TRC 2 | Student-Athletes In Asia

 

Millennials tend to be unfairly stereotyped. Akshay Maliwal exemplifies why members of his generation should not be underestimated. Akshay is the founder and CEO of DreamBig.Events, a sports event company dedicated to creating tournaments and exposure opportunities for junior athletes across Asia. Extending his own successes to other young people through sports, Akshay tells us the start of his journey and the motivations behind it. He shares with us the way he bridges athletes in Asia with great opportunities toward recruitment by the athletic programs of top US universities. Akshay then goes deep into the world of event planning, sharing some of the challenges he has encountered and how he moved past them to fulfill his mission. Finally, he shares his insights about being a Millennial entrepreneur and why the world needs them now more than ever.

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Millennial Entrepreneurship: Providing Exposure Opportunities To Student Athletes In Asia With Akshay Maliwal

I’m excited about this episode of The Radical CEO because I have a passion for Millennials like our guest. First of all, I’ve got two of my own, so I hesitate to generalize about Millennials because they have gotten so unfairly stereotyped. What I will say that what I see in my work as a leadership coach and consultant is that Millennials often see the world through completely fresh eyes compared to some of their older counterparts and I appreciate that. That is so true with my guest. Akshay Maliwal is the Founder and CEO of the very aptly named DreamBig Events, a sports event company. It’s dedicated to creating sporting tournaments and exposure opportunities for junior athletes across Asia. But that was the beginning. 

When Akshay saw that young athletes and their families were interested in opportunities to play college sports in the US, he created a touring program to introduce golf, swimming, tennis, and more; the list of sports he covers goes on and on, choices reflecting US universities that would be the best fit for their athletic programs. Now, having gotten more than 500 student-athletes college-bound, he is on his way to building what he hopes will become the world’s leading sports management firm. Despite that groundbreaking idea and an auspicious start, Akshay admits that being a Millennial founder and CEO of a company has not always been easy. In an article he wrote for LinkedIn which I love, called I’m not 29. I’m 21 with 8 years of experiencehe laid out the good news and also the challenges of being a young entrepreneur, which he’s going to share with us. Welcome, Akshay Maliwal.

Thanks, Libby. I appreciate being here. It’s been a fantastic career that I’ve had so far with DreamBig Events. I’m excited for the future.

Tell me where your sports start? Were you a child athlete? Where did you begin?

My journey started as a recruited student-athlete to UC Berkeley Cal. I played college golf there and I was recruited straight out of Asia. It was the first time a kid was getting heavily recruited into the PAC-12, which tends to be a very competitive conference. The Asian golfers had previously never got those types of opportunities. I was fortunate to be a great golfer when I was in the junior system in Asia. That gave me the platform to kickstart my college career. I never thought that I would get a scholarship or I ever got recruited to go and play golf at a prestigious US college.

Being a sports agent is the epitome or the dream for every person who was in sport. Click To Tweet

It’s one of the best colleges in the country.

Fortunately, one of the biggest criteria for my family was the brand or the academic branding of the college. Some of the things that we tell our clients now is that they’re going to spend that money to send their kids to the US. They better be ready to pick and choose the right fit college.

That’s where you guide them. Tell me about the business now. How do you rep those student-athletes and how that grew into your college touring?

We started a few years ago. We started with a mission of why don’t we give more exposure to student-athletes in Asia? One of the challenges that student athletes in Asia have is that the proximity is so far from US colleges. Bringing US college coaches to recruit talent in Asia was a fraction of the cost, but it’s also a great opportunity for these kids to get recruited at their home ground. I was excited to get college coaches for the first time ever to Asian countries. To have Asian kids have an evaluation opportunity. Those Asian kids may not have the means or the affordance to travel all the way to the US because the same camp would cost them five to six times more if they did it in the US. At a fraction of the cost, you get the same recruitment opportunity as any other American kid. That was the initial motive.

Did you wake up one day and say, “I need to start a sports management company?” Was it based on your own recruiting experience?

TRC 2 | Student-Athletes In Asia

Student-Athletes In Asia: In Asia, people don’t make decisions based on something they read online. They make decisions based on a reference they receive or word of mouth.

