Before starting to write this editorial, I went onto YouTube to check out some ads for Dream11. After watching a few edits of the famous Dhoni advert (“Khelo Dimaag Se”), I allowed YouTube to throw up some more content around the sports gaming platform... and was surprised to find detailed videos and tutorials – a lot of them are in Hindi, by the way – explaining how it works. In the online world, you know something’s big when it’s a verb (Google it, Uber it, WhatsApp it), or when there are videos -and other kinds of ancillary content- that deconstruct the core product. (Or when your office tea boy tells you how it works and offers to lend you some hacks).
So, here’s how Dream11 explains itself on its website: ‘It is a Game of Skill that offers Indian sports fans a platform to showcase their sports knowledge. Fans can create their own team made up of real-life players from upcoming matches, score points based on their on-field performance and compete with other fans.’
Notice how the team keeps reiterating that it’s a game of skill, every chance it gets. Fact is, one bets real money on the ‘real life’ performance of actual sportspersons. The brand has been dealing with the ‘G’ word and has faced its share of flak in this regard. But that’s not what our story is about.
We spoke to Harsh Jain, one of the two co-founders of Dream11, about the early days (he launched it with his childhood buddy Bhavit Sheth), the incredible success of this digital and tech-led product (45 million users) and the path ahead (growing the category). We also spoke to the brand’s marketing head Vikrant Mudaliar about his set of challenges. The biggest one being – once the existing pool of fantasy sports enthusiasts are on the app, how the bugger does one go about converting regular sports ‘watchers’ (“passive” fans) into fantasy players?