Raja Ata Ul Karim is one of the most well-known people in the Pakistani gaming community. He is the COO of Salt Esports who has recently qualified for the Valorant Conquerors Championship Main event.
The Pakistani region has been one of the most underrated over the last couple of years. But Riot has given much-needed attention to the region and came up with the Valorant Conquerors Championship, where the teams from Pakistan got a chance to represent their country on an international stage.
Sportskeeda Esports' Rishab Chakladar has reached out to Raja Ata Ul Karim aka Salt Raja and he discussed the team's journey and their upcoming plans moving forward to the next phase. He also enlightened us with his views on foreign investment in the region.
Here is what Salt Raja said:
1) Raja, can you tell our readers about your journey in this esports industry and your current role in Salt Esports?
Raja: I have been a part of multiple esports teams out of Pakistan since 2016, have gathered tons of experience in multiple departments, and I currently act as the Co-Lead at Salt Esports, essentially looking after the entirety of the team, handling the operations, etc.
2) You recently completed a year as part of Salt Esports. Can you tell us a bit about your experience over the last one year as a part of Salt Esports?
Raja: It has definitely been a learning curve. Being part of an esports team is different compared to running one so there have definitely been ups and downs since I joined Salt. Professionalizing the environment has been tougher than I anticipated but I think we’ve come out strong from that end.
3) Salt Esports have qualified for the Valorant Conquerors Championship and got a chance to represent Pakistan on an international stage. How did it feel to the management after the team’s success?
Raja: We were ecstatic. Everyone knew the amount of hard work the boys had put in. The management has been by the team’s side since day one, including the production team who never failed to deliver at any point during our VCC Qualifier coverage and more.
It was fulfilling considering everyone had been working towards this goal for months.
4) From here onwards the competition will be tougher as Salt Esports have to compete with the top teams of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal-Bhutan for the Valorant Conquerors Championship title. If they do win the VCC, they have to face the top teams of South-East Asia to secure a spot in the Valorant Champions Tour 2021? How well is your roster prepared to compete for the VCT slot?
Raja: I think our performance in the Valorant Conquerors Championship should be a definitive answer to how well-prepared the roster is. The boys have shown crazy improvement in a matter of weeks, they did their homework and really dedicated their all to this event and I know for a fact that they haven’t stopped practicing since the win.
We’re strong contenders for that APAC Last Chance Qualifier slot and you can expect the team to give it their best.
5) Pakistani and Afghan teams have one more chance to qualify for the Valorant Conquerors Championship Main Event. One team can also qualify through the Wildcard Qualifier. Which teams have the most chances to qualify for the main event?
Raja: That’s a really interesting question. Over the past few months I think it’s been made pretty clear who the dominant teams in Pakistan are and I personally believe that people should keep an eye out for Team Exploit, Team Arrow and MAXD Esports, but that doesn’t mean some new team couldn’t pop out and win the qualifiers.
6) The South Asian region has been neglected for quite a while. Finally, Riot has given much-needed attention to the teams. Do you think it will help to grow PC esports in the region?
Raja: I think this is what the region really needed, a chance to prove to the mainstream esports world that South Asia can give tough competition as well. So yes, this will help the region big-time. However, this is just the beginning of something that could potentially uplift the South Asian scene.
7) The esports scene in South Asia is growing rapidly. Teams from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries have made their mark in Mobile esports. Teams are currently grinding every day to showcase similar things in PC esports as well. Where do you see esports in South Asia in the next five years?
Raja: Personally, I am a big advocate of franchised leagues in esports, it helps bring stability to any scene in any region. We’ve seen that happen somewhat with games like PUBGM but I want to see it on a larger scale.
So maybe in the next five years we could potentially see a franchised circuit for Valorant and if we’re talking esports in general, I genuinely do believe many teams in our region have a chance to push for that mainstream esports barrier.
8) Many foreign organizations are currently planning to invest in the South Asian region. Orgs like TSM FTX, Cloud9 and others are trying to enter the market. What is your view on these foreign investments in this region?
Raja: I think that’s what the region really needs, someone to take a bet. The likes of Arslan Ash, Awais Honey, and even SumaiL and ShahZam have shown that Pakistani/South-Asian talent is something that should not be neglected whatsoever and if foreign investment firms or even companies can see the bigger picture then that’s just really good for the scene.
9) Will the fans have any chance to see Salt Esports expanding their wings in other games in the near future?
Raja: I think we’ve got plenty in store as this is just the beginning for us, they should keep an eye out though, we’ve got something planned to release in the next two months.
10) What are the goals or expectations you have from your team in the coming days?
Raja: I think it’s fairly simple, we've come this far and we expect to go further. The goal is simple, win the playoffs and move to the APAC Last Chance Qualifier. It may be easier said than done but I completely trust the players and the staff to give it their best and put in the performance of a lifetime in the Valorant Conquerors Championship.