Startup Street: How Dream11 Is Cashing In On India’s Growing Love For Fantasy Sports 

Here what went on this week on Startup Street.

Source: Dream11
Source: Dream11

This week on Startup Street, a Mumbai-based company is capitalizing on the growing number of super leagues in India to conquer the fantasy gaming market; Jammu & Kashmir is upping its efforts to develop a startup ecosystem, and a Silicon Valley-based startup has pipped global tech giants to launch a foldable smartphone.

India’s Fantasy Gaming Boom

Every time the Indian cricket team takes to the field, a growing legion of fans get online to pick their fantasy teams. Allowing users to select a Virat Kohli or drop a Rohit Sharma has turned into a lucrative business opportunity for Mumbai-based Dream11.

Fantasy sports—where users choose their teams and get rewarded if their picks play well—have been a phenomenon across the globe, particularly among football, basketball, baseball, and American football fans. In North America alone, there are 5.93 crore fantasy sports players, according to a report by Nielsen.

The party arrived late in India, but when it did, Dream11 was ready to capitalise on the craze. “Fantasy Sports is increasingly being used by sports leagues as their primary tool of fan engagement,” Harsh Jain, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Dream11 told BloombergQuint. “We are the official fantasy sports partner of National Basketball Association, Hero Indian Super League, Hero Caribbean Premier League, and VIVO Pro Kabaddi League. We also plan to forge more strategic partnerships with sports leagues and federations alike.”

Harsh Jain, CEO and Co-Founder, Dream11. (Source: Dream11)
Harsh Jain, CEO and Co-Founder, Dream11. (Source: Dream11)
The leagues want to work with us because it is a symbiotic relationship. The more the users watch sports, the more they want to play fantasy sport and engage deeper. The more they play fantasy; the more sports they watch.
Harsh Jain, CEO & Co-Founder, Dream11

From 3.6 lakh users in 2016, Dream11’s user base has risen to 4 crores aided partly by endorsements from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Harsha Bhogle. The company claims it has a 90 percent share of India’s fantasy gaming market. “We estimate the current user growth to continue and reach the 10 crore mark by 2020.” Jain said.

And that promise has caught the attention of investors. Dream11 is backed by Kalaari Capital, Chinese internet giant Tencent, Think Investments and Multiples Equity. It raised $100 million in its most recent funding round, which Tencent led.

Yet, Dream11’s rise hasn't been without hurdles. Particularly legal challenges, due to fantasy gaming's likeness to gambling, which is largely illegal in India. Its legitimacy was challenged in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. However, the court ruled that fantasy gaming is a game of skill rather than chance.

For now, the industry is sticking to self-regulation. “To ensure sustained growth, we have helped set up Indian Federation of Sports Gaming — India’s first self-regulated sports gaming body to protect the user and operator interest,” Jain said.

Jammu & Kashmir To Nurture 500 Startups

Jammu & Kashmir has set a target of nurturing at least 500 startups over the next 10 years, as part of the state government’s efforts to bring the entrepreneurship culture to the state.

The government will set up at least 10 new startup incubators to guide a new generation of businesses, Shailendra Kumar, principal secretary of the Industries and Commerce department told PTI. While these incubators provide early-stage investments, the government will also set up innovation labs across the state, he said.

The initiative comes less than a month after the state rolled out its 'Startup Policy 2018', which will be enforced over the next decade.

Under the new policy, recognised startups will get a monthly allowance of Rs 12,000 for one year and one-time assistance of up to Rs 12 lakh for research and development. "A start-up shall be eligible for energy assistance, international patent filing cost reimbursement, tax benefits and relaxations in public procurement processes," Kumar added.

The state’s corporate ecosystem has been hindered by continued tensions between India and Pakistan, and the troubled history of militancy.

World’s First Foldable Smartphone

The FlexiPai (Source: Royole)
The FlexiPai (Source: Royole)

Silicon Valley-based startup Royole has pipped global tech giants like Samsung and Huawei to launch a foldable smartphone.

The startup founded in 2012 by Stanford engineering graduates, unveiled the FlexPai device, with a 7.8 inch AMOLED screen, on Oct. 31. FlexPai’s flexible display is 0.01 millimeter thin and has a bending radius of 1 millimeter. The device can be used as a standard phone when folded, and as a tablet when unfolded. The company claims that the flexible displays are unbreakable.

The phone will be available for 8,999 yuan ($1,300) in China. In other markets, the FlexPai will be available only as a developer model. Deliveries will begin in December.

South Korea-based Samsung is also planning to overhaul its lineup of flagship smartphones and launch a foldable phone next year, according to a Bloomberg report. The foldable phone is codenamed "Winner" and has been under development for years.