The Unseen Story of Dream 11: India’s First Gaming Unicorn Startup
Dream 11 India first gaming unicorn startup

The Unseen Story of Dream 11: India’s First Gaming Unicorn Startup

India is known as the hub of startups and the success rate and growth of these startups have grown exponentially since 2018. Since then, more and more companies are hitting a lot of benchmarks and creating history in the Indian business world. These benchmarks include funding, innovation, and scaling, with a lot of new companies joining the billion-dollar club. 

Dream 11 India first gaming unicorn startup

Today, India has over 31 unicorns, with 10 of those being added in 2018, and one such startup that has taken the spot as India’s first gaming unicorn is Dream 11

Founded in 2012 by Bhavit Sheth and Harsh Jain, Dream 11 is built around the concept of fantasy gaming as it allows its users to compete in sports like cricket, football, kabaddi, and even National Basketball Association (NBA) 

After London and Hong Kong-based Steadview Capital invested $60 million in the company against a valuation of $1-1.5 billion, Dream 11 entered the unicorn category. With more than 5 crore users playing fantasy games on this platform, famous cricket Mahendra Sigh Dhoni is the brand ambassador of this company. 

In this article, we will recap the journey of Dream 11 as it grew from a small company to a billion-dollar startup in just a few years. 

The Story 

Initially, in 2009, Dream 11 was an ad-based, free for all sports app, wherein users were encouraged to form a community that discussed sports. On this app, you could read blogs, and play fantasy games based on seasons. 

However, soon the founders found that this model did not work and the company was doomed to fail if they did not make some severe changes as it was not scalable. This was because between 2009 and 2012, Dream 11 ran out of funds, which the founders had invested by raising rounds from friends and family. 

To make some money for their company, the founders launched another company in 2010, which was a digital marketing agency called Red Digital. Out of the 50 employees that they had hired, 40 were working for clients, and 10 were working solely on progressing Dream 11. 

In a show of pure grit and determination, the founders worked hard, saved money and resumed their passion. In 2013, Red Digital was acquired by GoZoop and Bhavith and Harsh had enough funds to fuel Dream 11. 

The founders learned from their mistakes and made multiple changes to Dream 11, which was now a freemium app, where users could access free features to a point, after which, they had to pay. In short, the founders described their company as “freemium fantasy sports for single matches.”

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (M.S.Dhoni Brand Ambassador) is the face of the sports gaming platform Dream11. Recently they became tittle sponsor of India premier league (IPL).

Till date, the company still follows the same business model, wherein 85% of its users make free use of the app, and 15% are paid. The paid model isn’t considered extremely pricey as users can pay a minimum of INR 11 to play the games. With an average of INR 25, the games can cross thousands as well, wherein the combined winning pot of all winnings is mostly more than INR 1 crore, depending on the game and trends. 

According to the data, 15% of 50 crore users is 7.5 crore users, who are paying an average of INR 25 every month, which amounts to a revenue of more than INR 187 crore. Now, that’s a model that is surely sustainable! 

How Dream 11 Works

Essentially, Dream 11 works as an application that allows users to create imaginary teams. The most effective part of playing these games is that the users can earn real money based on the actual match performance of their selected players on their teams. Basically, every good move of their players earns the user cash rewards. 

The Legal Challenges 

As Dream 11 is India’s top online gaming platform, it’s no surprise it comes with its own hurdles. The most prominent of them being the legal challenges, specifically because of its similarity to gambling, which is illegal in India. 

The company had to undergo multiple court allegations, however, the judiciary ultimately ruled that fantasy gaming is a game of skills instead of chances or probabilities. 

The Future of The Gaming Industry In India 

The popularity of Dream 11 is a clear induction that most young sport lovers are crazy about fantasy gaming. After all, it’s not just a game that can be enjoyed as a spectator, instead, it allows users to create their own team and feel like they are part of the game while earning rewards based on their team’s performance. 

Moreover, the boom of the mobile and internet revolution, the fantasy gaming industry is all the rage in India. 

According to Deloitte, Fantasy Sports in India has grown by 119.69%, which generated a total of INR 67 crore. Along with the popularity of Dream 11, this growth can also be attributed to the annual T20 cricket summer when the Indian Premier League (IPL) dominates all other sports in India.

There’s no doubt that Dream 11 becoming a Unicorn has opened up many doors for other sports startups, especially fantasy gaming platforms in India. 

Dream11 becoming a Unicorn opens up doors for other sports startups and especially fantasy game platforms in India.

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