 

It was based on my own recruiting experience because when I went to the US for college, there was nobody in Asia that helped to guide me through the athletic process. I had no points of exposure experiences with these coaches before I got recruited. I almost feel like my recruiting process was so tedious. It took a lot longer. For me, to get connected to these coaches was a lot more cumbersome, for lack of a better word. The change that DreamBig Events has made for families is that now family is going to come to one of our events. They get that immediate or impactful experience. Once they get that immediate experience, they can go away and know, “Is this college a fit for my son or daughter? Is this college something that I would like to pursue?” If so, this is a good start in building a relationship with that college.

We’ve done that for golf, tennis, soccer, swimming and we’re continuing to do events. We’ve done more than 25 events in the last few years. You asked me, “Where did this whole touring experience come from?” It came from the desire that some of these families said, “I’ve experienced college cultures coming to Asia. It’s time for me to maybe use some of my savings and take that next step and go and travel to the US and have that same experience.” Initially, there was a lot of hesitation around participating in a tour. It’s more expensive. There’s no clarity on whether they will get a scholarship. That first step of attending a camp in Asia gave them that motivation to be part of a tour shortly after, which they are able to now spend on because they have that value understanding.

Are you essentially recruiting these athletes? Are they finding you? Is it a little bit of both?

We have a very large scale of referral program set up in Asia. Most of the local coaches on the ground that coach at a country club, coach in Academy, they are identified by our team of consultants. That team is then putting them on advisory or a referral program. Anytime they have a kid between 12 and 18 years old that senses that, this is a college bound to some athlete, they will recommend that student to us. In Asia, which is a very high tech society, you don’t have a lot of online marketing that works successfully. You need to spend a lot of time in building your relationships because this is still a relationship-driven society. People don’t make decisions based on something they read online. They make decisions based on a reference they received or word of mouth interest they received.

Do the camps allow you to establish some of those relationships with the parents and the students?

Expect the unexpected continuously. Contingency planning is the most critical part on event planning. Click To Tweet

The way I describe it is that camps are bite-size experiences. It’s very easy for a family to come and experience the camp and have an immediate outcome. The challenge with other types of consulting programs or college placement that ends up being a longer gestation, the families don’t know the outcome until they either get placed into college or until the experience is that much longer. With a camp or with an event that we run, it’s two to three days long. The kids get an immediate experience and the parents get an evaluation report. That evaluation report by the coaches tells them this is the direction your kids should have.

Do you tell them if you think somebody is not going to cut it or not make it? Do you do let them know they should maybe not spend their money trying to get into one of the top tier US schools?

It’s very important to be extremely transparent. One of the things that we pride ourselves in doing is we decipher between those who have the potential and those who should apply to the same colleges but to the regular academic route. If they were to consider the regular academic route, we have partner companies like Addedsport that provide those placement services opportunities, so we would recommend them to that company. We are very clear and very focused that if a student-athlete is someone who shows potential to be in one of the leading athletic and academic colleges, we will push for them to make that happen. If the student-athlete is not necessarily there yet or maybe their maturity level in terms of understanding their own athletic level is not there. We will tell the parents that and even the college coaches will evaluate them. We’ll give that feedback.

It reminds me a little bit of Jerry Maguire, the movie where he was good in the room. I always loved that line. They send him in to talk to the athletes and their parents. Is there some of that involved?

At some level, everybody who was in sport wants to be a sports agent. Being a sports agent is the epitome or the dream for every person. The challenge would be a sports agent that identified seven years ago was that it’s a crowded market. There are a lot of agents in the market moving circling around these kids. One of the things that I’ve build pride in is that we have developed a strong bond or relationship with families from a junior level. Those families have that intangible trust with us and we don’t want to break that trust by saying, “Now, we’re going to commercialize your child.” The other reality is that, less than 0.01% of athletes become professional. If I have a large-scale grooming program where I’m setting up all these events, camps, tours and funneling them into US colleges and then after college, some are turning professional. I’m at ground zero. I’m identifying those kids at ground zero. That intangible goodwill that I’ve built with these families will hopefully count for something if I do decide to become a Jerry Maguire sometime in the future. At some level, every young entrepreneur in sports management is aspiring to be a Jerry Maguire and I am no different.

