Dream11, the most popular fantasy sports platform in India, is now gunning for 100 million users. The startup signed a deal with IPL as its official gaming partner ahead of this year’s season and claims to have a user base of around 65 million. With Esports gaining popularity and cricket season becoming an unending affair, the fantasy platform aims to have 100 million users by March 2020. Despite fantasy sports being seen as gambling and hence not allowed in some states, the company co-founded by Bhavit Sheth and Harsh Jain see promising future.
Dream11’s success during IPL 2019 has helped the platform become the official fantasy game partner for T20 Mumbai as well. The company announced a four-year partnership with Mumbai Cricket Association’s (MCA) T20 Mumbai this week. Now, in an interview with Outlook Magazine, the co-founders of the fantasy sports platform explain how the service was designed and how it aims to steer it clear from the gambling/sports betting narrative. Bhavit Sheth says that EPL was the trigger for developing Dream11 and when IPL came around, they wanted to play fantasy cricket as well.
Sheth says that since there was no existing platform for fantasy cricket in the country at that time, he decided to build one with Harsh Jain. The Dream11 app works by selecting a total of 11 players from a pool of 30-odd players, who you think would perform the best. Each players is provided with certain credits and Dream11 players are allowed to select a team within 100 credits only. It offers two types of contests – the first is a free-to-play game while the second one is dubbed as pay-to-play.
In the pay-to-play context, Dream11 contestant has to pay Rs 44 to play and the total prize pool is set at Rs 10 crore. Sheth told the magazine that around 34 lakh people join the contest and the winner gets Rs 30 lakh, while the rest gets distributed accordingly. “In larger contests, the winner takes all, but we try to distribute it among at least 50 per cent of the contestants. Currently, 85 percent users opt for free-to-play,” Bhavit Sheth told the publication.
The founders say that it is a team of 220 people working out of a single office in Mumbai but does not share financial figures. According to Crunchbase, Dream11 is a late stage venture startup, which raised $100 million during Series D in September last year. Its latest funding was raised on April 9, 2019 from a secondary market round and its total direct funding stands at $100 million. However, it does see enormous opportunity in a cricket-crazy nation like ours.
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Harsh Jain adds that there are 850 million cricket fans in the country and more than 400 million of them follow the game online. With 65 million registered users, it sees having reached only a tiny portion and aims to grow to 100 million by end of current financial year. The founders also note that people usually lose only Rs 44 but it is not betting or gambling and call their product a legal business model.
“This is not betting or gambling, but a game of skill. In 2017, when a lawyer filed a case against Dream11, saying it should be shut down, the Punjab and Haryana HC ruled that it’s not betting and gambling, but a game of skill and a business protected under the Constitution of India. Then the lawyer appealed to the SC, but the petition was dismissed,” Bhavit Sheth said.