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This Fantasy Gaming Start-Up Aims To Have 10 Mln Registered Users By End of IPL 2020 New Delhi-based BalleBaazi, which raised $4 million in funding earlier this year and has Yuvraj Singh as its brand ambassador, wants to become the one-stop shop for everything sports in India.

By Debroop Roy

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BalleBaazi Co-Founder Saurabh Chopra

When Kapil Dev and a bunch of underdogs won the cricket world cup in 1983, very few could have imagined the kind of impact that it would leave on an entire nation. While the colonial sport had been fairly popular even before that fateful day at Lord's, that win arguably pushed the game past all imaginable horizons. And as popularity soared, money started pouring in as well.

36 years later, the Indian cricket board is by far the richest in the world, with a multi-billion dollar domestic twenty20 tournament to show for.

The fan craze has resulted in several games being made around the sport. And with the digital transformation that has engulfed the country in recent years, even the number of companies making such games has grown rapidly. Fantasy sports is one such format that has found quick takers, with India already having its first gaming unicorn in the form of Dream11.

Saurabh Chopra, Navkiran Singh, and Puneet Dua were one of the many such cricket lovers and gamers who decided to venture into that space in 2016.

After months of ideation, the trio launched BalleBaazi last year. The company currently offers fantasy gaming for cricket, football and kabaddi.

Ideation to Launch

The founders wanted to fill a gap that they felt existed in terms of sports-related content in the country. They felt Indians were not consuming a lot of sports other than cricket.

"While the idea started off with content, we thought that fantasy sports has the sweet spot which is needed to gain the initial momentum that we would need," says Chopra.

Once they had decided on the final idea, the next step was to focus on building a product that could compete in an already competitive landscape. "Almost 10 months were spent to build a team, a strong tech team, a solid marketing team to ensure that the launch remains smooth and we are able to sail through once the launch has happened."

BalleBaazi crossed the 3 million registered users mark a few weeks ago and currently has over 700,000 monthly active users.

Earlier this year, the company announced Yuvraj Singh had signed on as brand ambassador. Chopra is self admittedly an Yuvraj fan who still goes back to clips of him hitting those six sixes off England's Stuart Broad in 2007. "We all are Yuvraj fans, and it was a pretty easy and simple call (getting him),'' he says.

Product and Earnings

As with most other fantasy sports games, players have to choose teams of players ahead of scheduled matches in real life. The platform allows users to choose from pre-announced squads, using their own strategies, while there are in-platform analytics as well to help them along.

After players have chosen their respective teams, they are asked to join leagues. There are some free ones that people can join for free and play for fun, while there are paid leagues as well that require as little as INR 1 and can go up to as much as INR 5,400 per user. Winners earn rewards according to size of the league and the entry fee.

How the company earns is by deducting some platform fees for the cash leagues. The deductions may range from 7 per cent to 20 per cent depending upon the leagues, says Chopra.

The INR 1 rupee leagues are not a great contributor to revenue, he jokes, adding that such offerings are necessary to build an ecosystem. "Our primary focus is that we want to build a stronger ecosystem, and we know eventually the profitability and all will follow."

Going Forward

BalleBaazi raised $4 million in series A funding from two private equity funds in Singapore and Delhi earlier this year.

Chopra says they are using those funds to further streamline operations, marketing while a big chunk is going into product development. "We're trying to further refine our offerings," he says.

The company plans to have 10 million registered users by the time the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League ends mid-2020.

Chopra says they still want to dabble into content at some point and eventually broaden their offerings to include more verticals as well. "We want to become a platform, which is not just providing fantasy...we want to become a complete one stop for sports enthusiasts in the country."

Debroop Roy

Former Correspondent

Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.
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