TRC 2 | Student-Athletes In Asia

Student-Athletes In Asia: 50% of your effort that somebody else does is better than you giving your time to do that. Being perfect is not the goal here but rather to be able to scale up the business and have people do their job.

 

How many people do you have now and what’s it like being a Millennial managing, I assume other Millennials?

It’s important for me to tell you that this is my second company that I started. I have employees that have worked for me in the past in another company, but in this company now, we’re approaching fifteen people. We’re running multiple events across Asia, India, Southeast Asia. There are about twenty events we’re doing per year. One of the biggest challenges that I face is when you’re running events, it’s always crunch time during events. You can plan as much as you can plan but during events, something or the other always goes wrong. I’ll give you a perfect example. For the first three tennis camps we ran, it rained in every single camp. There was no access to indoor facilities. The fourth camp, the college coaches got stuck in New York because of a snow storm. They arrived 24 hours late. The point I’m trying to make is that you have to expect the unexpected continuously. Contingency planning is the most critical part of event planning.

You’ve learned now I assume what to do when there’s a downpour and we’ve got to do something with these young athletes that have come to your camp?

Yeah. In the beginning, it was an absolute bootstrap. You see every event planner that works for me running around Helter Skelter, trying to figure out how to pacify families who are erupting because they’ve paid and it’s raining and this and that. The great thing is that if you have a great plan and if the mission is clear that you want to help the kid get exposure and network with those coaches, no matter how bad the weather is, the kids and the coaches will make a point to connect. That was our core mission. We identified it on. If this is our core mission to connect the parent, the student with the college coach, then rain or shine, that can still take place. The tennis court evaluation is important. When it stopped raining, we quickly dried the courts and we got back on. The mission or the core value of the event is transparent and told to everyone. Then whether you meet the coach, you do fitness for the coach indoor or you play on the court, it shouldn’t change the experience of the event. We figured that out through a lot of unfortunate circumstances.

What you’re talking about is building trust over time and being open and honest about the experience including some of the glitches that you’ve experienced and had to come back from.

As entrepreneurs, it’s okay to tell someone you are a small company. If you show commitment to the work ethic, people will appreciate that. Click To Tweet

This is something that a lot of other entrepreneurs can learn from is that it’s okay to tell someone that you are a small company. It’s okay to tell someone that you’re not experienced. If you show commitment to the event or if you show commitment to the work ethic, if you know commitment to doing it, people will appreciate that. We ran our first ever golf event. People knew that from the first moment I ran it. At the end of the event, people said, “This is the most amazing event I’ve ever been to.” These could have been to plenty of golf tournaments. They’ve been to plenty of golf events. For people to go away saying after the first event, they are skeptical but they took a chance on us and then the experience was so high, that trust is automatically built. If you tell someone that, “I’m a serial experienced event operator, I’ve had millions of events.” People then find out that this is a first golf event and you’re a bit scrappy, you lose a lot of trust. What I will tell entrepreneurs is that if you’re doing something for the first time and somebody is maybe the first mover or the first client or the first person you’re consulting, don’t be afraid to tell them that, “This is my first time doing this with you. Take a chance on me.” You have to plead a little bit. You have to commit some of it, “Take a chance on me.” Show them that your work ethic is something to be inspired, then watch as momentum carries you.

I would expect they would feel a little invested in you and the company. They’re taking a chance on you. They’re helping you build as well. 

In Asia, there’s a saying that, “You don’t want to be the first piggy,” which is you don’t want to be slayed the first. That is very much ingrained in most Asian families. It’s all about reference checks. It’s all about what is the credibility of this company. It did help though that we were already doing tennis camps, soccer camps and other camps, but that credibility brought us to the point of sale for golf events. We had no experience in golf events. We have one level of experience. Having to convince the customer that is a hard low stick and you have to be quite vulnerable at that experience.

I imagine you have rejection along the way.

