Living your fantasies

Updated: Aug 21, 2019, 09:20 IST | Shunashir Sen

The star of fantasy gaming platforms is on the rise in India, and with sporting leagues starting a new season, here are five home-grown options to choose from

Living your fantasies
Illustration/Uday Mohite

There was recently a bit of a kerfuffle about who the Indian cricket team's next coach is going to be. Names like Tom Moody's and Mike Hesson's were floating around. But Ravi Shastri was ultimately retained for another term. The selectors had made their decision. And yet, that didn't stop everyone and their uncles from having an opinion on the matter, because really, what's the fun in being a sports fan if you can't put in your tuppence on the subject? Everybody, in that sense, is a closet MSK Prasad, the Indian team's chief selector. And that's one of the main reasons propelling the growth of fantasy sports gaming platforms (FSGPs) in the country.

There are other factors also, of course. Gaurav Assomull, co-founder of LivePools, one of the more recent entrants in this emerging market — where sites invite users to create their own virtual teams and win cash prizes — tells us that the recent spurt in online transactions in India encouraged him to take the plunge. There was also the fact that the country is one of the cheapest in the world when it comes to data and mobile Internet services. Then there's the rise in fortunes of tournaments like the IPL, ISL and Pro-Kabaddi League. Assomull says, "When you ultimately have properties like these pumping money into a sport, awareness about it builds. Your viewership goes up. But how do you make a sport even more interesting? One way is to develop a game version behind it where people can compete with friends and use their skills to make the right predictions. So, it's effectively all intertwined. The growth in infrastructure around technology, awareness, funding for different properties, and increased viewership have all propelled the [FSGP] industry."

Guide
Gaurav Assamoull

That might explain why the number of users registered on his site has increased to 12 lakh, with the target being to hit 50 lakh by the middle of next year. There's no doubt that the start of a new season of various national and international sporting leagues have helped these numbers. But Pratik Datta, who heads marketing at a city-based travel company, adds another reason — a clandestine love that the Indian population has for betting, which is banned in the country (fantasy leagues are exempted since they involve a certain level of skill instead of it all being left to fate). Datta, who first started playing fantasy leagues while working in the UK, tells us, "The model in the two countries is quite similar. But the difference lies in the actual sport. Here [with something like cricket], it's just for a tournament. But there [with the English Premier League, for instance], it's for a whole season."

Guide
Pratik Datta

He adds that as a sports fan, playing fantasy leagues has increased his involvement with particular games. "I would never follow the Afghan cricket team. I had honestly stopped watching the game. But this made me view it again, just because you'd like to see how certain players are performing. There are many little things like that, which you need to be aware of," he says, elucidating how winning the league also gives you bragging rights over your friends, since you can say things like, "See, I chose Shastri because I knew he'd retain his position." And if that sounds like your cup of tea, check out these five Indian FSGPs that you, too, can take a shot at.

First to the post

Guide
The undisputed market leader in the FSGP space, Dream11's valuation increased to $1 bn earlier this year. Datta says that this is the only Indian platform he's tried out so far. The margin of winnings you can make on the site is also significantly bigger that what its competitors offer.

Log on to dream11.com

It's 50-50

Guide
FanMojo has a wealth of leagues you can choose from, spanning cricket, football and kabaddi. The site claims that users have a 50 per cent chance of winning money on it, since a comparatively lower number of users compared to other platforms means increased chances of victory.

Log on to fanmojo.in

Passion play

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Four BITS Pilani alumni members are the brains behind HalaPlay. Swapnil Saurav, Ananya Singhal, Prateek Anand and Aman Kesari would all play fantasy sports while in college, before deciding to monetise their passion, to the extent that they raised an extra '40 crore in funding earlier this year.

Log on to halaplay.com

Starting to thrive

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Though launched in 2017, it was only this year that MyTeam11 started making the right noises. This was especially after it sponsored the recent India-West Indies T20 series, which helped make its branding more visible, though apart from cricket, football and kabaddi, the site covers volleyball as well.

Log on to myteam11.com

On the front foot

Guide
The only site on this list that's dedicated to cricket, BalleBaazi lives up to its name. Started in 2018, founder Saurabh Chopra hopes to ride on the back of the country's biggest sport to increase his verticals and user base, which already stands at over 1 million at present.

Log on to ballebaazi.com

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