The Online Gaming Platform Dream11 recently became India’s first gaming ‘unicorn’ after a secondary investment by London and Hong Kong-based Stead view Capital, driving its valuation over $1 billion.
This has a lot to do with the rise of Online Fantasy Sports (OFS) in recent times in the country. Propelled by the innovation in technology and smartphones, the number of OFS platforms has skyrocketed in the last four years alone; from 10 applications in 2016 to 140-plus applications in 2019. The number keeps increasing.
What makes this growth of Dream11 even more special is the fact that the industry made their way in a sector which was literally non-existent in the country. Having said that, Dream11’s fight was bigger, and the company did face multiple hindrances during different stages.
First things first. Dream11 is the brainchild of the then two fresh college graduates Harsh Jain and BhavishSheth. Everything began when Harsh Jain came to India after his graduation, he was surprised to see there were no fantasy sports in India, something similar to premier league football fantasy in the US. With IPL was around the corner, Jain made use of the opportunity. Before Dream11, India’s closest experience to Fantasy Sports was ESPN’s Super Selector which was shelved almost five years before Dream11 became a reality.
While the core aim was to create a fantasy gaming application, the team ended up making a platform with different services, including polls, blogs, feeds. The company then decided to keep the platform free for the users and Ads served as their major revenue service.
This model didn’t take off because of two reasons, one was the less revenue the Ads had generated and the other was Dream11’s model.
In those days, Dream11 prediction had only the tournament-based fantasy game something similar to Premier League Football Fantasy but that model wasn’t a big hit here because of the loss of interest among the people during IPL’s mid-tournament.
The company then began a brand servicing agency to cope up with the loss and the revenue from this company kept Dream11 alive.
Three years later, the company had opted for the current Freemium model and offered both free and paid contests. They also had introduced daily fantasy gaming, for every single match. This had helped them to regain users and their revenue began to improve.
Game of Skill vs Gambling:
After making a name for themselves, their next trouble was to prove that Fantasy Sports is different from Gambling. While they had to appear for different cases, the court had ruled the Fantasy Sports as Game of Skill which is different from Gambling- Game of Chance. Still, it took them years to clear the confusion among the public.
To bring in more users, the company had to spend a huge amount on Ads and branding alone. They came up with the “KheloDimaag Se” (Play with your mind) campaign; brought the then Indian captain MS Dhoni as their brand ambassador. MS Dhoni’s fame came in handy for the company as the number of users began to rise.
Non-availability in Google Play Store:
Since Dream11 had cash-contests, it was against the norms of Google Play Store Applications. Thus, the App was removed at the time when they began to see a profit. It wasn’t an easy task to bring people to the website to make them download their App.
The team, however, counter-attacked the situation by providing the “Refer a Friend” option. Whenever a user referred a friend to download and play Dream11, they awarded the user and their friend with a cash bonus. It did work well for them as users began to grow. Despite their loss, the company had the backing of marquee investors like Tencent (WeChat owner), Kalaari, and Steadview Capital.
As the success of their marketing campaign, the OFS began to grow in India with multiple Applications coming into existence. In fact, most of them had a similar interface to Dream11. As users began to split, Dream11 had to bring in their A-game and they did. They partnered with almost every single major league in the country. Their biggest achievement so far is becoming the title sponsor of India’s biggest sporting event, IPL. Many similar platforms comes nowadays like Parimatch cricket, MyTeam11, and Fan fight also many more.
Despite the growth of Dream11 in recent times, they always will face uncertainty, blame the laws in the country. Unless the Government brings in proper laws for Online Fantasy Sport, this is still an uncertain industry but again, Dream11 had found a way to counter-attack all the obstacles that came by their way so far and one can back them to break this as well.
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