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The rise of fantasy sports in India, and startups to watch out for in the space

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Fantasy sports (also known as esport) is suddenly water-cooler conversation. From a handful of companies until a few years ago, there are an estimated 60 fantasy sports platforms in India at present. Capital is pouring in, including from prominent, international VCs. And, India got its first gaming unicorn this week - Dream11 - the Tencent-backed fantasy sports startup that is now valued at $1.1 billion after its latest fundraise from Steadview Capital.

Dream11 currently occupies 90 percent of the domestic fantasy sports market, according to a joint report by the Indian Federation of Sports Gaming (IFSG) and KPMG. Sector experts believe its success will inspire more entrepreneurs to see fantasy gaming as a scalable business proposition. This will offer monetisation opportunities going ahead, even though paid players are just about 15 percent of Dream11’s overall user base of 51 million.

Harsh Jain, Co-Founder & CEO, Dream11

But, that might be changing with fantasy gaming becoming more and more competitive by the day, with higher cash rewards at stake. While the trend started with cricket coinciding with the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008, now there is an array of sports to choose from: football, hockey, kabaddi, carrom, pool, badminton, basketball, and more.

The IFSG-KPMG report indicates that there are about 20 million fantasy gamers in India right now. In 2016, this number was just two million. The mass penetration of mobile 4G, triggered by Reliance Jio, has popularised fantasy sports (along with several other internet services) in the country.

The market is projected to touch $5 billion in the next two years. IFSG says two out of three sports fans in India are aware of........

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