  supporter. And at some point in London.

Baljit Rihal: [00:05:00] We'll see if that makes sense. So, um, I, I had heard about Chelsea doing, um, a trial call search for an Asian star. This was in 2009. Um, so I said to my friend, well, why don't you send the kids that you coach to this, um, event, which was, um, in a Cobham.

Baljit Rihal: So what happened was he, uh, he said, okay, great. So I helped him with the application. Uh, and we actually took, uh, a busload of Children from West London over to Cobham to trial with the Chelsea. It was an open trial, and that was the introduction into, um, really bring, and I was thinking at that stage. Well, what I want to do is I want to bring

Baljit Rihal: Kids who look like me, look like you, you know, um, Asians, bring them into the football fold in some way or the other. So I thought, okay, this is an introduction. When I was there, I was speaking to the then CEO, Peter Kenyon, um, who actually [00:06:00] asked me, okay, what are you doing here? Have you brought in your kids?

Baljit Rihal: I said, no, uh, we've brought in some, uh, local kids from the local academies. He said, okay, great. And then he said, right, what are you doing? He actually asked me, he said. The Chelsea FC are doing this search for an Asian star. We're hosting the event. It's all free. What are you doing for the cause? And I really sort of stood there thinking, actually, what the hell am I doing?

Baljit Rihal: And I think it was at that point, I decided, okay, what can we do to showcase what Asians are doing in the sport? Together with my business partner at the time, we decided to launch the Asian Football Awards. And the reason why is because we were being invited to so many awards, which were the Asian Pharmaceutical Awards, the Asian this Awards, Asian that Awards.

Baljit Rihal: And we thought, well, this one really has a clear objective, and that is to showcase Asians in football. And we then sat down and thought to ourselves, because we were being asked the question by potential sponsors, they were asking us, but are there any Asians in [00:07:00] football? And we were actually sort of thinking to ourselves,

Baljit Rihal: yes, there are, but what you're thinking about is how many Asians are playing on the football field. That's then when we then decided let's do an industry awards because we knew that there were people behind the scenes. There were doctors, of course, doctors, people involved in finance, uh, the boardroom, you know, people, part of the boardroom and even some owners at the time.

Baljit Rihal: So that was the introduction into sports was when we launched the Asian football awards in 2012. 

Amardeep Parmar: And when you launch those  awards, how do you get that initial attraction for people to find out about it, for people to care about it, and then to grow the audience? Because obviously, if you're trying to spotlight people, you need to build the audience first in a way so they see, okay, these Asians are doing well, but it can also be difficult and quite intimidating for people.

Amardeep Parmar: So it might be some people listening now who may be in a different industry. They're like, Oh, we want to celebrate Asians. But they don't have to go about that. What, what did you do there? 

Baljit Rihal: We had to give the concept, the IP, the credibility. [00:08:00] Um, and we thought the only way to do that was by approaching the FA and having the FA support our awards.

Baljit Rihal: If you then have that, that credibility, not only will that help with potential sponsors, because we had to fund the event in the first place, uh, but would also tell people that we are the real deal. So in order to get the FA on board was a, was a bit of a hard task in itself, um, trying to convince the FA at that time, because there were certain things around Asian inclusion, um, you know, the FA had felt obliged to be doing things with the Asian community.

Baljit Rihal: At that stage, we were sort of thinking, well, you're not doing enough. Approach the FA, obviously the diversity team about the fact that we want to do an Asian football awards. We want to showcase, can you at least lend your support? Um, and it was a number of meetings trying to convince them. Uh, and in the end we got their support.

Baljit Rihal: Uh, and in the first year, we didn't get any funding from them. It was just the support, um, which [00:09:00] helped us a lot because when we went out and, and the, for the first awards, we were doing everything A to Z ourselves, um, including the cultivating sponsors, contacting guests, contacted, um, sort of high profile people in the game and trying to convince them about our awards.

Baljit Rihal: Okay. So that's how it started. Um, and having that backing from the FA at the time and other organizations like a kick it out, for example, the PFA getting them on board and actually using that whole diversity angle to actually in one way to convince them that they need to be a part of this. And if they're not part of this, then they could potentially be missing out.

Amardeep Parmar:  Obviously at this point still some kid did on the side, right? So you, where you're still working a 9 to manage this awards on the side. When did that switch come to actually this is what I want to dedicate my life to and go full time with what you're doing in the sports world?

Baljit Rihal: So in terms of when did I decide to want to do it, I think it was probably from, [00:10:00] uh, the conception of the Asian football awards.