I would say that we had 32 kids participate in our golf event. We prospected 400 kids. The numbers are always against you. It’s the persistence and the continuity of finding ways to make it work that matters. The other thing in events that I want to mention is that you have to be quite nimble. What I mean by nimble is you have to be quite flexible about how you make discounting, how you call someone an early bird, how you give someone a repeat rate, all these things that nimbleness has to be high because if you can’t provide a customer additional value for them being a repeat customer or for them continuing on the journey with you, then they will feel like, “I was a first mover for them. Why am I not getting the second opportunity at a better rate?” There has to be some nimbleness around the price, around the value and if you don’t change the price, then you give them more values. For example, some of our clients who’ve been at other events, we gave them an opportunity to have a one-on-one with the college coaches that was exclusive to them because we thanked them for being in our first event. These things make the experience a lot more valuable. You have a higher retention rate.

TRC 2 | Student-Athletes In Asia

Student-Athletes In Asia: Twenty years ago, the employee was role focused. Now, the millennial employee is vision focused. They want to be part of the growth story, of the responsibility you give them.

 

We’re talking to Akshay Maliwal. He is a Millennial entrepreneur and Founder of DreamBig Events. Akshay, I imagine in this process of growing your company, you had to do some growing personally. What was the biggest change in yourself in order to get this company off the ground and continuing to move forward? It doesn’t sound that easy the way you’re describing it. It takes a lot of work.

I mentioned in this earlier segment here that being vulnerable is very important. For me, the biggest challenge was my attention to detail is quite high. That ends up being on the extreme side where I tend to have a micromanagement view of things. If you’re a manager and if you’re trying to lead a team and that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last few years with events, you have to let people do their thing, but making sure that they know the goals and they know the vision and their KPIs are clearly set. For me, the biggest challenge was motivating people but not getting in their way. Initially in the beginning, I was getting in the way of a lot of my employees or colleagues and it would stop them from doing a lot of stuff because they would have to spend a lot of their time giving me updates as opposed to doing the work. One of my biggest realizations and this is the challenge all entrepreneurs who are under 30 will face, is that you tend to want to have perfection. The way I describe it is 50% of your effort that somebody else does, it’s better than you giving your time to do that. Being perfect is not the goal here. The goal here is to be able to scale up the business and have people do their job. Even if they don’t do the job to the 100% level that you can do it, you don’t have time to do that. The 50% they do it is better than the zero that you are going to give to that. My mindset had to change.

You had to learn to let go, which is anxiety-producing. I’ve seen a lot of particularly younger leaders, there’s this tipping point where they realize if they don’t let go, they can’t move up. They can’t scale and they can’t be more strategic until they let go. It’s like the trapeze artist where you’ve got to let go before you can catch onto the next one and you’re hanging there on mid-air for a while before you learn to trust others with the work.

The way I look at this is that if you have good people. Remember good people is not defined by somebody coming in and being good. Good people is defined by they have innate ability but they need to be trained. I used to think that by just hiring good people was the way to have a good person on your team. People don’t know coming in what is your motive? They don’t know what your goals are. They don’t know how to align their skill set with your goal. My whole mission now is to work on training, is to work on training through management and it’s to set clear KPIs, clear goals for my colleagues so that there are periodic checks and everybody does receive feedback but they also don’t get it continuously. There is a fine line or there’s a dotted line in the sand between continuous feedback and periodic feedback. You need to find a balance.

You have to customize it for the individual and the situation. For anybody that doesn’t use KPIs as part of their vocabulary, explain what that is.

It's nothing to do with how clever your idea is. It's everything to do with the people you put in place to help you build that idea. Click To Tweet

KPIs mean Key Performance Indicators. It’s a way for you to measure the performance of any colleague, any employee. It’s a way for you to set goals. Another version of KPI is goals. You would want to set 3 to 6 to 9 to 12-month goals. Annual performance reviews take place in companies. Setting an annual goal is great, but you need to bring it up a little bit more short-term because annual goals are a little bit too lofty, especially for new hires. They don’t know the vision, the mission of the company yet. You need to work closely with them and set up three-month goals, six-month goals and then twelve. What I do is I do a three-month goal check, I do a six-month goal check and then I do an annual goal check. We built it up towards that annual performance review. It’s very important to do that, but that has to happen after training has taken place because without training, goals mean nothing if someone cannot perform their best for the role that you’ve given.

