How Dream11’s Online Fantasy Sports Platform Weathered the Suspension of the IPL. Dream11 is an online platform for fantasy betting — a category of apps that has seen some controversy in recent times with critics calling it nothing but gambling, while proponents defend it as being skill-based instead. The fantasy betting app market is banned on Google Play and multiple states in India also ban paid contests on Dream11.
However, the Supreme Court of India ruled that fantasy betting is not gambling but recognises it as a ‘Game Of Skill’. With over 110 million users in the country, India is one of the top countries for usage of Dream11 and its popularity has contributed to positive stories in mainstream media, social media hence contributing to better brand traction and success.
With an abundance of fantasy sports platforms on the market, Dream11 has set itself apart by tailoring its play to the culture in India. The company attributes this growth to the rapid rise in connectivity (thanks to widespread Internet penetration) and steady growth in smartphone adoption, which has resulted in a growing user base of both young players as well as more experienced veterans.
The Internet has made the world much more accessible and the age of the internet made everything faster. The online fantasy sports industry used to be just a small niche, but now it is a billion dollar industry involving millions of people worldwide.
India’s online fantasy players are becoming more aware of its advantages over traditional sportings and many of them are becoming increasingly interested in participating in leagues for various games such as cricket, football and basketball.
1. Tell us about your career before Dream11
I completed my B.Tech in Electronic and Electrical Engineering at DJ Sanghavi College of Engineering, Mumbai in 2007 and co-founded Dream11 along with Harsh Agrawal in 2008. In the following four years, we tried to figure out different ways that Indian sports fans connect with the game by dabbling in various online fantasy sports formats – all of which ultimately came together to form our current business of providing daily games for Indian consumers and gamblers.
2. What inspired you to build Dream11?
Dream11 was born out of a long-time interest in cricket. However, the seed for it was sown after Harsh and I had children who at 10 and 7 were already following cricket avidly. Soon after the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament kicked off in 2007, we started looking for fantasy sports platforms hosting IPL games, but there weren’t any out there. We felt that with so many people crazy about cricket in India, what better way to engage them than through an online fantasy game that could take their fandom to the next level! That’s when we decided to create our own platform and thus Dream11 came into being.
3. How were the first few years of business at Dream11, and what were some initial struggles you faced?
Fantasy sports have been played around the world for over a half-century, but it was a relatively unknown avenue for Indian sports fans. In 2008 we expanded fantasy sports to India, which meant that we had to educate people about the available options and get them familiar with the concept anytime we wanted to get new hires and investors from this market.
Although high-speed Internet was not yet readily accessible in India at the time, this presented us with an opportunity: being one of the first companies in this space meant that consumers would be more interested in us because they weren’t already bombarded with advertisements on similar products/services.
4. When did you begin seeing considerable progress in the business, and why?
With the advent of the internet, along with its accessibility and vast amounts of information available at our fingertips as well as smart phones, coupled with college degrees and a knack for business, Dream11 witnessed tremendous growth by 2015.
We reached three lakh users and received seed investment from Kalaari Capital & Think Investments. Since then each year since then we consistently started gaining more traction, achieving new milestones. We slowly started partnering with sports leagues all across India as well as internationally to generate more awareness.
We also launched fantasy sports for other popular sports like football and kabaddi to attract even more fans who wanted to play but didn’t have the means to do so because previously only cricket was available on our platform.
In 2017, we brought on cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni as our brand ambassador and got recognition from the Punjab and Haryana High Court as a game of skill. Currently, we host fantasy sports for 11 sports and will be title sponsors for the 2020 IPL season.
5. How did you come up with the name ‘Dream11′?
In sports, Dream11 is used to refer to a team of 11 players. Since the platform was meant to provide sports fans with an opportunity to create their dream team for their favourite sports such as cricket, hockey, football and more, the name Dream11 seemed apt.