Baljit Rihal: I was thinking actually, this is something that I would like to do, um, full time, whether it be events, whether it be just around sports, uh, whether it be just showcasing and highlighting Asians. In all fields at that time, um, when it happened in reality from, from that the side hustle into, uh, the full-time.

Baljit Rihal: That's probably about a year ago when I really sort of let go of everything else that I was doing professionally, um, and then started to do this. But that, that, that really evolved over time. Obviously, you know, we're gonna. talk about the Asian Football Awards and, you know, subsequent onto that Asian Cricket Awards, and then how things around the consultancy developed and the whole introduction of India and how things progressed from there.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. So we say it was the Asian Cricket Awards that came next after the Asian Football Awards. And then when does Inventive Sports come into the picture?

Baljit Rihal: So we actually launched Inventive [00:11:00] Sports as the company that was, uh, doing the Asian football awards. And originally we had thought that, uh, inventive sports would be around community engagement.

Baljit Rihal: So we started off as a, I think it's called a CIC company. And then we were sort of thinking about it being a social enterprise, um, working in grassroots and then obviously bringing in the Asian football awards. And then the Asian cricket awards was a bit of a natural progression. Whereas the Asian football awards were about

Baljit Rihal: um, let's highlight Asians in football with the objective of trying to increase Asian participation, whereas cricket on the flip side, there were so many Asians involved in, you know, even in, even in England at the time, but this was more around, okay, how do we highlight those guys who are in the industry?

Baljit Rihal: How do we showcase the fact that there are so many people in grassroots cricket who aren't filtering into the professional game? Um, And [00:12:00] that was, uh, that was something that we wanted to highlight. And the Asian Cricket Awards, it was sort of like we had the blueprint already for the Asian Football Awards, and it just seems so natural to go into the Asian Cricket Awards.

Baljit Rihal: Um, and then quite similar to the, uh, Asian Football Awards, when we approached the ECB, it became easier because they said, okay, great, the FA sponsored your awards or supported your awards. We will do that. Um, and that's how, that then happened. So inventive sports has always been there. Um, it's just really evolved from being what was a social enterprise into a business, which now sort of focuses more on, uh, consultancy and, uh, athlete representation.

Amardeep Parmar: In terms of cricket, a lot of  people were playing it, but weren't filtering through to their professional levels. What do you think was the reason behind that? And same thing with football. What do you think is the reason why so many of us play it, but so few of us actually become professional, um, athletes?

Baljit Rihal: People were, uh, and especially those who weren't Asian were using the excuse of, uh, Asians [00:13:00] don't excel in sports or football because of the fact that they get held back by their parents who were saying, well, that's not a career. Okay. Um, that's one of the schools of thought. Um, the other schools of thought, and you know, one of them that I, I actually think it's a mixture of many things.

Baljit Rihal: Um, one of them is certainly that the gatekeepers of English football, who are the scouts, um, certainly don't or haven't looked favorably upon potential players who are of an Asian extraction and it could well be, um, and there's no way to approve something like this, but it could way well be that they have got inbuilt stereotypes about people from certain communities.

Baljit Rihal: Um, and it could well be that listen there, a diet is incorrect. They don't have the physique. Uh, I know that if I put this player forward, um, at a certain age, their, their [00:14:00] parents are going to say, okay, you need to stop football now. And you need to concentrate on your GCSEs. 

Amardeep Parmar: In a way, do you think Bend it like Beckham almost because it was so successful?

Amardeep Parmar: Did it ingrain that idea? Maybe other people that, Oh, this is how Asians think.

Baljit Rihal: The bend it like Beckham. Great film. Um, you know, we all enjoyed it. And I think that was, uh, way before the, the Asian Football Awards. And we actually had Gurinder Chhadra at the awards, actually, you know, just the whole, you know, the Asian parents are so dead against this.

Baljit Rihal: And, you know, no, you can't go out and play football. I think the good thing about that film was it tackled, um, Asian girls who wanted to play football, um, which could, which could well be at that time. It could have well be true. The fact that, you know, their parents didn't want them to do that. Um, so, so on that, on that sort of front, um, you know, I think, I think, uh, bend it like Beckham was probably right for it for the time.

Baljit Rihal: Um, certainly when we launch Asian football awards and speaking to a lot of [00:15:00] parents, actually, because it's the parents who approach us to say, my child is very good at football. Um, you know, how, what pathways are you able to open up or why can't he or she get to where they want to get? Yeah, that's what we found more off.