I learned the hard way. I hired a lot of people that were sitting on the wrong seat. That’s something that you learned through trial and error. I’ll say, “Don’t be scared if people are on the wrong seat.” That’s part of me learning and that’s part of the process that I faced. I’ll be honest with you, in the beginning, I was a terrible recruiter. I was identifying all these people for wrong fillings in our company. Through trial and error, through a lot of mistakes, I realized that this is the type of person I’m looking for in this job. I was using experience of candidates as a way to identify them for a position. I needed to use their skill set and knowledge-base and that can translate into many different applications.

Their potential for growth because in a new company, people were not going to come in with that exact experience because it’s very limited out there. It’s an original idea. Being able to identify great people and as you said, put them in the right spots, train them towards the future and then let them flow through the company as they grow. That is the way companies are evolving now.

By no means am I an expert at this so far. I do know that this is the biggest challenge that I face because a lot of the time, work ethic, ability to have a great idea, all of those things seem to bog down entrepreneurs. I’ll tell you one thing, no idea is a bad idea. Good ideas happen because the people you put there help you grow the business.

You start with your best bad idea.

It’s nothing to do with how clever your idea is. It’s everything to do with who are the people you put in place to help you build that idea. Everybody who’s coming in as a first employee into a startup, they know this is a startup. They know that this is the commitment required to be in a startup. If they don’t know that better be part of the interview process that you are telling them. These are some of the tradeoffs and challenges that I faced from a personal standpoint as I’ve grown doing big events.

As you’re looking at other millennials, whether they want to be entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs inside of organizations. Millennials have gotten a bad rap and not deserve everything you’re talking about, there’s no slacker, there’s no any of that in there. What do you think about the myths and the misconceptions that you see?

There’s a big misconception that Millennials turnover jobs very quickly. Millennials tend to have a 9:00 to 3:00 attitude. They don’t want to work after 3:00 PM. They tend to want big salaries and do little work. There are a lot of misconceptions around that. The biggest misconception there would be that they’re not committed. The commitment doesn’t always have to be in sitting there on the desk for fifteen hours a day. That is a very traditional way of thinking. That was there in the investment banking world and the consulting world, in the world that if I’m going to hire a young, out of college person, his whole demeanor and attitude towards this company needs to be sitting on the desk and slaving away. The world is changing because with technology, a lot of people now can work remotely, that’s one. The other people that are not working remotely and come into the office have a lot more capability to multitask, which is something that previously technology did not allow us to do. The other thing is a lot of these people who are coming out of college that are Millennials, their experience is a lot more and they’ve experienced a lot more of the world at a younger age than maybe some twenty years ago.

It’s accessible. It’s in front of us all the time.

Access to information doesn’t mean that someone is working less hard. That’s something that I want to tell people and the audience on your show is that it’s important for any recruiter or anyone who’s hiring people or hiring Millennials. Look at a Millennial that you’re hiring for their skill set and for the way in which they can communicate and what their growth trajectory is going to be. If you have someone you want to hire but it’s going to be a remote hire, make sure that you have the system set up to manage the remote hire. If you don’t have that system set up, you will find 9:00 to 3:00 to be slacking. You will find all of that to be not. If you have the system set up, the KPIs set up, the training set up, none of that matters. What matters is delivery. Delivery has to come in a structured matter that I’m very clear about.

Access to information doesn't mean that someone is working less hard. Click To Tweet

It depends on the leader to set those metrics and to over-communicate. One part of it that Millennials expect and deservedly is they want to be tied to the outcome and not necessarily financially, although in some cases that’s right. They want to know what their contribution is. Who would begrudged someone of that? You don’t want to feel like you’re some widget in the process. You want to know. To me, wouldn’t everyone want to do that? Not every leader takes the time to engage and involve them at that level where they truly, no matter what their experience and level is, that they feel tied to the outcomes.

