January 31st, 2010

Business Profile: Dream11

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Company: Dream11 Gaming Pvt. Ltd.
Launch date: Spring 2009

Football is fantasy king here in the states, but it’s popularity doesn’t touch the level of some global spectator sports — including cricket. Despite a “religious” following, however, the fantasy market for this international phenomenon remains largely untapped. Yashraj Vakil of Dream11 took some time before jetting to the recent Fantasy Sports Trade Association conference in Las Vegas to tell FSB.com about how his young company is tapping in.

1. First of all, cricket might seem like somewhat of an oddity to many Americans. Can you describe for that section of the audience the scope of cricket’s popularity globally, as well as in the Far East?

Cricket is the second most popular spectator sport globally after soccer. Cricket is primarily played in eight countries, which include: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, England, Australia, New Zealand, West Indies, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Besides these, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has 104 associate and affiliate members where it is recognized that cricket is firmly established and organized or simply played as per the laws. More prominent among these associate and affiliate members are Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands, Scotland and Afghanistan. USA is an associate member of the ICC with an estimated 15 million followers, 950 cricket clubs and 48 leagues. Cricket will also be a medal sport in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games (China). This is expected to go a long way in developing cricket as a sport in China. Global television rights for major cricket tournaments get sold for billions of dollars. Sachin Tendulkar, arguably India’s best-ever cricket player, earns about $30 a minute. Compare to that India’s richest businessman, Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries, who earns $10 a minute and Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan who earns $8 a minute. Ordinary people like the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, earn 1 cent a minute. The annual advertising market for cricket in India alone could be close to a billion dollars with over $178 million expected to be realized between September 2009 and February 2010.

2. How prevalent are fantasy sports in your area?

Sports in India and the Indian sub-continent is primarily restricted to cricket. There is also following for Soccer (English Premier League) and Formula 1 in the major cities of India. However, cricket is followed like a religion. The ticketing industry for cricket matches in India is worth over a billion dollars with average ticket prices ranging between $5-7. When you put this number with the total Internet population in India, which currently stands at over 60m, you have a business potential that cannot be ignored. India is also expected to have the third largest Internet user base in the world by 2013, with China and USA at number 1 and 2, respectively. The best way to tap into this dormant, Internet-savvy and cricket-fanatic population is fantasy sports. However, fantasy sports are not as popular as they could be. The biggest reason behind this remains the lack of a serious player who recognizes the potential and takes on the mantle to establish and grow the market. Dream11.com is here for exactly that. A lot of user surveys and behavioral research has gone into what we are doing, and our core focus remains to tap into the potential of fantasy cricket worldwide.

3. How were you and other leaders of Dream 11 introduced to fantasy?

I have spent over 7 years in the games industry (games, not gambling) and have had exposure to fantasy sports at multiple levels through my career. For other leaders at Dream11.com, their first exposure to fantasy sports was fantasy soccer, which they still play religiously.

4. How would you sum up the Dream 11 concept for someone first learning about it?

Dream11.com is the world’s first fantasy cricket game with a graphical user interface. It’s free to play and requires the user to optimize a virtual budget of Rs. 100 billion in selecting a team of cricketers who he believes will perform the best in real life cricket matches. Users score points depending on those performs and compete with the cricket community for handsome prizes and recognition as the best fantasy cricket team manager. Unlike other fantasy sports worldwide where players make one team for an entire season (one year), fantasy cricket on Dream11.com allows players to create a new team for every international cricket tournament/series.

5. What led you to believe that your marketplace could support this concept?

Like I mentioned earlier, cricket is followed like a religion in India. Last year television viewership of the Indian Premier League (IPL — Indian club competition with international and local players) reached 123 million. The IPL is the most popular and richest cricket league in the world with an average in-stadia attendance of 57,500 people. The ICC Cricket World Cup is the world’s second largest single sporting event, drawing a cumulative television audience of 5 billion. A final involving India could draw up to 400 million TV viewers (India has 130 million television sets). Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the world’s richest sporting organization, with a valuation in excess of $2 billion. According to a recent report published by Forrester Research, India is expected to have the 3rd largest Internet user base in the world by 2013. All of this has led us to believe that the market for fantasy cricket is available and waiting to get tapped into.

6. How has it been received?

In just 8 months of our launch and having covered just one major tournament, Dream11.com today have over 450,000 registered users, over 8 million page views a month. The average time spent on our portal is close to 20 minutes. Dream11.com is today the No. 1 fantasy cricket game in the world.

7. How does Dream 11 make money?

Our revenue model revolves around four major aspects:

• Advertising — The usual CPM, CPC, CPA/CPL deals
• Tournament Sponsorships — Unlike sports in the U.S. or soccer in Europe, cricket is an international sport. At any given point in time there are two or more countries locked in a tournament/series somewhere in the world. We allow the cricket community to compete on each of those tournaments individually. This means they can make separate teams for each tournament/series, get ranked separately and stand the chance to win prizes separately. One of our revenue models is sponsorship of these tournaments/series.
• Advergames — We have a lot of online flash games on our portal for the user engagement.
• Innovative brand engagement methods with social networking tools available on the portal — Apart from fantasy cricket and online games, Dream11.com has the option for advertisers to engage with consumers through the social networking features available on the portal. This can be done through tools such as sponsored leagues, widgets, poll, messages, etc.

8. What do you see for the future of your company, the future of the fantasy industry in your part of the world and the future of fantasy cricket globally?

The initial response to our product has been overwhelming, but we are still a young company. We simply need to put our head down and keep working towards realizing the global potential of fantasy cricket. We are the market leaders today and have taken on the mantle of growing the fantasy cricket industry in our part of the world. But that’s not where we see ourselves being restricted to. England and Australia are other big markets where we see good potential. Today there is a lot of chatter in the media about professional cricket coming to USA. We see potential here as well.

9. What do you hope to draw from membership in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, and what has it provided to this point?

We hope to be recognized as a serious player in the fantasy sports industry with this membership. The FSTA membership has provided us a global platform to showcase our product and a chance to learn from industry stalwarts. We are grateful to the FSTA and its board of directors for accepting our membership.

10. What does the nomination in the FSTA’s Best New Website category mean, and what might a win do for Dream 11?

The nomination is a huge honor. Dream11.com is the first company outside of USA to be nominated for the awards. A win here [would have been] tribute to the hard work and sleepless nights that the team has put into making Dream11.com a world-class and successful fantasy cricket product.