Baljit Rihal: Um, certainly from the outside, when people are asking us questions, it, it was certainly always, oh, the reason why Asians don't play football is because of diet because of, you know, they have to go into education. And it was then me and, you know, the other guys actually saying, well, if you look at the Asian communities, especially, you know, the South Asian communities, they come in all different shapes and sizes, you know, people from the North are, you know, they tend to be taller and built and quite, you know, quite like how you like your footballers.

Baljit Rihal: If you play the English way. And then you've got other people who are from, from the South, you know, maybe from a Bengal. All right. Um, who are smaller, but are quite like Messi [00:16:00] and, you know, Neymar, for example. So, so that whole sort of, uh, misconception that they have, it was just about trying to educate them and really trying to find out ways about how

Baljit Rihal: they can help break down the barriers. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah, and looking at with the representation as well, how did that get started? Was that something you always wanted to do? Was it more like, say, being led by, I guess, British Asians doing well, and not knowing who to turn to for professional advice of how to advance their careers?

Baljit Rihal: So, the whole representation aspect of Inventive Sports came by pure fluke. And that was... When we started the Asian football, so I, I always look back at the Asian football awards as being my, uh, miracle moment. And that, you know, the whole sort of, um, the whole spark for everything that I do at the moment, it's all centered around that.

Baljit Rihal: Uh, not only be, uh, not only helping me personally develop, you know, building up my networking skills and sort of like interacting with various people. [00:17:00] Um, but what happened there was, uh, one of the guests that we invited at the Asian football awards, uh, actually was a football agent. And, um, they, they actually asked me what I do and I just said, well, you know, I've got a 95 and, uh, you know, we're doing these, these awards.

Baljit Rihal: And I said, uh, I said to him, well, you know, it'd be really interesting to, to find out what you do and how to get into being afootball agent. And their response was, yeah, no, I don't think it's for you. And plus the exam's too hard. So, you know, I don't think you'd be able to do it. And I just thought to myself at that time, well, actually, no, that's, that's going to spur me on.

Baljit Rihal: So I found out about how to become a football agent. And at that time it was, you had to apply through the FA. There was a vetting procedure, plus we had to sit an exam. And there were no sort of past papers. It was just like various sample questions that they had. And for me, it was a bit, a bit of an unknown.

Baljit Rihal: So, you know, downloaded as much information as I could read, read a lot, read a lot [00:18:00] of books. And it was actually quite daunting because I'd heard a statistic that only 14 percent of people who sat. The old, uh, agent's exam actually passed. So, um, I was actually studying probably harder than I actually studied on my master's to be honest.

Baljit Rihal: I mean, I actually remember that and I had it in my head that just ‘cause that guy said, I don't think you'd pass that I had to pass this exam. Anyway, I took the exam and I passed it and I became, um, an FA agent. And then really just using the Asian football awards, just letting people know that, listen, if you do need

Baljit Rihal: Representation. I am an FA agent. Didn't do anything with it for quite a while. Obviously carried on with Asian football, was Asian Cricket Awards. And then just a meeting with, uh, a potential sponsor who was I M G Uh, at the time. They actually mentioned to us at the time that they were going to start off an apex, um, Indian Football League.

Baljit Rihal: So I M G were the ones who were responsible for the I P L and the guys. So [00:19:00] the, the I M G guys met with them in London and they explained to us that it's quite similar to the I P O. They're going to be doing the I S L Indian Super League, and that's how the introduction to Indi, India happened. Um, and what I then did there was because of the Asian Football Awards and the Asian Cricket Awards, I was being interviewed by Sky Sports.

Baljit Rihal: So, um, obviously being so the way I look, you know, it was always a standout when People will say, Oh, you're the guy from Sky Sports. I actually saw you on Sky Sports. And it was like, you know, on the internet, et cetera, et cetera. Um, and then what happened was it became like, I was the de facto guy to go to for people who wanted to get into India.

Baljit Rihal: So we did our first transfer, which was Michael Chopra, um, ex Arsenal, um, not ex Arsenal, sorry, ex, uh, Newcastle, ex Cardiff, ex Sunderland. And, uh, he was the winner of our, um, first awards in terms of the player of the year. Um, and really, so I did [00:20:00] that transfer into India. And just from then, just that association with him, the whole Sky Sports, the whole me speaking on social media about the Indian Super League, I then became the de facto person for people who they thought could trust to get into India.