Many years ago, the employee was role-focused. Now, the Millennial employee is vision-focused. They want to be part of the growth story. They want to be part of the responsibility you give them that aids the growth story. Managers, leaders now including myself, we need to focus on are we bringing this colleague in and do they feel that intensity, that motivation, that commitment to the vision? Do they feel pride in the work they’re doing? Are their financial packages aligned with the vision of the company or the growth of the company? If all those things aligned, then you have great performing Millennial employees. As you rightly said, if someone gets recognition after having taken that responsibility, that’s what I care about. I’m also a Millennial and I know I care about that because I know I love the feeling when a parent tells me that was a great first golf camp. That makes me happiest and whatever price they paid and however much discount they gave, it doesn’t matter that point because what the outcome they received was my moment of pride.

That’s a great line, “My moment of pride.” What’s your moment of pride? It’s on the leader to make sure that their employees feel that same way. You need to inspire and some of that is that’s another thing that Millennials get hit with. They need to be cuddled. They need to be overly praised. I don’t think that’s the case. People want to know when they’re doing a good job. They want to know how they can be doing a better job. It is that ongoing feedback and that’s the fine art of leadership of knowing when are you crushing someone’s soul and spirit, and when are you giving them feedback to help them grow? That’s the art and science of leadership being able to find that delicate balance.

The coddling aspect is because leaders tend to have less training. They give less training and sometimes there’s a misfit on their position that they’ve hired that person. You have to coddle because that person isn’t taking initiative or isn’t taking their own pride in the work that they’re doing. Coddling is a direct reflection on the leader and not necessarily on the Millennials if you want to call them that.

There’s a big difference between coaching and coddling. It’s finding that line. That’s been so overblown. I keep thinking there’s got to be another word for Millennials because it’s almost become a bad word and it’s so unfair.

The Millennial term is quite overused. It’s used in a way, “That person is a Millennial. It means that person is not hardworking, that person is not doing X, Y, Z things.” One thing I will say though about the coddling is that it’s okay to tell someone that they’re not doing something right or they need to change their approach. Giving feedback is also a very important aspect of the training we provide our managers. The way in which you give feedback is very important. One of the biggest CEOs in Singapore in banking told me that giving feedback is like a feedback sandwich. You always tell them something good they’re doing, then you give them the piece of improvement advice and then you followed it up by something good they’re doing. The meat is the thing that they need to work on and the burger buns are the great things that they’re already doing. I’ve started to use the feedback sandwich and I tell you, it helps employees because they leave the meetings with you feeling good about the fact that they need to work on stuff.

As long as you are very clear on the burger part because if you sugar coat it, people don’t hear the constructive part of it. When you’re very clear about what can change, I also find that timely feedback is critical. I’ll coach people who will sit on something. In one case it was two years, they were upset with an employee and it had gone on forever. I thought, “How could you not have told this person by then?” If the relationships were so sourdough, it wasn’t salvageable and had it been dealt with at the time, it would have blown over and been fine.

Feedback is so important and the time of it is so important. Most entrepreneurs, they tend to wait a long time to give feedback and so they don’t scare off their employee. You have to come in during training. You have to tell the employee transparently, “You’re going to receive feedback. It does not mean that the feedback is going to jeopardize your career at our company. The negative feedback does not mean your career is over here.” If you as an employee cannot take negative feedback, you’re not the right fit for this company because constructive feedback is the most important thing for personal development. If somebody cannot notice that they have some blind spots like I’m telling you now, my blind spots. That is a very vulnerable thing to accept. If somebody cannot notice that, accept it and do something about it. They are not somebody who’s in line with your company’s vision.

To be able to share it with others so they can help you shore up your deficits. I heard a great description of this from the then CEO of Campbell Soup and he said the way he looked at it was tough on standards and tender toward people. I thought that was a beautiful way to sum it up. Standards are high, but these are people that you’re working with and you treat them humanely and kindly. I always think of it as candor and kindness.

