Mobile Premier League to use over $35 mn for growth in India

Ajay Keswani, a college student from Indore pursuing his final year of civil engineering, has become a regular gamer on Mobile Premier League (MPL) – a mobile eSports platform. In the last few months, Keswani has won as much as Rs 4 lakh, making him a hero for those who are new to the app. He even gives winning tips and tricks in the chat section of the app.

And, when it comes to gaming, women are not behind as MPL has a fair share of female gamers on its platform. Take the case of Ibakobor K Lynser, who moved to Bangalore from Meghalaya for higher education. Ibakobor who has completed 770 tournaments on the app and is one of the top scorers. She has won around Rs 2 lakh so far.

Just like Ibakobor, there are many women gamers who are now getting on to platforms like MPL to either win cash prizes or relieve stress or improve their gaming skills. Over the last few years, India has seen a significant rise in women gamers.

The 7-month-old eSports company that started operations in September 2018 raised USD 35.5 million earlier this week. “The whole point of using this USD 35 million is to make our product more robust,” Sai Srinivas Kiran G, co-founder and CEO of Mobile Premier League told Moneycontrol.

“We have somehow scrapped our way in putting up the product so, now the point is to bring in different formats of games. But the more important thing is to invest in growth. The TAM (total addressable market) in India is 200 million today. So, we are barely scratching the surface,” he added.

The platform currently has 25 million odd users.

The young eSports company was talk of the town when it got on board cricketer Virat Kohli as its brand ambassador for a Rs 12-crore deal for a period of one year. And, the question then was whether such a young company could afford such a deal.

Looking at the funds raised by MPL in a few months, it seems that investors are betting big on eSports platforms. Hence, a deal of this size is possible for such companies. In addition, the discovery of these platforms is the first step towards growth.

Srinivas explained why it was important to join hands with Kohli.

“What we wanted to do was to connect people and with that we don’t mean people to download and install the app that will not happen easily. But the fact that you know something like this exists. What it does is it takes the brand and establishes the brand in front of people. Now when you build an identity engaging with people becomes easier. We are among the youngest brands and for us it is always about how we can get across a billion folks very quickly,” he said.

While MPL is finding traction amid more people to increase its user base, an interesting point to note is that the app has more gamers from towns than from metros. When asked whether MPL is more popular in metros or in towns, Srinivas said, “Metros have a very small minority of our audience. Majority comes from other towns and cities. We have got winners from Mirzapur, Banaras. The playing field has been levelled as the access has been levelled.”

And, this is why MPL is positive about the Indian market.

“Any internet business would put the Indian market at one or two priorities right now. As of today the number of mobile gamers stand at 200 million and the number is expected to grow to 600 million in next 2-3 years. And there is no other market as big as India in the world in terms of number of users. South East Asia which is at 150 million is expected to grow to 350-400 million. This entire region is incredible. And that’s why we think it is such a powerful opportunity,” said Srinivas.

He added that, over the last two years, they have been at an interesting point of convergence where India has cheap hardware, accessible mobile phones, almost free data that’s a game changer by itself, and accessible usable payments.

“The real game changer has been UPI and how people are now comfortable to pay online. Gaming as an industry will take off if these three infrastructure are in place in any economy. Now, that these three are in place in India people can now make small payments and make payments frequently.”

MPL, which is a horizontal mobile eSports platform, has multiple types of games. It is not only a platform for gamers but also for game developers. It started with simple single-player games. As time went on, it introduced games with more control and more complexity before introducing one-on-one games.

“In the course of next few weeks we will introduce multi-player games, four-player and eight-player games and so on,” said Srinivas. Hence, MPL is focusing on investing in infrastructure and building technology where it can get more multi-player games.

For 2019, Srinivas said that MPL would launch more and more different types of game format and focus on how quickly MPL can double down on its growth.