Baljit Rihal: And that's how that representation all happened. 

Amardeep Parmar: Obviously you do it a few different things now. What's the bit that you enjoy the most? What do you find that really gets you going? 

Baljit Rihal: So the vast majority of my time now is spent on athlete representation, um, into the Indian Super League. Be that international, uh, be that, um, Indians, as in Indians from India, so domestic players.

Baljit Rihal: Um, There's been, uh, so we've placed a number of coaches out there as well, head coaches from obviously the UK, across Europe, players from all across Europe, from Brazil, Australia, Africa, um, and the buzz I get really at this sort of stage, [00:21:00] and what I really enjoy is just being on the phone, being able to facilitate.

Baljit Rihal: A deal through the, uh, you know, over the line where I know all the clubs in India, they know me, there's that trust element and then working with players who are unsure about India, but we live in the social media age and and it helps them verified on all social media. I mean, that's been a God-send to be honest, because then people will approach me to say, listen, you know, I'm looking to get into India.

Baljit Rihal: I see you're the guy to get people into India and that having that credibility really sort of goes a long way for me and that trust element and people, uh, trusting in me, trusting in the integrity of the company, the honesty of the company that gives me the buzz. Um, and just to get, uh, things across the line, um, and probably more recently as compared to work with homegrown

Baljit Rihal: talent in India. [00:22:00] And that really brings me back to my roots in terms of the Asian Football Awards, because what, what was I doing here that was trying to increase Asian participation in football. So then went back there really, and started to look after, um, Indian players. 

Amardeep Parmar: And if there's anybody listening now where maybe they want to get into football themselves or cricket, or maybe it's a family member.

Amardeep Parmar: What advice would you give them? Like, what should their steps be? Or is it get in touch with you? Is it try to, how, what's the advice you'd give them? 

Baljit Rihal: Again, it depends on, uh, what they want to do in the sports industry. Um, of course, if, if they believe that they or family member has a talent in a particular sport, um, I'm quite happy to speak to

Baljit Rihal: anybody to give them advice. And, um, actually quite a bit of my time is speaking on the phone to brothers, sisters, uh, parents, just about, you know, because everyone's child and everyone's relative has got a talent according to them, right? So what I then do is I break it down and say, okay, for example, if they're [00:23:00] playing football, where are they playing at the moment?

Baljit Rihal: And if they say that, they're just playing at goals. Then I said, well, you need to take it to the next level. You need to then approach a grassroots club, start to play competitive football, um, you know, play Sunday league and then start moving up a level at a time. It's not straight from the goals to the primary leagues.

Baljit Rihal: That's not going to happen. Um, I often get asked by parents from India, um, what pathway do I have for my son, usually for their sons? Um. And it's saying, okay, I want to send them abroad. What do I do? And I always say, well, why do you want to send them abroad? There are clubs in India. Oh, you know, we're not too happy with India and how it works.

Baljit Rihal: So again, breaking it down to them, looking at various options. So then the, the other thing was around people who just want to get into various uh, areas of the sports industry, the football industry. Um, again, through Instagram, I have many people saying, I would like to become a sports agent, what do I need to do?

Baljit Rihal: And then usually, is [00:24:00] there any opportunity to intern in your organization? And I always say to them, there isn't any specific pathway. You obviously have to become a registered agent. And now obviously, after I did my exam, which was very hard, I thought, um, FIFA actually scrapped the exam and it was just anyone can just

Baljit Rihal: a pay to become a football agent. Now, hopefully I think they're going to be reintroducing the exam. So now, um, it should hopefully cut out the riffraff to be honest. But what I then do say to them is depending on where you are. So if they're in India, you need to be accredited with the, uh, Indian football federation, the all India football federation.

Baljit Rihal: That's your first step. The other step is you need to have the talent on board, right? So you need to have the product, which you're going to market. So I say to them, if you don't believe there's an opportunity with anybody else, create your own opportunity. And that's what I did. I created my own opportunity.

Baljit Rihal: Um, I, at that stage, I wasn't thinking about, okay, I want to [00:25:00] go and work for the big agencies. I just thought to myself, well, there's a niche here, which was India, Indian Super League. Why don't we just run with it as Inventive Sports? So again, the advice is, um, if you can't find things to slot yourselves into, create the opportunity yourself.