At the end of the day, these are valuable people for your company. You want to make sure that they had the best experience possible. They’re also sales agents for your company if they decide to leave. When they are in your company, they’re definitely advocating your brand, partially because they’re obligated to. The other reason because they believe in the vision. Once they leave the company, and even if someone is fired from your company, the way the firing takes place, if they stood as sales agent for your company in the future, you have a winning employee. My biggest moment of happiness from a hiring perspective was when a disgruntled employee left after one-and-a-half years with my company and six months later, she came back. For me, it meant that I have the ability to maintain good relationships with current and former employees. That person came back because she realized that this is a better place for her to work at than where she was going to. That was a big moment for me as well.

You navigated that difficult situation well whether she did or not, but clearly that would have been difficult on both sides, but did it so that she felt like the opportunity arises. Sometimes people don’t know how good they have it. I used to joke in my entertainment days that I didn’t want to hire people out of school because I was a good corporate leader. I felt like go get beat up for a year or two and come in and you’ll see what it’s like to have that communication, leadership and vision, all of that. Clearly, that’s what you’re doing.

What I’m saying to you now is going to resonate with a lot of other entrepreneurs who are younger. These are some of the common challenges Millennials face, Millennial entrepreneurs, which is people you’re hiring are the same age as you, if not older. How do you convince them believe in you, to think of you as someone who’s capable, as someone who is willing to give it their all to help that person make a livelihood and somebody else grow from a personal development standpoint? Another moment that makes me proud is that 42 people have a livelihood because of me. In this company, we have thirteen. In the previous company, we have 29. Forty-two people are making a livelihood because of me. You see other companies and other CEOs and you go, “My friend works at Credit Suisse or my friend works at Goldman Sachs. The CEO is paying their salaries.” That’s me, finally. That’s exciting.

You’ve got people’s livelihoods in your hands. It’s a real stewardship of their careers, their lives, their relationships and their finances, all of those things. Let me ask you one final question, the radical idea. If you could say, “I want to change the world in some way,” what is your radical idea for change and transformation?

When I started out on this mission to be, I was focused on helping the best athletes in the world. In Asia, a lot of the best athletes are from villages or from provincial towns. They’re from areas of where they don’t have the means. One of my biggest radical ideas is to allocate some of our events where the participants are identified from villages, from smaller towns in Southeast Asia, places where they have no exposure and no ability to get to US colleges. Places where they have no ability to have multisport experiences. Using our referral program or our ambassador program that we mentioned earlier, we can reach those kids. Even the people who are referring us those kids feel it’s a very noble cause because we are reaching a kid that their dad is a milkman or their dad is a servant to a family in the Philippines or is cleaning toilets, whatever it is. That’s their poverty-stricken cycle.

If I can use sport to get them out of that, give them a tool for education, then we are making a radical change. One thing is to be commercially profitable, to have a great campus business, but the other is to help the best athletes. There is a correlation between limited affluence and athletic ability in Southeast Asia. We are trying to promote the grass-root athletes to become the next wave of college balance student-athletes. If they decide to become professional in the future, that is their own prerogative. My focus is using that tool to get them a great education and get them out of that poverty-stricken cycle.

You can change that. As they pay it forward, that transforms lives. Akshay Maliwal, where do we learn more about you and DreamBig Events?

Please look at our website, DreamBig.events and please follow me on LinkedIn, Akshay Maliwal. If you ever want more information, there’s always Live Instagram, Instagram Stories, @DreamBigEvents.asia. That’s our Instagram handle. Follow me across these platforms. There are so many more updates and there are so many more exciting things from Dream Big Events. The goal for us is to connect one million student-athletes to different camp experiences in the next twenty years. Let’s make that a reality. Dream big.

You’re well on your way. Thank you so much for being here. It was inspiring. 

Thank you. Namaste.

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About Akshay Maliwal

TRC 2 | Student-Athletes In AsiaAkshay Maliwal is the Founder and CEO of Dream Big Events, a sports events company initially dedicated to creating tournament and exposure opportunities for junior athletes across Asia. But after seeing that young athletes and their families were interested in opportunities to play college sports in the US, Akshay created a touring program to introduce golfers, swimmers, tennis players, and more, to US campuses that would be the best fit for their sport. Now, with more than 500 college-bound student athletes, Akshay is on his way to building what he hopes will become the world’s leading sports management firm.