Mapping the monumental growth of fantasy sports in India

The rapid growth of fantasy gaming in the last five years has been nothing short of a revolution. The user base grew from two million in 2016 to 90 million in 2019, and many believe it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Fantasy sports might have taken the world by storm in recent years, but the first online fantasy game can be traced back to 2001. ESPN introduced its Super Selector game then allowing users to pick 11 cricket players for their fantasy cricket team. Although the rules were similar to today’s, users would gain points depending on the performance of their selected players.

The game was immensely popular but the unavailability of computers, inaccessibility of the internet and the blurred distinction between fantasy gaming and sports betting limited the expansion of fantasy sports.

More than a decade later, aided by the digital revolution, India witnessed a surge in popularity of fantasy sports with platforms like Dream11 and MyTeam11, backed by wealthy investors, tapping into the dormant fantasy gaming market once again.

The penetration of internet and mobile data into tier-2 and tier-3 cities coupled with the affordability of smartphones has played a major role in the growth of fantasy sports.

According to a report, the revenue of Dream11, one of the largest fantasy sports platforms of India, trebled to INR 2,400 crore in FY20 from INR 920 crore in the previous financial year. The report also revealed that the users spent around INR 16,500 crore on fantasy gaming in FY20.

The hurdles questioning its legality were also cleared with the Supreme Court of India ruling in favour of these companies, stating fantasy sports require skills to earn money and not mere luck.

To ensure the fans don’t see the fantasy gaming space as a form of betting, many of the big platforms have roped in celebrities and cricket stars as their brand ambassadors. Dream11 is endorsed by MS Dhoni, while Virat Kohli is the brand ambassador of the Mobile Premier League.

Apart from cricket, fantasy sporting apps have also explored into other sports like kabaddi, football, basketball, baseball and volleyball.