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PlayerzPot to cross 10 crore users by March 2023, aims to become top fantasy and casual gaming platforms in next five years: Sunil Yadav

The company has grown 3X on its user base, year-on-year.

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Mumbai: Co-founded by Yogesh Doiphode and Mitesh Gangar in 2015, PlayerzPot is a fantasy sports arena which blends the excitement and thrill of real-world sports with fantasy gaming. Whether it is cricket, football, kabaddi, basketball or baseball, it allows players to experience their favourite games on multiple levels, along with earning real money. PlayerzPot offers users the liberty of choosing their own league, players, and lucky pot. The company said that it offers a customer-centric approach, hassle-free payment options, best-in-town referral programmes and an unflagging spirit.

PlayerzPot was started in 2015 from a small garage in Airoli, Mumbai, by the co-founders who shared the same passion for fantasy sports and a vision to build India’s best fantasy sports platform. Being first time entrepreneurs, the initial days trying to grow the company were accompanied by hard lessons and experiences. But taking these as learning opportunities and course correcting their strategies to innovate and adapt, PlayerzPot was revamped in 2017 and was the first to come up with concepts like ‘Refer & Earn for Lifetime’ along with the option of instant withdrawals, in India. Since then, the platform has continued to add more features. PlayerzPot recently roped in cricketers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Smriti Mandhana as its brand ambassadors.

Indiantelevision.com caught up with PlayerzPot Media CEO Sunil Yadav. His association with PlayerzPot goes way back, right to its inception in 2015 as a consultant and then joined as a marketing director in 2019. He was then elevated as a CEO in 2021 and he continued to spearhead the company’s vision of being India’s ultimate gaming destination.

Under his able leadership, PlayerzPot successfully introduced Skilled based Casual Gaming and a plethora of consumer loyalty programs that kept users returning to the platform in spite of no sports events in a tough year like 2020. He has also laid the framework for PlayerzPot getting into Real Money Gaming at the right time. 

Apart from that, he is an avid traveller, and loves exploring new places. He believes he is a lifelong student, and even in his down time, he likes reading case studies and researching market growth strategies.

Edited Excerpts:

On the market gap that was witnessed by the brand when it launched seven years back

Sunil: PlayerzPot started in 2015 from a small garage in Airoli, Navi Mumbai, with a vision to become a one-point destination for the Indian online gaming community. Considering the invincible craze of cricket in our nation and our love for IPL, we wanted to channel that excitement for sports in every Indian by offering a gamut of fantasy games. Our primary aim was to bridge the gap between reality and acceptance of fantasy sports. That’s how PlayerzPot was born. The first version of PlayerzPot was web-based. It was launched in April 2016 and our first mobile app was launched in April 2018.

The situation presented an opportunity to learn from on-ground glitches. We noted the challenges, revised our strategies with a user-first approach and introduced unique features such as ‘Refer & Earn’, 'Instant Withdrawals’, and ‘private game’. These features eventually helped us to build credibility and trust. As a result, in six years, we surpassed the 10 million user base and continued to outshine user expectations with rich fantasy and casual games. 

On USPs of the company

Sunil: We offer a wide range of gaming action with nine fantasy sports, 15+ casual games and three card games on our platform. We are engaged in constant research and development to provide an excellent gaming experience through USPs such as refer & earn quick withdrawal, 24*7 customer support, leaderboard, free leagues, and user retention policies. We analyse user journeys, behaviours, and gameplay time and curate our offerings to individual users to increase their stickiness. As a brand, we promote responsible gaming and thus provide a complete secured registration process and payment gateways.

On how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the company's business 

Sunil: Before the pandemic turned the world upside down, online gaming has been largely considered a hobby or just another mode of entertainment. Today, people are charting their entrepreneurial careers in online gaming, a sector expected to become a community of 510 million gamers by 2022-end, as per KPMG. In terms of revenue, the market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 21 per cent over the next five years, meaning that it will reach $3.84 billion. Such encouraging statistics are based on the rising interest of Gen Z and millennial gamers. The multifarious roles in the employment generation of this sector have encouraged the Centre to take note of gaming as a great source of domestic and global investment.

During the pandemic, there were no fantasy sports available for users. Understanding the pulse of the users, we decided to diversify ourselves by offering casual games on our platform. PlayerzPot, being an industry leader as one of the fastest-growing super gaming apps with 1 crore+ users, turned tables by launching 15+ casual games in less than two years. Our massively successful IPL 2022 campaign #CricketKaBhoot garnered a resounding reach, close to 500 million and a 300 per cent revenue jump in fantasy gaming. We grew 3X on our user base year-on-year and launched over seven casual games. We partnered with Indian cricketers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Smriti Mandhana, and the new sensation, Rashmika Mandanna, were landmark moves to boost our popularity in the evolving gaming community in the country. 