Baljit Rihal: But you need to have access to the good players. Now, some people will say, well, how do I get access to the good players? Well, it could well be that the good player is someone who's part of your family, and if they are, you can then buy a de facto, their agent and you can then be their support. Um, so that's the, the advice I give and online now there are just so many courses, online courses that you can do

Baljit Rihal: you can, uh, follow people in the industry, get active on social media, start writing blogs. So if you're interested in just say football data, start analyzing games, start putting out certain things like on, uh, blog posts, just start writing, start [00:26:00] living what you would like to work in. 

Amardeep Parmar: Do you feel like with the Indian Super League as well, it's made a big difference to even British Asians because now they see it as like, this is an opportunity we can go out there and since you started Asian football awards, do you generally feel there's just more opportunity available now

Amardeep Parmar: and people are believing themselves more?

Baljit Rihal: The thing with the Indian Super League is, uh, they are able to recruit, um, now they can recruit six international players and the rest have to be domestic. Um, unfortunately for us, for you and I and people like us who hold a British passport, we would, if we went over there, be classed as a foreign player.

Baljit Rihal: India, unfortunately, is very unique in the world. They don't allow dual citizenship people to represent them in sport. Um, unlike other countries whereby you can have, uh, dual citizenship and you can represent them internationally. Even though India has something called an OCI card, which I'm sure you've heard of, that does not count to help, [00:27:00] um, a player be, uh, classed as a domestic player.

Baljit Rihal: So, what's happening is, is international players, Indian teams, usually for international players who've got quite a bit of experience. So they've played, you know, they could just say be, uh, the last three, four years of their career and quite similar to how players were going to the MLS. They're now coming to India to play, um, football.

Baljit Rihal: So they're not picking up the Indian origin players at this stage. Or the Indian origin players who are playing here aren't ready to go to India because they, they're thinking, well, it's not the right time for me to go to India. And there are quite a few who play here. Um, I can see that changing quite soon when obviously the Asians who play here will start to sort of maybe towards the end of their careers and think of India as something they can still excel at.

Baljit Rihal: Um, And I'm sort of hoping that I can try and get a player who's sort of near enough in their prime over to India, uh, soon. So [00:28:00] the whole Indian Super League thing is yes, there are more people interested, but there are obstacles in their way about them being sort of, uh, classed as Indian players because Indian clubs will automatically hear their name and think, okay, great.

Baljit Rihal: He can come as an Indian and you say, no, he doesn't have an Indian passport. And, um, it's very unusual for anyone outside of India to want to change their passport. Um, and you know, to give up the UK passport, for example, and become an Indian, uh, to play. 

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And so looking forwards now, what's your ambition?

Amardeep Parmar: So you said that it's been about a year since it's been more or less full time. What's the things that you want to do now you're full time that you've got more time for and you can start building more? Have you got any goals that you've set yourself? 

Baljit Rihal: So, um, we've talked a lot about the football, um, and the representation in football, so I'm also an ECB registered agent.

Baljit Rihal: And we look after four cricketers, um, all, all South Asian. In the UK, we look after two, um, [00:29:00] South Asian players. And what we're trying to do now, um, as an agency is we're trying to move, um, with the same vigor that we did with football, trying to do that the same in cricket. So cricket is now being played across the world.

Baljit Rihal: Um, in terms of India, obviously it's the most, a popular sport, the most well paid sport. So we're trying to focus our attention, um, or equal attention into the cricket space. So that's something that we really like to take forward. So we're working with two, uh, very exciting players in the UK. Uh, both have, have represented England at, um, the junior level.

Baljit Rihal: And we're also representing two Dutch players, um, of, of Indian, um, uh, Pakistani heritage. And both of them are representing Holland and they're going to be in the World Cup, uh, which is happening next month. So that's very exciting. Um, and for us really, it's about growing the [00:30:00] agency, not only representation, but looking at the commercial contracts as well, which we are doing with the Indian players and really growing that, that's the side that we really want to focus on.

Baljit Rihal: 

Amardeep Parmar: I guess  it's like, even with five years ago, did you ever think you'd be where you are today with like the players you've signed? Was there any player in particular you signed, which you thought, wow, like. This is it, we're getting to where we want to be.

Baljit Rihal: The first signing that we did, so the first transfer we did with Michael Chopra.

Baljit Rihal: So at the time, his, his name was still, still in the limelight. Um, having played for Newcastle, Sunderland, a Premier League player. So, so doing that really, I mean, like how I said, the Asian Football Awards was a spark for everything I'm doing at the moment. Uh, that transfer was a spark for India. Um, and then after that we did the, um, we did the deal for Steve Koppel.

