Fantasy cricket gaming apps roll out slew of offers as IPL kicks off

India's largest fantasy gaming company in terms of users—Dream 11—has, in fact, become the title sponsor of the sporting blitzkrieg
Six months ago, Indian fantasy gaming start-ups were pivoting to lesser-known sports leagues in basketball in faraway lands such as Taiwan and Belarus, as popular events were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This had even led to a lot of companies delaying their funding rounds. 

It has been, however, a reverse swing of sorts for the space at least for now. Fantasy cricket apps dole out new offers, features in their gameplay and bump up marketing spends ahead of the Indian Premier League that kicks off on Saturday. 

India's largest fantasy gaming company in terms of users—Dream 11—has, in fact, become the title sponsor of the sporting blitzkrieg for this year's edition as it replaced mobile handset maker Vivo after the India-China standoff. The company targets to get 30-40 million new users on its platform by the end of the year.

Sequoia-backed MPL has introduced a unique season ticket concept priced at Rs 99 where holders can enter multiple mega contests on the platform for free throughout the season. The start-up, which is also the kit sponsors for KKR and RCB teams, plans to hit 80 million users from the current 60 million by the end of the event. 

"IPL is the biggest even in terms of user engagement within the fantasy sports category with over 30-40 per cent of the year's overall metrics coming from the two months of cricket," said Sudhanshu Gupta, chief operating officer, Paytm First Games. "Being India's homegrown gaming platform, we aim to bring the excitement of fantasy sports during IPL to gaming enthusiasts across the country."

Paytm First Games expects to cross 100 million user mark during the event from current 80 million while it has roped in veteran cricketer Sachin Tendulkar for the event. It has also earmarked Rs 300 crore in promotion and investment for its fantasy sports this financial year, of which a lion's share goes into IPL. The company introduced Guru feature where experts give insights and tips for users before they select their squad. 

On Friday afternoon, however, Paytm First Games app was removed from the Google Play Store for alleged violation of gambling policies while the download link for installation was available on its website and the app was still working.

"While online gaming saw a significant user engagement in areas of casual and online betting games during the lockdown, fantasy sports as a sub-genre depends on live sporting events that had come to a grinding halt," Ankur Pahwa, partner and national leader (E-Commerce and Consumer Internet), EY India. "The resumption of live-events, especially the upcoming IPL season which has a huge following, will help not only boost onboarding of new users but also bring back latent users onto the platform."

The 60-day sporting event is seen similar to Diwali for retailers as there is a lot of expectations as Indian players are back in action for the first time since the pandemic and movie theatres still remain closed.

Not only start-ups backed by private equity firms, but also their smaller rivals such as Harsha Bhogle-backed Fantasy Akhadha and bootstrapped venture MyTeam11 too were betting heavily on the event to onboard new users.

For instance, Fantasy Akhada's signups went up 17 times in the last few weeks ahead of the event compared to pre-Covid times but its overall monthly spends have also jumped 12 times due to aggressive promotions, according to its Founder Amit Purohit. 

According to Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports-KPMG 2020 report released in July, gross revenue of online fantasy sports companies in the financial year ending 2020 was Rs 2,400 crore compared to Rs 920 crore in FY19. IPL constitutes 35-40 per cent of industry revenue, it added.

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