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17-year-old Arjun Pandey aims for transgender inclusivity in India’s Football Industry

Written by Nicole Teo Published on     5 mins read

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Arjun created ScoutMe, a modernised scouting app. They also started a transgender inclusivity program, Kicking Gender Boundaries.

ScoutMe is India’s first online scouting portal, and has been adopted by All India Football Federation (AIFF). It aims to digitally modernise scouting for talent, not only in India, but around the world. ScoutMe has also started their own transgender inclusivity program, in collaboration with leading NGOs across India called Kicking Gender Boundaries, focusing on promoting inclusivity and diversity in sports by erasing the social stigma centered around the transgender community.

“My brother and I started with a single Google form,” Arjun begins excitedly. “And that’s how ScoutMe came about.”

Being a footballer since he was 3 years old, 17-year-old Arjun Pander and his brother noticed a glaring issue of football talents being overlooked by national teams, be it either from lacking professional contacts, or not living in urban cities.

ScoutMe’s Application

Things progressed lighting fast after, and they created an application, website, and pitched their product to the All India Football Federation (AIFF).

They didn’t stop there. After realizing there were no non-binary or transgender sign-ups on ScoutMe, they started to question the lack of inclusivity in the sports industry. Seeking to make a change, the program “Kicking Gender Boundaries” was formed.

I marveled at how this brilliant individual turned his thoughts and dreams into a possibility through sheer determination and action. “What do you think contributed to your development to becoming both an entrepreneur and student?” I inquired. Interestingly, Arjun gave a lot of credit to his family. “My father is also very enthusiastic about sports. His support was quintessential in driving me forward,” he remarks with a smile. Another major factor was credited to school, where starting his own club was the decisive factor that kickstarted his leadership journey.

“If you’re passionate about something, take that leap of faith and do it.”

Arjun at his TEDxTughlaqRd Talk. Courtesy of TEDxTughlaqRd

Our conversation led to how it was like managing and juggling between both studying in school and being an entrepreneur. I sat back in my chair, curiously waiting for him to expose his time management secret, in the hopes that I too, could also adopt it into my life.

“There’s two aspects to it,” he starts. My ears perk up, waiting to learn more. “What I primarily like to do is combine these two things. So if in school, I’m learning about some new aspect of Python, then when I’m practicing it and I think of how I can use it to build a new feature of ScoutMe a week from now,” he continues, “That’s really helped me in terms of blurring the lines, keeping me active doing both things.”

In short, his technique was to kill two birds with one stone, by practicing what you learn in school and applying it in your work. Ingenious. He preempts this though with,“But at the end of the day, it’s about choosing your priorities as well. So if my exams come up, I have to take a step back. I need to focus on what’s important because you cannot disregard one aspect over the other.”

At this point of the conversation, I started to wonder if the constant blurring of lines could get too much. With business and school being constantly on his mind, wouldn’t it at times get too much? “It does get a bit overwhelming,” he admits. “There are a lot of stressful moments. So what I do is when it gets too much, I just take a step back. I go out for 30 minutes, and in that time, I decide on what I need to do once I get back.”

But for the most part, Arjun believes that the good outweighs the bad, especially when he’s doing what he’s passionate about. With the amount of meaning and impact that ScoutMe is able to bring about, if he is able to integrate it into his school life, to him, “It’s just so fun.” resoundingly ending this sentiment.

Arjun at a Thought Leaders event. Courtesy of Spark.

I didn’t address this at the start of the interview, but I was curious whether age would stymie being taken seriously in the business world. When one visualises networking, and corporate business meetings, students aren’t usually the archetype that comes to mind. Was ageism something he experienced? The answer was yes, at least at first.

“I mean if a 17 year old approaches you, you’re going to think that they’re not going to talk about anything serious.” He continues, “No one really anticipated the impact that ScoutMe had. But what I’ve realized is, you have to tell them things they will be willing to listen to. For example, using tags, like stating that we were being adopted by AIFF. This would really get them interested, and willing to listen to what I have to say.”

Arjun at KGB’s event. Courtesy of JPIS

His struggles as a young entrepreneur was clear; it’s difficult enough starting a business as an adolescent, but this added complexity made it even more so a bumpier road. While he acknowledges that it isn’t fair that his age presents as a hindrance, he surpasses these odds. Instead, he is able to adapt and creates a loophole for himself, in terms of code-switching and being able to speak the business jargon.

Before we concluded the interview, there was one last question I had to ask. What was his life philosophy? He chuckles initially, but responds with a quote by Winston Churchill, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal.”

“One’s story isn’t always going to be successful. There’s going to be so many failures, so much going on behind the scenes that everyone else wouldn’t know about. But it is the courage to continue that really matters.”

He continues, “Even if I got a bad grade in an exam, or when a ScoutMe partnership doesn’t work out, this has always helped me to move on to the next step of life.”

With that, the interview came to a close. As I shut off my laptop for the day, I couldn’t help but feel this wave of sudden inspiration. Arjun and his brother founded ScoutMe from the ground up through sheer passion and will. Who am I to proclaim incapability of setting out and achieving my own goals? If there was anything I took away during this chat, it would be that hey- maybe success could just be a Google form away.

WRITTEN BY

Nicole Teo

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