Dream11: Revolutionising sports fan experience with technology
Over the past few decades, India has been on the path of producing great startups and unicorns by young entrepreneurs who have dared to dream big. They are thriving on the back of cutting edge technology and resources that India has to offer. According to a recent PwC report, India has the second largest number of unicorns and is only behind the US in building new ones.
Dream Sports is one such example – an outcome of the vision of two entrepreneurial minds – Harsh Jain and Bhavit Seth – who envisioned bringing Indian sports fans closer to their favourite sports, inspiring them to become active participants from passive viewers, with the power of technology. Their efforts led to the creation of a sports tech company that is transforming the experience of more than 140 million Indian sports fans. Dream Sports’ journey began with the launch ofback in 2008. Starting with a simple online fantasy sports format, we pivoted to a freemium format in 2012 and since then, have been the fantasy sports platform of choice for over 120 million users.
Just as sports fans across the country look forward to highly anticipated leagues and tournaments such as the recent IPL and the ongoing T20 World Cup, our team of 600+ Sportans at Dream11 is equally exhilarated to take up the challenge of providing a richer fantasy sports experience to our users! We roll out new and unique features every year to provide a seamless experience, and this year is no different. We conducted various experiments to assess users’ adoption of these new additions and developed a plan based on our learnings for upcoming events.
Over time, we have built live ball-by-ball match commentary, dynamic scorecards as well as detailed statistics on player performance and their fantasy scores. The ‘Groups’ feature now available on the app allows users to form groups with their friends from their contact list, create customized contests and track their group competition for a tournament on a customized leaderboard. To make it easier for users to communicate with their fellow fantasy sports enthusiasts, we have also introduced a one-on-one chat feature that supports static / non-static digital images such as emojis, stickers, and GIFs.
But, that’s not all!
This year, we introduced many ‘firsts’ for our dynamic India fantasy sports fans. We launched ‘Flexible’ private contests which allow users to create contests with any number of users, without the pressure of having to ensure complete participation. While our standard game is the daily fantasy sports format, for the first time ever, Dream11 also powered the Season Long Official Fantasy game for the IPL 2021 and for the ICC T20 World Cup 2021. We integrated this format into the Dream11 app so users could access both the season-long and the daily format within the app.
How we release features:
While launching any new feature on our platforms, we follow a process that helps us deliver a successful and improved version of the feature for our users. This four-step process is called HEAL – Hypothesis, Experiment, Analysis, and Learning. We put down the hypothesis before everything we do. Then, we experiment with A/B or Multivariate testing on different users and cohorts, analyze the findings and share our learnings with everyone. We have found that there is no better way to succeed than to learn from failure. Therefore, we encourage failure to understand and grow in our culture in order to be better.
How we ensure a seamless User Experience during big ticket tournaments:
For major leagues, we set up a war room where depending on the match, about 50-100 Sportans are constantly working on all technology aspects and supporting round the clock to provide the best user experience during the entire period. The war room is led by the tech and product teams at Dream11, who activate it an hour before the match to ensure all services function smoothly. From an online fantasy sports point of view, 30-40 mins prior to the match are the most crucial in the war room as this is the time when team line-ups are announced and the users start making their teams and locking them in.
We have a rolling schedule for Product Managers and Tech Leads who have been trained to take on-the-feet decisions on issues that come up in war rooms. Prior to the pandemic, we had big screens for monitoring critical metrics relevant across teams for the war room. This month, under strict COVID-19 protocols, we are working towards a hybrid model wherein some form of the original war room will be in operation, while some of our colleagues will coordinate over Zoom calls and use breakout rooms to monitor different components of the system.
A peek into our Home Grown Solutions to power tournaments at scale:
We have been using solutions like scaffolding, mobile app automation, Torque, Fence, Funnel analytics, etc. for IPL seasons. This time we have migrated the test automation infrastructure to a cloud testing platform for reduced flakiness and maintenance, alongside continuously automating the newer features and scenarios. Our in-house solutions help us overcome the challenges and create the best possible user experience. Some of these solutions include:
Enabling our 120+ million users to have the best experience possible on Dream11 every day becomes challenging. In this journey, our hero has been DataAware — a Funnel Analytics tool that we use to recognize and know user behavior trends. Building our own in-house funnel analytics tool has proved to be a resounding success and has helped us bridge the gaps that were previously missing in our pre-existing analytics tool.
Dream11 has a specialized system in place so that the users participating in every contest win in a fair, square, and transparent manner. FENCE (Fairplay Ensuring Network Chain Entity) is Dream11’s in-house Fair Play Violation detection system. It is powered by a graph database that processes and maintains all models and heuristics so that Fair Play Violations are detected timely and efficiently.
Dream11 app operates on all devices – Android and iOS. The process is detailed and meticulous, however, we have the perfect solution for it. Any new feature development requires regression around the core flows every time, which results in longer release cycles as well. Our Mobile App Automation Framework helps us in increasing efficiency and reducing execution time, helping the teams in performing feature regression and release regression.
During Dream11 IPL 2020, we served an enormous amount of traffic. With more than 5.5 million concurrent users enjoying the fantasy sports experience, some of the services got more than 80 million requests per minute. The ultimate challenge in such cases is to provide our users with a seamless experience even at a huge scale. We automated this entire process and named the framework – Torque. For IPL 2021, we are updating Torque to include new changes or services. We have introduced a new tool, to mock those dependencies which do not affect our transactions directly and helps us in simplifying the complex setups that we need for our tests.
Last but not least, Concurrency Prediction:
From a back-end perspective, we expect some challenges in terms of variation in traffic and engagement on Dream11 – usually before the match start time. To ensure the application runs smoothly at critical times when user traffic is high, we came up with a scalable and customisable solution. Our data science team at Dream11 developed a model for predicting user concurrency using XGboost mode. To help us predict the provisioning requirements for the future, this model iterates multiple features to predict the concurrency for a particular match, making it possible to predict organic and inorganic growth patterns of infrastructure and users.
As fans are enjoying the exciting season of sports, we at Dream11 are working to give our users the best possible fantasy sports experience with the power of Analytics, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning. Our talented Sportans are ready to learn more, experiment more and innovate more everyday, so stay tuned for more exciting offerings in fantasy sports coming soon!