Over the past decade, Arif Khan has established himself as one of the central figures in the Indian sports business and administration industry. Nowhere else have his efforts shone brighter than in boxing, which he has been promoting since 2015 when his sports management and marketing firm, Sports Oodles, sponsored the Haryana State Boxing Team at the 35th National Games of India.
Since then, as the Managing Director of Sports Oodles, Mr. Khan has gone on to organize the first Women’s Amateur Boxing National Tournament in 2016 and launch The Punch Boxing – his magnum opus – in 2018. He is also founder of the All India Public Sector (AIPS) Cricket League – a dedicated tournament for the public sector companies across the country.
Recently, we got the chance to sit down with Mr. Khan – virtually, of course – to talk about his plans as he spearheads Sports Oodles into a new decade of exciting possibilities.
Talking about the current schedule of The Punch Boxing, Mr. Khan said, “Of course, the COVID situation has worsened drastically, so we have paused our immediate events. Otherwise, we had one lined up for June.
“That’s not to say that we have stopped planning, though. We are constantly monitoring the situation and continue working in the background to accordingly assess our schedule. We’ll resume as soon as it’s feasible to conduct events safely again.”
We asked him about his plans for taking The Punch Boxing global and how long would we have to wait for an overseas event, to which he said, “In an ideal world, we would have organised something before the end of 2021 itself, but never say never. We are planning the global events parallel to the domestic ones, so the schedule of one won’t really be affecting the other.
“Of course, we already have international pugilists participating in The Punch Boxing events here, so the world is already taking notice; Dubai, Singapore, the UK, talks are underway. We also recently struck a broadcast deal with a US network, so we’re getting there.”
Through his works and words, Mr. Khan has long been a proponent of increased privatisation in the sporting industry. When broached on the subject, he told us, “Privatisation is absolutely key to raise the overall standard of sports in general, let alone in our country. Our federations, because of the many channels they’re mandated to work through, are not able to efficiently raise funding or draft plans for the sports that don’t immediately seem commercially attractive. But if you can provide the right platform every sport has potential for commercial success, and when you attract such attention you increase participation, which in time improves the overall quality of the sport. This is why privatisation is important. With the right vision, we can grow any sport. Of course, some amount of responsibility has to be there regarding the kind of money you invite into your events from the very beginning.
“Getting sponsors interested from day one can get tricky, since brands take a lot of convincing to evaluate whether an event can provide them the positive exposure they need or not. Once you’re through that and are able to succeed in organising a string of events, more brands take notice and deals become more feasible. We have had that experience with The Punch Boxing and AIPS Cricket League, so we know the path required to boost the commercial value of a sport.”
When asked about any other avenues he was considering to increase investment, Mr. Khan told us, “Blockchain is something we have started looking into already. As we know, crypto-based token systems have started popping up in major sports around the world, and we don’t want to be left behind.
“Of course, it’s all very new at the moment. We have just started having discussions about a possibility of incorporating something like that in our model, so we’ll see where that goes.”
Naturally, with him being interested in a variety of sports, we couldn’t not ask Arif about any other sport we could see in near future under the Sports Oodles umbrella. He divulged, “Oh, absolutely. Boxing is our biggest priority at the moment, but we have already started developing plans for the likes of badminton, table tennis, and MMA. So, yeah, watch this space.”
Having almost spent a decade in this industry, Arif Khan has come a long way. When asked about how he felt about his journey thus far, he confessed, “Completely satisfied. Couldn’t complain. It hasn’t been easy, obviously, but we have had a lot of success in a short time, and we’re confident we’ve only just begun.”