In India, you know you’ve become a Brand when you are a part of daily office lunch chit-chat. What is India talking about nowadays? Game of Thrones, Avengers, IPL and with IPL, we have a new brand…Dream11.
You know you’ve arrived when you penetrate the population. And when there are stats to prove The Dream11 team claims that the platform has over 45 million users. In an ‘Android country’ like India, for an app to reach this count despite its absence on the Google Play Store is incredible.
Dream11, the brainchild of fantasy gamers, football fans and childhood buddies Harsh Jain (33, chief executive officer and co-founder) and Bhavit Sheth (33, chief operating officer and co-founder), was launched a decade back and is headquartered in Mumbai. Both Jain and Sheth have a background in engineering and business administration. Jain was a marketing manager at a manufacturing company; Sheth was a financial research intern at an IT company, before founding Dream11.
Today, 11 years later, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has declared Dream11 as the official partner for fantasy games during the upcoming season of the IPL.
This collaboration between India’s biggest cricketing event, IPL, and India’s biggest sports game will provide a platform for millions of fans to create their own fantasy cricket teams thereby deepening their engagement with their favorite sport. There will also be several Dream11 brand integrations and on-ground activations at various touchpoints during the VIVO IPL matches.
They say success is moving from one failure to others without losing enthusiasm. There were many hard failures before they found success. Incorporated in 2008 and launched a year later, Dream11 was, in its early days, an ad-based platform, that included facets like a social cricket community, chat options, discussion forums/blogs and free-to-play, season-long fantasy gaming.
However, the ad-based, free-to-play, season-long game format soon ran into a hurdle as the seasons stretched on for too long. Around 2010-11, the team realized the format wasn’t working. The platform was then re-launched in 2012 as ‘freemium fantasy sports for single matches’.
Current Business Model
The platform then moved from an advertising model to a pay model, which means, the new Dream11 would earn directly from the users. Today, about 85 percent of the platform’s total user base plays for free and the average investment made by paying players in ’25. While the bets go as low as ’11 (small bets help retain users), they also soar as high as several thousands of rupees. The combined prize pot of all winnings can amount to over a crore. However, the values vary from match to match and sport to sport.
The Game of Scale
The next challenge was – how to scale? And for that, the brand needed real money. Though they had already broken even, the founder duo spent the next three years pitching to venture capitalists; after 150 pitches, they finally found their first investor and went on to raise funds in three rounds, over the years. Their user base grew from three lakh in 2014 to 17 million in 2017. According to data with the Registrar of Companies, the company hit revenue of ’61 crore from operations in 2016-17, the last year for which figures are available. Currently, they have more than 52 Million Users on their Website.
Harsh Jain – Founder & CEO
Legality of Fantasy Gaming in India
Dream11 has 52 million users who compete on the site. The users assemble players from different teams to create a virtual line-up of their own, alongside an actual match. Based on the performance of their chosen players on the field, the virtual gamers are ranked on the virtual leaderboards but there were always questions regarding its legality in India.
“After consulting with many lawyers and one-and-a-half years of research, we knew that since this was a game of skill, there were no legal issues,” said Sheth.
The Punjab and Haryana high court declared the Dream11 format of fantasy sports as legal and one that requires considerable skill and judgment. This judgment was further ratified by the Supreme Court.
The Rise and Domination of Fantasy Gaming… and Dream11
The Indian fantasy gaming industry is projected to be a ₹118.8 billion market by 2023. While cricket holds the majority of the market share, other games too are picking up. At Dream11, which has more than 5 Crore users on their platform, 85% of their users play fantasy cricket while other sports like Kabaddi, basketball, and hockey are picking up.
After partnering with the International Council of Cricket (ICC), Dream11 also signed up with Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), Indian Super League (ISL) for football, Federation Internationale de Hockey (FIH) and the Australian Big Bash League (BBL) for cricket. In the case of the NBA, Dream11 is the official fantasy game partner for India only. “League partners understand that Dream11 is not just another sponsor which is out just to put its logo…” The newly appointed CMO of Dream11, Vikrant Mudaliar says, “The more they play on our platform, the more they will watch the game. It’s a symbiotic relationship that drives marketing for our partners as well.”
Over the last few years, the fantasy sports industry has grown exponentially in India. As per the 2018 IFSG-AC Nielsen report, India has approximately 800 million sports fans, of which 300 million sports fans consume cricket online. According to the 2019 IFSG – KPMG report, fantasy cricket is the most widely played (71% respondents) online fantasy sports game and the primary motivation (72% respondents) for playing fantasy sports is fun and excitement.