IPL sponsor Dream11 purely an Indian company, only for Indian users: Harsh Jain
Mumbai: Harsh Jain reiterated that new Indian Premier League (IPL) title sponsor Dream11’s DNA is fully Indian and said attaching its name to the country’s richest sports tournament is an opportunity to greatly expand the user base. The fantasy gaming platform’s ₹222 crore winning bid has earned it the spotlight but the choice has also angered some because it has Chinese investors.
“We focus only on India — our employees, founders and users are only from India,” said Jain, CEO of Dream Sports, which runs Dream11, title sponsor of the 13th edition of the IPL, which starts on September 19 in the UAE.
Chinese smartphone maker Vivo had exited as title sponsor for IPL 2020 because of public anger over hostilities at the Sino-India border.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had complained about China’s biggest gaming and social media company Tencent Holdings having a minority investment in Dream11.
Tencent had led Dream11’s series D funding round of $100 million, along with other investors including Kalaari Capital and private equity firm Multiples Alternate Asset Management in September 2018.
“We don’t disclose our capitalisation table and prefer not to talk about it. We’ve submitted our papers to the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India),” Jain told ET. “Also, one has to understand that if you are leading the round, it doesn’t mean you have done the whole round. We submitted to BCCI, because it was a requirement. Everyone else can speculate.” BCCI runs the tournament.
IPL 2020 will break records and Dream11, as the first sports brand to become title sponsor, will benefit, Jain said.
‘Eyeing 250m Users in 2 Years’
DLF, Pepsi and Vivo have been title sponsors previously.
“We’ve always had this one goal — to be synonymous with sports. When you think of cricket, football, kabaddi, basketball, hockey, we want you to think of Dream11. We want to be the bridge between the consumer and the sport. And what better property than IPL for that,” Jain said. “I’m very excited by the prospect of Dream11 IPL helping us be more synonymous with sports and especially at a time where people are dying to watch IPL. The numbers are going to be fantastic.”
The company will have to work hard to achieve returns on the ₹222 crore it has bid.
“It’s a good value, otherwise we wouldn’t have put a bid for it,” Jain said. “We now have to make sure that the plethora of users that will now get to know about something called Dream 11, when they come to our website, they understand and convert to creating a team on our platform.”
According to market estimates, India has about 100 million fantasy sports players, out of which 82 million use Dream11. Jain said only a small percentage of them play for money.
“Almost 80% of our users have never played for money — the whole point is user engagement. But when we launched in 2008, there was no market. Today we have 82 million and I see the overall potential to be around 250 million in the next two years,” said Jain.
Boom in Four Years
The fantasy sports space has seen a major boom in the past four years with more than 200 companies now compared with 30-35 in 2016.
“If you take 50 employees per company, it’s an ecosystem of over 10,000 people, in a category that did not exist before we stepped in,” Jain said.
Jain cofounded Dream11 with COO Bhavit Sheth in 2008 in Mumbai. It offers fantasy gaming in eight sports — cricket, football, kabaddi, basketball, hockey, volleyball, baseball and handball with more than 5,000 matches per year.
Sports marketing experts see good value for Dream11 with IPL. “The IPL title sponsorship gives Dream11 ownership of IPL as it shuts out the competition and (gives) legitimacy to their association with cricket,” said Tuhin Mishra, MD, Baseline Ventures. “They are also market leaders and, as the fantasy gaming category is growing by leaps and bounds, it gives them great opportunity.”