On the business model of the company 

Sunil: We offer three different categories of skilled games viz., fantasy games, casual games and card games, which are our key revenue generators. The model is as per industry standards and as the guidelines of the All India Gaming Federation.

On the growth of the gaming industry

Sunil: Technology is the life force of online gaming, and the Indian industry has always been one of the earliest adopters of advanced tech to create new demands for users. With the lockdown directing first-timers to online gaming as a new mode of entertainment, the gamers’ community have grown in leaps and bounds.

We see a welcome change in the gender ratio of gamers, as women have started playing actively. As real-money gaming rises exponentially, proper checks and balances need to be there in the form of simplified regulations to encourage safe, responsible gaming.

On how the platform is boosting its offerings to attract users 

Sunil: Advertising and marketing play important roles in spreading awareness about services, new launches, offers, prizes, competitions, and other relevant information about the platform to the target group. It is very important to communicate the right message, that too through multiple marketing channels. 

We at PlayerzPot keep a 70 per cent share of our annual profits for marketing activities and campaigns. This IPL season, we had the #CricketKaBhoot campaign live on social media channels, short-format video platforms and the OTT platform of Hotstar. This collaboration garnered a unique reach of close to 500 million, pan-India participation with a 50 per cent increase in registrations and 30 per cent of early users returning to the platform. The successful collaboration reinforced the importance of OTT platforms and short video sharing apps and thus helped to reach the masses.

On the regulation that the gaming industry requires

Sunil: There has been a major disconnect between the rising popularity of online gaming and the dearth of awareness and regulations for the same. This creates confusion between skilled-based gaming and gambling. 

I believe that the increase in GST from 18 per cent to 28 per cent, would also help to have a concrete set of regulations, which will assist the entire ecosystem. It may initially be a speed-breaker by tightening the cash flow and slowing down the growth momentum in gaming initially, but it will bring online gaming under the legal framework and thus, attract global investments because of its credibility from the government.  

On challenges in terms of tech hiring and mobile gaming segment 

Sunil: Gaming is a developing industry in India, and its impressive growth can be attributed to better internet penetration in remote corners of the country and increasing affordability of feature-rich smartphones. With such an easy entry point, the industry is bound to grow with new career opportunities being created regularly.

Yet, there is a considerable lack of tech-skilled talent in a market flooded with new technology every other day. Since there is some uncertainty associated with a growing industry, tech professionals tend to avoid online gaming as a career option. Therefore, the biggest challenge gaming brands are taking head-on is hiring talented tech professionals at all levels to manage technical operations and services online.

On the role of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in business and the use of non-fungible tokens

Sunil: Online gaming has levelled up with new technologies such as AI, ML, and Data Science, aided by tech-savvy young players. The market is very competitive, and players are diversifying models with AR and VR to excite users.

Metaverse is going to be a litmus test for Indian online gaming brands facing the challenge of building a breath-taking virtual reality experience. Tapping on real-time emotional responses, gamers will also be rewarded with play-to-earn concepts allowing them to win virtual gaming items, trade them and earn physical money. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will improve ownership of digital and physical assets on the blockchain and thus, make the metaverse more exciting. On the other hand, AI integration will check any form of data leak, ensure a safe environment for gamers, and appeal to investment based on trust.

As one of the leading fantasy gaming platforms, we are exploring suitable possibilities on the metaverse by creating unique selling propositions (USPs) and minimum viable product (MVP) building with some scalable tech architecture designs, market rollout strategy, and customer engagement strategy.

On the plans of growth of users, increasing revenue, expansion and funding

Sunil: Currently, PlayerzPot has over 10 million active users and is focusing on launching more skilled games, with other exciting offerings for RMG enthusiasts. We predict an addition of 1 crore + users by March 2023 and are set out to become one of the topmost fantasy and casual gaming platforms, five years down the line.

Self-sustenance is vital for PlayerzPot to achieve that goal, and we plan to do that through the launch of various card games and entry into the NFT space. We also plan to incorporate metaverse aspects in our technology roadmap to create USPs in the virtual world. As far as acquisitions and investments are concerned, we look forward to investing in talented companies who share our long-term vision of becoming a major contributor to Indian online gaming.

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