Baljit Rihal: Um, to become head coach of the Kerala Blasters, which at the time was owned by Sachin Tendulkar. Um, and then after that, it was, um, various players who weren't as well [00:31:00] known as those guys, but interacting with many, um, high profile players who are playing out in India. Um, and really, yeah, I mean, for me, really, the ambition is to get a British

Baljit Rihal: South Asian player and actually regular British South Asian players into the Indian Super League, um, not only to showcase to others here that we can, you know, play all across the world, but also to show India that, listen, uh, you can recruit, uh, a South Asian player as an international and they can compete on par with the internationals.

Amardeep Parmar: So  part of the BAE HQ is all about the community, right? And we want to make sure that people listening to this today have a reason to contact you and also to help you as well with what you need. So firstly, what do people, people listening right now, what should they contact you about? How can you help them?

Baljit Rihal: To be honest, if, uh, they, they have any queries, uh, around the sports industry, especially football and cricket, [00:32:00] um, obviously I'm, I'm always, I'm always, uh, open to hearing from a talented individuals, you know, from a selfish perspective, cause I'd love to represent more South Asians from here, from the UK, so they can contact me about that if they have sort of any ideas about, uh, where we are going, uh, as inventive sports and how we can improve things.

Baljit Rihal: We are looking to, uh, bring back the Asian football awards and Asian cricket awards. So obviously, uh, like anything we are looking for sponsors. So if there's anyone or any organization who's looking to, um, delve into that space. Always open to hearing about that. 

Amardeep Parmar: And then we want to  make this two way as well.

Amardeep Parmar: So is there anything that people listening today might be able to help you with?

Baljit Rihal: Um, and quite similar to what we're doing here, you know, obviously behind the camera, that's something I'd like to get involved in terms of, um, you know, trying to help to increase, uh, visibility, especially of Sikhs and Turban wearing Sikhs as [00:33:00] well, just, you know, on the screen.

Baljit Rihal: So, you know, whether it be extra work on, you know, movies, et cetera, uh, or even if it's something which is related to the football industry and they like, for example, that, um, that show, the Ted Lasso, for example, um, even if it means that there is a part on that program that I can play. And being a football agent, because that's what I do, it would just be great, you know, and it's, I wouldn't say it's an ambition of mine.

Baljit Rihal: It's something I've, you know, I've just thought of because there aren't too many of us on the screen. I know things have improved recently since you know, the BLM and there, and you do see, certainly in adverts, you see a wide range of, uh, ethnicities on there as well, but that's something I'd like to get involved in.

Baljit Rihal: So, you know, if there's any, uh, casting directors out there or anyone who wants anyone on movies, you know, I'm, I'm all up for that really. 

Amardeep Parmar: It's been great  to talk to you today, Baljit. Where can people find out more about you? What you're up [00:34:00] to? Like where should they follow you? 

Baljit Rihal: Um, so I'm very active on social media.

Baljit Rihal: Um, sometimes people say I'm just, uh, to it, too active on it. So people can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Um, you'll know who I am on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn because I'm verified and something I'm quite proud of, to be honest. But, um, yeah, so you know, that's the real deal. That's me. Um, 

Amardeep Parmar: is that just your name, is the? 

Baljit Rihal: Yeah, sorry, just my name.

Baljit Rihal: So @BaljitRihal, um, and you can contact me there. um, and if you see me at any events, please do feel free to approach me. I'm very approachable. Um, and if you've got any particular questions, you know, I'll try and answer them as well as I can over social media or, uh, or email. Um, and if it warrants us getting on a call, I'm quite happy to speak to people, especially around advice.

Amardeep Parmar: Perfect. Have you got any final words for everybody? 

Baljit Rihal: Um, I'd just like to say, um, I thank you very much for [00:35:00] inviting me onto this podcast. I wish you all the success. It's great what you guys are doing. Um, and advice to, uh, people out there is follow your passion. I know it's quite easy to say this, but follow your passion.

Baljit Rihal: Um, try to get involved in something. If you don't find an opportunity, create the opportunity, use social media to your advantage. Uh, start getting active, uh, in the space start commenting on so called experts, uh, tweets and blogs, create your own blog, create a name for yourself. Um, and I think if you do that, then you could potentially go very far, but wishing everyone, um, all the best.

Amardeep Parmar: Thank you for listening to the BAE HQ podcast today. In our mission to inspire, connect, and guide the next generation of British Asian entrepreneurs. It would mean so much to us if you could subscribe to our channel, leave a review and share this with your friends.