This week, Siddharth Pandit joined Ash’s Sports Talk to share his sports career wisdom. Siddharth is the Founder of online Sports platform, Analytics For Sports (AFS) which he devised towards the end of his University degree. As soon as Sid’s studies were over, he only had one thing on his mind, to trial-blaze his way into the sports industry through the power of technology.
Q) Sid, thank you for joining Ash’s Sports Talk for this exclusive interview. Tell us about how your journey to Analytics for Sports (AFS) begun.
A: Hi Ash, thanks a lot for reaching out and asking me to be part of our sports talk. It’s great to be here.
AFS is something that I started thinking about very faintly in the final year of my football business degree. We had a unit called business start-up, and that is something which caught my eye. I was keen to see how I can use this unit to build all the material that is required to create a start-up. At the initial stages, I kept the idea of AFS very simple, since I had to make sure that we get good marks as well. We didn’t even call it AFS back then. I used a simple business model and linked it all to the topics we studied as part of the unit. That helped me understand the process of actually developing a start-up and how much detail goes into developing a business plan. After getting good feedback from the tutors about our business idea, I became more confident and took it out in the real world. I didn’t want to waste this opportunity after putting in a lot of effort. So, I went to Singapore and pitched the idea to my family and friends. They all liked the idea, but something was missing.
Interestingly, the idea was not good enough to be taken to the real world. It needed more to it. So, I have started doing more research about the sports technology market in performance analysis and what other companies exist within the market. Using that, we came up with a plan that we will develop an online platform, that will be a multi-purpose way for players, coaches and clubs to build their career and not just game performance. We quickly connected with a technology company in India and developed our blueprints, functions, workflows, etc. After about 5-6 months, AFS was born.
Q) While studying your degree, what were the fundamental values it taught you when applying your education into the sports industry?
A: The degree taught me multiple things. When it came to the units itself, I was able to understand how the football industry generally works, who are the key stakeholders involved in the industry and how sports has become so much more competitive. The values that I learnt, in general, were discipline, confidence and communication. These three values/skills were something which I was quickly able to transfer and relate from education to the real world. Finally, it also came down to how much you can progress every year, either from a learning perspective or skill perspective, since sport is such a competitive industry.
Q) I know you’ve had short work placements at football firms, including Wolves, Real Madrid, The FA and FootballScoula are a few. Would you mind sharing how you secured these placements and how they’ve leveraged your sports career ambitions?
A: Of course. During the first year of my football business degree, I learnt that communication and networking is a big part of the sports industry. That led me to be more pro-active after my first year when I joined LinkedIn. I had heard that LinkedIn was one of the best tools to connect with professionals for opportunities. I started to network and connected with sports and football-related professionals straight away and more importantly engaged myself amongst those professionals. For example, the Real Madrid FC role in Singapore was through a connection I had on LinkedIn. I knew that I would be in Singapore for a while,and having Real Madrid FC on my CV would mean a lot. I connected with the Real Madrid academy director in Singapore. At first, it was difficult to get a response since I had little to no experience. It took a while to get an answer from them and around two months to me to convince them that I can be a good addition to their team on a part-time basis. After a lot of follow-ups, they finally agreed to let me join their coaching team as an assistant coach for four months. The FA and FootballScuola roles were simply places where I had applied for via job portals, and they were keen to add me to their organisation. All the experiences I have had till now have helped me massively, in one way or another. It helped me understand how the market works, how people communicate outside of the University and what it takes to take on responsibilities.
Q) Tell us more about Analytics for Sports? Such as what you offer to the sports industry, the long-term vision and how are you different?
A: AFS is an online platform company offering on-field performance analysis and scouting for football/soccer players, coaches, clubs, scouts and agents. We help these stakeholders based on their role in the industry.
The long-term vision with AFS is to become a leading multi-purpose platform company in grassroots and youth football by operating in multiple regions and on a vast scale.
AFS is different from some of the companies that are out there in the same bracket as ours. We are a performance analysis and scouting company currently but aim to become a multi-purpose company going forward. The critical area of difference is that we are way more affordable and accessible, compared to the other performance analysis companies. Our aim with this is to let every stakeholder at grassroots and youth football leverage the same resources that are used by the top clubs.
Q) What strategy did you follow to build your sports industry network?
A: To be honest, there was never really a defined strategy, apart from following those people who I feel are of interest to me and the kind of work they do interests me. I think its important to understand what interests one the most and then connect with those people to learn and gain more insight into things that you may not have. Furthermore, I was open-minded to network and connected with people from different regions and backgrounds, which opened unique opportunities for me. Lastly, I tried my best that I can be of value to the other person in any way to ensure that I build a good relationship with professional and have a good network.
Q) Technology and sport are two industries that are continuously evolving, how do you ensure Analytics for sports stay ahead of the game?
A: This is a good and tough question. Sports technology has certainly evolved over the past two years. For AFS, it was essential for us to make sure we develop our product in such a way that it is long-lasting and can be altered and changed, based on user feedback and how the market develops. Going forward, we certainly should and will operate at a pace to ensure we are not left behind. We must get the idea across and provide value in one way or the other. It is undoubtedly tough since there is good competition in the market, but we trust in our product, it’s all about the timing and persistence.
Q) For anyone looking to become an entrepreneur in sport, what is your key piece of advice?
A: First, I am glad to be able to answer this question. With all the experiences I have had till now, one key thing to remember is that you need to have a long lasting idea and something that provides a value of any kind. Second, with the sort of thought that you have, make sure you are patient and persistent. Finally, enjoy the process. It’s essential to embrace the downfalls and the good times at the same time.
Calling this interview invaluable is an understatement! Not many people dare to commit so much time, energy and risk into the sports industry at an early stage. On that point, Sid’s story has demonstrated that this attitude will be a game-changer to make your mark in a highly-competitive world of sports business.
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